A Very Late Update, with More to Come Soon

Hello, lovelies!

Yes, it’s been about a month and a half since my last update. I have had a lot going on in 2018 and came to realize that I was using this blog more as a personal diary than as what I had intended it for: a tool or resource to help others learn from my mistakes and experiences.

Yes, some good came of that. I was able to open up quite a bit about my anxiety, and about the issues I’ve had involving alcohol in my life. Those are huge things for me and really helped me grow as a person. Also, I got a few emails (which I chose to keep to myself and not post here) from others going through similar experiences with alcoholic partners and family members. Still, this seemed more LiveJournal than ProfessionalWiter’sBlog. So, while I took the time to adjust to my new store, I imposed a blog-hiatus on myself: no writing, no note-taking, no pre-planning at all. I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo to help get this blog back on track, but I’m still unsure as to my participation in it.

So what has been happening in my life lately?

My new store is quite a bit rougher than the old one. We have “parking lot people” who beg for change and a few have actually grabbed people and demanded money. So there’s that to deal with.

Also, have a lot more shoplifting. No one likes doing the reports and camera work so I could spend a whole day catching up on that if I could. We have banned more people for stealing in the 6 or so weeks I’ve been at this store than we did the entire almost 4 years at my last store. And some of them are so brazen. Just the other day one walked in and just started loading up her backpack. When the assistant manager caught her, she dumped everything and started receiting legal jargon at him about how he couldn’t call the police on her because she technically hadn’t stolen yet (which would be true, if we didn’t have her on camera stealing a few times in the past week, and if she were not permenantly banned from the store). She’s been through the system enough that some stores know her by name.

There’s also a lot more people with different addiction issues. We have a very heavy meth user who tried to attack our security staff one day, who keeps trying to come in. He scares the hell out of me. The other people with these issues are mostly fine, but this guy almost put his fist through a plate-glass window because I refused him service once. I am actually terrified some nights that I’m going to be attacked by one of the people we refuse or ban from the store.

I do have a former coworker I had a crush on working with me now. I will freely admit that physically, this man is perfect. I mean, his ass should be framed and hung up in the Louvre because it is a damn work of art. Working with him again, though, the crush isn’t there anymore. We can still tease each other back and forth, but I know that the two of us are a horrible match. It’s fun now having him around because we get along great and he’s a great person in general. Now that we both have pets, every shift pretty much starts with the sharing of pet pictures.

I’ve taken a lot more sick days at this store in the last 6 weeks than I usually take in a year. I usually take maybe two a year. Today was my third day since moving to this store, after already taking one before the move there. I took two days off one week because this store is horrible for my anxiety, and I was puking more than I was eating for a while. I needed a few days to get my strength back and keep some food in me. I had my first full-blown, laying on the floor in hysterics, screaming and crying and shaking, totally scary panic attack since my last year of University. Usually, it’s more of the jittery, pukey, head constantly spinning and heart racing feeling I get, and that I’m able to somehow deal with. But this time, I just went over the edge. It scared the hell out of the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend, who had no clue how to help. His first instinct was to hold me, but that’s pretty much the opposite of what I needed. I let him try to help, though, and got myself calmed down a bit. Later that week, though, when I still hadn’t completely come down, I had to take two days off. I just told the boss I was having stomache issues.

Also, I’m not as forthcoming with my anxiety issues with my coworkers here as I was at my other store. My former assistant manager moved to this store the week after me, and he knows a bit about my issues. But I don’t talk about them freely like I did before. There just seems to be so much more judgement, and gossip, and back-talking that I don’t feel comfortable speaking up. That was a big reason why I didn’t update here: I knew I could talk freely on here, but needed to become comfortable in my daily life with it again too. After renaming my group chat with my former work fam to “Fam Squad”, and sharing in the misery with them, I realize now that there are too many trust issues in my store for me to be open. I don’t have the bond with my coworkers that I did before. I’m much more guarded about sharing information about pretty much anything with anyone but three coworkers I knew before moving here.

To top all of this off, I took another sick day Wednesday. My wrist has been bothering me due to the increase in use. Remember, I was bumped back to 4 hours a week. That means I got roughly 175 customers a week, or 700 a month. At my new store, I’m getting closer to 10,000 customers a month, which means more time on the scanning gun. This is in addition to my new duties scanning the store (with a gun that uses the same motions), The increased strain has left me with the beginnings of a repetitive stress injury. How did I find this out? A bird flew in through an open door at home. While trying to corral cats and shoo the bird, I fell on my already sore wrist and sprained it. Took a day off work, went to a clinic, and am now medicating with wine because the doctor knows I’ll listen to my body and what I need to do rather than drag myself halfway across town to a series of different medical appointments over a series of months. If I have any further issues, I’m more than welcome to come back and see him. But he didn’t give me papers for work, or a prescription.

