I’ve had five years experience in retail. It all started in high school when I worked for Kay-Bee Toys and eventually saddled an on-and-off-again job at Target my senior of high school that I kept up for two summers after going away and eventually quitting school.
Retail sucks the life out of you. I’m very glad to not do it anymore.
I was looking over my back log of entries and wanted to post something I’d written today. I wrote this on one of the worst days I have ever worked in a store , while I was trapped behind a desk taking numbers and answering phone calls.
But I was proud of it. And eventually, since I no longer update the old page, this will fade into obscurity. So I want it to get a little sunlight before that happens.
Here ya go.
At Work (the Blues)
People scutter everywhere, clothing in arms, voices raised, and no visible signs of concern on their faces as they tear through the store. “The first day of school is tommorow! We must consume!” Brand new clothes, brand new backpacks, brand new pencil cases, and brand new school supplies. It’s the same old worries with the same old, tired, worn out answers: brand new things.
“What Teacher do you have?”
“How was summer vacation?”
“How have you been?”
I’ve been out of school for just into three years and the paranoia, the hecticness, and the insanity still cling to my bones. My nerves are totally shot. My patience is gone. So, I sit and watch them root through the store I work in, and answer telephone calls, all the while trying to hand out fitting room numbers and jot all this down.
“Thank you for calling the Council Bluffs Target, how may I help you?” I ask so many times the words lose their meaning. It’s become machinelike. I am a machine. I am a working machine. Punch the clock, slap on a smile, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, have a nice day. I’m selling my soul.
“Guest Assistance to the shoes!”
“Price check on lane two!”
Why is no one smiling? Are you happy? You just bought a copy of ‘Friends’ greatest hits. I know I wouldn’t be laughing, but maybe it’s your thing. Smile Old Lady, that sweater looks nice. Smile Mister, you’ll be using those tennis raquets soon.
I’m at a loss for words, not a rarity I assure you, but the anger, the rage, and the general stress in the air from shoppers and co-workers is too much.
“Is this all your plus size clothing?”
“Do you know ANYTHING?”
Please be ruder to me. I know I don’t really deserve it, but can you just do me a favor and be as rude as you possibly can to me? It fuels my fire. It makes me enjoy my breaks so much more. It’s give me something to not worry about when I’m not clocked in. Be rude to me. Talk down to me. Treat me like I’m nothing. I’ll just push back more and more.
Enjoy your battery-powered-jewel-encrusted-life-by-rubber-maid. Clothe yourself in McDonald’s, Folger’s Coffe, and 24 pack after 24 pack of Mountain Dew, while driving from work to the day care center, the day care center to Wal-Mart, from Wal-Mart to the mall, from the mall to home, and from home to hell. Eat nothing but Nike, GAP, Wrangler, Levi’s, or whatever name you desire, because inthe end it all ends up as the scraps I patch my pants with.
The names are meaningless, the fuel will be burned; this train is bound for glory.
“Back up to the front lanes!”
“Phone call on line eighty six!”
“I wanted to put a bullet between the eyes of every Panda that wouldn’t screw to save it’s species.”
“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.”
“Woman is the nigger of the world.”
“Can we get a carry out on lane eleven?”
Too much talking. Too many requests. My head is spinning and my mouth is dry. All I really want is a glass of water to wash down the stress in my head. I am swimming in a lake of fire, my own personal hell that I ironically helped remodel, and I can’t get out. I awaken on deck of the boat and notice that the water in my head is full of salt. Crustaceans dance and an Octopuss sings me a lullaby while I scream in space; a place no one can hear you scream.
In the mail! The bastard wanted to receive the items he left in our store in the mail! The items were as follows: one bottle of shampoo, one box of panty shields, and KY-Jelly. His failure to remember his sack full of these items resulted in my ear getting chewed, long distance, on the telephone. Anger vanishes as I laugh about this now, after being told what he forgot and requested to be UPS’ed to his home. Irritation sets in. I wipe my glasses on my shirt and yawn.
Back to school. Back to school. How come no one ever has ‘Back To Home’ sales in the summer? Do you want to know why? It’s because you can’t really go home again. You can try all you want, but after you’ve left it and called somewhere else home, it’s just not the same feeling anymore. It begins to eat you alive. Old friends, family, and old aquaintices become nothing but vultures and scavengers trying to pick away at the person you once were. You love the old pack, but you need your distance. You need your own pack now. You’re no longer a cub. That’s why you can’t go home again.
“Can I get a rain check?”
Rain checks are like going home again. After the sale is done, after you’ve moved out, after all the changes are made in price and in person, you feel a need to recapture things the way they once were. You can’t though. You shouldn’t. Fuck rebuilding. Start anew.
I hate this place, yet I love many of the people who work here, so I want to burn it to the ground, but I also want to rebuild it anew. I want everything and nothing for it. I want to douse the entire store in gasoline, flick a match, and watch the whole thing go up in hot white embers.
The time passes, the feelings refuse to subside and all I feel is irritation at feeling irritation. I want a cigarette. I want a break. I want love. I want to feel nothing but the way I feel when I’m holding you and you hang on tight for dear life, not wanting to lose the moment but hold it forever. I want that most of all.
I’m stuck here at work. I’m always stuck here at work and that doesn’t seem to be changing. Job interview this, resume that, apply, drop in, job fair, fuck off, I’m going round in circles and not calling any shots. H-O-R-S-E, you win and I lose so let’s play the game again. Or let’s play Around the World, Knock Out, or Freeze Tag or something else so I can just take my mind off of how utterly shitty this all is. A dodge ball smashes into my metaphor and I’m sent back to reality where a child has vomited on the carpet, I’ve just removed seven pairs of panties from the men’s dressing room, and my nerves are more than shot.
I wish you were here. I wish I was there. I wish we were somewhere. “Let’s go away for awhile, you and I, to a strange and different land.” I want to lie on my back at night, the feeling of grass on my neck, and stare up at the stars while holding your hand. I want the sunsets. I want the sunrises. I want the long walks that don’t go anywhere except straight to our hearts and memories. I want all that and more.
I could keep this up all night. It’s all I have to cling to at work right now. I could rant and rave until my face turns blue, my head explodes, and my lungs fill with blood or fluid or piss. The writing is soothing. It’s all the medication in the world. It’s all the self-medication in the world. No beer, no joint, no snuff, no shot or whatever will come close or be this soothing.
I relax and the pen drops from my hand; this train is bound for glory.