Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jobs Part 2: Jobs everyone should do (at least once)

Jobs Part 2: Jobs everyone should have during their lifetimes

A few months ago I posted about jobs and labeled it Jobs: Part 1.  I bet you were expecting a part two.  Come on, you can admit it.  I bet you stopped reading this blog because you were frustrated. Well, frustrate no longer.   Let's talk about jobs again, and talk about the jobs I feel everyone should do at least once in their lives.

You will never win
Side note: I started writing this right after part 1, but then the Mega Millions jackpot was up over $500 million and all I could think about is what I was going to do with that money after I won.  I would keep my job.  HA, heck no, I’d give notice and go back to school and get a MFA right away, buy a big house, you know, all the things you dream about from the moment you buy the ticket until you check the numbers after the drawing and it’s all over because you see that 2 in the list of numbers and you know the first number on any of the games you played is 13.  Now back to reality.

Retail at Christmas time

These guys never came into JC Penny.
I spent several winter breaks during college working at J.C Penny’s at the Mall.  It happened to be the mall where I had been a mall rat.   Multiple times mall security had asked me and my friends to leave the mall, each time for something new (being too loud, taking pictures in stores, generally being pain-in-the-ass teenagers, and sitting on the grass outside Child World—not sure what we did wrong there).  So getting adjusted to working at the mall and sitting in the food court watching the next generation of mall rats roaming the mall and not buying anything was not fun.  I'd pull into the mall parking lot at eight thirty in the morning and park behind the yellow line drawn across the parking lot that delineated the parking spots for the customers from the ones for us working stiffs, passing through the employee entrance, all bags checked by the “Loss Prevention” team.  Oh, and I had to wear dress pants, dress shirts and a tie, all of this for a whopping four dollars and eighty cents an hour. (Note: the first time I wore a tie at my current job, they asked me who died.  Unfortunately for the person who asked, I had come from my great Aunt Eileen's funeral that morning.) I worked in the children’s department and it was a big season for Barney.  You know, the giant purple dinosaur who seemed to be everywhere that year. I spent one entire shift stocking the Barney displays all over the store.   Literally, a nine hour shift where all I did was stack fifteen inch stuffed purple dinosaurs into every available free space throughout the store.  At one point, the store manager helped me stack them into a display on the first floor, right by the entrance to the mall.  After that season, I never wanted to see Barney again.  For Christmas that year, my mother bought me one of those very Barneys.  Sometimes my mother is funny.  That Barney was accidentally destroyed maliciously.

And while Barney was awful, the worst thing to happen to me there happened right before Christmas.  I spent nearly an hour helping this older woman out picking clothes for her grandson. She'd take something off the rack, look it over for any marks or spots, ask if we had it in a different color then put it back and take something else.  I kept running back to the register to check out other customers before racing back to this woman. After it was all done, she’d spend about a hundred dollars and she thanked me for all of my help.  I felt good. The very next day, she was in again, but she was not shopping.  She was returning everything from the day before.  Everything!

Returns are just part of the fun. During Christmas time, the stores are packed, especially the last weekend before Christmas.  There are more people in malls that weekend than the entire month of February (I totally just made this up but it seems plausible).  And when a lot of people are in stores, there is less room to move around and people generally get agitated by other people being around them.  And people complain that the one thing they came for is already sold out.  And you explain that the item has been on sale for three days and it was a very popular item and that's why it is gone.  And, no, there aren't more in the back.  BECAUSE THERE ISN'T A BACK.  Seriously, I never saw any back room at JC Penny.  There was this gigantic elevator by the loading dock where the deliveries were unloaded, placed on racks then taken to the floor.  But there was no merchandise stored except what was out there.  And yelling at me isn't going to make it so there is a back that miraculously contains the pair of brown corduroy pants you are looking for.  Please stop yelling at me.  Please.

Someone at a record company thought this was a good idea
Do you like Christmas music?  I used to, until I worked retail during Christmas.  It turns out there is more awful Christmas music than there is good Christmas music.  And awful Christmas music must be cheaper for stores to play, because that's all we would hear.  Plus, the same three hours of music would repeat.  By Christmas Eve, I could tell you when stale, cheerless version of "Jingle Bells," was about to start, followed by the instrumental all flute version of "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas."  And you can't escape. I'd go to the employee lounge on my breaks and sucked down a can of Dr. Pepper and the music played in the break room.  I'd go to the food court and the music would play there.  I'd go to the bathroom and even in the bathroom I could hear "Silver Bells."  The manager on my floor said that I would get used to the music and eventually I wouldn't hear it.  He had been working retail for ten years.  I knew then I wouldn't make it past New Year's Day.

