The Point of No Return – Part 2

Previous related post.

I took the final for my second-to-last class yesterday. I struggled a lot with this class and didn’t do well, but in the end, I did pass. Shockingly, I could’ve failed the final and still passed, though I’m glad I didn’t. Today is the start of the last of my school’s program. What then?

According to the program, internship follows the end of classes. To say I’m anxious would be an understatement.

Yes, I’m happy school is almost over, especially considering all of the trouble I had to go through to reach the end. I’m still disappointed I couldn’t stay with the first class and graduate on December 4th of last year, but I suppose it doesn’t matter now. At the same time, the only work experience I have is in retail and I truly fear I can’t do anything else.

Retail is difficult in that it’s tedious, repetitive, and draining, the latter especially if you’re an introvert. However, the jobs themselves – at least, my positions – are relatively easy. As a cashier, I stand in one spot, push buttons on a computer, scan barcodes, take money, and put the stuff in bags. The end. As a floor associate, the job description is less “fancy” than that: clean the floor and racks, and put merchandise back. You could teach a child how to do these jobs. Yet, even retail can prove to have its challenge because when I had full-time position for a few months, I ultimately failed because the workload crushed me like a 1,000-pound weight. And I wouldn’t try to get into the hell above that. I’ve yet to meet a manager who likes their job (“Don’t do it! It’s a trap!”), including my own. Two of my managers felt the need to lecture me about all the insanity and stress managers puts up with, and I get the point! Of course, that brings into question why they chose it. One of those two implied he doesn’t think lower employees/associates have the right to feel stressed because of what managers deal with. That’s another reason to stay away from management. I prefer not to look down on people. But I digress.

What I’m trying to say is if I can’t keep with a retail job unless it’s part-time, how on Earth could I do anything else? I’ve heard of people getting very close to graduation, only to quit weeks or days before, and I think I’m beginning to understand why. Taking classes on the subject is not the same as doing the real job. Even interviews are different. As far as I can tell, I ultimately got hired at the stores I worked at because I faked being cute, cheerful, and my awkwardness didn’t scare anyone off. That doesn’t work in interviews for what I’m studying, and having trouble talking will likely mean I bomb over a dozen interviews, if I get any at all. And yes, I do practice. Again, practice and the real thing aren’t the same.

Of course, all of this anxiety is irrelevant if I fail this final class, so maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I should pass before I talk anymore.

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.

Something Old, Something New

Something red, something… silver!

I started a new job yesterday. I won’t work with them again until after next week because I must finish this upcoming week at my old job. It’s still a clothing store, but smaller and much more expensive! My old job turned me into a shopaholic, but I will not shop at my new store! Too pricy! The first day went well, though. Everyone’s super nice, nothing too hard, and I got all the on-boarding done. So many manuals! I am still employed with my old job, but as an on-call employee. I confess part of that is, despite all my complaints, being my first job makes me somewhat attached to them. That, and how I like so many of my co-workers. Having a heart sucks!

One of my bosses told me this recently: “Don’t burn a bridge.”

Putting aside the hope that bridge has two sides, I have to wonder how often bridges have been burned to say that. I certainly didn’t want to leave on bad terms, but I know a lot of people just stop showing up or quit that very day. I (unintentionally) gave them only a week’s notice instead of two, partly because I had no idea how transitioning to on-call works, but they didn’t hold it against me. I’ve learned anything can happen, so for all I know, I could go back to them as part-time someday (if they let me), so I very much don’t want to that bridge to become ashes.

I think the biggest change, however, is I’m paid bi-weekly instead of weekly now. That’s undoubtedly going to take some getting used to!

Seen and Heard

I’ve talked about this before, using a different phrase, but after working in retail for some time now, I can’t help bringing it up again.

“Children are meant to be seen, not heard.”

The sentence ignites a great amount of irritation in me. I won’t repeat myself because I went into plenty of detail about why the similar phrase, don’t speak unless you’re spoken to, is outdated and makes no sense. But this one feels even more so.

Although it’s short, after the time I’ve already spent working in retail, if there is any age group that should be seen instead of heard, it is adults!

The majority of the customers are pleasant and most transactions go normally with zero trouble. Of the problematic customers I have had, however, I’ve never had one who was a child. Neither have my co-workers. When my co-workers talk about the trouble they have with customers, they are referring to adults.

That’s not to say the children are always angelic. Of course, I hear children cry and occasionally throw temper tantrums. Or they touch things and don’t put them back correctly. I won’t deny that behavior is annoying.

But it pales in comparison to the adult who yells at me because I can’t do their return due to lack of any proof of their purchase (receipt, phone number, and/or sale tags). It’s nothing compared to the adults who frequently come to the register at closing time with a large amount of items for purchase, layaway, or both. It’s not children who leave the aisles a mess, with clothes and trash strewn across the floor (our toy aisle is tame in comparison to any other area!).

The worst thing a child has done to me directly at my register? Chatter. Yes, the “worst” experience I’ve ever had with a child at my counter is them sparking up a conversation with me. How dare they speak to me, an adult, when they haven’t been addressed?! Actually, I’m glad they do. They’re quite cheerful and tend to be the bright spot of a long shift.

In fact, the only times so far I’ve heard children continously cry are when they are tired or otherwise uncomfortable, and they’re usually small children (under three years old). I remember one particular small girl who was wailing so loudly, she could be heard throughout the store the entire time she and her family were there. My curiosity got the better of me and when they came to my register, I somewhat jokingly asked if the little one was having a bad day. Her mother flat out said she was tired and needed a nap. Is it the child’s fault she’s not being permitted to sleep? Who isn’t cranky when they’re being kept awake?

Now, I do not at all think children should be treated like adults, and in general, adults are more mature than children. I do believe that. But this concept that a child shouldn’t be allowed to speak solely because they are a child isn’t one I’ve seen to have much merit to it.

If this also refers to interrupting adults when talking, again, that should apply to everybody. Interrupting someone is rude, regardless of your age. I don’t want to be interrupted by a 30-year-old any more than I want to be interrupted by a 3-year-old.