Well, It’s December

So this is life after NaNoWriMo, eh?

I was going to take today off from writing, just gather up ideas and such. Started making a nice spreadsheet last night to track my word count each month, and I thought I could pretty that up a bit. Planned to go through the little pile of notes and scraps of paper on the desk under my computer monitor, and try to organize some sort of topic list for days when my brain just cannot brain.

Instead, I slept in.

It’s the start of December, which means my holiday and financial stress is about to go through the roof. I have a few gifts bought for the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and have priced out some things for the ever-festive Bowser Kitten. My mother is expecting those damn letter I write her every year, and I haven’t even started them yet. My dad wanted something that I can’t get in stores around here, and that Amazon will not ship to my in Canada unless I pay an extra $47 in shipping….. for a $23 item.  So now I have to find something completely different to get him, but still something that he wants and needs for the kitchen, but not something he can use to make a huge mess in the kitchen and piss off my mother. My sister and my brother-in-law have given me absolutely zero indication of what they want, so I’ll probably wind up making them gift baskets again this year. And all my brother has told anyone is that he wants a nice glass food storage container to bring to work with him.

The only gifts I was totally sure on this year were for my Secret Santa at work (I had to trade someone to get her), and for all the cats in the family. The always giving Bowser Kitten always gets a little bag of treats or a dollar store stocking of toys for the other three cats in my family, and we write their little names on them “from Bowser”. Yes I know, my family is strange.

On top of the whole “buying gifts for everyone that they’ll actually like” thing, I have to come up with some sort of budget for all of this that won’t screw me over in the new year. I’ve been saving up some money to use on Christmas shopping, and have a big pile of rolled coin I have to take to the bank this week to trade for cash to use for that. I can’t really dip into my regular paychecks or put much on the credit cards, though, because once January 1st comes I am once again officially screwed at work. My hours get cut in half as soon as the holiday season is over, meaning I have a few days off sometimes and have to start picking up every single available shift I can once again. Since the schedule changes so often, this is usually how I wind up working 30-day stretches. Some of the weeks in that stretch, I might not even get 30 hours even though I’m working 7 days a week.  So while I’m spending money this holiday season, I have to keep in mind that I’m going to be beyond broke in 6 weeks.

Of course, the lovely people who control the student loans in Ontario don’t seem to think that I’m broke. Because I’m so broke while I try to climb the pay scale at work, I can’t pay my full student loan bill every month. So every six months, I have to fill out paperwork telling them how much money I make, and they determine how much to charge me. My current repayment assistance is good until the end of December, which means I get to spend the next 6 weeks convincing these people that I am not, in fact, a millionaire.

Now, I have no problem paying back what I can on my student loans. They’re money that was loaned to me, and I know I have to pay it back. But they have this program because a lot of people can’t pay the full amount of their bill each month, and it’s supposed to help them still pay things down until they can find higher-paying jobs. For some reason, even though I haven’t changed jobs in years, every December these loan people seem to think that I must have somehow made an extra $50,000 this year and therefore should be paying something like $800 a month to them. After paying my bills for November, scrimping and saving from my paychecks, and buying groceries, I don’t even have $800 left in my account, and this is one of my better months as far as hours go! If I can’t manage that in November when I’m getting around 40 hours a week, how the hell could I manage that in January when I’m down to 20 hours a week?  I have to start scanning and copying pay stubs, writing letters indicating my monthly hours each year, send copies of the schedules up for the new year, and spend hours on the phone while seven different people give me seven different fax numbers to send all of this to, all the while getting mad at me for using a fax number other than the one they gave me even though that’s the fax number their website says to use.  Usually I wind up reduced to tears at least twice just from the stress of it all, have at least one tantrum while sitting alone in my bedroom, rant to somewhat listening Bowser Kitten for at least 5 hours throughout the month, and have 3 separate meltdowns with at least one of them being at work while I fax documents over for the 4th time.

Did I mention I have to bake? We have company potluck, and dessert trays to make at mum and dad’s, and tins to fill for AAB to bring to work, and a tin to make for a really sweet Scotch rep who teaches me all about scotch, and cookies to make for the neighbour who edges our lawn with his weed wacker since ours broke. I have special requests from co-workers, and completely different requests from family, and more requests from friends. I am going to be up to my elbows in molasses and pumpkin spice for at least a week, every day after work, trying to bake a little each day while trying to get everything else done.

Of course, this is on top of all the other stresses going on right now. We have one empty bedroom downstairs we need to rent out, and the other room will be free as of January 1st. So it’s back to showing rooms, waiting on people who either don’t show up or show up three hours early and dealing with the helicopter parents who want to know why we don’t have maid service here. Everything in this house seems to need to be scrubbed, mopped, vacuumed and sanitized right now, and no one else seems to notice. I got rid of the mildew in the bathroom ceiling, and am now working on the mildew growing in the tub lining and caulking. I haven’t even looked at the downstairs bathroom, and I’m afraid to. Somehow no matter who we rent those basement rooms out to, that bathroom winds up a filthy, grimy, mold-filled mess that hasn’t been cleaned in months. If I don’t want to go insane from being surrounded constantly by filth, then I have to keep up with ALL the cleaning around here by myself, yet again.

Add in to this work stress, family drama, getting ready for get-togethers, AAB’s family drama, sobriety issues, cold and flu season, and our upcoming fundraiser at work for Sick Kids Hospital (the angry responses we get from some customers should be a post in itself!), and this is probably the most stressful time of year. I haven’t started working on mum’s letters at all yet. I was also thinking of making the types of cards they make you make in kindergarten for her since somehow every card like that I made her got lost when their basement flooded (but the cards I made for dad all survived).

But for today, I want to do nothing. I don’t work until 4:15 tonight, and I get to work with all the new seasonal workers for the holiday season. This is my first time meeting most of them. It should be a pretty chill shift since we look like we’ll be overstaffed for the night and have four seasonals there as dedicated cashiers (until I need the tallest one to help me face-up the top shelves). Sunday I won’t get a chance to write at all since I work the 9-hour shift all day, and then leave right from work to head to the union Christmas Party. I still have no idea what I’m going to wear since the outfit I ordered on Black Friday didn’t even ship yet. Oh well, just one more thing to stress out about.

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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).