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Side Hustle From Hell

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Note: This is a true story. Some names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent.

I was so excited. Why didn’t I think of this before?

If I had to join the worker minions why not be surrounded by what I loved the most.

I couldn’t wait until the weekend was over so I could show up Monday morning for my first real day job. It was only part time though, because my full time job was pursuing a record deal.

When that fateful morning came I remember catching the bus in the pouring rain. There I was – soaking wet, in standing room only, crammed in with all the other drowning rats in the race.

The silence on the bus was creepy. All these people were pressed together close enough to be lovers and not a word was spoken.

Eye contact was strictly prohibited, and if you were caught smiling or striking up a conversation, you were beaten with the glare of a dozen punishing eyes.

The driver appeared to be heavily sedated. He was unshaven, unruly, and under appreciated. When he turned the big steering wheel it looked as if he was using the last shred of energy in his lethargic body.

I got off at my stop and ran three blocks in the rain to the front door of Jasper’s Elite Music.

When I swung the door open a bell sounded letting me know that my next big journey was underway.

Jasper and Bryan

bryan-adams-playing-gretsch

A young sales clerk was on his knees, with his head in the front counter display case, as I approached, “Hi, my name is Brent and I’m starting work today – I’m supposed to meet Jasper,” I announced.

“I’m Evan, Jasper’s office is upstairs and to the left – good luck,” he said without looking up.

As I climbed the stairs I started feeling anxious. Either it was in anticipation of meeting my new boss, or it was the ominous and faceless good luck I had just received.

Before I even got to the top of the stairs I had to quickly squeeze right to avoid collision with a man flying past me on the way down. He looked to be in his early thirties, with long blond hair and sideburns. He wore a golf shirt, pleated dress pants, and cowboy boots.

“Bryan is gonna be here in the next half hour so look sharp,” he said, loud enough for all to hear, spinning himself around on the railing at the bottom of the stairs, “And send the new guy up to my office as soon as he gets here.”

Evan’s muffled voice responded, “He’s here already, just sent him up.”

I turned around to see Jasper coming up the stairs toward me.

“Let’s go to my office,” he said, without shaking my extended hand.

I walked through the door after him into a tiny cluttered office and sat down.

Without looking me in the eye, he picked up the phone and spun his chair around facing his back to me, “Walter! Adams is coming by in the next fifteen so get your piece of shit Volvo out of the VIP parking space. I told you to quit parking there!” he yelled.

He spun around and slammed the phone down, “Okay, so you’re Brent,” he blurted, “I never asked you to sit down – follow me to the guitar department.”

Feeling a simultaneous jolt of shame and embarrassment, I jumped up to follow him.

He led me to a room directly across from his office on the second floor, “This is where you’ll be,” he said, looking me in the eye for the first time. “We have a surplus of inventory so you need to sell these guitars pronto. Any questions?” he asked, his eyes following a young woman entering the keyboard room.

“Where’s the bathroom and when do you we take breaks?” I responded.

His head snapped to the side as if I had just slapped him in the face, “My staff doesn’t have set breaks,” he said with an exclusionary tone of voice. Putting his hands on his hips, he continued, “Their focus is on moving product, so they take breaks when there isn’t any customers in their department. The restroom is on the first floor, off the school band instrument room. If you have any more questions, ask Evan.”

He turned and started to leave the guitar room.

A bad start.

I got the feeling Jasper was already annoyed with me. It usually takes at least fifteen minutes for that to happen, and my first impression of him wasn’t great either.

Suddenly, Jasper spun around and said, “Oh yeah, and one more thing, Bryan Adams is coming in for some gear this morning. He’s recording in his demo studio not far from here. Don’t bother him, don’t talk to him, don’t ask for an autograph….actually, just stay up here when he comes in. Got it?”

“Got it,” I fired back quickly, with a tone of voice suggesting I couldn’t care less.

But I did care.

