It is so freaking loud here today! The city bought up a bunch of the houses in this area over the years, and they’re geared-to-income housing for young families who have fallen on hard times. It’s actually pretty great, having new kids coming into the neighbourhood all the time, the park behind our house actually being used. One of the neighbours started a small youth group for kids who are at risk of falling in with crowds that glorify drugs and gangs, and he’s had some pretty great successes over the last few years. And aside from the kids playing in the park, this is probably the quietest and safest neighbourhood in this university-student-majority area.
Except for today.
This week the city is doing yard maintenance on all of their properties in the area, to get them ready for winter. Most of the homes in this area are pretty old and have giant trees that people planted decades ago. In fact, the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s Kick-Ass Mom grew up around the corner from here. The trees here are massive and completely cover entire yards with ease. And today is the day every single one of those trees is getting trimmed back for winter, with extremely loud chainsaws.
The poor ever fuzzily and currently terrified Bowser Kitten has taken up residence among his Pillow Pals on the bed. Nuzzled in among the giant Pikachu and little emoji plushes is this little black cat face with great big green and yellow kitten eyes. He jumps out from time to time to eat, or poop, or to go to the window and stare at the workers. But for the most part, he’s planted himself on the bed to hide.
While my poor little fur baby is trapped here, listening to the grind of the chainsaws for hours on end, I will get to escape for a few hours to work. I know, most people want to try and escape from work. I am blessed, though, with pretty much the greatest group of coworkers I could ask for. Even then people who have moved to other stores, or only spent a short time at our store, have been pretty much the most awesome people from our district, plopped down in our little world for a time to increase the awesomeness in our lives for a time.
At my store, we’re pretty much like family. There are even nicknames for little groups of us: my Kitten Crew is the newest batch of hires, and are all young girls in their 20’s who are just adorable and a hoot to work with. There’s one Amazon with a soft voice that reminds us of Hooks from the old Police Academy movies. Sometimes out of nowhere, she will say the most random things that you don’t expect to hear from that tiny voice, and it makes you do a doubletake. There is the OG-Kitten, who was hired a year before the others. She was the first kitten after she tried to play-fight me during a slow break on a Christmas Eve shift. She punched lighter than the fierce Bowser Kitten does, and the name sort of stuck. And then we have one hilarious young woman who is totally deadpan most of the time, especially when customers are rude to her. I’ll explain the laws about who needs photo ID next week in an entirely separate post, but for now, you need to know that if we see you touch the alcohol, then we have to ID you. A young man physically brought a bottle up to her till and put it down on the counter so his friend could pay for it. When she asked him for ID, he said he “literally” never touched the bottle. Completely straight-faced and deadpan, she looked him dead in the eyes and said, “Ok, I literally just saw you bring this up and literally put it on my counter. Now you literally need to show me your ID or literally get out of my store. ” I almost fell down laughing watching her handle that.
Then there’s my crew. We moved locations across the plaza a few years ago, and there’s a small group of us who were all around at the time and still work at this location. We worked two stores at once, stocking one and selling off the other. We got a crash course in planograms, set up the new store so it looked perfect for the opening day, staffed a tiny store that was 80% empty shelves and 20% pissed off customers who couldn’t get their booze, and worked the opening day of the new store surrounded by higher-ups in fancy suits patting themselves on the back for all of their hard work in opening the new store. We’ve been together for years, and have grown extremely close to each other. We call ourselves the OG Crew since we were around before this store even technically existed.
We have others working at our store who kind of falling and out of groups, or who are in multiple groups. There are a few girls who worked at a store across town together and now work with us. Our full-time staff is kind of a category of their own. Of course, management is a whole different category, but out manager fits right in with us. And together, we’re like one big happy family.
The truth is, most of us see each other more than we see our own loved ones. I work a lot of closing shifts, which means I don’t ett hoe until around 9:30 pm. AAB works from 6:30 am until somewhere around 5pm, depending on the workload they have that day. We see each other for 15 minutes in the morning while he’s getting read, a few minutes when he pops into my work most days to say hi after his shift, and 15-45 minutes at night. Combined, we’re lucky to have an hour together some days. At the same time, I work 5 to 8 hours most days, and get scheduled with the same people on shift for a week or more sometimes. And it’s like this for a lot of people, not just those of us at my store. That’s why it’s so important to have good people to work with.
Now I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that we all became Instant Super Best Friends the very second we each met. In fact, every time we got a new person at our store, we were a little wary of them for a bit to see if they fit in with us. A few months ago, we were talking about what we each thought of each other when we met for the first time, and I admitted that I really didn’t like my now work BFF when she started. Her dad is an assistant manager at another store, she was transferred in to replace a friend who moved over to another store, and she was younger than me. I’m the child of the store! A few shifts after we first met, though, we had the fateful Mug Full of Cake shift, which changed things forever.
One of our co-workers made a chocolate cake for everyone. She was always baking stuff for us. Since we didn’t want to just grab plates of cake and put them in the office, we threw some cake into coffee mugs and kept them at our till. That, combined with exhaustion (we were each working multiple jobs) and caffeine, gave us a case of the giggles. When BFF tried to check s boy’s ID, it flew out of her and hit the poor kid in the chest. That was enough to set us off for the night. I actually collapsed on the floor in a fit of giggles after that.
