Winding down, winding up

School let out May 25th, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve been on summer break for one week – probably because the end of the school year was a chaotic mess, as usual. I wasn’t able to check out on the 25th due to a bunch of late work being thrown at me, but I was able to get it wrapped up the following day. And now it’s time for a much-needed break. I am freaking tired.

My hubby and I left for a quick trip to Chicago soon after school let out so that we could celebrate his birthday and visit friends. We took in a Sox game (which was FREEZING thanks to a weird cold snap), walked around downtown Naperville, bought way too many books at Half Price Books (to add to my pile of unread books from the last time I went there), and had a good time with everyone we visited with. It was the perfect start to the summer and a great stress relief. I needed to laugh and be a little carefree for a while. Well . . . almost carefree.

Although the school year is done, now it’s time to work on this house, which I am hoping will be put on the market in the late winter/early spring. We have a lot of projects to do, and next spring I will experience more chaos than I will want to endure, as I will be trying to sell a house, buy a house, and get a different job in a different state and city (Chicago area). So many things have to fall into place at the same time, and I am freaking out big-time. What if one of those pieces doesn’t work out? What if I can’t find a job? What if I can’t sell my house? While it’s a buyer’s market in the Chicago area, that’s not necessarily true for small town Iowa. Not too many people are clamoring to get their hands on a 1953 ranch house. Moreover, I will be moving to a market where teaching jobs have a lot more competition.

Ah, so be it. I am not the only one who has had to face such obstacles, and there really isn’t anything I can do other than praying that it all works out.

We have been so busy that we really haven’t been antiquing that much. It is strange how a random find in a store will start curving your interests; I picked up a couple vintage Avon talc tins a few months ago – still full of the perfumed talc – and now it’s one of the things I look for. Back in the day – when I was around 23 – I sold Avon for a brief stint. I was newly graduated from college, full of naïveté, and full even moreso of nostalgia for Avon. I remember leafing through the booklets when I was younger and marveling at all the products. I remember my parents having some of the cologne bottles that were shaped like a pipe or a dog’s head. And yes, a part of me got taken in by all the wonderful MLM promises that one gets fed as part of a selling crew: the more you sell, the more you make! Recruit! Build your army! I even attending a few meetings when I lived in Sioux Falls, which makes me chuckle to think about now. It is entirely true that I sold Avon more for me than for anything I could possibly sell, although there were times that I made a half-assed effort at selling. I think I got an actual high when I received the new booklets; I would tear open the plastic and spend a good half hour just musing through all the products – the lipstick, the bath oils, the perfumes, and even the clothing and home goods that Avon tried selling for a bit. My first set of dishes came from an Avon catalog. Oh, I was so grown up!

I remember thinking how cool it was that I had my own grey Avon bag to carry around with my catalogs and Avon samples in it. Lord, the money I spend on samples!! Another downside of the MLM business is that the seller pretty much buys everything – even the catalogs – in order to make a sale. I was young and not exactly thinking practically; I was making decent money and had very few bills, so spending money on impractical things was much easier to do than it is now. I would order complete sample sets of lipsticks, perfumes, facial products, and whatever else. This was in the waning days of the “mini-lipstick”-type samples, and I loved having a little case full of them. (Now, I believe, the samples come in flat peel-back cards, which is not nearly as fun.) I mailed out catalogs and even walked through neighborhoods, carefully hanging my catalogs on a door with the door hanging bags that I bought. I received virtually no callbacks. The thing with being an Avon lady in the mid-1990s is that many people either already had an Avon lady or weren’t interested in buying what seemed to be an antiquated product. Even worse, I had become an Avon lady riiiiiiight when the Internet made shopping so easy that no one needed an actual human being to sell them anything in person. Yeah, my timing kind of sucked.

I also ran into another issue: some ladies who seemed to want to buy Avon really only wanted company. When I moved into an apartment building that was well-suited to older people, I tried again at building a clientele in that area. A sweet old lady – her name escapes me now, but it was a very Italian-sounding name – called me one day to sample some products. She lived the floor below me, and I eagerly pranced down to her apt with my grey bag in tow. Her apartment was decorated in a very old fashion and was the typical stuffy, overly warm apartment that seemed the norm among the older residents there. As I lay my samples out on the table, I learned pretty quickly why I was there: this woman wanted to talk. And talk and talk and taaaaaalk. She was very sweet and very nice, and I have never been one to be rude without provocation, so I listened. The sweet lady talked my ear off for an hour, then she placed an order for something very small. I thanked her and left.

The routine would be repeated several times during the months I lived in those apartments. She’d call, I’d haul my samples down there, and she would talk until I expressed that I had to go somewhere – as nicely as I could express it, of course. I found out too quickly that these sessions were not exactly a good moneymaker, but it taught me a lot of about being patient and about the importance of listening, especially to people who seemed to have no one else. My Avon career was a bust, but I learned that sometimes interacting with people isn’t about what you can sell them; it’s about what you can learn from them.

Nevertheless, I still get a kick out of seeing an Avon brochure when I run across them. Occasionally I will order products that I have loved over the years, but many of the products I used to love have been discontinued and I notice that Avon keeps making their packages smaller and smaller, but charging more for them. Such is the way of the cosmetics industry, I know, but I still long for the days when one could buy a huge jar of face cream for a few bucks.

Fast forward to now, when I get a kick out of finding a vintage Avon talc tin for a few bucks. I suppose there is a metaphor in that statement somewhere about aging and nostalgia and the value of things, but I still am not recovered enough from the school year to try to form it completely in my head.

Share