Staff Infection

As a newly graduated English Majorette, I headed Out West to seek my fortune, and arrived in Seattle just before the holiday season.

While I decided what to do with the rest of my life, I landed a temp job selling shoes at the downtown Frederick and Nelson’s to pay the rent.

The shoe did not fit.  Most of the saleswomen spent their paychecks on new clothes, using the employee discount, of course.  I had two and a half presentable outfits, and rotated.  I didn’t wear make-up or high heels, but I did have a decent pair of leather boots that went with everything.  I was competent and polite, except to the imperious bitches who mistook the fitting chair for a throne and were used to being waited on hand and foot.  They were the ones who came in five minutes before closing, ordered me to fetch four different pairs of shoes in three sizes, then stuck out their feet for me to remove their own shoes for them.

That six week position seemed an eternity, but I had a secret superpower to get through it.  Long before the invention of Photoshop, I had mastered my own techniques for photo doctoring.

It was crude, but effective.  And my family was very forgiving.

All it took was a pin to scratch away here and a red marker to color in there, and voila!   I turned my Frederick and Nelson’s staff pin into a Frederick and Nelson’s staph pin.  No one even noticed, but somehow it was a sign, and it made all the difference to me.

Then one cold December day my boss called me into the back room.  I was sure she was going to fire me for badge tampering.  But she said, “I want you to work here on a permanent basis beginning in January.”

Before I could tell her, “Thank you, but I want to check out job opportunities in Hell first,” she leaned forward to stare at my bosom.  Or at the badge on my bosom, to be more precise.  “I think there’s a typo on your badge.”

“So it would seem,” I replied.

“That’s never happened before.  Go get a new one, and then let me know as soon as possible about the job.”

I never did trade in my Little Red Badge of Courage for a new one.  As for the job selling shoes… those boots were made for walking, and that’s just what they did.  They walked on down to Grand Teton National Park, where I waited tables, and to King’s Canyon National Park, where I taught canoe.

And they brought me back to the home of my heart…

…where I became a professional storyteller

…and author.

Along the journey, I have learned to pay attention to my instincts, and to read the writing on the wall.

But I still keep the badge as a reminder that sometimes one must relish the tiny victories along the way.

c2013 Naomi Baltuck
Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs.



  1. ShimonZ says:

    Another wonderful story. I so enjoy your stories, Naomi… and this is one of the best!

    1. Dear Shimon,
      You are too kind! Even when I’m a bad dog! Thank you for making me smile.

  2. Carol says:

    Oh you were so bad! I do think your ultimate choices – storytelling and writing were the best. You do them so well. Of course, I’m referring to your written storytelling, not having had the opportunity to hear the spoken version.

    1. Dear Carol,
      Yes, I was a bad dog! I try to watch my bite and my bark, but once in a while, I growl. I have always been a round peg in a square hole kind of world, but storytelling and writing was a perfect fit. Thanks so much for your visit.

  3. Terry says:

    I love your spunk! You have a great attitude towards life and I can understand your success!!

    1. Thank you, Terry!

  4. Mary Brugh says:

    I love this, Naomi!

    1. Thank you, Mary. So good to hear from you. I hope you are well. When are you coming back to Seattle for a visit?

  5. sexinthelibrary says:

    Years ago when I worked for *deleted*,* admin decided that we all needed name badges. Why? Because that’s what admin does. We knew each other. We knew our customers. Who needs badges?

    But admin insisted: badges required. They forgot to tell us that the badges were supposed to have *our* names. We ordered 14 badges, one for each staff member. And each badge clearly said “Darryl.”

    1. Dear Aarene,
      I love, love, love this! Thank you for making my day.

  6. SKEdaddle says:

    Great story ~ always listen to your instincts and walk to your own beat.

    1. So true! I have pretty god instincts, and where I most often get into trouble is when I ignore them. Thanks so much for the visit.

  7. diannegray says:

    That ‘Staph’ badge gave me a big giggle this morning, Naomi. What a great story this is! 😀

  8. scillagrace says:

    I love your spirit, Naomi!

    1. Hi Scilla,
      Just having a little fun. Thanks for the visit. I hope you had a good weekend.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Love this – how creative to do something to lift your spirits in a discontented time. I’m glad you kept it. And I love “English Majorette,” which I’ll be next May – at 54 years old!