Bryan Adams was Vancouver’s most successful musician at the time, and arguably went on to become Canada’s biggest pop rocker of all time.

I didn’t relish his music, but some of his melodies couldn’t help but find their way into my head. Christ, his stuff was being played on all the major radio stations and music video channels that summer. There was no escaping it.

I preferred story telling songs. Songs with thought provoking lyrics, such as early Dire Straits, early Springsteen, The Clash, Dylan, Cat Stevens, Bob Marley, and Jim Croce. But regardless of my personal taste in popular music, I couldn’t help being smitten with idea of meeting a genuine rock star.

The Falcon Drop

anniversary-gretsch-white-falcon

I heard the bell chime alerting us of a customer coming in the main entrance on the floor below. Seconds later Jasper came flying out of his office and down the stairs.

I was curious to know if Adams had arrived. I wanted to see what he was like in person, but I followed Jasper’s orders and stayed upstairs at my sales post in the guitar room.

I started getting familiar with all the guitars on display by pulling them down one by one and dusting them.

I took down a 1963 Fender Telecaster and placed it on the table. I dusted and polished the body, scrubbed the strings, and tuned it. Before I hung it back on the wall I couldn’t resist playing it for a few minutes.

My plucking and twanging was interrupted by a voice behind me, “Sounds good – could you pass me down the Falcon there big guy?” the voice asked.

“Sure,” I answered without looking back, as I carefully placed the Telecaster back on the wall.

I turned around to see Bryan Adams smiling at me. Surprised and star struck at the same time, I reached up to take down the Gretsch White Falcon. In my nervous haste and preoccupation, it slipped out of my hand and came crashing to the floor.

I was mortified.

Even worse, I could see Jasper glaring at me from outside the door. Apparently he was stalking his famous customer and witnessed my embarrassing moment of clumsiness.

Adams grinned, picked up the Falcon off the floor, and sat down to play it.

Jasper strutted in, “Come with me,” he said with a hiss.

I had one foot in the door of his office when he started, “What the hell was that? That’s an Anniversary Edition Gretsch White Falcon you just dropped, and you managed to make a fool of yourself in front of Bryan. I should fire you right now,” he said in a muted rage, so as not to make a scene.

“Sorry sir,” I said sheepishly, “I must have been a little star struck – it won’t happen again.”

Shaking his head and lowering his voice an octave, he said, “I’ll give you one more chance, but you better get your shit together in a hurry!”

I walked across the hall back to the guitar room with my tail firmly tucked between my legs. Adams had the Falcon in his hand on the way out, “Jasp, you mind if I take the Gretsch for the night?” he asked.

“Sure, use it as long as you want,” Jasper replied from his office.

Adams was only half way down the stairs when Jasper came out of his office in hot pursuit.

I went back to polishing guitars and kept myself as far away from Jasper as possible for the remainder of my first day.

Moving Day

moving-furniture2

The next morning I was eager to get back to the store. I had a bad start, but was determined to redeem myself in the eyes of Jasper, and meeting a celebrity on my first day was pretty cool for a young hopeful like me.

I arrived ten minutes early and headed straight for the guitar room.

I was hoping to prove myself by selling a few guitars, but before I could settle in, Jasper told me to go back downstairs, “Wait in the parking lot for Rob. You’re helping him move today,” he said.

I figured he was just getting rid of me, and I couldn’t really blame him. It was a good idea to put some space between us.

Rob was an accomplished musician in the Vancouver music scene, so I was happy with the assignment. So what if I was doing a job I despised. It was just for one day, and I would get to know a major player in the city.

Rob turned out to be a Grade A, World-Class prick.

Not only was he a condescending prick, he was a coke sniffing dick, and there is nothing worse on god’s green earth than a coke sniffing dick prick (circa 1930 – Theo Geisel – a.k.a Dr. Seuss).

He fought with his pregnant girlfriend all morning and ordered me around like a dog that needed scolding.

