Saturday, April 18, 2020

40 years at Shoppers

My record for longest stint at a job is the one I'm currently in. This June it will mark eight years. And if you throw in the 16 months I did earlier, went away, and then came back to the job, I have a little over nine years at this gig. It marks an almost unheard of level of job stability for me. Previously, I've tended to bounce around. I think if you ask most people my age or younger, the number of people who have spent decades at a job are relatively rare.

And even if you do spend a few decades at a job, you normally retire. Teachers tend to go at 30 years, for example.

Mom and I, Christmas 2012 at Shoppers.
Then there's my mom. Today marks her 40th anniversary working for Shoppers Drug Mart on Torbay Road. Hell, if you toss in her time at the Zellers that used to be in that mall, she's spent 45 years on that parking lot. If there was ever a demand for a history of the Torbay Road Mall, it begins and ends with my mom.

I have a vague recollection of mom starting at Shoppers. The store was opening in the mall (Zellers was on one end, Dominion on the other, in-between was a CIBC, Shoppers, a doctor's office, a Chinese restaurant, and several smaller stores) and it was a big deal. First one on the east end of town. She'd been working at Zellers for years and was excited about not just getting a new job, but also becoming head cosmetician. It was a big deal for her.

And it's still a big deal for her. Mom loves her job. Odds are you've never loved a job the way my mom loves hers. Lord knows she doesn't do it for the money. She just loves people. She loves helping people and chatting with them. I've spoken to mom more times than I can count at 11 pm after she's just finished an eight hours shift and she's fine. She normally hangs up to go and get her cup of coffee. And then she's back to work for a 10 am shift the next morning.

That's not something she did years ago. That's something she probably did this week.

Yeah, she's still working. I've asked her to stop working during the COVID-19 crisis, but she keeps going in. She's not selling make-up right now; she's just helping out around the store, trying to be useful. It makes me nervous as hell, but she keeps working. Because it's what she loves doing. Working and being helpful.

If you've walked into that Shoppers and talked to my mom, odds are you have a story about her. If you've talked to her for more than a few minutes, odds are you know something about me (I've long since given up asking her to not do that). She's sold makeup to news anchors, make-up artists on film/TV productions, and others. One of her absolutely favourite customers was Danny Williams' mom. She got a kick out of that and always took good care of her.

Then again, she always takes good care of everyone.

She's outlasted everyone in the store. The original owner retired years ago. I wouldn't place a bet against her outlasting the current owner. And the one after him. I'm not giving up here age here, but she shows no signs of retiring. I imagine I'll be updating this in 10 years time when we celebrate her 50th anniversary at the store.

My favourite mom story? This would have been around 2012. I was back in Newfoundland for Christmas and discovered, to my horror, that mom was working Christmas Day. I asked her why, as she obviously had the seniority to get that day off.

"Well, most of the rest of the cosmetics staff have young ones or young family and they should spend Christmas morning with them rather than being in here. And you're old enough to not need me there Christmas morning and I knew you'd understand. So that's why."

The photo above is from me going in that morning and spending an hour or so with her in the store, before she shooed me home out of it. Which has always been the way when I visit her at the store. She's happy to see me and chat, but if there's a customer who looks like they need help, she'll stop mid-conversation to go over and take care of them.

Odds are she's not celebrating this day the way she wanted. She's been looking forward to this day for a long time. It likely won't be the celebration she wanted, but I hope they do lots for her anyway. I've always thought Shoppers has never appreciated her the way she deserves.

For years, I've had some variant of this conversation:

"Well, I'm never sure how much longer I'll get to do this, Craig. I'm not sure how long they'll want someone my age in cosmetics."

"Mom, the number of women you bring into that store who want to know the secret of how you look so good at your age should mean you get to stay there forever."

And she does. Mom has consistently looked 10-15 younger than she actually is. She has, on occasion, passed me off as her younger brother. Which amuses her, and makes me roll my eyes, but whatever. It gives her a laugh.

And women do come in and ask her secret. And she's happy to sell them some moisturizer she uses, or some other products. And they go away happy. But she never tells them the real reason why she looks so young.

Just love what you do for 40 years and be a kind and amazing person. Works every time.

Happy 40 years, mom. Here's to at least another 10.


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