Forty Percent Off Your Life

I had a rather harrowing experience this past Friday, which was Black Friday, to be specific.

Black Friday is always hellish when it comes to retail. Since I was working in a mall, I expected much more traffic. It was a bit more stressful than at my previous job, where there were never Black Friday sales to begin with, but I was managing to deal with it.

What I did not expect was to almost lose my life that night.

There was a shooting at the mall in a store on the lower level. A huge crowd suddenly stampeded into our store in a panic, and all of my co-workers ran toward the back. I don’t recall if I heard gunshots or not. I assume the immense fear and anxiety is to blame for the unclear memory. But I will never forget hiding in our backroom, scared for my life, wondering if we’ll get out, wondering if we’ll get home.

We hid for around twenty to thirty minutes. Some of my braver co-workers peeked outside the door every so often. The store’s shutters were down, so no one could enter. Eventually, police came and led us to one of the mall’s emergency exits, which was luckily right across from our store. We all ran. I got as far away from the mall as I could and call a relative to pick me up.

Minus the one person who was shot, no one in the mall was hurt and the mall was shut down for the night. The victim wasn’t critically injured, so he/she will hopefully have a speedy recovery.

It goes without saying I was shaken up, as were a lot of my co-workers, especially those of us who hadn’t worked in in the mall prior to this holiday season. One of my co-workers who’d been there for a few years tried to comfort me by saying that mall has a shooting every year (a few minutes of Google searching proved her correct). I have no idea how that’s supposed to be comforting. The mall was up and running the next day like normal, but most of the mall’s workers did not come in the next day. Neither did I. Some people can handle, but some can’t, and I don’t believe violence, and the risk of losing your life, should be part of a retail job, of all things. We didn’t sign up for that. Personally, if I’d known that mall has a shooting annually, I would never have applied. I’ve done active shooter drills at school, and I was still in no way prepared for that.

The bigger question to me, however, is why any sale is worth violence, let alone the loss of someone’s life. I’ve read about Black Friday violence. I know about the crazy crowds that trample each other, that fight to get what’s on sale before it runs with no regard for who they hurt. I know it’s been going on for decades now, but that only makes it worse. The USA is supposed to be the greatest country, correct? How are we the greatest when all it takes to reduce us to the behavior of savage animals is a discount for things we most likely don’t need? Why are workers expected to deal with the resulting violence, that could potentially spell the end of someone’s life in some cases, such as mine recently? Why is this just accepted by us?

I do not care how preachy I sound when I say this: No sale is worth someone’s well-being! No sale is worth their life!

It’s no wonder to me now why retail has such a high turnover rate. Note that outside of pharmacies and grocery stores, retail is not exactly an essential service. Yes, we need clothes, but we can by without spending $25 on a shirt. Seriously. I’ve bought very pretty and long-lasting clothes for cheaper. That’s not to say I don’t think people should be able to indulge themselves, but you won’t die without them. For the fact it’s not an essential and it’s, for the most part, an easy one to learn, I do understand why it pays so little (I’m not of the opinion minimum wage workers don’t deserve a livable wage because no one deserves to go hungry, but that’s another topic that’s been beaten to death), but if risking your well-being and possibly your life is going to be part of the job, it needs to start paying a lot more. And no, “time and a half” doesn’t cover it, and not stores give that anyway.

Though I may not have a choice, if I can help it, I will not work at the mall again. Yes, a shooting can happen anywhere, but that mall’s an annual target and all it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If that were to happen to me, everyone would cry I shouldn’t have been there (in fact, my boss at my other did put the blame for the shooting on me for that very reason). I don’t think I’m paranoid for wanting to avoid it, knowing its history of previous shootings. Just because businesses are willing to trade lives for sales doesn’t mean I am.

Off my soapbox I go.

My Guilty Conscience

Recently, I used Amazon for a purchase.

I stopped using Amazon some years ago because they don’t accept PayPal and, much more serious and atrocious, they’re infamous for treating their warehouse workers like garbage.