Thankfully he was interrupted by a family emergency, and moving day was cut short. I took the bus back to the North Shore and was back in Jasper’s Elite Music by two o’clock.

When I walked in Evan was at the front counter, “You wanna share some pizza?” he asked.

“For sure!” I replied, “Worked up a huge appetite moving Rob’s furniture.”

“Better you than me,” Evan said, as he picked up the phone to order.

He told me Jasper was gone for the day, which set me at ease. There were no customers in the store either, so we took the time to sort new inventory and get to know each other.

We had a lot in common. We were both barely over twenty years old, and we both had dreams of music glory.

We traded anecdotes, lyrics, chord patterns, and went outside to smoke one of Evan’s tightly wrapped pin joints.

The pizza arrived and we greedily wolfed it down.

Things were looking up.

The Classy Customer

asian-customerOnce again, I arrived at work ten minutes early and headed straight upstairs to the guitar room. This time I wasn’t sent away to move furniture, and that morning I made my first sale – I sold a $400 Vantage guitar to a young boy and his mother.

It felt great! Maybe I was going to succeed after all. I had a new friend in Evan and the sky was the limit.

Around 1 o’clock in the afternoon the guitar department was empty, and a perfect time to get something to eat. I went downstairs to see what Evan was doing for lunch, only to find Jasper behind the front counter instead.

My heart sank.

“Hey you!” he blurted out, “Get behind the front counter until Evan gets back. He’s grabbing some strings from inventory and when he gets back he’s gonna show you how to man the front counter. His idea, not mine.”

Jasper started back upstairs to his office and I did what I was told.

I just got in position behind the counter when an extremely well dressed Asian man walked through the front door, “Do you sell electric guitars here?” he asked with a smile.

He wore a Rolex watch, diamond rings, and I assumed it was his brand new Mercedes Benz parked just outside the door.

“Absolutely,” I replied, “Come with me upstairs to the guitar department please.”

As he followed close behind me up the stairs, I got a faint whiff of his cologne. If rich had a smell, that had to be it.

I was obviously in the presence of a class act.

I asked him if there was any particular model of guitar he was interested in, and I could tell by his answer that he was an absolute beginner.

I suggested he start with a lower priced guitar while he was learning, and if he really liked playing he could advance to a higher priced Fender or Gibson.

He agreed, so I started showing him guitars in the lower price ranges.

As I was helping him understand the pros and cons of the different choices before him, Jasper strutted in the room toward me, “I’ve got this, go help Evan,” he said to me, with a look of annoyance.

The customer looked bewildered, and I was perplexed by the interruption.

“How can I help you today!” I heard Jasper say, as I walked down the stairs.

By this time Evan was back behind the counter, and I told him what had just transpired. I told him how Jasper ran me off, and I asked if all the employees were treated this way.

He just grimaced, without answering my question.

Half an hour later Jasper and the customer, carrying a brand new Gibson, came down the stairs. The man’s eyes were dancing as he pulled out his wallet to pay for the Les Paul.

He was obviously excited about his choice, and Jasper convinced him to spend an extra $500 on a matching custom case, guitar picks, strings, pedals, and various accessories.

Evan rang it all through, placed the guitar in the case, and thanked him for his business.

The man smiled a thank you, walked out the door, and loaded his precious new stash into the trunk of his car.

“Come to my office Brent,” Jasper said with a stern look in his eye.

I had a deep feeling of dread as I followed Jasper into his office. Here we go again, I thought.

“Close the door,” he said gruffly. “When a chink in a three piece suit drives up in a brand new Mercedes you show him the most expensive guitar on the rack and tell him he can’t afford it – I’m starting to think you’re pretty much useless at this point!” he yelled.

Disheartened and disgusted, I glared at him in silence.

“What are you looking at? Get back to work. This is strike two. One more and you’re out,” he said, dismissing me in disgust.

Saying nothing, I turned and left his office.

Selling My Soul For Rock & Roll

After Jasper’s last abusive outburst I wanted to quit on the spot.

