Sunday, December 07, 2003

Man, you wanna know the definition of the word "suck"? Allow me to define it for you. Today's Sunday and my regular schedule that day calls for 10am - 6pm. There was a big snowstorm last night though, so I got a call today at 8am from one of my bosses, telling me to go back to bed because the shopping center where I work was closed. Yahoooo! So I leap back under the covers and cop some more snooze, only to be awakened by a call an hour or two later, telling me to rise and shine because we're going to be open anyway ("we might do five grand and we just can't pass that up"). So I drag myself to the lukewarm shower, dig my stupid car out and slide my way to work on icy streets. Where but in retail would your boss close the store and then call you in anyway on a whim? Maybe I'm dreaming here but it seems kind of unlikely in an office environment. Ahh, screw it, day's over now anyway. Feels good to whine though, heh heh.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Gaw, what a lousy job this is. But I always say that about every job. The Christmas season has us in its death grip now, and with less than a month to go I'm starting to see that manic, disoriented gleam in people's eyes. Today was really just representative of retail in every way. A little bit of all the classic annoyances. I ask people if they want a bag and they say yes, then offer up the reason they want one ("Yeah, because I'm going back into the main part of the store and I don't want anyone to think I stole the stuff, plus I like the feel of a bag in my hand, and today is the anniversary of the plane crash that took the life of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens, and also I just really get a thrill from watching you put things into bags"). Hmm, actually I wouldn't mind if the answer were as interesting as all of that, but it never is. Another normal thing that happened today was the usual Scumbag Visit. This time it was a zit-riddled high school kid wearing a black hooded sweatshirt (hood UP, of course). He did the usual obvious tactics, picking out some painfully bad music and taking it down to the point in the racks furthest away from me. Then he tried to look as though he was deeply immersed in The Beatles' catalog. Eventually I stuck so close he was forced to ditch the crappy heavy metal CDs in the Celine Dion section and give up for a few minutes. Eventually though I had to serve some real customers at the counter and he was able to pilfer a rap disc. I can console myself that it was a good album ("Enters the Colossus" by Mr. Lif), so at least he stole culturally significant music. *sigh* So anyway, that was my Sunday. How was yours?

(As an aside, I should mention that I really don't hate my job. I'm lucky to have it in fact. What I hate is really myself, for settling for retail when I'd much rather be an astronaut or any number of other gigs. If I seem overly harsh when discussing my current vocation, please bear this in mind.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

So this lady walks in from the connected bookshop just now, a pile of books in her hands. Strike one lady, you're not buying any music but you're using my counter instead of one of the bookstore ones. She flails for long minutes in her purse, rooting for an errant checkbook. Strike two, ma'am. Finally finds it as I ask if she needs a bag for the books. She mumbles some long-winded response that isn't a "yes" or a "no." I take the initiative and shove the books in a bag whether she wants it or not. Sorry lady, strike three in the baseball game of my patience. You are officially out of luck.

More minutes of my life tick by as she carefully writes each letter on the check. "What's the date?" she asks. "I have no idea," I offer, studiously avoiding the computer monitor where the date is clearly displayed. She locates a big calendar on the wall nearby and manages to extrapolate the date from it. More minutes tick by and she is finally, finally finished writing out her check, but I apparently can't have it until she finishes copying every tidbit of info from it on a crumpled bit of paper that sinks out of site in the Endless Void known as her purse. At last she is gone, and I have my all-important time back. I celebrate by typing up this random, vitriolic entry, then I look out the window, watching the sunlight slip away...

No offense, madam. I'm not myself at work. I'm no longer human. Just a quivering, angry mass of useless tissue following its programming. The Mr. Hyde to my lesiure time's pleasant Jekyll. Come back soon.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Wow, yeah…some entertaining customers back in those days (see previous post). My young coworkers (including Leigh, the long-haired son of the manager) and I enjoyed Mr. James, a man so old he was translucent. He would arrive, doff his derby and scarf and inquire as to whether we had his copy of the New York Times. He spoke in a strange, seemingly fake British accent. Could have been due to his living in America awhile, but we liked to think he was just an Anglophile who pretended British ancestry. He would say things like, “My yes, it’s a blustery day out there, chaps. Lovely day for a walk on the moors…”

Another great one was this cartoon character guy that came in every week to look for his porn. I mean, don't get me wrong. There were dozens of people looking for their weekly porn, but this guy was different. He was in his 50s with a bushy moustache and balding head, and he knew exactly what he wanted. He would head to the shelf, grab the latest issue of Family Letters and his favorite newspaper. I would ask the guy each and every time if he wanted a bag. Each time he would stand up straight in his "wife-beater" tank top and head for the door declaring, "No need!" And with that he was gone, striding confidently toward his car. His magazine of pornographic, incestual letters to the editor was tucked safely under his right arm for safekeeping. What a guy.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