Since that day, we’ve signed up for all of the strange shifts that lead to mild exhaustion together. Last year we did both a 6 am planogram shift, and a 6 am stock shift for the Christmas season. We got to be a little bit goofy before customers were allowed in the store. And the two of us being on the shifts together helped us to deal with some of the more impossible co-workers we’ve had, who always seemed to be on those shifts. Having a work BFF there during those strange times made things like being banished to the walk-in fridge seem almost funny.
The very best, though, was this year’s planogram. Instead of our usual “take everything off the shelf, wash shelf, move a few bottles 3 inches to the left, put everything back on the shelf” that we do pretty much every other year, we had an entire re-design of our store to do. We had all of our spirits on the walls on either side of the store, with the wine in between them. Well, corporate decided that all the spirits should be together on one side of the store, to make it easier for us to watch for shoplifters. This means taking everything off the walls AND the shelves at the same time, scrubbing everything down, and moving every single bottle around the store. For this, we were given a “midnight” shift: from the store closing at 9:15 pm until 5:45 am. 8 1/2 hours of just the two of us, alone in the store with the radio cranked and our nerves frazzled. We learned a few very important things about life on those shifts: vegetables are lighter than Big Macs and help you stay awake; most radio stations play the same 5 songs over and over and over; there are no popular songs right now about postal workers, Harambe, or nudists pissed off that their friends are selling clothes, no matter what I thought I heard in the lyrics; everything gets funny around 3am; and the best and strangest commercials come on right when everything starts to get funny. This shift gave us the emergence of Cheryl.
You see, towards the end of the week we had to change our regular radio station to something different because we could only take hearing Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” so many times in one week. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song. But after hearing it 37 times in a week, you start to read far too into it at 3am. This new station played some pretty strange commercials in the middle of the night, but the one that caught our ear was an abstinence-only commercial.
It started with a bunch of kids saying what they wanted to do with their lives. GO to school, become a doctor, get married and have kids, travel the globe, all the usual things. Then an announcer comes on at the end and says, “Notice none of these kids said they want a teen pregnancy?”.
Well, at 3:30am, that was enough to set me off into some strange impression of a PTA mom with a pregnant daughter.
Well, except for Cheryl. That’s why they cut her out of the commercial. You know, her brothers never gave me this much trouble. Ok, the one had the clap a few times, but he never came home all teen pregnant! Not that there’s anything wrong with her condidition. It just means more love around this house, which we need since that damn husband of mine can’t manage to crawl out of his bottle long enough to have dinner with his family.
Oh, but you should seen how Karen and her little clique are acting about all this. You know, for the whole six years my boys were at that high school, my almond blondies took home “Best Baked Good” every year at the PTA bake sale. But this year, Karen was all, “Oh, almond blondies? I thought you would’ve made tarts, like you did when you made that daught of yours!” She’s just jealous! I’m going to be the cutest, youngest looking grandma ever, while she’s tripping over those sagging boobs that she wears Dr. Grompkins did not lift or botch last spring when she went on her “sabbatical” to the family cabin to recover.
This whole Cheryl thing has taken on a life of its own. I should really write it down someday, in its entirety. There’s a whole cast of characters, soap opera-esque dramas, a puppy who can balance cheese on her nose, everything! And my work BFF totally encourages this. In fact, she feeds into it, telling me to keep going. It’s how we stay entertained on long shifts when everything seems to go wrong. And that’s why it’s so important to have someone as awesome as her in your working life. I’ve had shifts where everything goes wrong, and so has she. I had the Scary Customer Guy come in and threaten me and stab at me a bit with his pen, to the point that I broke down and cried in the office. She once set up a shelf, only for it to completely collapse and smash a few dozen bottles of wine and beer. But we were both there for each other on those shifts and managed to get through them ok.
She’s not the only one to keep me sane on my shifts. We’re like a little family at my store. When someone loses a loved one, we pull together and get them a card and send flowers to the funeral home at the very least. When my mother was so sick that we almost lost her a few years ago, my co-workers made sure that I was eating and sleeping and taking care of myself. A few of them called and texted to check in on me, and one even brought over a lasagna for me. We make group trips to the movies together, invite each other over for drinks, and have all seen each other more than a little drunk at some point. Sometimes we ever call each other after work (and after a glass of wine or three, depending on the shift) just to catch up and bitch about things.
We still fight and get pissed off at each other. But every family is like that. In the end, we get so mad at each other or at certain situations because we care, and we know there’s only so much we can do to help each other.
I know it’s not always possible to have a work family like this. Hell, in all the jobs I’ve had I’ve never had this before. I’ve had close friends at work, but nothing like this. It’s always important to find someone at work, even if it’s just one person, who you can bond with. The people at work, they understand your work-related problems. They know what you go through on a day-to-day basis at work. And sometimes, just knowing that you have at least one person on your side during a shift from hell can make all the difference for you.