I am my parents’ biggest fear: a 26 year old single woman without skill or prospects for a decent job. I’m not necessarily easy on the eyes and I don’t have a winning personality. Worst of all, I don’t have much money and I don’t know what to do with my life (aside from writing this blog).
I have to say, I am so fortunate to live in a time and place where I have the luxury to choose what I want to do. It is unfortunate to say, however, that the art degree I obtained four years ago? I don’t really want it anymore. I kind of wish I could have something different.
I never worked in the design/art industry and I don’t have a desire to. I went from minimum wage service jobs to teaching in Korea. That’s not exactly making leaps and bounds. Nonetheless, not all is done in vain, right? Something can be learned from each experience and I am here to highlight some of the lessons I’ve learned from my past job experiences.
MCDONALD’S – I’m 16. Maybe 17. I can’t remember. My second day was absolutely terrible as I was still training yet I had to serve hordes of grumpy, impatient customers that came in like waves. There had been a power outage caused by a storm earlier that morning that closed down ALL the surrounding restaurants and shops except, of course, wonderful Micky D’s. I was still new to the tilland the menu, so when someone ordered an egg burrito without sausage, I didn’t know that that wasn’t allowed. I’m sorry for my incompetency, Manager Becca! I’m still new at this so please don’t bitch at me.
What resulted from that horrible second day at work were many more work days where I was filled with constant anxiety. For awhile, I couldn’t eat McDonalds and I lost 10lbs within two weeks from all that stress. Rest assured, I did gain all that weight back (and then some). Eventually, working there got easier even though though it wasn’t joyful or great. I got anxious a lot, but it turns that things aren’t always as bad as I imagine to be. More importantly, when things did go wrong, I knew that I had enough resilience to recover and come back hopefully stronger with thicker skin. Of course, I didn’t last more than a year at McDonalds. But to add perspective, I mostly quit to spite my mom. Ha.
GOODWILL – Oh, retail. Retail, retail, retail. You bring the best out of people and you bring the worst out of people. And it’s not just the customers. You kind of learn that some of your coworkers are kleptomaniacs and pathological liars. Some of them are downright lazy and give no fucks at all if it doesn’t personally benefit them in any way. Generally, they have decent personalities and it’s easy to get along with them, but there’s a reason why they’re your coworkers and not your friends.
Retail is where I could see the worst in people because I was dealing with their money. One day, I was having pleasant small talk at the cash register with a customer. She was a plump woman with that short “mom” hair-do, babbling in her sing-song-y voice about whatever happenings in her life. After ringing her items up, I gave her her total which came out to be a little less than $10. She handed me a $10 bill and when I gave her her change, she nearly went livid when she thought I had given her the wrong amount. Remember that scene in The Fellowship of the Ring when Bilbo Baggins tried to apprehend the ring from Frodo and his face went all demonic? Yep. That’s what happened. I showed her the ten that she had given me and when she realized her mistake, her face softened and her voice sweetened as she replied, “Oh, that’s right.” Yes, bitch. That’s right. How about saying “sorry” now?
LIBRARY – When my mom and dad took me to the library as a child, my favorite part wasn’t picking out whatever book or VHS I wanted. It was when we gathered all our items and took it to counter. The clerk would inspect the items, scan the barcodes, and then slide the items across an olive-green demagnetizer, and it would make a chunky yet rewarding sound. I was so fascinated by that machine (I would imitate using it at home) and when I got to work at the library, there was always a sense of satisfaction every time I got to use that demagnetizer. The library had two self-checkouts (with a demagnetizer attached) installed at the circulation desks that patrons could use on their own. One of my favorite things was seeing kids use the checkouts and see their sense of self-worth soar. I could also tell that sliding books on the demagnetizer was their favorite part.
The machines are easy as pie. First, it prompts you to scan your library card. Given that you don’t have outstanding charges or overdue material, you’ll be moved on to the next prompt: scan the library barcodes on your item. Once you scan it, the machine will ask you to slide it on demagnetizer until it makes that THUNK sound. After that, rinse and repeat, get that receipt, and you’re good. Some people, however, cannot make pie. They’ll struggle and they’ll get angry. They’ll refuse help until they’re on their verge of rage and that’s when I stepped in. Abracadabra, everything works magically but guess who’s to blame for everything not working in the first place? THE PIE. I understand technology can be difficult but robots have not taken over the world yet. Let’s not place all the blame on the pie.
When I worked all those jobs, I hated having to smile and put on a brave face when customers were rude or on the verge of misconduct. There were so many times I wished I could retaliate, but I feared conflict and imagined the worst. But I learned that people are complicated. People are good and people are bad. People are also super weird and deeply flawed even if they deny it. The thing is that I’m also part of people. I, too, have been one ready to cut a bitch mostly due to my impatience and stubbornness. Nonetheless, I try to keep in mind that whenever I go to a store or restaurant, it’s important to extend compassion to the employees. I have been in their positions before; it’s not unicorns and rainbows. The real sad reality is that I might be in that same position again very soon. So, cheers!