Think about it…

Is there anything more discombobulating than your first day at a new job?

Your brain is redlined in logistics overdrive, fighting to process all the new instructions and advice:

“Okay, restrooms are down the hall, but the better one is two floors up…”

“The HR lady is a total bitch, find a way to get on her good side…”

“You get 30 minutes for lunch, so don’t plan to leave, there’s nothing fast in walking distance…”

“The salespeople think they own the place and will give you orders – don’t do it! It’ll only make them abuse you more.”

My first day working with Charlie for $350 per week (under the radar) was like that, except everyone in the office chain-smoked generic cigarettes (inside!)… and cursed as if they’d won a lifetime’s supply of the words – and “Fuckin’ A” if they weren’t going to use them up.

Even more strange was that I had no job title. 

No one knew why I was there, what I did, and if I was to be trusted. 

Namely, me.

So, I sat there perusing the timeshare condo listings on his website while Charlie sat behind the desk barking orders through the open door to his assistant, Dana, across the hall.

He loved the power, and was extra inspired to show it off to me. 

Payback, I supposed, for the time I rejected his restitutive bucket of coins, back when he was the one in need of retribution.

“DANA!” he would holler, startling everyone in earshot. 

Poor Dana, a good-natured and perpetually anxious woman in her late forties with long, brown hippie hair and disproportionately large breasts, would spring from her chair and rush into the smoky office…


“Coffee, please,” Charlie would say without looking away from the online poker game on his computer screen. “Love ya, mean it.”

“Sure,” said Dana. “Would you like some, too, Ken?”

“It’s Kevin. And no, I’m all good, but thank you.”

Eight hours like this. 

An endless parade of nervous subordinates dragging on freshly lit cigarettes coming to Charlie, if not summoned, to bitch about something someone else was doing, or saying, or not doing or saying, in hopes of improving their rank. 

And me, sitting there looking more like a federal agent than a guy who belonged, wondering if I should be listening intently, or trying to look invisible, amidst the Redneck Real World style drama that all felt so important to the people involved. 

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. 

By virtue of sheer repetition, developing an iron stomach for social ignorance, and at the expense of at least a quarter of a lung, I’m sure… 

I was beginning to understand things. 

One thing was that…

Despite choosing to model his office culture around the bar scene from Star Wars, Charlie was pretty brilliant at a few things…

He understood people and their motivations…

He was a master persuader (and, yes, manipulator)…

He saw a gap in a market and ceased upon the opportunity to fill it…

He kept his books in order…

He was faithful to his people…

And, most surprisingly, he was on a mission to build a truly legitimate company in an ocean crawling with pirates. 

I didn’t always like what I saw, but under a cloud of cheap cigarettes, gratuitous swearing, and high school drama… 

I was learning a lot about how the world works. 

Charlie loved to say…

“There are two kinds of people in the world; those who feel pressure, and those who apply pressure. No in-between.”

At this age, I could go on for pages about the ethical nuances of that concept, however, at that age, it rang true.

I knew I’d spent the first 30 years of my life on the receiving end of pressure, and if I wanted a better life, it was time to hop sides.  

If not for my time with Charlie, four years in all, eventually becoming the vice president of his company… It might not have happened. 

During my time there, I:

Maintained an A+ company rating with the Better Business Bureau…

Lead the sales team (despite never working the phones myself)…

Created and hosted a syndicated television show to expand the advertising of our listings…

Casually greeted armed FTC agents when they stormed in and demanded everyone hang up their phones and step away from their computers…

Built a yearly salary higher than what I earned in almost a decade of stand-up…

Became a father…


Discovered copywriting… 

And eventually, replaced those nicotine-yellowed “Charlie checks” with freelancing work. 

Towards the end, Charlie backslid and began using hard drugs.

He was proudly “still not drinking,” but crack cocaine, while easier to hide, was a higher octane fuel for his worst tendencies.

The company began to crumble – Charlie’s messes, now too severe for Dana, myself, or his wife, Tammy (who ran the finances) to sweep away.  

One day Charlie summoned me to his house for a meeting with him and Tammy.

I sat down and we began talking about the business, but as we did, my eyesight turned blurry and I struggled to concentrate. 

Whatever was happening to me intensified enough to concern even Charlie.

“Tammy, drive him to a doctor. I’m a crackhead and he’s making me nervous.”

First, she drove me to an eye doctor, but by the time we got there I was losing consciousness and my eyesight was all but gone. 

She sped me to the closest emergency room.

When Tammy pulled into the drive, I was completely unconscious. 

The nurses, I hear, plopped me into a wheelchair and rushed me into triage. 

I spent three days in a medically induced coma and, soon after, underwent open heart surgery to replace my infected mitral heart valve. 

Six weeks in recovery, unable to drive or work, and, despite being a contractor, Charlie continued paying me in full the entire time. 

I ran into Charlie and Tammy at a comedy club years later. 

Sober again, he said, while smoking cigarettes, vape, and weed simultaneously at the bar.  

It was good to see him. 

Crazy fucker. 

Then Charlie told me something I never knew about that day in his living room.

He had called me to his house to fire me. 

My obsession with private copy projects was affecting my performance at work, and they could no longer afford my salary anyway, so it was time to say goodbye.

Instead, I fainted in their living room, died for three days, and had life-saving surgery. 

They weren’t going to turn their back on me and my family at a time like that, so Charlie and Tammy floated my recovery. 

Even kept me employed for months more after I returned. 

Likely the kindest thing anyone’s ever done for me. 

And I didn’t find out until ten years later.

Life, and death, are unpredictable.

We will look back on our lives, in old age (should we be so fortunate), and ponder the choices we made along the way.

Some fortuitous, some courageous, some regrettable, but all of them essential to our stories.

No turning back.

No do-overs.

No in-between. 

Just be. 

P.S. This is the final of a three-part story… part 1, part 2.


PLUS: Get fill-in-the-blank templates that instantly establish “Know, Like, and Trust”

PLUS: Get fill-in-the-blank templates that instantly establish “Know, Like, and Trust”
PLUS: Get fill-in-the-blank templates that instantly establish “Know, Like, and Trust”
100% Secure. We Never Share Your Email

100% Secure. We Never Share Your Email

100% Secure. We Never Share Your Email