Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rebel Cry

I walked out on my job.

A lot of other things happened too, between this moment and the last time I actively wrote on my blog. I spent a solid month being depressed. Very depressed. Wherein the effort to continue mimicking the person I was expected to be became an enormous effort. This hasn't entirely changed, but I'm managing it better. The latter half of my time was that I got lazy and embarrassed about not writing the blog I was determined to be good about posting on. So, there's that. Back to the first part.

I walked out on my job.

It is the least Midwestern thing I've ever done in my life. I have been taught above all notions that every job is sacred. That you treat every job as if its the only job you will ever have. That every job you have been in reflects on you and your purpose and your success.

I was laid off from a job I loved. Even on the shitty days, I was always happy to be there. Being told that there's no place for me there, that I wasn't a good fit for the future was devastating. Something I can't grapple with even now.

The only job I was able to get after three months of unemployment was retail work. Another sting. But, I placated myself by chanting over and over that I needed the money and I wasn't too big to say no. This was unlike other retail I've worked before. The model of this company is, no joke, immediately back off if a customer doesn't want your help. My past two retail experiences fall in the camp of HARASS THE CUSTOMER UNTIL THEY LOVE YOU. At first this seems like a windfall. You mean I get to come, get paid, and I don't even really have to do the thing you hired me to do?

But again, Midwestern work ethic.

It turns out, I needed that interaction. I needed to feel useful. Going around a store and slowly adjusting shoes for eight hours a day was monotonous and stifling. Any time some one passed me on the sales floor I probably scared them, leaping to make any kind of contribution. This alone could have grated on my nerves for some time before I decided to look for other work.

What, apparently, I couldn't cope with was being demoralized. There was a manager of this store who clearly felt that the title gave her the right to exert what little power she was in control of over any one in her direct line of sight. She was condescending and sought out ways to degrade employees. Calling them incompetent, lazy, liars, anything really. How they haven't pieced together the high turn over rate at their location I'll never know.

On my first shift with her I had already worked a 22 hour shift at my other job. I had asked for the day off and it had not been granted. Because I am in a bind for cashy monies I just decided to ride it out. By 9:30 the store is suppose to close, but this manager, let's call her the Harpy because I sure did, forbid anyone to announce to customers that the store was closed. By 10:30 the final customer had left. I am ready to collapse. Then we begin resetting and cleaning the store.

This is my lasting impression of the Harpy. She walked through my section criticizing anything she could. I was told by her that since I was new she would give me a pass just this once, but she wanted me to remember everything she was saying so she wouldn't have to repeat herself. She said this slowly and patted my shoulder twice, as you would a child. She then said there were crumbs on the carpet and that it was my responsibility to clean up. We don't have a vacuum, so I awkwardly swept them up before some other sales associate whispered that a cleaning crew always comes in after we leave to do the floors and the Harpy has just told me to do this likely as a power play.

To what end she felt like telling me about the cleaning crew I will never know. I can't tell the manager she's full of shit for having me do this. So now I'm just more angry than I was two minutes ago. At midnight we are allowed to leave, begrudgingly on the part of the Harpy with a sharp "This will have to do." I black out twice on the drive home and have to sit on the side of the road until I can get a friend to get on the phone with me to keep me awake. I have just worked my first 30 hour day.

The Harpy continues this behavior for the month I work here. Snide comments and harsh criticism and four people quit in one week. Seven more people are hired. I suppose the three were for additional collateral they were anticipating.

I get a new job offer. Its not great, but its back in a museum and closer to what I should be doing and will at least fill out a resume better that more retail. Due to the size of the store I was working at the Harpy was one of four managers. Some how no one tells her I've turned in my notice, because when the rest of the hires I came on with begin register training she takes me aside and says I should think about the way I present myself at work since the other managers felt I'm obviously not qualified enough to be trained. She says this while smiling.

I think about it all night.

Its stupid. It doesn't reflect on me. I've quit. They're not training me because I'm leaving in a few days. I have two shifts left. There's no reason to train me. I know this. But this hits a nerve whether I want it to or not.

The next night I'm back in place, slowly angling display shoes a perfect 45 degrees and letting my mind wander. I take my break and in the back room two girls talk about how they're quitting soon. One mentions that someone else has just quit and they didn't even turn in notice. Just stopped showing up and answering calls from the store. I don't know why her saying this changes everything, but this is immediately when I know I'm done working here. I go back on the floor and look to see where all the managers are. I walk slowly, I still clean my area. I think. I visualize it. Walking out the doors. I double back and doubt myself. Even the thought is inappropriate. Is blasphemous to the work ethic that dominates the place in my psyche that I suppose other people fill with religion. My work becomes suddenly manic. I'm walking faster, haphazardly fixing things as I pull back and forth in my head over what I'm thinking about doing.

Then the Harpy announces over the associate radios that all of us should expect to stay late tonight.

I watch her move around the store. I wait till she goes into the back offices. I walk back to my locker, take my things, and walk out. My hands shake the entire way to my car, like my father is going to come charging out from behind some fake mall fern and tell me what I've done is wrong. Obviously this doesn't happen. I get in my car and drive home with a jittery energy.

I am suddenly and irrevocably invincible. I can walk out of a job like I don't give a fuck because I don't. No one has to know about this job, aside from the IRS. No one ever has to know I worked for a month at a shitty shoe store in a shitty mall and that I walked out without a backward glance and fucked off into the night.

Logically I can acknowledge that this isn't actually all that dramatic or altering to anyone accept myself. But it was important for that one day. Important in some tiny way I could say to myself that I'm worth more than a job like that. Important to feel proud of myself for a while. Midwestern work ethic be damned.

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