It is that time of year again; time to organize the end of year paperwork for the taxman. As I stack receipts, W-2 forms and the like in a discarded shoebox; hastily labeled “2019 Taxes”, I begin to contemplate some of the various jobs that I have held over the past few decades. So many part-time and random jobs that shaped my life and work ethic. Many were short lived but aided me on my path to get a college education; thereby, changing the course of my life.
Having years of experience watching my younger siblings, the first logical job as a young teenager was babysitting. This was really nice for me since I got to relax away from the ongoing drama in my family’s household. It almost seemed like I should have been paying my clients for the privilege of eating their snacks and watching shows I was not allowed to watch at home like Night Gallery and Twilight Zone... but only after the kids were snuggled away in bed for the night.
As I got older, the jobs became more lucrative and more suitable for a young adult. While working full time at a Burger King in walking distance from my home, I was offered a job as an "Avon Lady". This was my gap year after high school and I spent it earning as much money as I could before attending college. Avon immediately hit me up for $25.00 to purchase the required sales-kit filled with cosmetic samples before assigning my territory which consisted of a few streets in a low income neighborhood. This was troubling because these families had a hard enough time just paying their bills.
Avon Ladies always dressed…well…like ladies; churchy outfits recommended. The neighborhoods—depicted in the Avon commercials running in the late 1970's—were brick homes with green grass for miles, verandas with double doors front and center and doorbells that rang loud and clear…"DING DONG, AVON CALLING."
The reality of my territory was; it was early summer in Largo, Florida and blazing hot. A light film of humidity covered every surface and, to make matters worse, there was a rain shower lasting five to ten minutes each afternoon. The mosquitoes were always biting and sometimes a palmetto bug or two would keep me company; dive-bombing my head. Just utterly sweaty and itchy.
So here I was...after Avon’s short “Selling Stuff…It’s Easy” training session...walking from my house to my territory in hopes of making a few sales. Being a practical person, I substituted the “lady-like” outfit in favor of the “heat-stroke-resistant” outfit: Bermuda shorts, cotton t-shirt and sandals.
Approaching the first house on the street, my first thoughts were Where is the doorbell? and How do I get to the door without knocking over the carefully stacked Budweiser bottles destined for the nickel-bottle-deposit-return? I wanted to make a good impression on my first call. After safely maneuvering the porch obstacles, I was nervous but ready to give my spiel. Not finding anything that resembled a doorbell, I knocked while shouting, “Avon calling!” It took awhile but just as I was turning to leave, a puffy-eyed lady with a toddler slung low over her hip opened the door and politely told me that she couldn’t afford to buy anything as the door was closing in my face. This went on for a while; poor stay-at-home-moms overwhelmed, tired and broke. My heart went out to them but I had to remember my goal...college money.
I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that there would be no sales for me in this tiny weed-laden neighborhood. Walking up to my final house of the day, I heard children fighting inside but a well dressed, energetic mom yanked open the door before I even had a chance to knock. I was excited. I felt professional. My luck was about to change. Maybe I could make a go of this makeup selling thing after all. Just as I reached down to open my as-of-yet-unused Avon Kit displaying blushes, lipsticks and eye shadows, she said, “Good. You are here. Are you the babysitter?”
Lisa Owens writes a monthly column for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. Her columns are inspired by true events. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.