My wrist has been ok so far today. I practically destroyed it at work last night, so I’m surprised I’m not in more pain. To top everything off, we have a new District Manager who is changing everything about every store, and is passing down new motion study procedures to all of our larger stores from her bosses. Somehow it’s supposed to take us only 10 minutes to fully scan and put away a skid of product, even though most stores are short handed and some have only one person working the load at a time.  And then they wonder why so many of us are getting injured………

Of course, this has all been on top of everything else that comes with life. The apprently accepting Bowser Kitten has fully embraced his new baby sister Baby Sketchpad McCaffrey. The two are pretty damn adordable together now. He’s a bit protective of her at times, and she’s a hyperactive accident waiting to happen. It’s a match made in heaven.

We had some family issues to deal with for a while, and had the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s father stay with us a few nights so AAB could help him out the following morning. That really took a toll on AAB, but baby kitten snuggles have been helping a lot. I have some new work possibilities coming up, and have been thinking about doing some more schooling if none of those pan out.

So with this all off of my chest, I’m hoping to get back to this blog’s original purpose: to give people to knowledges, resources, tools, and advice that they generally aren’t given to make important decisions, create better habits, and live the best life they can. Yes, I will update about myself and my life from time to time, but not at the rate I was recently. I want this blog to be more of a help to others than glorified LiveJournal.

And with that, Sunshine, I bid you adieu for the day. One of my former coworkers gets married tomorrow, and I have a lot of beauty crap to do today before work to get ready for the party tomorrow. AAB and I will be heading out there with my WorkBFF and her fiancee, and we’ll all be reunited with the FamSquad for the day. Now, go out there and enjoy the day!



Wow, I really forgot how much I hate having random roommates. The creepy roommate left for 8 weeks to go visit his family and came back very early this morning. I’ve been hiding out in the bedroom all morning with my homemade granola, trying to avoid him before I’m sufficiently caffeinated to deal with the world.

I have to talk to random people all day at work, where I’m awake and chipper and full of flavoured water and bubblegum. I don’t want to have to do the same thing here, not even showered, with someone who thinks that every time we pass each other in the hallway we absolutely need to have a long and awkward conversation.

I guess that’s par lately, though. I’ve kind of avoided coming on here the last few weeks because……… well, everything just sucks. And when everything sucks, my brain goes blank. I can’t even write erotic friend fiction anymore, much to the disappointment of my coworkers.

Right after Easter, our hours were cut at the store. Not just “well, guess I can learn to survive on 25 hours instead of 30 hours” cut. I mean “well, that 37 hour week was nice. What the hell am I going to do with myself when I only have 4 hours next week” slashing.

For the entire month of April, I was lucky to get scheduled for more than 4 hours a week. The boss pulled me aside, went over the scheduling and budget with me, and swore things would get at least a little better. Just not any time soon. So, I had to start looking for a second job.

Had a few interviews, got a bunch of rejections. Then I signed up with a placement agency that seemed super promising. They recruit for a place I’m dying to work for and said they always have openings there. They promised they’d send me every listing for there as it came in. That was weeks ago, and I haven’t seen anything since.

I’ve spent days going over cover letter tips because those damn things are the bane of my existence. I’ve got at least half a dozen different versions of my resume ready to tailor, and have a small collection of application packages from various local businesses. Basically, when I’m not at work I’m at home looking for work.

That doesn’t seem to matter, though. The second week of April the boss called me on one of my many days off. The transfer notices came out for our district, and I’m being transferred to our downtown location.

Now, there’s a little group of us who have worked together for years. When they built our new location, we did the move from the old one together. We’re like a little family, the five of us. So as soon as I got off the phone, I went into our online group chat to tell them the bad news. Turns out, all five of us are being separated. Four of us got transferred to different stores, with one staying behind. We have been a collective emotional wreck since that day.

This group of us is family. We’re all super protective of each other, and of the other people at our store. When the big scary customer guy came threatening me and stabbing at me with his pen, it was my work family that came to my rescue and got him out of the store.  We’ve gone to each other’s kids’ birthday parties and weddings. We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, cats, and Sundays together sitting poolside with too many drinks. MamaBear’s two sons are my favourite little gentlemen, while PapaBear’s kids are the cutest little balls of awkwardness and hyperactivity. Sugar and I (she calls me Cinnamon because of my red hair) have been leaving chocolate bars in each other’s lockers for years now. And the WorkBFF, well if I get into why she’s awesome I’m going to start crying again.

There have been a lot of tears shed, and a lot of group hugs. Our last day at this store is Saturday, and it is going to be one sloppy day. The WorkBFF and I are closing together that night, and don’t think we can make it through the shift without crying a few times. Every time we close the store together, she drops me off after work. The last few times, I’ve managed to contain my tears until I’ve gotten out of the car in my driveway.

