Personal Thursday: Retail Horror

Oct 30

I asked on the Twitternets, as you do, what I should write about for this week’s Personal Thursday entry. And I got a request for retail horror stories. So here is an entry about that.

After I got that request, I started thinking about horror stories from my retail days, at Borders and then Starbucks. Let me tell you, I had many unpleasant interactions with customers, despite my efforts to give good or at least adequate customer service at all times. I’m too much of a Boy Scout to actually be a dick to a customer no matter how tired or angry I might be. I used to type up long, angry screeds full of expletives at whatever the lastest customer idiocy was.

But as I mentally chewed on those, trying to decide which ones to write about, I realized I’ve cooled off on them. I may retain some bitterness about some of the common threads of retail work, but the individual stories have faded enough that I can’t muster up the energy to fill them with “colorful metaphors”. Mostly they serve to remind me to be kind to the retail workers (and everyone else) I meet in my day to day existence.

Some people dismiss retail work as “trivial”, “not real work”, or — in the current debate on raising the minimum wage — “not worth real money”. In their minds the retail worker is a fumbling high school student, a college student in a “fluffy” major, or someone who has somehow failed at life and is therefore not worth the dignity of basic humanity. The numbers show of course that this is not true, and that for many retail workers it’s the one thing putting food in their, and their families’, mouths. But let’s put that aside for a second; let’s pretend that entry-level retail is all surly high schoolers too lazy to competently perform basic tasks. Even in that weird parallel universe, they are still worthy of compassion.

Many horror stories from retail workers have a common theme: a rude, oblivious, condescending or downright hostile customer. Why is this? Why do so many people feel the need to be jerks to someone who’s not only there to provide a service, but is literally forbidden to defend themself? It takes almost zero effort to be a little understanding, so why do so few people stop to do it?

I don’t know. I feel like it’s similar to bathrooms. No no, hear me out — just about everyone here in the US has a bathroom at home. And most of those people don’t pee on the walls, smear poo on the floor, or leave their vomit in the sink. Most people have a bathroom that, while probably not spotless, is safe for visitors to use without coming into contact with bodily fluids or trash. They don’t break the fixtures. They don’t put holes in the walls. They don’t scratch things up.

And yet … someone does all those things in public restrooms. Someone who wouldn’t dream of leaving an unflushed turd on the seat at home has no problem leaving that little landmine in a restroom that other people have to share with them. A restroom you share with roommates or family or pets gets a certain amount of respect as a shared space. But a public restroom shared with strangers, and cleaned by strangers? Some people just can’t be bothered not to shit the place up. It’s not their problem. They don’t need to clean it up. They’re not gonna sit down and find their ass suddenly wet. Unless of course the person before them thought the same way and the workers hadn’t had a chance to clean it up.

And it’s the same thing, it seems, with retail workers. You don’t know them, you don’t have to deal with any consequences for being a dick to them, so it’s not your problem. So hell, might as well be a dick, right? It’s your chance.

Not all customers think this way. Not even most customers, depending where you are. But you know what? It only takes one person. Or two, or five. Like a turd in the urinal*, even after they’ve left and the physical evidence of their assmillinery has been cleaned up, the stench lingers.

There’s a flaw in my analogy of course, and it’s this: people aren’t restrooms. They’re not made to be shat on even if you aim in the right spot. And I’ve found that 99% of the time it takes zero goddamn effort to treat them with kindness. The person behind the cash register may be performing an outwardly simple task, but even the simplest of tasks becomes harder when you have to balance rules, management, customer desires, the current status of the store, and the inevitable turd in the urinal.

So I guess what I’m trying to say with this rambly mess is — be kind. Have compassion. The sting of being poorly treated will eventually fade in a person’s memory, but being an asshole will stay with you for life.

*Turd in the Urinal is my Marcel Duchamp cover band.

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Once more unto the breach, with feeling

Sep 14

Yep, another “hey I’m still here” post!

For the past several months, all my creative juices have gone into creating this:

Tiny human

The tiny human, not the blanket.

I swear, I haven’t been able to write damn near anything while the baby was incubating. It really is as if every ounce of creative energy in my body was focused on making her little cells divide instead of making words come out my fingertips. But after a truly Sisyphean labor (which I may blog about at some point, without too much graphic detail), her journey from “tiny bundle of cells” to “independently breathing human being” is complete, so hopefully I can get the words out of my fingers again.

