Wednesday, July 30, 2014


In another lifetime, Friday and Saturday nights meant furlough from the weekday grind as a desk jockey. There were weekly meetings with friends for dinner, drinks, dancing, shows, roller derby events, hanging out on the patio at a bar, coffee shop, or pizza joint ... whatever. There was intellectual banter, snappy comebacks, and much laughter. The world was our playroom. It was fun.

It’s mostly not like that anymore.

First, I got married and moved to a state where I had no job and no friends. My husband had one local friend and no interest in finding more friends, and it took a couple years and a couple jobs for me to settle down with work and make friends and for things to be fun again. When I got divorced and bought my own house it was really fun for a good five years. Then I left my great office job in my degree field, sold my house to move “back home,” and for the past 18 months it has been largely un-fun.

In spite of over a year of looking, two job seeker networking groups, help from the state career center and a job coach through an unemployment study with MIT, there has no professional job. Hell, there was barely even a handful of interviews. My confidence has hit lows it hasn’t visited since I was twelve.

The only salvation to my sanity has been a part-time gig in retail, which is surprising when one considers I don’t even like shopping. But I do like clothes, and posses exactly the right amount of obsessive-compulsive tendencies to find straightening displays quite gratifying.

In addition to the satisfying tidying tasks, fun aspects to retail include time off during the week, which this summer has meant weekday trips to the beach. The unpredictable number of hours and corresponding variable pay are less delightful. Earning less in a month than I used to make in a week is a major blow to the ego and the finances. But I’m thankful for my job for the social interaction, excuse to leave the house (that doesn’t cost me money), employee discount, and modicum of income to cover gas and dog food. Thank goodness my Mom feeds me and won’t take rent from me, or I’d really be in trouble.

Unfortunately, my schedule has included working 19 of the past 25 Saturday nights (all but once until 11:00 closing), frequently followed by a Sunday morning shift (often at 9:00 opening). Half of my few Saturday nights off were specifically requested, because thank God, I had plans three times in the past six months. But damn, who did I piss off to earn the ongoing punishment of my Sadder-day nights?

One notable Sadder-day shift began shortly after I clocked in and unintentionally annoyed a customer. She asked, “Can someone help me get something?” A past customer request involved trekking across the store to the furthest point from where we were standing for what turned out to be a patio umbrella display dismantling project requiring tools and a cart (and ultimately required someone from that department who had a clue). Others featured inquiries about removal of clothing items from mannequins posed on shelves and platforms nine feet high. Consequently, it felt necessary to understand the scope and location of the desired non-specific “something” to determine if ladders, tools, carts or other store associates may be needed.

When I asked what she needed, the customer offered a vague, “It’s over there,” gesturing in the general direction of someplace not where we were.  Familiar with past customer queries, largely unfamiliar with the mostly foreign territory beyond misses, juniors and mens, and holding an armload of clothes I was returning from the fitting room and may need to set down somewhere, I asked if it was something on the wall, or was it on a mannequin, and she snapped. “It’s a boy’s shirt! On the wall! Why would I want a mannequin?” I apologized and said I was just trying to understand what was needed. She ran her hand through her short, stylish haircut, hissed, “Forget it, I’ll find someone else,” and stomped off. Oops. Using the walkie-talkies we carry, I warned my associates I had just made a customer mad.

That same shift, around eight o’clock, there was an announcement for a “Call for Misses on line one,” which sent me searching for a phone while, you guessed it, schlepping an armload of clothes from the fitting room. The male caller asked if I could see his phone number on the phone, “you know, in case we get disconnected.” I said, “Sorry, no. It just says line one.” Then he said maybe his request was actually more for the juniors department, but he wants to buy a bra for his daughter, “because her nipples are getting really big and sticking out.” That sounded more like something for the intimates department, but okay. Then he said, “and she’s getting a lot of pubic hair,” which was clearly too much info, so I politely asked how we, as a department store, could help him. He responded, “Well, I have a big load I need to blow off.” That’s when I said, “Um, ok,” and hung up.

I guess it bested the time a woman called the misses department and told me to page her mother and tell her that the daughter was waiting for her out in the parking lot.

An hour after the pervert’s call, and after sharing the tale with a co-worker, I thought of what my response should had been. “I’m sorry sir, but I’ll need your credit card number to continue with this call.” Damn, I miss those days when I was fully functioning and on my game with the comebacks.

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