and so it begins. or ends.


Me, on my last day of work.

Me, on my last day of work.

The Sunday ritual was straightforward: I’d wake up, shower, then hop in the car.  I’d drive over to the Dunkin’ Donuts just off Route 46 in Lodi, pick up a few donuts for Sandy and me, and then pick up the Sunday New York Times and Star-Ledger.  I’d immediately peel off the Classified/Help Wanted sections of both, and begin looking through the job openings, concentrating on the “C” (“cellular” and “customer service,”) the “T” (“telecommunications”), the “E” (“entertainment”) and the “M” (“music”) sections of both papers.  Any decent ads in those sections would be met with a resume and cover letter, either faxed (if a fax number was listed) or mailed the following day.


By January of 2004, frustrated at the lack of movement on the job front, I had begun scouring the Classifieds, reading them A-Z, in hopes that something would pique my interest.  And when I saw the position of “Technical/Marketing Assistant” advertised, for the cellular division of a consumer electronics company, I giggled because it was in an odd section of the paper – it had been placed in the wrong section, out of alphabetical order.  If I had any luck, nobody else would see it.

When I received a call that week from someone named Mirella, I didn’t think much of it.  I had been on interviews before.  So I scheduled the interview and went in.  I spent about an hour with the HR representative, and she explained the position to me.  The company had been in the consumer electronics business since the 1960s, manufacturing accessories – television antennas, at first, but eventually cables, blank tapes, remote controls, computer accessories.  They were starting a cellular division, planning to make spare batteries, leather cases, and that sort of thing.  I expressed my sincere interest, and a few days later got a callback to come meet with the VP of the division, Bob.

I thought about cutting my hair, I really did.  By this point, it had grown back to my shoulders.  As a compromise with the dayjob, I kept it greased back with mousse, and tied into a ponytail.

“You’re a rock star!,” the guy said.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “I could cut it.”

“I like long hair,” he said.  “I grew up in San Francisco, in the 60s.  I used to live in Haight-Ashbury, in the Grateful Dead’s house.”

We talked for a while about music.  We talked for a while about the wireless business.  He told me that the company planned to sell cellular accessories to retail stores, to complement its other product lines.  They needed to move quickly and get hundreds of new products to market – it was early 1994, and they wanted to ship their first products by June.  They wanted to support every popular cellphone on the market, and they needed someone who knew the equipment, and who could work with the engineering department to analyze the equipment, making sure everything worked.

“I’m a salesman,” he said.  “I would sell whatever you gave me.  I need someone who’s going to run interference with me, make sure that the product is the top quality and meets all our specs.  I need someone who can write the specs.  I need someone who can design the packaging, work with the purchasing department to make sure that the products are on order, work with the factory to make sure we’re filling our orders.”

“Sounds like a great job, with a lot of responsibility,” I said.

“If you do it well, then you could become a product manager,” he told me.  “A product manager makes $60,000.”

I let “$60,000” sink in for a minute.  I was making $24,000.

We talked for a while longer, and he got on the phone with the HR department, with me right there in the room with him.  “I’m sitting here with Al, and I think he’s my guy.  I’d like to make him an offer.  How do I do that?”

He listened for a second.

“No.  I want to make an offer now.”

He listened again, then hung up.

“The HR department is going to send you an offer.  How much money do you make now?”

I told him I made $26,000.

“I’ll offer you $26,000,” he said.

“I couldn’t accept a job for the same amount I’m currently making,” I said.  

“But this is a much better job, with more responsibility,” he said.

“Which is why it should pay more money,” I countered.

“Fair enough.  I’ll give you $28,000.”

“I think I’d accept that,” I said.  “I just want to talk it over with my wife.  I don’t make any decisions without talking to my wife.”

“That’s sweet,” he said.  “I’m leaving for San Francisco in the morning, I’ll be back on Monday.  Call me then.”

I couldn’t wait that long.  I left him a voice mail that night, after speaking with Sandy about it.  It was a $4,000 raise to start, but I kept thinking of that $60,000 number.  Product Manager.

Before I could give my notice at my shitty dayjob, I had two things to do.

First, I had been selected to attend a convention in San Diego.  I had never been to San Diego.  Actually, I had never been anywhere; my first-ever airplane trip was a spring break trip that Sandy and I took to Puerto Vallarta when we were in college and my second was our honeymoon to St. Maarten.  Aside from those two trips, the furthest I had ever been from New Jersey was my sister-in-law’s house in Vermont.

Nothing was keeping me from San Diego.

I went with two other guys from the office.  Neither was a friend, to any degree, and I didn’t have any plans to be super-professional, or even to go to any of the corporate events at the convention.  As soon as I got to my hotel room in San Diego, I picked up the phone and dialed the number for Silver Girl Records – the label for our new friends in Gapeseed.

“Hi, my name is Al,” I told the answering machine.  “I run a label in New Jersey called Dromedary Records.  I’m friends with Mike and Pete from Gapeseed.  I happen to be in San Diego this week, and I thought I’d give you a call and ask you to show me around town.”  I left the name and number of my hotel.

That was unbelievably forward of me.  I actually called an indie label and asked them to show me around.  Then again, I’d never been anywhere before, and I didn’t see myself coming back any time soon, so I figured it was worth a shot.

That night, I got a call in my hotel.  

“Hi, this is Paul from Silver Girl.”  We talked for a few minutes, and he said “We’re busy tonight, but we can come and take you out tomorrow.  Does that work for you?”

Of course it did.