Unfortunately, a desire to save some money on a graphics tablet and its unavailability for the same price elsewhere led me to their website. They lost my package, but they refunded the shipping cost, gave me a promotional credit, and resent out the package (I only asked for the last option). Their customer service is wonderful, but that makes my conscience worse.

I do not want to support a company that treats its workers horrendously. At the same time, it doesn’t matter whether I use Amazon or not. They’re big enough, and successful enough, that most people don’t care about those workers, and would I may as well be a speck of dirt in comparison to their customer base. Yet, my conscience still doesn’t let me off the hook.

Yes, I feel guilty about buying from Amazon. I desperately hope the customer service representatives are treated well, or using their services will be on my conscience as well. That said, all workers should be treated well without exception. Despite what I just said above about knowing lack of my business with them means nothing, I doubt I will use Amazon again after I receive the package they lost due to my conscience eating away at me.

I recently read an article where, in response to criticism of how their workers are treated, Amazon responded by saying they pay their workers more than most retailers. The problem has zero to do with money, and that combined with my conscience is more than enough for me to avoid Amazon after they deliver my package. I only wish I could make more of a difference than not giving them my business (which, again, makes no difference at all).

Let’s Talk About: Fluttershy

I’ve gotten caught up with nearly all of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I watched the movie in theaters, but I stopped mid-season 7 and I doubt I’ll finish. However, I won’t rant about that. I’d need to make an entirely new post.

Fluttershy is the embodiment of kindness. Or she’s supposed to be, according to the show. And while she does live up to much of the time, I think there’s another element of personality she seems to fit better.

Foolish kindness.

Let me say right now I do like Fluttershy and, up to a certain point, she was my second-favorite character (the first was Twilight; was, as Starlight has now become my personal preference over Twilight). However, I have an issue with what the writers deem to be “kindness”, and there are times when it seems “kindness” is confused with “naïveté”.

The worst example I can think of the top of my head is an episode where she’s chosen to reform a godly chaotic creature precisely because she embodies kindness. Unfortunately, “carpet” would be more accurate. Her way of reforming him is to allow him to abuse her kindness (and I say allow because she’s fully aware of what she’s doing), to get angry with her friends when they attempt to protect her, and allow said creature to endanger one of her friends’ homes (and means of survival; said friend runs a farm), her friends themselves, and by extension, the entire country. In other words, her way of reforming him is to allow him to unleash whatever chaos he wants with zero consequences, in the hopes he’ll change if she tolerates it long enough.

First of all, taken out of context – actually, even in context – this is ultimately an episode about a woman enduring a man’s abuse in the hopes she can change him. Thank you, MLP writers, for giving little girls that lesson. I’m sure the real world abusers weren’t already doing a good job. That troublesome fact aside, this episode emphasizes better than any other what the issue is with Fluttershy supposedly embodying kindness. “Kindness” should not equate to letting someone walk all over you, and while there have been episodes about Fluttershy learning to stand up for herself, they tend to be forgotten, likely to work for episodes like the one I just described. In fact, a common complaint of the show is the lesson fails to stick (though it seems it eventually does by the latest season), something the writers created an episode to say they were tired of hearing (again, a rant for another day). It’s not unkind to refuse to be a walking carpet. It is, however, very unkind to endanger your friends’ lives and refuse to see what your negligence is creating. The only reason she’s successful in reforming the creature is because she eventually snaps at him when he finally makes it clear he was using her all along. In other words, she does something unkind to reform him. Ironically, she called her friends out moments before she snapped on apparently thinking she was a “silly, gullible fool”. Let’s just say when she asked that question, I said yes to the television. If you need someone to spell out they are abusing your kindness when they’ve already done every conceivable action that would make it obvious to anyone with working brain cells and minimal perception, yes, you’re a fool.

The other example I put high on the list is one that involves the aforementioned friend’s farm (yes, out of “kindness”, Fluttershy endangered her friend’s way of living twice). Her friend’s farm was invaded by pests and the friend, understandably, wants to get rid of them. Despite that she only wants to move the bats away from her farm rather than outright kill them, Fluttershy acts as if she does want to kill and insists she should instead give the pests part of her farm as a sanctuary.