    1. Dear Jennifer,
      When I told my mom I didn’t know what I wanted to be or do, she said, “There is value i education for education’s sake!” They might laugh at us, but we know what to do with an apostrophe, and our world–and theirs– is all the richer for the symbolism we are always finding in EVERYTHING.”

  10. Pat says:

    Oh, Naomi, I love your attitude. Great story – keep on writing. Maybe when you grow up you can become a “real” English Major. 😀

    1. Thanks, Pat. I’m still trying to decide whether I want to grow up or not!

      1. Pat says:

        Don’t. I think growing up is over-rated and besides it gives us something to look forward to if we should choose it.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, and for your visit.

  11. pattisj says:

    I like the “Pause;” sign. Another great post.

    1. Hi Patti,
      I could not believe my good fortune in stumbling upon that mural. It was at an airport Starbucks–possibly in London, because I remember we were far from Seattle, i was with my sister Constance, and we went there together at about the time the photo was taken. I LOVED it–it was put there just for me. I knew if I waited long enough, the perfect opportunity would come along for sharing it.

      Thanks for the visit, Patti.

  12. Jamie Dedes says:

    Such a laugh I got out of this, Naomi. It’s the best story. You were brave and you stood by you. Fabulous … and you just made my evening.

    I love your photo doctoring.

    1. Dear Jamie,

      You really made my night. I hesitated a tad before pushing the publish button on this one, as it’s kind of silly, so it’s good to hear that you enjoyed it.

      Somewhere I have some doctored post cards that my sister returned to me when she downsized–if they ever turn up, I’ll post some.

      Thank you, as ever, for your wonderful encouragement, Jamie.

      Sweet dreams,

  13. Jamie Dedes says:

    just posted to my FB page

    1. Dear Jamie,
      Thank you so much!

  14. Fun! . . . and only wear “flair” if you feel like it! ❤

    1. Thank you, Mary. It’s great to hear from you.

  15. sue says:

    Pretty funny that you were able to pull off this prank without anybody ever figuring it out. Speaks to the (lack of) intelligence around you! No wonder you were so miserable! 😀

    1. Hi Sue,

      I definitely did not fit in there. It wasn’t that my co-workers were sales clerks, but it was the obsession with fashion and appearance that I couldn’t relate to. Today I had a really interesting conversation while shopping for Grandma, who loves “Karmel Sutra” ice cream. The grocery clerk was very upbeat and intelligent, and recognized the word “sutra” from her studies of Sanskrit, which she uses in her meditation. I think she said it means “thread.”

      Thanks so much for your visits, and your thoughtful comment.

  16. Terrific, Naomi! It’s always so interesting to learn the back stories of the people I follow and admire. Vindicated, I was, to find the young Naomi just as sassy as I would have expected her to be. 🙂

    1. Dear dear Meredith,
      I enjoy learning about my blogging buddies too. You really made me laugh tonight with your comment. Thank you so much for your visit, and for sharing your response.

  17. djmrakiey says:

    That’s a beautiful story … and funny ….

    1. Thank you so much!

  18. You must have incredible powers of organization. You always have a photo that is just right for each thought. Loved the old ones!!

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Not at all. I have boxes of photos, photo albums, and 30, 000 more recent photos on my computer. When I decide what I want to write about, I go through the photos, mostly knowing which trip to look at, and sometimes even skimming through most of them in my computer files, setting aside the ones I might be able to use. It takes FOREVER! Then I write the piece, and go back to get an additional photo or two, if I need it to support any unexpected turns the story has taken. Someone who was really organized could do this in half the time!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and taking the time to comment.

  19. meg says:

    Such a great line ” … check out the job opportunities in hell first!”
    Now why didn’t I think of that, when I needed to?
    Naomi, this is another “star turn!”

    1. Thank you, Meg. Now everyone knows what a brat I can be! I sure appreciate your sharing your response.

  20. mikereverb says:

    So, no one’s going to mention it?

    Okay, I’ll be the first, then.

    Naomi, you were (and still are) a hottie! 🙂

    Alright, now onto the actual writing of the post. Another wonderful story. I hope you’re saving these somewhere–photos and all–to compile into a book one day.

