January had always been the dreaded slow month after the whirlwind retail hours I had just survived and I was in sleep recovery mode. From about October right up to closing time on Christmas eve I survived on about 4 hours sleep per night. I never took time off from work since I lived away from my family and I didn’t have a boyfriend to distract me. All I really had was my job and I wanted to be successful. While at the store I was busy building displays, receiving vast amounts of perishable product and hiring and training my seasonal crew. I practically lived in my store, much to the chagrin of my crew. I tried to hire good trainable people so we could all share the
fun workload. My year-round crew was awesome and they all stepped up to get additional hours. The economy was good and people were spending money. Life was good at Hickory Farms.
My diet during the holiday retail season consisted of random slices of beefstick and Lindor balls. I don’t know if it was the lack of good nourishment, or throwing freight, but during the holidays I usually dropped about 15 pounds. But then again, I was 27 and I had the metabolism of an 8th grade boy. I could really eat anything and it wouldn’t matter. It sort of makes me goofy to look at photos of myself from 25 years ago and think I had a weight problem. Augh!
On this particular January day 25 years ago, it was the typical morning in Portland Oregon, the usual grey with occasional wet droplets. I wasn’t in a real hurry to get to work, I was still catching up on sleep and things were very slow at the store. I remember sitting in the living room, putting on my shoes and socks and I had the TV on quietly, as my roommate was still asleep. I glanced up at the TV, while I was slipping on my socks, at the exact moment that the Space Shuttle Challenger blew apart. Of course it wasn’t obvious to me at the time what had happened until pieces and parts started falling to the ground. I knew that it wasn’t good, what I had just witnessed. That was perhaps the understatement of the century, but I was 27 years old and didn’t really have a concept of space and space travel, except this: Gravity always wins. I ran to tell my roommate what had happened and she was truly underwhelmed. Now I feel sort of silly waking her, but this was the first national catastrophic event that I could recall. Sure I was around when JFK was assassinated but I was 3 years old and I don’t remember it.
I left my home and went to work. Immediately upon arrival I turned on the radio so I could listen to whatever was going to be said. I don’t know what I expected, but I just knew that I had to remain in some sort of contact. What I do recall was how deathly slow the store was that day. I didn’t break $50 in sales the whole day and that was not a good thing.
It’s hard to imagine 25 years ago, until we’re reminded of something momentous that happens. I always hoped that the Space shuttle crew didn’t know what happened and they didn’t have time to speculate and be scared, that’s all I really hope for any of us.