Local Beauty Salon Identifies Signs of Economic Recession


Marshall Lehman

If you purchase “Dugouts and Diamonds” from Barnes and Noble, the odds are that I was the one who packaged them for shipment to the store.

Marshall Lehman, Online and Perspectives Editor

My parents have been badgering me to get a job since the summer of 2021. Then, I had recently read “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight and was enamored with the idea of being a genius on the brink of poverty, so I told them that whatever was left in my bank account would last me until I die. However, extenuating circumstances caused me to run through that little cash, leaving me to beg my sister to drive me to and from school in order to prolong the inevitable empty gas tank.

The summer of 2022 rolled around and my parents ramped up their infernal carping. If my parents weren’t crying over my sister leaving for college or telling people that they cried over my sister leaving for college, they were on my posterior about getting a job. In total, I went the whole summer only applying for three jobs, all of them met with unanswered applications.

In my neighborhood, there is a mass email media that is sent to all the residents of the area. People can sell unwanted belongings, share anecdotes relating to life around the block, or publicize one’s 13-year-old child’s babysitting entrepreneurship. The possibilities are endless. My dad forwarded me an email from a man named Barry Shlachter. He was requesting a teenager looking for a summer job. My dad was indiscreetly suggesting that that teenager should be me. I emailed Barry my resume and waited for his response.

This was the first job that truly intrigued me, because Barry advertised himself as a publisher. He currently has around 30-some-odd titles in print, and primarily supplies these pocket sized western jargon dictionaries, Tex-Mex cookbooks, and local sports history accounts to Buc-ee’s. I imagined a massive warehouse, with shelves stocked full of books. I could have not been more wrong.

A day later my phone rang. Barry was calling to inform me that I had gotten the job, and should start my first shift within the next five minutes. He gave me the address where I would be working, but before he hung up, he warned me not to be frightened that his workspace looks more like a sweatshop than a legitimate publishing house. He sugar coated it.

I frantically squeezed past the white Subaru Outback parked in the driveway in an attempt to avoid the whole “late on the first day of work” cliché. There I met my employer: Barry. He was a middle-aged man who was confident in his stature. He told me that he used to be a journalist, but I could also see him having a successful career as a George Lucas impersonator. We shook hands and he gestured me towards the shack in his backyard. Barry opened the shed door, which was held shut by an exposed four-inch screw, and we entered his workshop. It was utter chaos. Dirt, leaves, plastic wrap, glass, and FedEx packing slips littered the floor. Trash cans were overflowing, boxes of books sat on shelves which sagged under the weight of the paper, and there was barely enough room to spin in a circle without sending loose paper flying. It was clearly a representation of his mind: organized enough that only those who designed it could find everything, but to everyone else, it looked like the aftermath of Katrina.

My job was to shrink wrap books in packs of six, then place them in their designated box, which were repurposed Greek yogurt crates from Costco. I spent over four hours shrink-wrapping books on my first day. I must have touched hundreds of those Big Bend trail guides and Texas Chili recipe books.

To protect me from the monotony of my job, Barry was kind enough to tune an alarm clock radio to NPR. I listened attentively to a story about how a local beauty salon can identify signs of an economic recession. Half an hour after the segment ended, I heard the beautician’s voice again, then again 30 minutes later, then once more. Apparently, the audience of mid-day public radio is either non-existent, or to the senile age that NPR can air the same story over and over, and no one will be the wiser.

I usually worked alone, except for once. I had begun my day’s work, unloading the new title, “Dugouts and Diamonds,” that had arrived that morning, when the workshop door opened, and there was Barry. He introduced me to my coworker. Stephanie was a middle-aged mother of two, who lived just a few blocks down the road. Like me, she had never heard of Barry before reading his email advertisement and found it off-putting that our unlikely duo was laboring together in a stranger’s shed. That was Stephanie’s second day working at Berkeley Place Books while it was my third, so naturally, I took command as the tenured employee. I never saw Stephanie again, but I’m sure that if she ever decided to return to the shack, she’d make it out again. Or at least I never saw her picture on channel 8.

It wasn’t until after my employment with Barry ended that my father bothered to ask me if anything suspect was occuring. “You shouldn’t just go into random people’s sheds,” he warned me.

“You’re a little too late,” I replied.

I was paid well in both cash and knowledge. I learned a valuable lesson: if I fail at whatever I aspire to do in my life, I could always fall back on being an over-qualified shrink wrapper.