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Humble Pie

July 17, 2013

Several weeks ago I was leaving a Thai restaurant with Mrs. C. and happened to pass by the window of a new art supply store that had recently opened in our neighborhood. Taped to the front window was a sign—PART TIME HELP WANTED. I’m still trying to figure out why I did it, but I left Mrs. C. standing there on the curb while I walked inside and requested an application.


Mrs. C. has been complaining lately that I’m constantly underfoot; she never has any alone time. Later, as I filled out the application—something I haven’t done in many years—I considered what it would be like to have a boss after being self-employed for so many years.


In the ‘80s I managed a jewelry store and was responsible for tripling store sales, not that I had any interest in management. The notion of being responsible for other employees was always a chore I disliked. But this wasn’t a management position, and it wasn’t a career—just a part time sales job.


This wasn’t a craft store so I wouldn’t need to peddle supplies to scrapbookers. This firm sold paints and canvases to serious artists. Truth be told, I have time on my hands and this job seemed like a cure for my isolated lifestyle. And bringing in a few minimum wage bucks wouldn’t be so bad. But would they hire an old fart like me? Most of my friends are closing in on retirement, and applying for a job now seems like swimming against the current. But there was my ego to deal with.


I have a tremendous amount of experience with these products. My second job after graduating from UCLA was ordering art supplies for Standard Brands Paints. I’ve used art supplies throughout my professional career as an illustrator and portraitist, and I’ve taught at both of Portland’s art colleges. Like I said, there’s an ego involved here.


As I thought about re-entering the work force it occurred to me that I might be taking a job someone else really needs. Besides, I couldn’t possibly land this job. I’m too qualified, and I’ve never landed a job I was qualified to do. I never sold jewelry before getting a job as a jewelry salesman. Before teaching art, I never taught, and I don’t have a teaching credential even though I was hired as an art professor. I’ve had other jobs and, mostly, I’ve been successful, but I never had any qualifying experience.


After filling out the application I returned to the store and handed it to the nice young lady behind the counter. She looked like she’d be fun to work with; her smile was so broad and constant she could sell advertising on her teeth.


“Have they filled the part time job already?” I asked.


“No, and they need someone really badly.”


I noticed many customers ambling about unattended. “When will management be arranging interviews?”


“In the next few days,” she said.


I went home to wait. A week later I decided I didn’t want the job, but interviewing would be a hoot and it would be fun turning them down.


Only they didn’t call.


When I called them I learned the position had already been filled. I wasn’t even afforded an interview.


Anyone know how many calories are in a big slice of humble pie?    



Probably hired the owner's nephew or some such thing. Good thing you didn't really need this job.
By: Kerry on July 17, 2013
Welcome to the reality of ageism! No matter how qualified you are, if you are over 50, to many you are seen as a useless geezer!
By: Eva Gallant on July 17, 2013
I guess they figured you were too overqualified for the job.
By: PT Dilloway on July 17, 2013
That sounds like that'd be an interesting job. I doubt pissed off people regularly peruse art supply stores. But, there's a surplus of part-time jobs in my area so I wouldn't feel bad about taking one if needed. Nearly every store has a help wanted sign.
By: Chiz on July 17, 2013
Bummer, and that humble pie, I don't think yours will taste any better than mine when I have had to eat it.....
By: John on July 17, 2013
Boy they missed out on a treat when they didn't hire you!!
By: The Bug on July 17, 2013
By: TexWisGirl on July 17, 2013
Humble pie indeed! I'd hire you in a flash! Maybe you should find a fun volunteer job ? I volunteer at our local library and it's a hoot- did the same when we lived up in Lake O. I got to help and socialize too!
By: Kathe W. on July 17, 2013
Who knows why they didn't even give you an interview. I do know that discrimination comes cloaked in several layers of spoiled luncheon meat. I was once called out for being to senior by a CEO. Enjoy the pie and add some ice cream.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 17, 2013
Their mistake!!
By: fishducky on July 17, 2013
I would have thought it was because you were over qualified and they would worry that you'd know more than them! Still it helped you to focus on what you want to do, or not as the case may be.
By: LL COOL JOE on July 17, 2013
Well they didn't handle that very well did they? No they didn't. How many calories are in Humble Pie? Have a terrific day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on July 17, 2013
Egad- it's their loss, and in a big way. Probably a 22 year old manager...
By: Shelly on July 17, 2013
They probably never got by the name on your resume...Chubby Chatterbox!
By: Cranky on July 17, 2013
You probably intimidated them. Employers sometimes pass on the over-qualified becasue they think they'll be gone as soon as something more suitable opens up. I suspect in your case they were just scared of your obviously superior talents.
By: Scott Park on July 17, 2013
I wonder why they didn't call.
By: Michael Offutt on July 17, 2013
Heh, heh. Reminds me of the time Walmart didn't call me back about a job in the women's clothing department. You've got to be a REAL SLOB to miss out on a job hanging clothes at Walmart. I DID get an interview. That's probably why they never called me back.
By: Val on July 17, 2013
If it makes you feel any better, they knew you were overqualified and expected you applied as a joke.
By: mimi on July 17, 2013
Someone may have tipped them to your blog and they learned you were a teller of tall tales!
By: Catalyst/Bruce on July 17, 2013
I am glad you had already come to the realization that you didn't want the job because that always stings a bit not to at least get a call back. A couple of years ago, I had the same thought that I needed a little something to get me out of the house. Same calls..nothing. Thank goodness, I didn't really need to work.
By: Cheryl P. on July 17, 2013
Wow, that would be a toughy. It never gets any easier to slice and eat a piece of that pie. BTW....I used to love to get my art supplies at Standard Brand....I hadn't thought of that in years. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on July 17, 2013
Sweetie, I can't get a regular job in spite of my education and experience. My friend Carol says that no one will hire applicants older than 50. I use that to comfort myself. I'm glad I'm good at being a kept woman. My mother would be so proud, and I'm not kidding. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 17, 2013
I did not predict this ending. I thought you would be hired and be enormously successful. In retirement I did a paper route fo a couple of years. It was the best thing I ever did. I had something to look forward to d each day. So...maybe a paper route?
By: Red on July 17, 2013
Their loss! And vanilla ice cream goes well with humble pie... :-)
By: Pixel Peeper on July 17, 2013
No need for humble pie. Many places (and I would say, most) have a bias against the over-50 applicant. Definitely their loss. At least you won't have anyone telling you what to do (except Mrs. C).
By: Mitchell is Moving on July 18, 2013
A sobering experience, Stephen. I love your humility; being able to laugh at yourself is such a worthy quality. I retire at the end of September and may well find myself in the same position - I'll no doubt blog about it!
By: Bryan Jones on July 18, 2013
I'd have to agree with those who are saying it's hard to get a job after 50. It's rather staggering to think we're considered washed up and/or unreliable at that age, isn't it?
By: jenny_o on July 18, 2013

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