March 26, 2008

  • Internet Island Topic Post #33.2: Playing: Take a Chance


     The Internet Island Blogring: Topic 33.2 Playing: Take a Chance: I'm not talkin' about Vegas. Chances are you've taken a big chance sometime in your life, be it short or long, and when you decided to take that chance, something told you there was a very large risk involved, yet you took the chance anyway, and lived to tell the tale. Tell it to us.

     It could probably be said that I'm not one of those who play games with life, even though life is constantly playing games with me. I'm rather anal retentive, and the organization of all parts of my existence is pretty important. I like to say that I don't like to be wrong, I can find anything I'm supposed to be looking for, and I've regulated my daily grind into a routine which pleases me and brings me some satisfaction.

    When I go to Vegas I don't concentrate on gambling. Even during the three years when I was with Pat, whose mother owned racehorses and who accompanied me to the horse track three times a week, I was the one who regulated the amount of money we would gamble (only $20.00 each), and saw to it that Pat's pursuit of good luck never saw us going broke while following this pursuit.

    I like to think I'm intelligent and somewhat enlightened to the foibles of life, after living it over for almost 55 years.

    However I have taken a couple of iffy chances while playing  the game of life, and they turned out for the better, when most of the repurcussions have been weighed. The biggest of these chances was taken exactly twenty years ago this month.

    In the long ago year of 1987 I had worked in the field of retail management for 15 years. I considered this my "career", which began while I was a junior in high school.  My first job at 17 was sweeping out the back room of a three day old bakery. Upon graduation from high school, I obtained a job at Ole's Home Centers, a now defunct Southern California do it yourself hardware chain, as a boxboy. Within three years, while still in college, I was the Garden Department Manager, making more money than most of my friends who had gone into academe. I was studying to be an English Professor and attended USC. I could say I took a chance dropping out of college to pursue my retail management career, but this is not true. I had to drop out of college after my father died and I became executor of my invalid mother's estate, to manage things at home and take care of my younger siblings until they were ready to take care of themselves.

    I had a skyrocketing career at Ole's, but my penchant for "partying" after work with members of my sales team had a negative effect, and in 1977, after working in two locations over a six year span, I was eventually fired. I could say I took a chance playing pretty hard which caused my firing, but this is not true. I have always worked and played hard. After three month's unemployment,  I was able to sign up with the FedMart chain when they moved into the Los Angeles area, and I stayed with them for the next five years, until they went out of business.

    Receiving a hefty severance package, I took a chance by staying out of the workplace for about half a year. I used this time to write (physically, on paper, in those pre computer days) to collect movies on the then new CED videodisc system , and to travel. I spent a lot of time with my buds and was constantly criticized by my roommate for not obtaining work. At the end of my half year's "vacation", when the funds were running low, I obtained a position at Gemco, another retail chain, and worked for them for the next three years, almost getting as far up on the ladder of success as Operations Manager, the second highest position in the Culver City store before they went out of business.

    Even before Gemco closed their doors for good, I interviewed with Target stores, and got a nice raise to manage the hard lines department for the Manhattan Beach store, which had recently opened. I was one of the top five managers in the store, but after merely a year, because of a breach of security, I was fired from Target, and found myself out of work yet again.

    I had not been anxious during the other layoffs, enjoying severance pay and forced vacations,  but I was fired from Target, and hadn't been fired from anywhere since 1977, ten years earlier. I consider myself an honest individual, and made the mistake of describing the conditions of my leaving Target in employment applications. The security breach wasn't terrible. I didn't steal anything or sleep with the store manager's daughter. I merely neglected to record a mark down on about $500.00 in clearance merchandise before selling it. But nobody wants to hire someone who has a black mark in the industry,so I bravely traveled from one interview to the next, hoping for the best, and receiving nothing but "don't call us, we'll call you's"

    So it's 1987, and my retail career was in the toilet. What to do?

    I took a chance.

