How a marquee changed the course of my life

Just that one, near insignificant customer in a DIY shop had put me on a course where I’d learn more, do more, have more and be more than I could have ever imagined back then.

I was a few months away from being 19, I’d just finished studying A levels and I wasn’t sure where to go in life.

I wasn’t ambitious back then. The drive that burns deep within me these days wasn’t there.

But there were still flecks of the guy I grew up to be. The fire just needed to be stoked.

I was working part time at a DIY store. Sometimes, as I’d cycle or drive to work, I felt like I might be on the edge of a great adventure but didn’t know what it was.

My life was so hum-drum and smalltown that I didn’t really know what was out there.

So I spent my days tidying up shelves, lifting wood and taking care of the checkout when needed.

One day a rich, red-faced man in an expensive shirt came in. He seemed fairly jovial. But also the kind of guy who could lose his shit at the smallest thing. You know the type, right?

Anyway he shopped around, and a little while later he turned up at my till with a trolley full of goods.

Among his haul was a big marquee and as I ran it through the till he busied himself by telling me how he was going to have this huge party for his daughter’s 18th.

It was going to the be the biggest. And the best. Loads of people were going to go to it.
(Almost reminds you of a certain world leader doesn’t it…?)

Anyway he bids me good day and heads off. It was a quiet day, so I tried to do whatever I could to look busy – my manager back then was as watchful as a hawk.

Some minutes later and the doors come flying open. The man in the expensive shirt comes hurtling in like a freight train run solely on posh Cologne. He begins shouting and gets so angry that words fail him. Just staring daggers at me – angry little eyes set deep in his bright red face.

He approaches me at the till and makes a move to grab me by my collar, I dodged him the first time but the second time he catches hold of me and kind of drags me towards him.

I’m then subjected to a torrent of abuse. The guy had an iron grip. I couldn’t bust free.

Luckily my manager saw all of this and came out to defuse the situation. He wasn’t the kind of guy you argued with and the man in the expensive shirt soon calmed down.

I was only a teenager back then and I was pretty shook up. Sure I’d had arguments, I’d been bullied and I’d been in scraps at school – but all of that paled to being grabbed by an absolute unit of a middleaged man who was at least four inches taller than me.

(image credit: home garden centre)

It turns out that the guy hadn’t been able to fit the marquee box in his boot, so he’d put it through his car and when he’d started driving the lid had opened and a pole had slipped through and ‘damaged’ his windshield.

How bad the damage was, I will never know – as he was moving at such a slow speed (being in a car park at the time) it can’t have been too bad!?

But anyway, this event got me thinking about my future – did I really want to work in retail? What was I really going to do? Did I have more to offer to the world? Was I just drifting? Was this all life was?

Eventually, on the back of these thoughts, I sent away for various brochures, and when I found the right one I went to University (to the shock of my folks). It was one of the top 3 decisions I’ve ever made so far. I learnt a lot, gained a good degree and it rounded me off as an individual.

He was the tipping point, though. The one moment. Just that one, near insignifcant customer in a DIY shop had put me on a course where I’d learn more, do more, have more and be more than I could have imagined back then.

Although, from time to time, I do wonder where I’d be now if that hadn’t happened?

When I’m back home I occasionally see that guy from time to time, but he has no idea who I am. Maybe I should thank him.

Interestingly, the DIY chain I worked for went out of business about six months after I went to University – so, it was a good job I didn’t stay!

(featured image credit: myfonts)

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