But I didn’t.

He was just a racist and a bully, I thought, and those types are usually purebred cowards. So I decided to stay until he finally worked up the courage to fire me – and besides, there was another more selfish reason why I was sticking around.

A lot of celebrity musicians were coming in for gear. I didn’t exactly know why, but my best guess was it had something to do with Jasper’s incessant sucking up, and the non-stop cocaine being sniffed off his desk.

I was in the store when Kool And The Gang came through. I met Paul Dean from Loverboy, Randy Bachman from BTO, Brian McLeod and Darby Mills from The Headpins, and various other local rock & roll heroes. I confess to being impressed by celebrity just as much as Jasper, and I know it’s the reason I stayed on as long as I did.

I figured, so what if the boss hates me. I was rubbing shoulders with the movers and shakers of the music business, and it might pay off one day.

“Jasper sure bends over backwards for his celebrity customers,” I said to Evan, as if I was above such degrading behavior.

Evan laughed, answering in a cough, “I wonder sometimes if he bends over forwards for them too.”

At that moment, it was clear to me. Neither of us was innocent of naked hypocrisy.

In the weeks to come, I started writing lyrics and performing vocals on some of Evan’s demo tracks, which we recorded in his rented basement. He even played one of our songs to Jim Vallance (Adams’ co-writer), in an effort to get some professional attention.

Nope. I wasn’t going anywhere. I had a dream of stardom, and Jasper’s store might be the place where those dreams became reality.

So I spent my time in the store dodging him with the finesse of a ninja, and if I was ever near him I made sure not to do anything that might set him off.

Angie In Keyboards

I had recently befriended Angie, who was the pretty salesgirl in the keyboard department. She spent her spare time hanging out with Evan, and I could tell the two of them had a blossoming connection.

She complained how Jasper was always making suggestive comments, and staring at her breasts. She was both gifted and cursed with more than an ample endowment.

“Just tell him to fuck off,” Evan said grinning. “Tell him to go jerk off in the drum room and keep his eyes above the fold,” he said, while using his right hand to mimic masturbation.

We were all laughing when Jasper came around the corner, “Get back to the guitar room Brent,” Jasper said as he managed an awkward glance at Angie’s chest, “Just because there’s no customers in your department doesn’t mean you can chase Angie around.”

Both Angie and I were embarrassed. Not only were we simply friends and coworkers, we were just helping Evan move some deliveries into the store. Our three way conversation had lasted only seconds.

“He really doesn’t like you does he,” Angie whispered as we started back to our departments.

“No shit,” I whispered back under my breath.

“What was that smart ass?” Jasper barked at me.

“Nothing,” I replied, as I headed back upstairs.

Mopping Up

I couldn’t understand why Jasper despised me.

Could it be he didn’t respect me because of the way I dressed? I noticed the other employees wore nicer clothes than mine. Maybe if I stepped up my game in the wardrobe department it would help.

But there was a hitch in my plan. I was flat broke and couldn’t afford new clothes.

So I decided to do what any insecure young man would do under the circumstances. I showed up the next Monday morning in my graduation suit. Blue dress pants, white shirt, dress shoes, and a silk striped vest.

I flew through the main door, and ran upstairs before Evan had time to tease me on my change of clothes.

About twenty minutes later Jasper’s voice came over the store intercom, “Staff meeting in the sheet music room in five minutes.”

That’s strange, I thought. We’ve never had a staff meeting before, and I’ve only heard the intercom once since I started.

I put down the guitar I was tuning at the time, and walked downstairs to the sheet music department.

Jasper was already there and leaning against one of the sheet music bins.

As we started gathering around, some of the employees were wide-eyed with concern.

Was the store being shut down? Was there layoffs coming?

Jasper started, “My staff is a crack staff. I expect only the best from my staff. Wearing a cheap wrinkled suit isn’t going to make you a hotshot anytime soon,” he said looking straight at me. “Okay, meeting over,” he said with a groan.

