regarding the parrot
When I wrote about bad jobs in passing, last week, I realized there might be more to the dead parrot story.
Here's the deal. At the time (spring of 2009) I was employed at a small stereo installation company. I LOVED that job. More than any other I've ever had. The coworkers were fun, and the work (while still administrative) was personally interesting to me because it was about stereo components and their installation and design. But I wasn't getting paid. That job is another story for another time.
Meanwhile, a posting came up on Craiglist — a bed & breakfast at a historic estate was being started up, and the owner needed someone to be his right-hand man. It fell within the scope of my skills, so I responded.
Day 1 was separate interviews with him and his cousin (a middle aged lady from Norway), plus a tour of the property on a 6-wheeler, and then we ran errands in his ramshackle car, so I could get an idea of how he did business while continuing the interview process. There was some kind of difficulty with financials, and he was at the bank every day juggling funds between accounts. That should have been a clue.
Day 2 was trying to sort out his office, and putting together a business plan/guidelines. This was the day I went for an ice cube and found a parrot. I think I put the ice cube back.
Day 3 was when I emailed him after getting home from work to say, so sorry, I can't come back. I asked him to keep what he owed me for the 3 days of work, to make up for it.
And then day 4 and the following days for a couple of weeks was when he called me multiple times a day, leaving angry messages.
I felt terrible at the time. But it was, at best, an informal job (I never signed anything, and no doubt had I ever been paid it'd have been in cash), and it's not like I had received training, a uniform, nothing. I just keep hoping I don't run into him, or that, 9 years having passed, he won't recognize me.
But back to those three days. It'd been a long time since he'd had a bookkeeper. There was no plan for getting the bed & breakfast running. I scoured the net looking for other places that had posted policies and came up with a plan I just located in my email while writing this. Honestly, it still strikes me as being pretty great: I had a bunch of ideas for how he could make it more resort-like, spa-like, a vacation destination. It bugged me, though, because he was already advertising it like that, but the place was not set up at ALL the way it was described. This also should have been a clue.
He had a distant family Quaker connection, which he thought meant he should brand the whole place as a religious retreat, despite being non-practicing himself. The kind of person that's superstitious enough to think claiming affiliation with religion will ward off... something. We discussed a work schedule, he didn't want to give me Sundays off to attend church — basically, what was on the table was me being there 24/7, with a weeknight off now and then, and one weekend a month free. The pay wasn't commensurate with the schedule. The bedroom was nice, but it was just a room (with a rag rug and rocking chair, whoohoo), and I thought about how on earth I would have visitors, how would I go out at night, what was it going to be like not being able to leave if there were guests? It was intimated that if there were enough guests, and the room was needed, I'd have to give it up for them. Clue.
Many businesses were being somewhat shadily run from the property: the "bed & breakfast", the sale of rocks and timber from the land, a farm (horses, which he was breeding, chickens and ducks for eggs, a bunch of exotics like bison and ostrich, because he wanted to start a petting zoo), and he was making trails for a potential hunting/hiking venture. These were what I was made aware of from the tour/ his emails which he asked me to handle, but there were probably more. Broken-down equipment littered the property, which was otherwise shockingly beautiful - hilly, with quarries where they'd taken out stone, and huge sweeping views to the valleys below.
He was a rough guy, older, friendly enough, abrupt. His house was down a dirt road from the "manor house" (as the main building was billed) - dated, cluttered. Stacks of papers, bills, and magazines got pushed aside so he could set down tea mugs. I'd seen worse. It was harder tackling his online presence - revising and updating everywhere he'd attempted to advertise himself or his ventures.
His cousin was there to act as chef and innkeeper. I was supposed to work with her. We got along well, she knitted incessantly as we talked about cooking and family, and I felt worse about leaving for her sake than his.
Anyway, I looked the place up to see if it was still in business and found wedding photos (he got it off the ground not as a B&B, but as a wedding venue). A bunch of uncomfortable looking bridesmaids, skirts chopped off awkwardly by the same tan leather sectional I sat on to chat with the cousin, grimacing at a bride who looked uncomfortable to be in someone's house. A groom in jeans and suspenders leaning casually against the barn, where I remember an office with a wooden desk, a broken clock, a dirty calendar, and the most tremendous beams of late afternoon sun.
On day 4, I went back to the stereo job. I still wasn't getting paid properly there, but at least I wasn't worried about being murdered.