I had lost my apartment, and ended up living out of a suitcase in a guest bedroom of an extraordinarily generous family I barely knew.
My cash flow consisted of coins from my piggybank and modest sums earned from odd jobs: freelance copy-editing, public relations, coordinating funerals, mowing lawns.
But in the wake of the obtained the court documents and published a piece, “Ex-Politico WH Correspondent Joe Williams Pleaded Guilty to Assaulting Ex-Wife.” Finding a new job went from hard to impossible: Some news outlets that had initially wanted my resume told me they’d changed their plans. That’s how I found myself working a retail job at a sporting goods store—the only steady job I could find after six months of unemployment in a down economy and a news industry in upheaval.
In a matter of months, I was broke, depressed, and living on food stamps.
On paper, however, I’m just another overeducated, middle-aged, middle-class refugee whose last retail experience dates to the Reagan administration.
Not to mention retail employers these days have their pick of applicants: the Great Recession added countless numbers of desperate workers like me to the annual labor-market influx of college students and high schoolers.After veteran reporter Joseph Williams lost his job, he found employment in a sporting-goods store.In a personal essay, he recalls his struggles with challenges millions of Americans return to day after day.(I have chosen not to name the store or its employees here, because the story is intended as an illustration of what it is like to work in a low-paid retail environment, and not as an expose of a particular store or team.)Of course, I had no idea what a modern retail job demanded.I didn’t realize the stamina that would be necessary, the extra, unpaid duties that would be tacked on, or the required disregard for one’s own self-esteem.I pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree assault, and signed a court order to stay away from her and her residence.Upon completion of six months of probation, the incident would be wiped from my record.Our price is lower than the manufacturer's "minimum advertised price." As a result, we can only show you the price after you have added it to your cart.If you don’t like the price you can remove the item from your cart.Luckily, Stretch bit on my fictional backstory—journalist-turned-community-college student, studying physical therapy in a mid-career change—and my real-life background as a lifelong athlete.It was a perfect fit—at least in theory.* * *The first thing I noticed on my first day on the job is that in retail no one sits. It didn’t matter if it was at the beginning of my shift, if the store was empty, or if my knees, back, and feet ached from hours of standing.