Do I Look Like I Work Here?

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather

Well apparently I do. I have often been
mistaken for an employee of whatever store I happen to be shopping in.
This all started many years ago. I had worked for a number of different
greenhouses/landscaping companies and had started wearing green work
pants since they didn’t show the dirt as much. Even when I no longer
worked in the field, I would often wear my green “gardening” pants when I
went into one of these gardening centres to purchase plants or trees.
Inevitably another customer would spot me in my green pants and assume
that I worked there and would ask me a question.  I used to fight it and
say, “No, I don’t work here.” Eventually I gave in and went with the
flow and answered their questions when I could. “Do impatiens grow well
in the shade?” “Yes, they love the shade.” Of course if I had been a bad
person I could have dispensed bad advice, but I’m not like that.

I’m
most proud when people mistake me for an employee of Canadian Tire, (a
hardware/automotive supply store). If I had to choose just one store in
which to shop, I think I’d forgo a grocery store and pick Canadian Tire.
I used to spend a fair amount of time in this store before our hardware
store opened in town. Even though I am not usually dressed like a
Canadian Tire employee, I guess because of the amount of time I have
spent there, I look comfortable and knowledgeable enough to fool other
customers!

Then at my recent talk for The Rotary Club of Kingston I
took a bit of hit to my ever-fragile ego. Granted I should have seen it
coming. Even though I was the keynote speaker, several members of the
club came up to me and asked about tables and food. Come on! I’m the
speaker! I don’t know where the tables are! But I sort of had it coming.
First off, I forgot my nametag. If I’d had my nametag I would have
looked official. Secondly, I wore my “black” outfit, which is about the
only one I have left that is decent enough for speaking engagements.
Well as luck would have it, the serving staff at the restaurant where
the meetings are held all wear black. And then of course there is that
age thing. While there are many outcroppings of grey hair in my head,
people still say I look younger than I am. So while I guess I should be
flattered that I’m being mistaken for a college student, I was kind of
hoping I’d be over it by now.

Looking young was especially
challenging when I first started my own business. Looking young can hurt
your credibility. I can remember when Cam Jackson (a politician) was
campaigning in Burlington and he knocked on my door. I was about 30, had
two kids, ran my own business, owned my own house and two cars … you
know, like a real grown up. So when I opened my door he asked, “Is your
father home?” So I said, “Yes he is, at this house in Oshawa.” and
closed the door.

Shortly after we moved into our Burlington house
and were running our business from home, I installed a basketball net in
our driveway. I found shooting hoops to be a great stress reliever and
it also helped me to avoid backaches from spending so many hours sitting
in front of a computer. Several times a day I would go out and shoot
baskets for 15 minutes. One day the neighbor across the street came over
to introduce himself to me and asked what school I went to. High
school? College? Come on! You see those two little girls running around
here? They are my daughters. I run a business! I’m a grown up … honest!

I
often wondered afterwards if people thought that Michelle and I had
been teenaged parents or something. I guess we looked pretty young to
have two kids but I believe Michelle was 26 when our first daughter was
born!

Thinking about my house in Burlington has reminded me of a
completely unrelated story.  It’s one of those “when your world gets
completely turned upside down” type of story. It helps me empathize with
the incredible upheaval so many Americans are going through with the
U.S. housing collapse and the many people who have lost or are in danger
of losing their home. It would really be quite devastating. The
emotional attachment you develop to a home makes losing one just
horrific.

One day we got a package in the mail. It was addressed
to a woman we didn’t know, but at our address. Since we didn’t know her,
and there was no internet at that time to quickly search for her, and
it was our address, we opened it. Inside was a pile of papers – the
official paperwork that showed that this woman we didn’t know now
officially owned our house. It was the weirdest, more horrifying
experience I think I’ve ever had. After a lot of frantic calls and trips
to a lawyer’s office, it turned out that some person in the lawyer’s
office had transposed two numbers. Our street address was 468. The woman
had just bought #486 up the street from us. What was most terrifying
though was that no one had caught it. No one in the land registry office
or any other level of government had noticed that we, the owners,
hadn’t actually sold our house. Nobody thought to consult the current
owners if they even wanted to sell their home. In this case, we weren’t
even getting paid.

It turned out that the lawyer who made the
mistake was a jerk. There was no apology from him and when I requested
that he resolve the issue quickly (because frankly I found it pretty
disconcerting) he brushed me off. When I called him again to make sure
the issue had been resolved he threatened to have me charged with
opening the mail illegally, which is a federal office. Ahhh … lawyers.
The best defense is a good offence.

Well, I’m off to go work in the woods, where hopefully there won’t be anyone else around to mistake me for an employee!

For more information about Cam Mather or his books, visit www.cammather.com or www.aztext.com.