Thursday, February 18, 2010

End of an Error

An era is defined as a period of time with a common string throughout. An era could be as long as the industrial revolution or as short as the Presidency of John F Kennedy that was known affectionately as "Camelot."

We can all find periods of time in our lives that lend themselves to the 'era' designation. Perhaps it was the time we had teenagers living with us. This era is commonly known as "AAHHHHHH."

An era can signal the beginning of life, or to use the above analogy, the time when your children move out.

But this piece is not about children or Camelot for that matter. This is about a car and what it signified in my life.

I graduated college a couple of eras ago and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
I had interests in science, math, humor and writing. Unfortunately there were very few companies offering jobs for people with my particular skills.

Through a few weird turns of fate I ended up in the Textile business selling schmatta (rags) or as we in the fashion business called it, Schma-tay!
Back in the 1970s and through to the end of the century textiles was a fairly large employer in America. It was also the largest industry in the New York area for much of that time period.

Everyone of a certain age or those with a knowledge of the past will remember "8th Avenue and 34th Street" in Manhattan as the bustling bee-hive bastion of the "Garment District."
If you worked there and went out to lunch you would have to dodge the rolling garment racks filled with mink stoles or the latest designs from an up and coming designer.

The lower Manhattan area was vibrant and alive with segmented businesses squeezed together in an almost ghetto-like way. One needed only a day to access all each business had to offer because they were all there.

Just below the Garment District was and is the Flower district.

Off to the East, on Fifth Avenue is the Toy District.

And sort of just on the outskirts of both was the Home Fashion area of the textile industry. These days you will have to travel a bit farther East to find our textile production, about 7,000 miles farther.

But I digress.

On and off for 40 years I worked in that area.  And for the most part I actually worked in the same building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 29th street.  In fact when I left one position to go work with another company that company was either in the building or moved into it shortly thereafter.

For the last decade and a half of my textile life I worked for one company.  Surprisingly it was the same place that I started at 40 years ago.

The main difference between my two stints with them was my age; level of pay; and the owner who was the son of the original boss.

As part of my deal I had a car for which they assisted me with the payments.  But when the economy turned sour in 2008 my car and I were included on the casualty list.

Whether or not they were right in letting me go after such long loyal service is subjective (not really - they were downright wrong and quite stupid as well.)

But that's only part of the story.  Unlike them I had an obligation to pay for the car on my own and without an income.

So was my career in textiles an era, an error, or a combination of both?

At this point who cares? (Certainly not the old boss and his cronies.)

I have survived and although it was a tremendous and uncalled for fight to get a little help from the old place on the auto payments I was able to hold onto the car until the end of the lease.

But the end did come this month and the car has been returned to the dealer.  My hybrid is history.  A new car sits in my garage awaiting adventure.

I still have some friends from the old industry and I still occasionally hear from them but less and less as time goes by.

The old company still owes me money, as per their own words but it's been well over a year so I guess that ship has sailed.

And the last tie I had to my 40 year run in the textile industry was that car.  And now both car and career are histroy.

Time to move on to a different life, a new normal.

It is the end of an era.


Mark Surks said...

I spent some time in the hustle and bustle of the garment district. The streets were teeming with racks of dresses like gnats in the Amazon. To this day I have no idea why racks were constantly moving hither and yon.
I worked at the world famous (well maybe just locally famous) Squires Coffee Shop on Eighth Ave between 37th and 38th. My uncles owned it affording me employment as they say "off the books". One of my duties was to visit a shop on one of the side streets where cloth was cut. I went up at about 10 AM and took lunch orders from Alex, Jose, George, Robbie, Carmen and the rest of the gang to be delivered at 11:30.
I watched as cloth was unrolled onto Olympic length tables back and forth until the pile was a foot or more high. Then an army of skilled cutters would being pushing upright saws thru the pile of cloth according to the patterns.
The saws were made in America, the cloth was made in America and while all of the employees may not have been made in America, at least they were legally in America.
Now I am told those cutting rooms are gone, the saws silent. The flurry of activity that brought me there daily now takes place on the opposite side of the planet. They have no need for my cheeseburgers, BLTs, fries and Cokes.

mug guy said...

Thanks Mark! Great comment.
I remember Squires and Brooks on Fifth.
Good times!
Good food!
Good friends you could rely on!
I added the Thai Flower Market info to show that the garment industry isn't the only thing leaving America.
PS - Luckily for you the IRS doesn't read my blog so the "off the books" comment will remain our little secret.

mug guy said...

The following comment was e-mailed to me by someone who said he does not know how to place a comment directly on the blog. I figured it was worthy of publication so:

Dear Curmudgeon
You neglected to add that the fabric industry was once the largest employer in the southern part of our country. Disgraced sub human, John Edwards' family all worked in fabric mills as did he.
The industry was given away to other countries, turkey comes to mind, as payment for a favor to our country. Allowing our war planes to fly in their airspace or to land for refueling. These were grounds for giving them the technology and exporting of the industry.
The possibility of exporting our politics and politicians to India and Bangladesh seems to be a great idea. I am sure that they could do a better job and for less money.

Ya think !