I haven't worked retail since then, but I make sure I treat those who do better.  For many of them, this is just a job to make some money, not a career.  And while there are some people working in retail who are bad at their jobs, yelling at them won't help.  So treat them nice.  They are likely making minimum wage and dreaming of being anywhere but at that store.  And, please, while you are at the checkout, don't sing along to the Christmas Music.  They hate that.  

Sadly, the mall I used to work at is gone and has been replaced with one of those trendy "lifestyle" malls, whatever that means.  I miss you Randhurst.

Next time, the second job everyone should do: Customer Service.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Orange Moon and Complaints, Complains, Complaints

I was going to write something about the beautiful orange full moons we've had in the night sky this week, but it has been a billion degrees in Chicago and I'm an idiot and didn't take any days off around the holidays.  So instead of finding words that rhyme with orange  I am going to use this time to complain.
This was in the sky all week long but it was too friggin' hot even at night to be outside looking at it.

To the parents in my kid's gym class: I know weekends are busy and you probably have a lot of things to do like hit the grocery store, mow the lawn, and get the fence stained.  But during you toddler and parent gym class, it is okay to put down you phone and actually pay attention to what you child is doing, even if it just for an hour.  Seriously, Facebook can wait.  You can read Kevin Smith's dirty tweets about his wife tonight after your kids are asleep. Watch your kids try to do a forward roll.  Actally look at them when they are on the balance beam instead of sneaking a look down at your iPhone to see if your cousin finally took her turn in your epic game of Words With Friends.  You might see you child is having fun, or tackling other kids.  So please, for on hour, just leave the phone in your pocket or in your purse, pretend its the late 1980s when no one had smart phones and find that perfect balance between helicopter parent and completely ignoring your kid parent.  I think they are going to have to update the phrase to "Life is what happens when you are busy looking at your smartphone."

They never look this nice
To the person who first decided to pull their shopping cart while standing next to it instead of pushing it from behind while in the grocery store: I hate you.  Everyone now thinks this is a great idea, I'm not sure why, but unless grocery stores double the width of their aisles (and I doubt this will happen) all you are doing is making me spend more time in the grocery store.  It seems that you also move slower when moving this way.  That might be because there is no handle on the side of the grocery cart, so maybe it is harder to maneuver.  The good thing is you are always paying attention to others around you and you quickly move aside when someone is coming towards you, or trying to pass you.  Oh, wait, you aren't paying attention.  You are on your phone, only the corner of your bluetooth headset visible, talking to your sister, about nothing at all, but talking loud enough for me to hear ever work as I bump my card in to the Spaghettios while trying to squeeze past you.  I said, "Pardon me," but you didn't hear me.  I said it again, but maybe you didn't understand me. I gave up turned around and went the long way around to the next aisle where we did the whole thing over again.  Maybe I'm going about this the wrong way.  Maybe I need to lobby the shopping cart industry.  Maybe you are onto something.  There hasn't been a significant breakthrough in shopping cart technology since they added a fourth wheel, you know the one that never wants to go the same direction as the other three.  The only advances since I was a kid were the seat belts, which are always broken, and the advertising signs on the front of the card.  Maybe someone can redesign the cart so you push it from the side but it wraps completely around you so two of them can fit down the aisle.  Maybe I just need to try using the card this way myself.  Maybe I won't understand it until I try it.  Okay, I tried it.  I don't get it.  All it does is make me turn around all the time to see what I am bumping into.  Please, stop.  I beg you.

The burned out shells of these litter my yard
To the residents of my neighborhood who like to celebrate Independence Day starting around early June all the way through August: Please stop.  I like fireworks as much as the next guy.  I like celebrating the founding of our country by blowing up my own little piece of it.  Hell, we used to stop at Krazy Kaplan's (the animated gif on the Krazy Kaplan's website is timeless, but not in the good way you might use the word timeless, more like stuck in time.  Hey Krazy Kaplan's: 1997 called and they want their animated gif back!) anytime we were in Indiana and load up on the three for one specials.  We even got caught setting them off once.  Well, Bill did.  Everyone else got away.  I love your awesome three hour spectacle on actual Independence Day.  Hell, even on July 3, go nuts. It's my mom's birthday and  least I don't have to get up and go to work on the Fourth.  But once the fourth has passed us by, once Taste of Chicago has closed, once most people have to go back to work, can you tone it down?  Please?  I've got little kids, and, thankfully now, they are not the light sleepers they once were but I'd like them to be able to sleep without booms going off every night.  I know I can't call the police on you because, well, you ARE the police, or the son of a cop, or the nephew of a cop, but please, can we shorten firework season to just a couple of weeks?  I know you don't have to get up early, but tomorrow morning I might pull my car into your driveway and lay on the horn for ten minutes when I leave for work at six thirty.

I promise something less curmudgeonly next time.  Thanks for reading.