    I love the early image editing you did; I’d try to do that all the time with my ids when I was in junior high. Matching the colors I was scraping off was usually the problem.

    Considering how much you enjoy taking photos (and the 2013 Naomi Baltuck watermark on your images), is it safe to say that you eventually became a Photoshop master?

    As always, thanks for sharing, Naomi. 🙂

    1. Dear Mike,

      You are too sweet! You really made me laugh out loud, and I’m still smiling. (That was a LONG time ago and it has been longer still since anyone has, if ever, called me a hottie!)

      I can just see you making fake IDs as a kid! There was a period in my life, where I never sent a post card without pulling out my doctor kit. Just got so busy with life, and focused on creative pursuits that I got paid for. (Maybe I should have gone into business selling fake IDs!)

      I might be able to anthologize some of these stories if I were doing a gardening or crafting or writing blog. There’s no theme to these tidbits, so I wouldn’t know how to market it, or to whom. I originally intended to blog about writing and storytelling, but the stories mostly reflect my thoughts and life philosophy, as illustrated through my days and travels.

      I am master of nothing to do with computer technology, Mike. More like a survivor! I’ve never used Photoshop, but I do simple editing, such as cropping with the IPhoto program, which came with my computer. I learned to do the watermarking–that took a couple of years off my life–through Photobucket, which I use for posting. My daughter Bea patiently helped me learn how to post by myself.

      It is so good to hear from you, Mike. Thank you again for your very kind and thoughtful response!

  21. Mrs Carmichael aplaudes your inventiveness.

    1. Thank you, Mrs. Carmichael!

  22. Roy McCarthy says:

    You write books! Have I gone blind? I’ve immediately ordered ‘Keeper of the Crystal Spring.’ Like Meg above ^^ I’m saving up the ‘job opportunities in Hell’ line for the appropriate moment 🙂

    1. Hi Roy,
      I tried to buy your books yesterday, but could only find kindle versions. It might just be what pushes be me forward–reluctantly–toward yet one more piece of technology to buy and learn, if not master. I want to read everything you wrote that is set in Jersey, as I will be in Brittany next fall, and am considering a visit the islands. I’m not sure about that, but I want to read your books in any case. Time to bite the bullet and kindle shopping.

      1. Roy McCarthy says:

        Give me a snail-mail address and I’ll send you print copies, no problem –

      2. Hi Roy,
        I looked again, just now, and I still couldn’t find anything but a kindle version, so I will be in touch.

  23. I always had the feeling you had a certain spunk. The memories of new beginnings when we thought the world was ours for the taking! I love your writing flare. You know how to change a pebble into a diamond. You’ve written books? I must check these out. Wow.

    1. Thank you, Tess. Most of my books are storytelling anthologies, but I do have a historical that I wrote with my sister, and I am polishing up a women’s contemporary. I’m so far behind with my blog reading, but I was on your site and reading one post after another. You are such a good writer. Have you thought about writing a novel, or an anthology of short stories? There are a couple of collections that I came across and lovedd, in which contributors were allowed only forty-four words for each story. You have that skill nailed.

  24. Madhu says:

    LOVED your fun, feisty story Naomi! Love your photos too. You look gorgeous, so much like Bea! Or is it the other way around? 😀

    1. Hi Madhu,
      Thank you! That was a LONG time ago. I think you’re right–Bea got a big dose of my genes. Some of her baby pictures look startlingly similar to mine, and I’m starting to see it more as she grows older.

  25. viveka says:

    Love your sense humor and I love your attitude – and I love that you start writing. What an entertaining post – look good too … some has it all. *smile

  26. adinparadise says:

    You were obviously always rather mischievous, Naomi. Love your little prank, and the photo of you. 🙂

    1. Hi Sylvia,
      I am way too easily amused! Thanks for the visit.

  27. Darla Welchel says:

    I think we have all had jobs like that, but I love your little bit of rebellion!
    What is it with people who think they are better than others. We all put our pants on the same way, one leg at a time. I guess there are those who let others put them on for them – but they are still no better.
    Glad you finally found something that makes you happy!

