Whenever the trees start to change I think about a time in my life when I drove to Wisconsin at least three days a week for a job that I hated. (I was told my territory was Chicago when I was hired. I was lied to.)
I think about the trees because there was this stretch of highway right when I crossed into Wisconsin where the foliage was absolutely gorgeous. And for about 3-5 minutes I was able to forget about the annoying drive I had to embark on, for a job that I was mislead about, and just enjoy the damn trees.
Now I’m going to take you back there because this job was weird AF and remembering it keeps me humble.
When my alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. it always takes me a second to remember who I am and why on earth I’m getting up at this un Godly hour. And then I remember.
Oh yes, it’s for the kick off at Kenosha Elementary. It starts at 9:00 a.m. and it’s a BMX bike show, so it’s kind of a big deal. Chances are at least one second grader will vomit out of pure excitement. Perhaps even two if Jock Jams is played.
I wash my face, brush my teeth, and dress quickly in the dark. I grab my makeup bag and am out the door before Chris or Harlow realizes it. When I walk outside it’s brisk and the grass is covered in a light coat of frost; a reminder that winter is moving in quickly. This will be my second Chicago winter and I’m already nervous for it. I remind myself to head to Tj Maxx later to look for a new winter coat. The one I bought last year (at Tj Maxx) already has a busted zipper.
I walk the three blocks to where our car is parked. Each morning I make this jaunt, always to a new block depending on street parking patterns, I pray that someday we can afford our own “reserved” parking spot near our home. Wouldn’t that be a dream!
When I get inside, the car is cold and I immediately blow into my hands while the heat warms up. The clock reads 5:10 a.m. I’m right on time.
Chicago to Kenosha is only about 65 miles. So in fact, I’m way ahead of time. About two hours to be exact. But see, I’ve got this deep rooted fear/angst about being stuck in I-94 rush hour traffic. In my OCD mind, I prefer to leave aggressively early, skip the traffic and then I go sleep in a Dress Barn parking lot I know is close to the school while I wait for my day to start. Sound weird? It is!
The traffic on 94 is light, but picking up already. Good thing I left early, I compliment myself.
I listen to the Chicago radio Djs babble about stupid shit and zone out in a morning fog. Drive, switch lanes, exit, turn signal, ext ext. When I get to Wisconsin I see the trees I love dearly and say good morning to them. Their fall coats are a mix of orange, red, and yellow and they look stunning. I wonder what they’re going to look like in winter when they get their first sprinkling of white. Little do I know I’ll never find out because the company I’m working for is about to go bankrupt in a month. Perhaps the sales model of relying on children to sell your crap isn’t the best model, after all? Who knew?
The Dress Barn in Kenosha greets me right around 6:30 a.m. I’ve been making this drive so frequently/doing this weird routine so much I actually yawn when I see it as if it’s a cozy bed, rather than a poorly named women’s clothing store.
I pull into my spot, turn my car off, and take a nice morning napper.
My second alarm for the morning goes off at 8:30 a.m. I put on my makeup, excessively covering my face in foundation and bronzer because car light is terrifying and it shows me things I don’t want to see. If I look too closely into the large sun spot on my left cheek I will actually see Whoville setting up their Christmas decorations for the season.
After I’ve applied a thick layer of makeup that is a good three shades darker than my neck, it’s time to get to work! It’s KICK OFF time.
My goal for the day: entice small children to become tiny sales people slinging coupon books AND cookie dough. This school is going for both. This is a big one. I brought in the BMX bike show just for a little teaser. If the kids play their cards right, they’ll get the full show after my company gets their cookie dough money.
When I get to Kenosha Elementary I pull down my mirror and give myself a quick pep talk.
“You’re not a loser. You’re NOT a loser. I am not a loser.”
And then I put on my cookie dough costume and walk into that school like I own the place.
I am not a loser.
“Hi, I’m Taylor, I’m from Making Dough for Dough. I’m here for the Cookie Dough kick off this morning. Can you tell me where the gymnasium is?” I say to the office staff. They usually stop listening after I say “dough” the second time. Perhaps it’s because I’m dressed as a giant cookie dough, saying the word dough over and over. But Idk.
Colleen shows me where I need to go. No matter what school I go to, someone in the front office is always named Colleen. It’s a law.
Once inside in the gym, a janitor shows me how to work the microphone and warns me the stage is slick because he just washed it. “A Pre-K peed a little at breakfast,” he tells me.
“Okay then,” I respond. It’s information I don’t need.
“It happens more than you’d think,” he adds.
“I actually don’t think about it at all, really.”
“If this job has taught me anything, it’s that there’s urine everywhere,” he says with such declaration I know it’s a bit of life advice I’ll never forget.
“Thank you for your help,” I say. And then I return to setting up my table and he disappears into the wall.
I run a microphone check, set up my PowerPoint, take a deep breath, and brace myself for what’s coming.
The announcement bell. I hear it and it sends chills down my back.
“Hello, hello Kenosha kiddos! Hope everyone is having a Kenosha good day! It’s officially time for our special assembly, so if every class could make their way to the gym now and sit in their designated areas. Please remember to walk in line and in an orderly fashion with your class and keep your hands to yourself.”
And then I feel it. It’s like a stampede making its way toward me. The water glass on the table where I’ve spread out my handouts starts to shake. The hair on my arms stand up. The janitor has suddenly reappeared and he looks at me and slides his finger across his throat. I think I see him whisper, “urine,” but I can’t be sure.
The heavy gym door screeches in fear as it’s violently pushed open and then all hell breaks loose.
The kids come rushing in like a river that’s just busted through a dam. They’re pushing one another, tripping each other, waving their hands overhead, screaming, chanting, booger picking. There is nothing orderly about this.
And it’s my job for the next THIRTY minutes to entertain them. Not only entertain them, but inspire them to sell cookie dough.
I am not a loser.