The whole room burst into laughter. The only ones not sincerely laughing were Evan, Angie, and myself. We chuckled along as if it was just a harmless joke.

I had never been more embarrassed in my life. I walked back to the guitar room sickened and deflated.

Only minutes later Jasper told me to go downstairs and mop the floor. He wanted to crush my spirit once and for all, and he was enjoying it.

He followed me downstairs, showed me where the mop was, and told me to start in the band instrument room.

I took off my vest, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. In a anxious fog, I started filling the bucket with soap and water in the small utility sink just behind the restroom. I remember thinking to myself that the laugh was on Jasper. Little did he know, that I had superior mopping skills picked up as a kid working at McDonald’s, and I actually enjoyed the fine art of floor maintenance.

Then I heard Evan’s voice from behind me, “Jasper’s just an asshole man. Don’t let it get you down. Come out back and we’ll smoke a pin.”

Relieved to hear Evan’s comforting voice, I snapped out of my momentary fog and followed him outside.

“Thanks Evan. I needed to get out of there,” I said, shaking my head.

After a couple of tokes Evan suggested we sneak off and grab a sandwich from the delicatessen a block away. I agreed, and we started walking. I still felt shaken by the mornings events, but the fresh air felt great and Evan’s marijuana was quickly taking effect.

About an hour later we started walking back to the store. We knew Jasper would be looking for us, and livid with our disappearance, but after his cruelty neither of us cared.

When we arrived at the store there was a service truck parked in Jasper’s “VIP ONLY” parking spot.

“Where the fuck have you been?” Jasper yelled as he came rushing out the front door at us.

His long blond hair was flying in all directions, and his face was red with anger.

Evan started to answer, “We were just….”

“You flooded my store!” Jasper screamed at me.

Then it hit me! I had left the water on when Evan asked me to go outside.

For over an hour, water was flooding the band instrument room, and even worse, flooding the computer store located directly below. The computer store was closed for renovations, so nobody was there to notice the water pouring down their walls and through their ceiling.

I had caused many thousands of dollars in damage.

“You’re fired!” Jasper screamed at the top of his lungs, “Get the fuck off my property you pathetic waste of skin. You’re a destroyer and a moron!”

Aftermath

I didn’t even try to get my things from the store. I called Evan a few days later and asked him to grab my stuff for me.

He told me he heard Jasper yelling and throwing stuff around in his office the day of the flood, and the next day Jasper didn’t even come in to work.

Apparently he didn’t have enough insurance, or the right kind of insurance, to pay for all the damage caused by the water.

I don’t know if the flood was the beginning of the end of his business, but Jasper’s Elite Music was closed six months later.

Even though I considered Jasper to be a misogynist pig and a racist bully, I didn’t want to see him suffer the way I made him suffer. At least that’s what I told myself at the time, but over the years I’ve looked back and wondered if I was subconsciously trying to make Jasper’s life a living hell.

I’ll never really know, but I did learn a few valuable lessons from the whole ordeal.

1.) Always quit a job immediately when you discover the boss hates your guts. It’s not worth the stress.

2.) Your high school graduation clothes are only meant to be worn once.

3.) If you’re a spoiled brat rich kid, and get Daddy to buy you a music store, be careful who you hire.

——–END——–

Brent Truitt is a full time Internet marketer and part time blogger who lives in Saskatoon, Canada and Southern California. You can connect with him on Twitter @IAmBrentTruitt    

brent 

4 Comments

  1. Loved this post! Especially the observation about high school clothes being worn once.

    • Thanks Shivika,

      It was humiliating at the time, but funny in retro.

  2. It’s funny how much some of us will tolerate just to avoid being a ‘quitter.’ You’re right about lesson #1 – sometimes you have to just trust your instincts.

    • I tell my kids to be quitters. Keep trying different jobs until you find the one you really enjoy. Of course that’s not a great idea if you’re living in circa 1930.

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