    1. Thank you, Darla. My mom used to say that everyone should have a job in food service at some point in their lives, if only so that learn to leave a decent tip. Maybe they should have to sell shoes for a little while too. But it was just one little stepping stone to where I am now. thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts. It is always good to hear from you.

  28. And a storyteller you are! What a great inspiring post. “Follow your dreams” is a beautiful thing to tell someone. -S 🙂

    1. Thank you, Susan!

  29. niasunset says:

    you are amazing… Thank you, love, nia

    1. Thank you, dear Nia! You are too!

  30. nutsfortreasure says:

    LOVE this story of your PAST!!!! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  31. Dear Eunice,
    Once in a while it’s good to go back and remember where you came from. I know how much I appreciated your sharing your story. I hope you are well, and had a good weekend.

  32. kathy says:

    Great story, Naomi! I never knew the tale of how you got here, and love hearing about your speedbumps & triumphs along the way. It’s wonderful how you can take something so specific & find the universal in it.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Kathy. Now that the kids have flown from the nest, I have to find other subject matter–like my wild and wicked youth.

  33. betunada says:

    simple, yet FULL, succinct, yet you do convey so much. i have fun reading (and yer vizyoouhls, too) stuff like this. thanx !

    1. Thanks so much for the visit, and the very kind response!

  34. You are my favorite story teller, too ♥ Love this! Thanks for your continued inspiration… I continue to look for “me” ~ 😉

    1. Dear Paula,
      You are so sweet, and you are also a fine storyteller. I am still working, looking, putting on the finishing touches on who I am. I don’t think that project is ever done! In many ways, we change as our situation does. I knew what kind of mother I was to my little kids, and now that the kids are mostly grown, there’s a new kind of role to learn and settle into. I’m still the same person, I guess, but the job description of life is constantly changing. May we all find what we are looking for!

      1. Naomi ~ And I guess that ever changing job description keeps us motivated. Here’s to moving forward ♥

  35. TBM says:

    Oh I do love the Tetons. Such a magical place. Good for you!

    1. Oh, yes! Grand Teton National Park has always been our special place. Most of us went to geology camp there, through the University of Michigan, and camped there with our mom when we were kids, and then took our own kids there for family reunions. It IS magical! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  36. 4amWriter says:

    Love your sense of humor–staph–that is priceless!

    1. Thank you, Kate. I have always loved to play with words.

  37. Sharon Creeden says:

    Dear Girl,
    I have known you for almost 30 years and have never heard this story or seen these pictures. You have always had that fire! And I have always
    been amazed and delighted.
    Sharon Kay

    1. Dear Sharon,
      It is so good to hear from you! I was digging deep for this one–found the badge in my jewelry chest, and it just tickled a long lost memory. Pat’s back from Alaska–might be time to do breakfast!

  38. OH now I know exactly why I have always liked you! – You are a pistol and a totally amusing and entertaining one at that. Thanks Naomi for sharing your story.

    1. Dear Lesley,
      Every once in a while I let folks see my naughty side, and then I worry that they won’t respect me in the morning. Thank you so much for the positive reinforcement! It is always good to hear from you.

  39. luggagelady says:

    Thanks for making me laugh! Glad you followed — and continue to follow — your HEART!! 😀

  40. Dear Shauna,
    Thanks so much for your visit, and your generous response!

  41. tchistorygal says:

    hahaha Hi Natalie, As usual I am laughing through the entire post! I can’t see you ever selling shoes! Glad you had your walking boots on. I can see that I’ve got to move from reading just your blog to reading your books. I do adore your sense of humor. 🙂

    1. Hi Marsha,
      Thanks so much for your visit. It is always good to hear from you. The novel is a historical, which might appeal to a history gal.

      1. tchistorygal says:

        I checked on Amazon. Are any of your books available for Kindle?

  42. Marianne says:

    Lovely, Naomi – you made me smile 🙂

    1. Thank you, Marianne!

  43. Like everyone else, I just love this story!

    1. Thanks so much. I appreciate your visit, and your taking the time to comment!

  44. frizztext says:

    “I have learned to pay attention to my instincts”
    – thank you for this interesting statement, Naomi!

    1. Thank you for your visit.

  45. t2van says:

    Too funny! A quiet activist. Love the courage of your young heart….