First off, anyone who is a real animal expert (annoying fact: Fluttershy admitted she knew nothing about the creatures; meanwhile, her farmer friend did) could probably write a list of reasons as long as their own body about why that’s not a good idea. The episode itself fails any kind of logic in animal expertise. Instead, any logic whatsoever takes a backseat to “kindness” because it seems disregarding a threat to your friend’s home, livelihood, and family’s means of survival is very kind. Keep in mind the pests essentially trespassed onto her friend’s farm, but Fluttershy is supposed to be right because “they’re just hungry”. Never that moving them, like her friend wanted, would solve that issue. The implication here is innocuous reasons excuse bad actions. Fluttershy is “right” because she’s the kind one, despite she knows zero about the pests and farming in general, and if the show didn’t need to have a “kindness always wins” moral for its target audience (no matter how wrong it really is in its context), her friend’s sound reasoning and logic would’ve rightfully won out the argument.

Many people excuse flaws in shows like MLP because “it’s a kids’ show”. The problem is that’s why it deserves criticism. Name me a parent, especially a parent of a daughter, who wants their child to learn the lesson that putting up with mistreatment is “kind”? That you can change even the worst people by letting them walk all over you? That it’s good to push away your friends who are rightfully concerned for you? What parent would willingly teach their child taking in random creatures is a good idea? That all creatures are okay to keep around? That “kindness” means ignoring all logic and potential consequences, even if you haven’t a clue what you’re talking about? If I had a child, especially a daughter, who liked MLP, I would filter out the episodes like crazy. Kids are not dumb and, contrary to popular belief, capable of seeing problems in media, whether or not they have the words to express them. And eventually, those kids will grow old enough to talk about them.

As I said, however, Fluttershy’s repetitive lessons about being more assertive do seem to have finally stuck as of late, so hopefully, the writers will be more careful with her “kindness”, and consistent in differentiating being kind and being a doormat. After all, “this is a kids’ show”, so let’s have some more careful evaluation of what we teach and aim at kids.

United In Struggle

A common question kids are asked is what they want to be when they grow up. As teens, that question becomes, “What do you want to do after high school?” (usually, the expected answer is college and little more than that). As an adult, the question is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Or any number of years, but I’ve mostly heard five.

For me, the answer is: I don’t know.

While I’m not one to think life just happens with zero control over its events, I don’t think in the other extreme of having absolute control over everything. My life certainly has not gone as planned, and I do not mean solely my adulthood. My life has been going unplanned since my childhood days. While I’m not entirely ungrateful, it’s only because the end result is I lived through it to reach what I’m happy to have now. And even that can be counted on one hand.

Something I have noticed with my co-workers is almost everyone either attends college or has a second job. The former is obvious, but in the case of the latter, it’s simply because it’s that hard to manage for them. And of the jobs I know, their first ones aren’t what’s usually considered low-paying. On one occasion, I also had a customer mention he works three jobs. Why? To pay his mortgage. Even my former clinician, who is well-established in her career of 10+ years as a psychologist by now, has told me she and her husband resides in his family’s home because they struggle financially otherwise.

That is truly terrifying to me, even more so than having nothing planned to begin with. I understand what they do is out of necessity, but merely one job for me creates feelings my life is slowly descending into a meaningless existence of work and sleep. To need to hold two or three to survive? I question if passing life in a coma would be preferable. I suppose those examples emphasize everyone has it hard in some way, but that’s little comfort to me. I do not want to have the same struggles at 33 I’m having at 23.

If someone were to ask where I see myself in five years, I truly couldn’t answer. Any position I’ve gotten myself in, especially my job, has been unexpected. If someone asked me in 2015 where I saw myself in 2016, the answer would not have been anything close to working. The truth is I cannot see myself in any position I’m not currently in or haven’t been in previously. Until it happens, I subconsciously believe it can’t happen.