    A friend of mine worked for a "pushbutton manufacturer". He sold electrical controls for a small family owned buisness. The place was small. I called it a place where men sitting at desks answered phones. I'd managed up to 250 people as a duty manager in retail. The small building in Long Beach where the electrical distributor was located only had two dozen employees. I knew the CEO from visiting there to see my friend, and because I was out of work, the boss offered me a job inventorying the warehouse for a small salary "under the table."

    I was in a bit of a quandry. The pay would be almost half of what I was used to receiving in retail management. Jack, the CEO, told me he would pay me time and a half for overtime. This was just to get me going while I was looking for work. The chance I took was to move out of the apartment with my friend (the same one who worked there) and move in with another friend, Bob, who rented me a couple of rooms for half of what I was then paying for rent.

    This confluence of events, and the chance I took to make them happen, turned out to be the best career move I've ever made. Within three months, in March of 1988, I was being paid a fair if not overwhelming wage "over the table", and allowed to work overtime. I racked up a lot of overtime, sometimes working up to 12 hours in a shift. Since I was paying only about $200.00 a month to my friend for renting at his house, I began to have lots of extra spending money.

    One of the electrical engineers at the distributorship tapped me to become a technician building control panels. This allowed me to learn the business from the ground up. All I knew about electricity at the time was that the light goes on when you flip the switch!  He taught me a lot about electrical engineering, and after three months, because of his heavy drinking, he was fired. Jack, the CEO, called me into his office one morning, and asked me if I wanted to keep working on panels, or do something else. I took the chance making the panels. There were only two panel customers, since the electrical engineer was just starting the company into that part of the business. I told Jack I'd like to make a go of making the new "panel shop" a reality.

    I hired two college kids, who had some experience in the field, stealing them in essence from another panel builder who was one of our customers. Within another five years, we had gained two manufacturers as clients, who used one of our controls whenever they sold a machine, so the money started rolling in, for both the company, my panel shop, and for me. I got repeated raises, lots of bonuses, and gained the respect of a lot of the folks in the industry.

    I've been running the panel shop now for 20 years. This month is my anniversary. We lost the two big clients when one went out of business and the other shifted their manufacturing base to Mexico for cheap labor, but I'm still ensconced in the upper tier of the company, and am one of the essential managers. Jack, the CEO, is 86 years old now, and still runs the company, but is scaling  back his hours, giving his daughters more of  a chance to manage things. I don't get many raises or bonuses anymore, because money is tight for small organizations. We live by our sales, and they go up and down. But I'm happy. I work from 6am to 3pm Monday through Friday and get weekends off. I can also take off a "vacation day" any time I want, as long as my plate is clean and I give at least a 24 hour notice.

    It was a chance, but I took it in 1987, and twenty years later, I'm still reaping the rewards for this particular turn of the dial in the Game of Life.

Comments (37)

  • People ask me if I gamble all the time... I always say "every day" or "only when I get on the interstate" lol... Everything's a gamble. We're playing against the house and the house always wins. Nobody's getting out alive... but you can have some really good times along the way. I've wondered for a while what you do for a living currently. It must be nice to be somewhere reliable and comfortable. I've dreamed about having something steady and reliable like that! I loved it when I worked at the same place for a few years. I found it very comfortable and pleasant.
    I love the art business, but I also would love to have a part time something - like teaching English - that's a little more reliable and steady.

  • Everyday is a gamble...and I make it thru.  Happy Anniversary!  You took a chance and it worked for you!

  • sounds like the game of life has been good to you. 

  • sounds like good luck!  Chance of good luck... the chance of life... sounds inspiring that luck can happen to any of us... :)

  • i took a chance and said yes to my husband when he asked me to marry him after only knowing me three months...we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year

  • Art Linkletter would heartily endorse your game of life too!

  • Another well written inspirational update Speaking of updates, you'd enjoy this weeks update of my site

  • Mike it is always fabulous to meet real people without pretence. Your story of being fired touched me deeply. I appreciate your openness about it. People are too quick these days to judge those who make errors as if they are holy. I prefer to meet the real person. I have never been fired but I can imagine how it must feel. Your 20 years of service also tells something about your character and tenacity to preserve.  This might just entice me to write on this topic as well.