I’m thinking back now to some of my retail jobs past. Back in the day, just out of high school, I worked a few years in the mid-1990s at a book store called, lamely enough, Bookland. ‘Twas a good job, plenty of reading time. We were in a suburban strip mall so as you might imagine there was a lot of what we in the trade call “downtime.” This was in the early days of the internet, so the shop wasn’t even online. We had our warehouse inventory on month-old micro-fiche! Somebody would ask me to order a book for them and I had to turn on the ol’ micro-fiche display machine, look up the appropriate plastic sheet and put it under the ‘scope for magnification. Trust me, it sucked. I worked a lot of closing shifts by myself and there were nights when I would have (no joke) two customers from 5 to 9 PM. Could’ve straightened shelves or alphabetized but come on, this is me we’re talking about here. I would read, draw, daydream and snack myself into a stupor. Can’t quite recall how that gig ended. I think I went on vacation and came back to find myself unemployed. They just didn’t need me anymore, what with the lack of sales and all. Stayed in business though.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Today I am exactly what retail employees never want to be: hung over. In some jobs it’s not an issue. Office workers can crawl to their cubicles, put on their corporate “game face” and soldier through with some aspirin and a jumbo-sized bottle of Poland Springs Water. Us retail schmucks are face to face with the public all day. We’re usually standing and we have to try and focus when the old lady across the counter asks for a gift certificate. “Gift Certificate? Yeah, I had a few of those last night, right after the Tom Collins and the Vodka Tonic.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to collapse or anything. I’ve been here before and I brought it on myself, so there’s naught to do but shut the hell up and push those register keys like a good little monkey. Done and done.

Monday, August 04, 2003

I’m balls to the wall today, and in keeping with the old song lyric, I’m going to blame it on the rain. What other possible reason could there be for this afternoon onslaught monopolizing my time on a Monday? It's a well-known Retail Maxim that rain brings out shoppers like no other weather. Annoying too is the fact that they’re vacationers, plodding about our crappy town on their way to someplace more exciting, eager to throw down their L.L. Bean VISA card to pay for some banal background music. My brother Chris’ words ring true once again: Most people don’t really want good music that they have to pay attention too. They just want to be placated by some bland album while they dust the knick-knack shelves, or drive the kids to soccer practice. I don’t want to hate my customers, believe me, but how can I not feel some disgust when they throw down 18 dollars for Enya? Good taste is an alien concept to some people.

July 15, 2003

This morning I got to work and settled in with a quick check of my e-mail. Nice having the internet at my fingertips, and I try not to abuse the privilege. Whether I succeed in the attempt is up for debate, but I get my work done and that's what counts. Anyway, I see this guy walk in and poke around amongst the CDs for awhile, but he eventually leaves without buying anything. A few minutes later my manager approaches and says, "Call the cops." So I call them and they send a couple officers down. Turns out we have yet another shoplifter on our hands.

The last one was a CD thief back around the holidays and we had to go to court to prosecute him. An annoying waste of time but at least we got the bastard. This time it's in the next room over, our Used Books room. Turns out -- you're going to love this -- that the first guy I'd seen had surreptitiously taken about 300 dollars worth of CDs over to the bookshelves along the wall of the CD room and placed them at waist level on the shelves. Then he left, and his friend arrived via another entrance and casually walked into Used Books to browse. Once there, Scumbag #2 went over to the bookshelves directly adjacent to those in the music room. He then began pulling the CDs over from the music room through a small gap in the bookshelves, thereby circumventing our CD security gates. Actually not a bad little plan considering they were both braindead morons.

Luckily, our Used Books drone was on duty in the other room and noticed that the guy was unkempt and acting as suspicious as is humanly possible. He followed him, spotted him grabbing the discs and I think you know the rest...but I'll tell you anyway: we nail Scumbag #2 with the goods and he proceeds to deny any involvement, says the CDs were just lying there in the Used Books room and he happened to be standing next to them. (With one of them in his hands??) Cops get here, we fill them in, they fill out some paperwork banning the guy from the entire complex and its surrounding properties. He's a drifter from Texas, living in a small blue car in the parking lot of one of the local bars, "Kilkenny's." An amusing exchange takes place where the cops divine that this homeless 18-year-old occasionally drives freight for a trucking firm and he took a shine to our fair city of Keene, NH when he was driving through one time. He asked to be transferred here or something along those lines. One of the cops growls, "You're from an urban environment in Texas, right? Maybe you should transfer up to Nashua, that's a bigger city." The guy replies, "Nah, I like it here." The cop shoots back, "Well we don't want you around here." It was great, just like an old cowboy movie: "Get outta Dodge before sundown, ya mangy varmint." The epilogue: Scumbag #2 says he didn't even know Scumbag #1..."I met him this morning and he bought me coffee. I got no idea where he went." Yeah sure pal, whatever you say.

So after receiving his Do Not Trespass papers, he leaves and the cops follow him to the parking lot where -- shock! -- he meets up with Scumbag #1 and they both flee clumsily on foot. Cops catch them and hand Scumbag #1 his very own personalized set of "Keep Out" papers. Happy ending, glasses clinking all around. And this time we sort of caught them red-handed before the crime was committed (if that makes sense), thereby eleminating the need to go to court. That's one less morning I have to wake up early. (Another Epilogue: Needless to say, we�re installing some plywood backings on the bookshelves in question to halt further exchange of materials betwixt rooms.)

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