Commute to Nowhere

In: Social Issues

Submitted By manishmry
Words 8257
Pages 34
Commute to Nowhere
By Jonathan Mahler Published: April 13, 2003

In the forest of khaki, heather gray and chambray that is the Gap's store on Fifth Avenue and 54th Street, the 6-foot-4-inch Jeff Einstein is a walking, talking redwood. The instant a potential customer breaches the invisible border of his department, he approaches to offer assistance. ''Too bad I'm not selling cars,'' he jokes with one pear-shaped man after setting him up with a pair of khakis -- 40-inch waist, cuffs, pleats -- in less than 15 seconds. There's something self-conscious about Jeff's act, as if he's trying to prove to himself that he's comfortable with his job. Or maybe it's that he's overcompensating for having been a bit slow to tell me about it a few weeks earlier. (''I'm working in retail now,'' he had said cryptically.) Either explanation makes sense. Jeff is not your typical Gap salesman. When his shift ends, we relocate to a nearby bar, and Jeff tells me the story of landing the job. The Gap was gearing up for the Christmas onslaught near the end of last year, and he was summoned for a group interview. ''There were about 20 people in the room,'' Jeff recalls, ''and each one of us had to introduce ourselves and talk about our most recent position. There was a cashier from McDonald's, a woman who had worked at Baby Gap, a ticket collector from Loews, a gift wrapper from Barnes & Noble. Then it came to me. I said I used to be an executive vice president and a director of interactive marketing for Rapp Digital, a digital media company with 300 employees and a P. and L. of $40 million.'' Jeff, who is 50, lost his job at Rapp Digital almost two years ago, making him one of 21,000 computer-industry professionals in New York City to have been let go since the end of 2000. In percentage terms the numbers are even starker. Between December 2000 and January 2003, the industry slashed 41…...

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