The following night I met Paul, along with Keith and Penny, from Silver Girl Records.  They drove out to my hotel and met me in the lobby, then took me for a ride around town.  We talked – a lot – about running an indie label, and about the similarities and differences in our respective scenes.  We went to a local bar and met more of their friends, and a few guys from various San Diego bands.  They got me good and drunk, and we had a fantastic time.

The last night in town, they came and got me again, and took me to dinner in La Jolla.  We sat at a bar, ate seafood and drank local beer for hours.  They told me stories about the local bands (including a great one about the San Diego Music Awards, where the singer from Uncle Joe’s Big ‘Ol Driver repeatedly accepted awards on behalf of Stone Temple Pilots – without being asked – until the STP guys finally showed up backstage and beat him up).

We then traded records.  I gave them copies of everything in our catalog, as well as lots of extras for them to consign to the local record stores, something they volunteered to do for me.  They gave me copies of the new CDs from Fluf, Uncle Joe’s Big ‘Ol Driver, and a sampler called J’etaime, containing lots of Silver Girl artists.

For two days I did nothing but tag along with Keith, Paul and Penny from Silver Girl.  They had a great little label, and were unbelievably hospitable.  They showed me a great time, introduced me to a lot of great people, and totally let me take advantage of them – they had no idea I was coming, and I just invited myself into their lives for a couple days.  In all my years of running Dromedary, Keith, Paul and Penny were three of the nicest people I met.

And Silver Girl was a great label.  Heavy on the heavy stuff like Fluf and Everready, math rock like Gapeseed, and pop like All About Chad and Veronica Lake, they already had a pretty deep catalog, good distribution through Cargo, and lots of friends in the indie music scene.

When I arrived back in New Jersey there was a foot of snow on the ground.  My car had been snowed into the parking lot, and Sandy and Rich dug me out of the snow before I got back.  I told them all about my experience with the Silver Girl folks, and we immediately shelved any plans to try and “steal” the next Gapeseed CD by trying to convince them to put it out on Dromedary.  No way I would do that to friends, and after seeing what a great little label Silver Girl was, I’d rather have seen their record come out on that label anyway – it would have been better for the band.

The second thing I needed to do was produce a new mailorder catalog.  In the course of my phone calls and letters, I had reached out to a bunch of other labels and asked them if they’d be interested in having me carry their titles in Zebu, my mailorder catalog.  

One Saturday, I laid out the catalog on our computer and printed out one set of originals.  Then I took the originals and drove to my dayjob.  I locked myself in the copy room (literally, I locked myself in), and proceeded to make a thousand copies of the Zebu mailorder catalog.  It took an entire day to make the 9,000 copies, collate them, and staple them using the office stapler.  I folded down a thousand copies, right there in the copy room, then I sealed them closed for mailing with some wafer decals that I found in the company office supply closet.

At the end of the day, I loaded the 9,000 copies into big boxes, closed them up, and went out into the customer service department and found a couple of people who looked bored.  I asked them if they would help me carry some things out to my car – they did – and the three of us loaded my car with the thousand Zebu catalogs I made.

I was taking stuff from work, and goofing off on the company time, for the last time.

The following Monday, I came into work in a pair of jeans – against company dress code – and walked into my boss’ office.

“It’s time for me to go,” I said.  I was hoping that I would give my two weeks’ notice and subsequently be asked not to come back – my hair was down, I was dressed like a slob, I was trying to provoke her into giving me a two-week vacation.

“Go where?” she asked.

“I’m giving you my two-week notice.”

“Where are you going to work?” she asked.

“I’d prefer not to say,” I said.  I hoped that she’d think I was going to work for their competitor, and let me go.

“Is it a competitor?” she asked.

“Like I said, I’d prefer not to say.  It is in the wireless industry.”

She excused herself and left me in her office.  After five or ten minutes, she came back in.  “I just went and spoke with management,” she said.  “We agreed that you’ve conducted yourself professionally during your time here, and we see no reason to think you won’t continue to conduct yourself professionally in your last two weeks.  We accept your resignation, and we’ll allow you to work through the next two weeks.”

As much as I tried to be a distraction for the next two weeks, there was no way they would fire me.  I went out to lunch and came back with beer on my breath.  I wandered around the building, bothering people.  I sat at my desk with my feet up, chatting on the phone.  But they were going to let me play out the string.

The coolest thing about the new job was the physical location.  It just so happened to be located directly across the street from where Rich worked.  Total coincidence.  

Rich, of course, looked at this as an opportunity to avoid driving his shitbox car to work, so on my first day of work I began the long string of days where I would pick up Rich at the Scary Place, and “carpool” to work.  I put the word “carpool” in quotes because “carpool” implies some degree of ride-sharing, or pooling gas money; this was most definitely not “carpooling” in the conventional sense, as it was my car – and my gas money – transporting us.

But it was still cool.

~ by Al on March 17, 2009.

5 Responses to “and so it begins. or ends.”

  1. I forgot about your surge of slacking and white collar crime at the end…too funny. BTW, it was Frank who helped me dig your car out of the snow – he came and helped with mine first. Credit where credit is due.

  2. You know, I THOUGHT it was Frank. But the dates didn’t make sense, because I know that after Frank came with us to the Cape that summer, we really didn’t see much of him after that. But I guess it was after the winter was over that he disappeared completely.

  3. As I am reading this my daughter found an old Footstone bumper sticker with my guitar stuff and asked me why it said “Free Shit” on the back….then she asked me what I was reading.

  4. […] And So It Begins. Or Ends. I get a new job, take stuff from work, and goof off on the company […]

  5. […] And So It Begins.  Or Ends.  I make a career change.  Which sets up the eventual end of […]

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