Found this piece from freshman year, when I was figuring out that two of the things I like best in the world are writing and making people laugh, and that maybe it can actually be possible to do that for a living. It was a typical “write a non-fiction story” assignment, and I had just finished a long shift at work.
“Welcome to Chapman University” – a centipede couldn’t count on its legs how many times I heard that phrase during orientation. And each time I heard it, I realized more and more that the underlying meaning, for me at least was “welcome to mounds of student debt you can’t really afford.”
Consequently, welcome to working retail. I somehow managed to procure some of the most mind numbingly tedious jobs ever available to mankind, made exponentially more unbearable by my hyperactive brain and adept ability to bungle tasks which would be considered relatively simple for less accident prone human beings.
“Welcome to Old Navy!” I am forced to shout at every customer that walks through the door. Welcome to the epitome of consumerism, an environmentalist’s hell where we throw away more plastic hangers a day than the entire state of New York during fashion week. But hey, at least people can get their neon yellow and green stripey sweaters for a steal.
I first seriously began to consider if it was worth it during my eight and a half hour shift on Black Friday. Sure, I had handled eight hour shifts before. But not from twelve midnight to seven in the morning amongst rabid shoppers looking to buy nineteen dollar jeans that would increase in price to an outrageously unaffordable twenty dollars the following day.
At the seventh hour of the shift, my initially tentative grip on sanity slipped dangerously low, probably hidden deep in the fabric of that white t-shirt I folded twenty seven times. When a customer for the ten thousandth time asked, “Where is the fitting room?” a number of responses flit through my sluggish brain – “I don’t know, maybe if you had eyes you could see it” “Why don’t you get out your magnifying glass, Sherlock?” and “Nrrrrrrrrghhh” are just a few, but I manage to simply point to the five by five foot glowing arrow surrounded by flashing lights marked “fitting room” to guide them on their way.
When I went to fold the white shirt for the twenty-eighth time, a cockroach that seems just about the same size as the fitting room sign scuttles out from beneath the table. “Really?” I ask it. “Now’s not the best time.” Then, I do what any sensible employee getting paid eight seventy-five an hour would do in that scenario, and promptly hide behind a rack of bright blue, scratchy coats. I hold my breath and count to ten.
Ah, there we go. The roach has traveled across the room, where a lady is letting out a blood curdling scream of insect-induced terror. I hear my manager promptly offering her twenty percent off for her trauma. I breathe a sigh of relief, glad I left the job to someone who gets paid enough to deal with indestructible crawling insects.
This instance constitutes just one of the occurrences of my numerous awkward encounters in retail. One day during the Christmas season at closing, with no one else one the floor, I once again did what any sensible employee would do, and took my shoes off to sock-slide all over the store’s linoleum floor for the remaining ten minutes of my shift. Of course my manager selected that exact moment to check the store at closing for the first time in her life. I avoid expulsion due to sock related fun by hiding behind my trusted rack of blue coats. Other than this, I’ve rescued a distressed woman’s chihuahua from behind a towering mountain of tank tops. I’ve called an Old Navy in Columbia to locate a pair of lobster print pants. I’ve returned wandering children to their disgruntled parents, given twenty dollars of change in quarters so two little boys could buy our entire stock of bouncy balls, and said “No, the talking dog is broken” so many time that if I were a smart phone, that would be the first suggestion to appear when I typed in “no”.
“Welcome to Bank of America,” the teller greets me as I walk through the door. Every time I deposit my check in the ATM, I remember that the little numbers on the slip of paper are helping me to have an education, which will one day allow me to have a job where I won’t have to resort to color coding scarves to keep me entertained, and resolve to keep going one day more at a time.