Thursday, September 7, 2006

You're Fired!

You are fired! With those words, my trading post career came to an abrupt and terrible end. The day began so promisingly; the sun was shining, birds were singing, Priscilla had come to work early and even grumpy old Barry was in a good mood. With all those indicators pointing in the right direction, I was sure things were going my way.

Steve Simpson @ Twin Rocks Trading Post

Recently I had been reading several self-help books, like How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to be a Big Daddy in Your Little Paddy. All my hard work was finally paying off; customers were smiling more, once in a while I got a friendly hug and I had even been mentioned as a candidate for Trader of the Year. Never mind that I was the only person promoting the nomination.

How could I have anticipated that before noon my life would be in ruins, I would have no visible means of purchasing milk for the children, my wife would be contemplating divorce and, worst of all, I could no longer call myself an Indian trader.

Now, to be perfectly honest, there have been times when I have questioned whether fate dealt me a bad hand by delivering me into this frontier town where most residents live for a good scuffle. Having put up with their bad moods for so long, however, I have become somewhat immune to the more temperamental inhabitants of this scruffy outpost.

Recently a friend described the people of Bluff as “survivors.” Scrappers and fighters were probably more appropriate terms. In spite of all that, day after day, I had come to the trading post with a smile on my face and a song in my heart; usually John Denver’s Sunshine on My Shoulder.

Tourists who asked questions that scrambled my brain and frazzled my senses, and neighbors who questioned my every action, were heartily embraced, or at least tolerated. I had worked hard to be patient with community members who threw ill-tempered fits when they disapproved of my projects. Had I been an oyster, I would have turned out strands of pearls by now. I am not, however, a shellfish. I was an Indian trader, and nothing else mattered.

Yes, I could buy baskets, rugs and folk art. Yes, I had been tempered by the fire of aggressive artists with ingenious schemes. Yes, I was beginning to understand the difference between Morenci, Blue Gem, Royston and Bisbee turquoise. And, most importantly, I had learned to spend more than I take in. Using a famous Winston Churchill quote as the basis for my fundamental philosophy, I had adopted the motto, “Never, Never, Never stay within your budget.” That, I had discovered, was the hallmark of a real trader.

It has been about 15 years since I have watched television at home. Because TV permeates society at every level, however, I have often heard about the series The Apprentice and Donald Trump’s legendary, “You’re fired.” You’re fired, humph, I had only been fired once. Well, technically twice, but I do not care to talk about that. With my new sensitivity training, I was convinced nobody would ever dismiss me again. No sir, not Donald Trump, not anybody.

Then destiny arrived in an unexpectedly small package. I was packaging a Ruby Growler sheep for my buddy Bevan and the first container I tried was too small. Priscilla graciously offered to go upstairs and get me a larger box. I smiled broadly, and, in my best Opie Griffith voice, said, “Yes, thank you, that would be swell.”

Fate walked into the trading post at 10:49 a.m., with an unassuming air. Clad in green camouflage capri fatigues and an Australian accent, she was a slightly disheveled woman with a disarming grin. “Good morning,” I said, with a smile I thought would charm even the most seasoned tourist. “Hello,” she pleasantly responded.

Her next comment sealed my doom. Looking straight at me with laser like precision, she asked, “Do the Indians who make this actually get any of the money.” In a flash I realized that my hard labor had accounted for nothing. Although I tried to hold back the comment, I blurted out, “No, we never give the poor devils anything, and still they keep bringing all this stuff.” With a wink of her eye, my tormentor turned and walked out of the trading post into the bright sunlight; her disarming grin morphing into a sly smirk.

Shortly thereafter, at 10:52 a.m., the dream ended, with Barry’s impression of Donald Trump dismissing yet another unhappy apprentice. As he began to regain his composure, he gasped, “Do you think this is Santa Fe?”

Falling on the floor, I began to cry. After about an hour Barry could take it no longer and, in the interest of avoiding additional embarrassment to the customers, finally gave in. I was reinstated, but only after executing a written covenant promising that I will henceforth be on my best behavior with townspeople and tourists.

With warm regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.

Copyright 2006 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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