Needing a break from tutoring, as well as a break from the usual routine, I called an ad in the classified section of our local small town newspaper. It said simply PT/FT sales. Call Julie at 555-1212. I wrongly assumed it was one of the seven art galleries that have sprung up or one of the trendy ladies' boutiques. It was the hardware store. Now my main background is visual arts and special education, but I went anyway, thinking how hard could it be? What I lack in knowledge, I'll make up for in friendliness and I'll learn new things, get to wear a jacket with my name sewn on it.
The former owner was a friend of my husband's and when he retired we were just relieved it wasn't turned into another bank or Japanese restaurant. So I went in, asked for Julie and was told she's in her office at the back. I wandered in the general direction and saw a red-headed woman talking on a phone in a room with the door half-open, a child safety gate blocking the opening. She waved and put up a finger, as in, just a minute. I took in the scene: messy desk, boxes, two dog beds with little dogs wearing shirts and fancy collars, and a young man with his back to me at a computer, playing Zuma. Julie gets off the phone and apologetically opens the gate, explaining it's for the dogs, asking in the same breath if I like dogs. A third Old Yeller type dog slowly gets up, and all three dogs greet me as if they have known me forever. The pug with the collar brings me his favorite toy "to share", the fluffy dog wearing a pink shirt just curls at my feet, and Old Yeller wags his tail against a cardboard box like I'm his best human friend. I don't have the time or heart to tell the woman I'm not really a dog person, as she tells me all their names and what they are allowed to do in the store and what they're not, but will try to. She says Old Yeller gets in trouble for wagging his tail too much.
She motions for me to sit down, then introduces the young man at the computer as her son, who turns and says hello politely and pleasantly. I say hi back and Julie explains he is autistic, has to either be in the office or helping while at the store. I tell her I have a brother whose son is autistic, and have worked with children as young as one year up to a sixteen year old boy, all with variations of the spectrum, all with different stories. I tell her it's an interest of mine because I've read a lot about brain development over the years to understand what stages my own children were going through. We end up talking almost the entire time about autism, and her passion to own a hardware store with her sister. I can see in her face her life has not been easy. Certain things one of us alludes to, and the other just nods. She tells me all about her son's school and how she allows some students to work with a job counselor. She tells me she drives a truck.
It is by far the oddest interview I've ever gone to. There was no talk of the actual job requirements, the pay, the hours or days. Forty five minutes passed, she said she needed to take her son somewhere, we shook hands, and I left with an application. I felt like at the least I made a new friend, at the best I might have quite a strange new job, that might have less to do with knowing the correct caulk to use, how many square feet a can of paint will cover or where the ratchet sets are, but something perhaps involving a young man and three dogs.