Co-Workers Can Be Like Family

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.

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How Not To Keep Your Job — Update

OK, so things with The Kid got interesting during his last shift.  Aside from snapping at me that he already knew how to do everything (when I was trying to show him how to do something he hadn’t done before), he made a big bunch of glaring errors.  Then, at the end of the night while everyone was cashing out, a few of us ran to the back to throw our uniform shirts in our lockers and change into regular clothes. I had on my jeans and work boots, and a very high-cut tank top (which I made sure showed zero cleavage, since The Kid seemed so nervous even serving a customer with big boobs, let alone having to work alongside a set of Double D’s), and a co-worker threw on a pair of shorts. When the shift leader asked him what he drawer total was, The Kid started to answer, but mid-number he just mumbled and stared at my chest.

Now, I’m used to people staring at my chest. Hell, even I stare at my chest sometimes. It’s damn, near majestic. But The Kid sat there with his jaw dropped open, eyes wide, and was almost drooling while he stared at my non-existent cleavage. I even asked a coworker if maybe my shirt had been pulled down a bit while I was lifting drawers. But it was pulled almost up to my collar bone.

Still, The Kid sat there gape-jawed and silent while the shift leader asked him THREE TIMES what his total was.

The next day, on my laid-back Kid-less Sunday shift, a senior co-worker asked if I noticed any issues with The Kid that we could address. Now, we had been making lists of things he did wrong, not to shame him or get him in trouble, but to make sure we knew what to go over with him the next time he was in. Well this list was more than a page front and back.

Very long story short, the other night The Kid came in for his shift. The Big Boss Man made all the other people getting ready to count their drawers go out and do stock while he and the assistant manager had a “little talk” with The Kid. A few minutes later, The Kid was escorted out of the building, never to be seen again.

The Big Boss Man came around to each of us on shift that night to let us know that The Kid was “no longer under our employment”.

Shocker, I know!

(Actually, my reaction was,”Really? gee, no one saw THAT coming!” in the most Daria-esque sarcastic tone I could muster).

So it turns out, that last post really WAS a list of things to do to make sure you Do Not Keep Your Job.

Hope you’re having a better weekend than The Kid, Sunshine. We have our strike deadline at 12:01am Monday (so tomorrow night), so there may be some Customer Service posts coming up from that. Also, I’m working on a series on files you need to keep. I mean, filing is probably the least fun and sexy thing you can think of right now, but keeping certain things filed away in an orderly manner can save you a RIDICULOUS amount of times sometimes. Time that could be spent on much more fun and sexy things.

How Not To Keep A Job

Good morning Sunshine! Hope you’re having a nice, relaxing Saturday morning. I’m on day 17 or 30 days straight of work this month (unless we wind up going on strike on the 26th, then I’m not technically working if I’m on the picket line), and I’m going right goofy.

For those of you who are new around here, I make my living by professionally peddling the Devil’s Brew in a government-owned retail establishment in a Canadian province (I think putting it that way works around my “social media” clause in my contract).  It may not be the greatest job, or have anything to do with what I went to school for, but it a great fit for me right now. I work with pretty much the greatest staff ever. Other stores have told me they’re jealous of our store, because we all get along so great and we’re like family. This job also gives me time to figure out my life, which I need to do very much so right now. And even though I hate people, I seem to like working with the public.

We have two busy seasons, where people buy a metric shit-tonne of alcohol – Christmas, and the summer. We get a few seasonal workers to come in at these times, kinda round out the schedule and make sure we have enough people on staff every day to keep the store open.  Usually, for a store our size, we would get 4 or 5 people to come in and help. This year especially, we needed that many people due to the possibility of a strike and the public’s usual “what do you mean you may be closed for a few days??now I need to buy CASES of booze to make sure the world doesn’t run out!” panic/ But this summer, through some combination of new management and some sort of curse, we have one. We have The Kid.

The Kid must have interviewed really well, because he’s never had a job in his 22 years. He’s never handled money, or touched a cash register, or dealt with the public. The product of helicopter parenting and a God-complex, The Kid believes that he is the be-all and end-all of cashiers. He even once dubbed himself a “cashier ninja” for his ability to hold up a line while he stood there staring into space and adding numbers in his head (we had to remind him that the cash register does all the adding for him, without uncomfortably staring at customers).

Now, I know that everyone has to start somewhere. The Kid doesn’t want to just “start” though. In his own mind, he knows everything and no one can tell him what to do.When I was just starting out as a cashier at my first job, I brought a notebook and pen and actually took notes on everything I had to do. Hell, even when I started THIS job a few years ago, I brought a notebook and pen to my cashier training and took notes on everything I had to do! Not The Kid, though. He knows everything, even though he knows nothing.

It’s only been a few weeks since The Kid first graced us with his cash-ninja presence, but it feels so much longer. Everyone but him seems to realize that he probably won’t last much longer. The only reason he’s lasted this long is because we are severely short-staffed as it is and we need bodies in the store.

Basically, he’s a walking manual for How Not To Keep A Job.  Here’s just a few of the thrilling lessons he’s given us so far:

1- Stand there. Don’t offer anyone any help. See your coworker with the huge line-up? Don’t let anyone in her line know that you’re open too. Just watch her struggle. Customer has his hands full and needs a basket? Just stand there and watch him drop glass bottles on the floor while there’s a pile of baskets next to you.

2- Stare. At everyone. Customer, coworkers, managers. Don’t say anything, just start at them.