Perhaps this is another discovery of adulthood taking me by surprise and I’m slow at keeping up. At 23, I feel as if I haven’t aged a day past childhood, despite my life as it stands resembles nothing of my childhood (and I’d have killed myself by now if it did). In the end, many things feel very confusing and I’m uncertain if they’re supposed to feel any other way. The one thing I’m certain of is no matter how much I learn, how much better I supposedly become, I still feel like I know absolutely nothing. That makes no sense, and as far as I can tell, neither does much else.

Let’s Talk About: Twilight Sparkle

Wait, what?

Yes, I mean the main protagonist of My Little Pony. I had zero intention of ever watching this show, but my boyfriend is a fan of it and urged me to watch it. Eventually, I gave in and watched the first episode. I was instantly in love with Twilight. But I don’t like what happens to her.

Let me make my annoyance obvious. In the episode summary on Wikipedia, she’s referred to as an anti-social pony. Anti-social.

I hate this. I despise introversion and being reserved are seen as negative traits. Why? The second episode revealed why these events were necessary. That doesn’t help because it still portrayed Twilight preferring her alone time as a bad thing and her preference only changed because of an emergency matter (I’m not going to rant on why Celestia thought it was a good idea to form an entirely luck-based plan instead of be directly upfront with Twilight, or I won’t shut up). I know it’s a common thing in cartoons for lifelong bonds to form instantaneously, and I’d absolutely expect that in a cartoon with friendship as its theme. Except maybe that’d be a reason to have the friendships form more realistically instead of in such a cliché way. I love my best friend like she’s my sister, but I sure didn’t feel that way a day after meeting her. But cliché formulas are also common in cartoons, especially ones intended to have lessons taught through the episodes.

I probably seem strange to have a rant about this. After all, I have a best friend and a boyfriend, so why would I be bothered by a loner character learning about the “magic of friendship”? Easy. I just said it. It only happened because of an emergency matter. No relationship works like that! Friendship and love (of all types, not only romantic) are amazing things, but they don’t happen instantly (before you argue with parenthood: oxytocin). Strong bonds don’t form overnight in any situation. I am more outgoing than I used to be, but that took years. I wasn’t suddenly no longer an introvert or reserved because I met my best friend one day ago. Guess what? I’m still introverted and reserved, and I still despise most people, something working in retail has actually made stronger due to being in constant contact with people. Whatever percentage the number three is of the human population is the percentage of people I like having around.

These two episodes would’ve worked better as a season finale, not a season beginner. I could almost understand these traits being portrayed negatively if Twilight was evil, but she’s not. In fact, despite being obviously unhappy about being sent to the festival/party, she was polite to the others while trying to get away from them as quickly as possible, and if memory serves, she did help when one of them almost hurt herself by accident. She’s not mean, and wanting only her books as company doesn’t make her mean, bad, or evil.

I’ve yet to watch another episode because this kind of treatment with introverted characters puts me off watching anything more of whatever media it is. However, I went through her character list on TV Tropes and it seems, for the most part, she still keeps her introverted personality and she does slowly change over time instead of instantly. That sounds much better, though it doesn’t change my opinion about the first two episodes. The downside is, if TV Tropes is accurate, she rivals Pinkie Pie in exuberance by the latest season. I hate to admit it, but I find Pinkie Pie annoying, as I greatly dislike overly energetic characters who behave like they’re drunk on happiness. Of course, I doubt I’ll get as far as seven seasons anyway. It took me over three years to get to the fourth season of Sailor Moon, and I’ve only watched three episodes of that.

If I do continue watching MLP, I’m hoping to find Twilight’s friends aren’t the pushy type who will continuously try to “pull her out of her shell” and nag her half to death about “opening up”, and will instead respect her wishes if she wants to be alone to study, read, or whatever else. I don’t think it’s wrong (however cliché it may be) for loner characters to go on to learn about friendship and love, or even for their personality to eventually flip a 180. I do think it’s wrong if the path that gets them there portrays that part of their personality as an issue and to be dealt with by forcing them into such situations (as with Twilight) instead of letting them develop willingly. And for heaven’s sake, I hope Celestia is more direct and upfront instead of continually being cryptic and secretive, but since when have mentor characters ever done that? But that’s a whole different rant for another day.