Don’t worry, this won’t become one of those dreaded “mommyblogs”* — I’ll still be posting about coffee-related stuff, mixed in with random personal stuff as it strikes my fancy. I have trouble remembering to use this blog for mundane personal posts, the way I used to use LiveJournal, but I’m working on that. You can see in the “Crap I’ve said lately” section in the sidebar, I still tweet random useless thoughts at random hours.

Posts currently brewing in my head include: the (in)famous Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, bits and bobs on the new audio show I’m working on (stalled out during the great Babyfication process), and possibly the story of the Sisyphean labor. I might also copy some of my favorite posts over from LiveJournal. Any other requests, loyal readers**?

* Gotta say, I don’t like the derision usually aimed at “mommyblogs”. People should blog about what interests them, and for many women (and men!) that’s their children. I don’t see anywhere near as much internet scorn directed at, say, car blogs or movie blogs. That said, my kid will not be the main focus of this blog.

** All two of you

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The Bland Rolls of Blandness

Nov 22

In my last post, I mentioned that my Thanksgiving menu included Pumpkin Pull-Apart Rolls. This is one of my favorite recipes — they’re easy to make and they come out perfect and delicious.

Basically you mix all the ingredients, let the dough rise for an hour, make them into balls and stick them in pans, let it rise for another 40 minutes, then bake. Having mapped out my cooking down to the minute for today, I noted the two easiest options for baking — do everything the night before, or do the mixing the night before, stick the pans in the fridge to slow the rise, then throw them in the oven while the turkey is resting (it’s tired, poor thing). For simplicity’s sake, I decided on making them last night.

So there I was, balling up the dough and putting it into the pans. As I pulled out the canola oil to brush the tops, I thought to myself “Hmm, why wasn’t this out already? I thought there was oil in the dough …”

Realization dawned. I looked at the recipe, and yup. I had gotten so spaced out watching my Kitchen-Aid dough hook do all the wrist-breaking work for me that I had completely forgotten to put half the ingredients into the dough. Salt, sugar, and oil.

They rose perfectly fine, or I would have realized earlier. There was no way I could just mix those in at that late stage. So I decided to put them in the oven anyway and just see how they came out.

Result: Pretty much the blandest rolls ever. Texture is fine, they’re not dry or burned, they just … don’t taste like anything.

Lucky for me, I had enough materials to make a second batch. So I got up early this morning to get that rolling, and the first batch is going into the stuffing, where it can steal the flavor from butter, onions, and spices.

There was also the matter of a late-night turkey advice phone call to my mom (“How do I get the doojobbies out of the middle if it’s still mostly frozen?? What’s this big fleshy thing under the drumsticks? How do I get the wire thing off?”) but hey, it’s only my second Thanksgiving.

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Maybe I was bitten by a radioactive trivet.

Nov 15

As some of y’all are aware, I have an unusually high resistance to heat. I enjoy 100 degree weather. I never notice getting sunburned until I’m in lobster territory. Touching hot things only rarely leaves a mark.

I call it a superpower for a reason.

You may scoff at my hyperbole, so let me tell you a little story that happened to me today: I was making chicken for lunch. Used a potholder to take a pan out of a 400 degree oven. Upon inspection, it was clear the chicken wasn’t done so I’d need to move the pan out of the way and finish it in a skillet.

I actively thought to myself, That pan is still hot from the oven. I need a potholder.” And lo, I put a potholder on my hand and moved the pan safely like a motherfucking adult.

Not five goddamn seconds later I thought “I’d better move it over a little more” and sure enough, I grabbed the pan with my bare hand — potholder still on my other hand! — and moved it.

End result of grabbing a 400 degree pan? A brief pain and not a single mark on my hand.

Doesn’t sound like a superpower? Consider the fact that I do stupidass things like that all the time, and I still have full mobility of all ten fingers. I’ve grabbed a hot pan hard enough to hear my skin actually sizzle — didn’t even have a mark to show for it afterward. That ain’t normal, man.

My mother thinks it’s because I was born (as she loves to recount over and over) right before a historic heat wave. I’m not discounting gamma rays or ancient curses, though. Maybe an alternate universe is involved?

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