  • Amen to Lady Luck! *dashes over to the Internet Island*

  • As usual, a great story from your life Mike. I always enjoy when I can get a bit of time to come over here and read your wonderful stories and wisdoms on life. RYC: Thanks. It's been a tough few weeks thats for sure. A side note here, perhaps its my frame of mind but I didn't really get that whole a, b, c level thing. I would gladly help you make your site a 'b' if I understood it. Catch me later with it in a message okay? Then I'll gladly toss my bean into the pile as well!

  • Hey Mike,

    I was just visiting a Mr. DMV's Xanga site, and stumbled upon a comment where you said "Keep exposing Xangawannabes" or something like that. Telling him to "keep it up"? Here's why this bothers me: He mentioned Remy, Me and Blackspiderman. So who's being exposed here?

    The Xangsta thing was just supposed to be silly, and in a way, it makes fun of real gangs, and the guy who came up with it lives in Philadelphia.

    That's all it is; me and Blackspiderman being silly. The reason Drak wrote his post is because he's mad that Blackspiderman is the talk of the town and not him, because Drak's not getting featured everyday like he used to be under the old featured weblogs. Because the man is full of himself, he's jealous of this.

    Now imagine if the most popular blogger on Xanga said your site was trash and a bunch of people agreed with it just because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Alright, well, think about that.

    Moto out.

  • ^^ Hah, that's not why I wrote the post at all, but shit, I've always said that people don't need reason when they've got assumptions.

    I don't play Life. I do, however, play Risk.

    ryc: You wouldn't want my people, you gloriously sarcastic fellow.

  • @oceanstarr - Dear Ocean, Neat that you noticed I don't write about work that much. I created my "online persona", including my blog(s) as an antidote to my career. I don't usually  blog about what's happening to me on a day to day basis, and I usually don't mention work, because for me, "internetting" is "play", and I use the internet for creative endeavors.

    @SadnessPart1 - Dear Hope, I've been hinting around work about a gold watch.

    @Zeal4living - Dear Jurgens, I haven't really blogged about "getting fired", and that in itself would make an interesting post. The first time, I actually had to take my employer to "unemployment court" to get my benefits.

    @wrens_grotto - Dear Wren, Enough people rated my site an "a" or "b" and it's not an issue now. Thanks. You have more important things on your mind right now.

    @Amandasbiggestfan - Dear Moto, Ah, an RYC about something I left on another site! I always get in a strange mood when I'm on Daniel's (drakonskyr) blog. I've been known to swear like a sailor and actually write Komedy Komedy Komedy in comments there, so the intent wasn't to slam anyone. Pretty much I was playing with the word "Xangathis" or "Xangathat".  I don't know that Daniel is "mad". He's just being sarcastic.

    @Drakonskyr - Dear Daniel, As I just pointed out to Norimoto, I felt you are merely being sarcastic, as usual. I didn't mean for my comment to slam anyone either. BTW, I treasure you subscription to my "G" rated blog. I was serious about creating an "edgy" Komedy Komedy Komedy blog however. My KKK website hasn't been updated in ages, and is one I'm thinking of overhauling in the near future. It'll give me a chance to scan and post the rest of my TV Guidebook parody from 1977.


  • User has whispered to baldmike2004 ...

  • Dear Mike,
    This is an interesting post. I'm not much of a gambler either so I can relate. I'm glad the gamble you felt you did take paid off in a positive way. We just never know.

  • Dear Mike,

    I'm not much of a gambler either. I think I am supposed to be going out to Las Vegas this summer for some training and I have to say that I don't think I'm excited at all about the gambling. I have a bag of change that I think I may limit myself to using. I've just never been crazy about the idea.


  • What a bold move that resulted in a great career. 

  • User has whispered to baldmike2004 ...

  • I am happy your chance workd out and I hope and could and would even pray for future success for you my friend

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