3- Don’t think, just talk. If people are offended, it’s their own fault. Some great random phrases to get the conversation started with your customers: “Wow, you were in here yesterday too. You must be a huge alcoholic.”, “I can’t tell if you’re pregnant or really fat. Should you be buying coolers either way?”, “You’re smelly. You should go take a shower, or not look homeless or something.”

4-Don’t listen to your coworkers. They’re not trying to help you. Sure, they’re telling you what you did wrong and then showing you how to do it properly. And yes,  they’re being very patient with you. Ok, and they keep having to remind you of the same things over and over and over again. Easy things like, “Before you try to log on to a cash register, go sign in and grab your till. You can’t just walk up to a register and start using an empty drawer” I mean, all of this SOUNDS like they’re trying to help you. But they’re not. Don’t listen to them.

5- Go that little extra mile to put a personal touch on things, even if it means breaking all the rules. Coworkers told you to hit “assistance” button when you have a big line or need to use the bathroom or it’s time for your break, so that they know you need help and can come out there and help you? Screw that! You don’t play by conventional rules! Just abandon your post, wander into the back, tell them personally that you need help. That face-to-face contact is sure to impress them!

6-Make sure your coworkers know you’re on to them. Be loud, be forceful Don’t worry about their feelings; they have none. Yell right in their face if you have to. Make sure they know you are smart, and you know everything there is to know about their job, so you really don’t need their help. In fact, they should be asking you for help!

7-You know how every workplace says they have their own policy for breaks? Well, they’re lying because those policies don’t apply to you. Have a huge line-up? Just walk away and take a break! Supposed to buzz for someone to come relieve you for your break? Why bother? Just walk away whenever you want your break! Supposed to take 15 minutes? I’m sure you can reason out a way to take more! “Well by the time I sat in the office for a bit, and then went to the bathroom, and then sat for a few minutes, and then heated up my food, it was 4:15. So technically my break didn’t start until then.” See, just outsmart them!

8-The same goes for the end of your shift. Sure, the boss says he’s the one to tell you when to cash out and finish up your shift, but you know better than him. He says it only takes 5 minutes to do that? You take 25 minutes! Coworkers try to tell you that’s not how things are done? Well screw them! You know better than them! Just ask your mom, who has probably already checked in on your at least once during your shift and is waiting in the parking lot for you 45 minutes early just in case someone is mean to you.

9- When in doubt, get your mom. No one wants someone’s mom not to like them. Have your mom tell everyone how stressed you are, how you stay up at night crying about your job after the second day there. Make sure she tells everyone what a good kid you are, how smart you are, and how special you are. Everyone will listen to your mom and automatically love you.

10- Do things your own way. Sure, the register adds up all the prices you scan, but isn’t it just more fun to add up all the numbers in your head, even if it takes a few extra minutes per customer because you have to scan so slowly? Damn skippy it is! When the boss tells you to stop doing that (apparently it distracts you from stupid things like taking payments, and making change, and checking ID’s to make sure you’re not serving a 15 year old when the legal age is 19), stop for the few minutes he’s watching you, and then get back to doing what you love! Remember, your way is ALWAYS the best way!

 

This is just the short list of things he’s done THIS WEEK. And that’s not counting all the stupid comments he’s made to us. The concept of keeping the doors locked until we opened so that customers couldn’t come in was well beyond his comprehension. He also doesn’t seem to quite realize that “seasonal employment” means that he’s employed for the season, no matter how many times we explain it to him. He has flat out demanded we order him full-time staff uniforms and get him his own locker (instead of the one marked “seasonal staff”).

And I know I sound like a bitch for complaining so much about The Kid. It’s gotten to the point that he’s already made the most patient workers there snap from frustration. Last weekend, I kept rubbing my temples every time he said or did something unbelievably dumb or rude. And I don’t mean he hit a wrong key on the register, or accidentally gave someone an extra dollar with their change. I mean, his 15 minute break was almost 30 minutes; he mocked out plain-clothes security guys for not standing next to him all night to make sure he was safe (which apparently makes them lazy); he refused to ID people, and then refused to log the few ID’s he got in the system (it’s just logging that yes they had ID and what kind they had, for legal purposes). This was on top of his rude comments to staff and customers, his refusal to help anyone with anything, and his flat-out mocking of certain staff members and shift leaders. By the end of the night, I had my nervous twitch back in my left eye, and I had rubbed off my eyebrows and most of my outer eye make-up from rubbing my temples so much. And I’m one of the patient ones, too! Already this week, he’s had multiple private meetings with the boss about the things he’s doing wrong, and he’s almost been fired more than once. And I have one of the most patient bosses ever! Sweet little old grannies have come into the store, dealt with The Kid, and have almost resorted to purse-swinging violence!

He’s worked all week, as we’re trying to prepare him for our own brand of personal hell called “Dealing with customers who are trying to prepare in case we go on strike, and are acting like it’s the coming of the apocalypse”.  We’ve kept him on the early morning shifts to avoid him having to deal with the night rushes and the after-work/pre-party crowd. But tonight, a Saturday night when we’re already short staffed and have a tasting in-store, we also have The Kid with us. I already have my spiked rootbeer chilling in the fridge, and a big bottle of Chilean Cab Sauv staring at me from the counter.

This is going to be one hell of a long summer!

What about you, Sunshine? Have you ever had a coworker who you knew just wasn’t going to work out? Someone who drove you bonkers? Or maybe you’ve dealt with someone like this before and found a way to make it work?  Drop me a comment below, let me know how you handled things…… or let me know the worst of the worst stories you have about that coworker (we could all use a bit of a giggle).