    😀 Terri

    1. Dear Terri,
      (More brat and a troublemaker than activist.) So nice to hear form you.

  46. Kourtney Heintz says:

    LOL. Love the badge. Sometimes the tiny rebellions are enough to satisfy the human spirit. 😉

  47. Well said, Kourtney!

  48. Wonderful post, Naomi! It’s both hilarious and inspirational.

    One thing it made me think of is how my 15 year old son will likely experience this very thing in the future, and it’s SUCH a helpful reminder that these things are transient. It too will pass. There are ALWAYS options! The future is unwritten!


    1. Also remember, Elmore Leonard was selling insurance to support his family, and getting up at 5AM to write each day before going to the office. There is your day job, and the job of your heart. With a little talent, and a lot of determination and persistence, sometimes the job of your heart can become your day job too.

    1. Thank you! Now you know all about my wild and wicked youth! It’s great to hear from you.

      1. 12kilroy says:

        I suspect there’s a lot more to know about that “wild and wicked youth” …

  49. Touch2Touch says:

    A fabulous sense of humor right from the get-go, little Drum Majorette!
    I’ll never be able to see Staff again without thinking Staph!
    Talk about reframing —

  50. Score! You just made my day. Thanks so much for making me smile.

  51. Great story. You brought me back to my younger years and all the crazy jobs I held. Boy the stories I could tell…like the one when I worked alone in a doughnut shop and got held up at gunpoint then tied up in the back room. Or the time picking daffodils…..LOL Thanks.

    1. Wow! Most of my adventures are in my own mind. Graveyard shift in a donut shop held at gunpoint–it makes me a little shivery just to think about it. I am SO glad you lived to tell the tale.
      Thanks so much for stopping in, and sharing your stories. As a follower of your blog I’m hoping to hear many more.

  52. sufiways says:

    Your excellent post boosts my suspicion that Photoshop is a conspiracy against ingenuity.

    1. Ha! Necessity might be the mother of invention, but when it comes to computer technology I’m still the kid who got left behind in the parking lot. It is a testament to my children’s patience and my love of blogging that I am now able to use iPhoto and Photobucket all by myself. But when it comes to party invitations, out comes the old postcard doctoring kit and magic markers.
      Thanks for the visit, and for making me smile.

  53. Love it! Thanks for sharing… I am wondering if the “hardworking” boots are still around. *smile.

    1. They have served me well, and have been put out to pasture in the costume room in our basement. When the kids have a party, a school presentation, or are making a home movie, those boots still on occasion see the light of day!

  54. bluebrightly says:

    Love love love!!!

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You really brightened my evening!

  55. Pecora Nera says:

    I love small victories. STAPH… BRILLIANT

    1. Thank you! You just brightned my night!

  56. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

    1. Hi Jonathan,
      People like us always get where we’re going……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..eventually!

      Thanks for the visit, and for making me smile! I appreciate the reblog.

  57. reocochran says:

    The name tag was your first act of rebellion at that workplace and those boots walked right out of there to find your fame and fortune! (I love Nancy Sinatra’s song in there, you must be at least 48 or so…I am 57 and recognize those words!) Congratulations on your success as an author. Now, what in the world are you doing blogging? Smile! Robin

    1. Hi Robin,
      Thanks for your visit. I know many of my references date me. I do remember that song from childhood–you and I are of an age–I am 56. (Where did you grow up?)

      I started blogging because that’s what they tell you to do at all the writing conferences–establish a social media platform. For years I ignored that advice, and now I enjoy it far too much, as it does take way too much time away from my writing.

  58. A walk down memory lane with a story that has a happy ending. Loved this …

  59. Great story, and I loved the change in staph. 🙂
    Glad you got out of there and back to something more meaningful.

  60. Julia Kovach says:

    Naomi, I love love love this post! OMGosh, girl, your wit is priceless! I could just envision those throne-perched demanding uptighties sticking a foot in your face! lol Kudos for your restraint! ha ha. Thanks for a wonderful read! As soon as I get a buck or two, I’m going to purchase one of your books. I can’t wait for that gift to myself. Take good care of your precious self! xoJulia (p.s. ADORE your red badge reminder!)

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