By Pico Triano
Photos: Pixabay, Pico Triano
Spring 1982 was not a good time to be looking for work for a young man recently out of high school on the Niagara peninsula. I had a job with a kitchen cabinet company but they ran out of things for me to do. One can only rearrange the scrap wood pile so many times before someone decides that you're expendable. No bad blood there. I was treated well but there just weren't enough orders to justify keeping me. I left with a good name.
Unemployment for my age group in that area was officially around 25 percent. That only included people registered with the Unemployment centres. Like many of my peers I'd given up on the employment centres very early in the game and the reality was far worse. There really wasn't much out there. Worse many companies were downright unpleasant toward most job hunters. After asking to leave a copy of my resume, I don't know how many times I got told just to get lost. It was tough just to get out of bed and keep pounding the pavement looking for work.
On this particular day I had a few leads to pursue and I thought my prospects were pretty good. Especially on the last call of the day. Jordan Station (name of the town) had a gas station/motel looking for a gas pump attendant. What I really liked was that it was closer to home than my previous job. In fact the street I lived on extended most of the way there. Where it ended, I would cut over to another street descend the Niagara escarpment go around the corner and I would be there. Did the same commute one summer for a couple weeks picking strawberries with my younger brothers.
That wasn't the only thing on my plate that day though. I don't remember how many other stops I made along the way. I do remember the basic route though. I hopped on my bike early in the morning so that I would get to the employment centre in Welland just after they opened. There I would check the job board and any other ads they might have on the bulletin board. From there I rode to Niagara Falls and did the same thing. I checked out anything available that I might qualify for along the way. From Niagara Falls I rode to St. Catharines and did the same thing again. If I recall correctly some auto body shop actually let me fill out an application and took my resume somewhere in there. I ate a packed lunch my mom made for me somewhere around noon. From St. Catharines I headed for Jordan Station right on time. I arrived comfortably within the time frame advertised in the paper.
When I arrived I was given a form to fill out and ushered into a waiting area along with what appeared to be somewhere between fifty and hundred other people my age applying for the same job. I refused to despair. I'd worked as a newspaper boy and had experience handling cash. I had good references and everywhere I'd worked I'd been considered a good worker.
My name got called and I went to the office to be interviewed. The interviewer was a very tired harassed looking woman. This had to be a case study in why mass interviews for this kind of a job is not a good idea. She was decidedly unfriendly and seemed to take an instant dislike to me. She quickly ascertained that I had come to the interview by bicycle and asked me if I had a drivers license. I told her not yet. At which point she took my application and drew a line across it from one corner to another right in front of me. Now I'm not stupid. I know what that means. I didn't ride my bike nearly a hundred kilometres already that day just to get dismissed like that. I attempted to defend my use of my bike as transportation. At that point she wasn't just unfriendly, she was borderline hostile. She said I would be bumming rides from other employees and would have trouble getting to work (I've never had a problem and never done that). She couldn't see how I could ride to work without going on the QEW (Illegal to ride a bike on that besides I'd actually have to go out of my way to ride there). I pretty quickly realized the situation was hopeless and shut up. I walked out of that interview absolutely livid.
I later found a job as a grounds maintenance person for Robert Land Academy. When I was interviewed there, they were impressed that not only did I ride my bike to the interview, but during the interview I wore a crisp clean suit. The commute was similar to my previous job but the extra mileage didn't bother me. The auto body shop called back to offer me a job much later but I was already working. I appreciated their professionalism though.
Incidentally, I know I no longer live in that area, but even when I did, in thirty-five years that establishment, where I felt so badly treated has not gotten one thin dime of my business.
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