Throughout all of this, things at home have been ridiculously strained. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend has been anything but amazingly awesome. I’ve caught him hiding alcohol from me a dozen times in the last weeks, and caught him shopping at other liquor stores to hide his purchases from me. He’s been back on the hard liquor with a vengeance, and his drinking is just spiralling.

We had planned on doing so much together while our roommate was gone. Instead, we spent more time sleeping in separate rooms than together because of the fights about his drinking. His drinking puts a huge strain on our relationship, and his lack of caring makes it worse.

At night, I fluctuate between two types of dreams now. In one, AAB gets drunk and angry with me. I know he would never hit me in real life, but he does in my dreams. He hits me, or pushes me, or tries to hurt Bowser. Whatever he does, I wind up getting hurt badly while he just rages on.

In the other dreams, he’s gone. I’ve left him and started over in a new apartment alone. I have a cute little bar cart, Bowser has a sibling, I have plants growing on the window sill. I’m happy. Even though I’m working all the time and super stressed in the dreams, I’m still happy to be alone.

I don’t think it’s possible to leave him, though. He’s pointed out dozens of times that regardless of how much he’s drinking, he’s still much better than he was when we met. The only thing that would ever drive him to drink like that again would be if I left him. If I left him he would drink himself out of a job, and a home, and wind up on the streets. If I leave, then that will drive him to drink even more, and it will be my fault that his life is destroyed. I can’t do that to someone, and couldn’t live with myself knowing I’m responsible for someone else’s alcoholism.

I’ve spent the last 4 weeks in a constant state of panicked haze. Nothing seems real, nothing seems safe. I’m constantly waiting for something more to go wrong. Every time I drive with AAB I panic, wondering how much he drank so far that day. I’m constantly worried that he’s going to hurt himself or someone else while he’s driving, or while he’s at work.  And he gets so mean and demanding when he drinks, too. The other night he announced that we’re getting a kitten, he’s picking it out, and the sometimes scratchy Bowser Kitten needs to get declawed because he’s a vicious beast of an animal who will kill anything smaller than him.

This was also the day after he out-catted Bowser Kitten in the Battle of the Bathroom Centipede. Bowser was too gentle with it, and it almost escaped. Oh, that vicious little beast, eh?

I’ve been trying to write more to take my mind off of everything, but nothing is coming of it. At least, nothing I can throw on here. I have dozens of half-finished pieces sitting on my desktop, and a few more scribbled in notebooks. I don’t know, maybe I need a new blog. Or multiple blogs for multiple genres. Or maybe just stop altogether.

I don’t know, my brain isn’t clear enough for rational thought anymore. I think it’s time for my lunchtime cry now.

The Tale of the Couple That Damn Near Broke Me

Financial panic. I had a few weeks here with almost no hours before they started slowly increasing. Now I’m obsessively doing things to try and better myself. I’m making my game plan to scrub this house down completely, now that my knees will bend properly after my fall. I’m writing more, and going through the giant stacks of research I have piled around the bedroom. I’m going through all my usual job search sites, looking for something to help me afford to pay my bills and pay off my debt. I cut back on my drinking quite a bit too. I’d usually have 2 or 3 glasses of wine a night to help me relax. With the exception of a glass of wine Thursday night after my fall, and a bit of sparkling wine in my juice last night with dinner, I didn’t drink since last weekend. I switched over to fruit juices mixed with club soda. It’s helped me get up early each day feeling awake and refreshed, instead of going back to sleep for another 2 hours.

I’m trying to put myself out there in a bunch of different ways. Usually, this makes me feel really great like a giant weight is being slowly lifted from my shoulders. But my anxiety is getting in the way of that feeling this time. It seems like the smallest thing can make that feeling go away. I’m trying my best to push through it, but working in customer service makes it pretty damn hard. The nasty customers are starting to get to me.  I had a couple of Saturday night that just made me slam my head into the counter. Seriously, I dropped my head onto the counter when they left, and the customer in line behind them just said, “Take your time. That was rough.” And they had only seen my interactions with them during the sale, not the part that happened before that!

So, here is the story of a couple who damn near broke me. As usual, in order to comply with my company’s social media policy, certain details have been changed to protect the identities of those involved, and so that you can’t figure out exactly where I work. I guess they think the 7 of you out there reading this are going to incite a riot in my store to try and protect me from nasty customers or something. So anyway….

The Tale of the Couple That Damn Near Broke Me

Saturday night started out like a regular night. I was working my favourite register by the door, chatting away with customers and checking ID’s. I had the usual mix of pleasant people, happy to be getting supplies for their weekend of relaxing, and moody young folk upset that I need to see their ID before letting them buy certain things. I’m a very bubbly but strict cashier, so I’m used to people trying to give me a hard time. I can brush it off a good 99% of the time.

Then that 1% walked up to my counter. They had a cooler bag with them, and inside was two very large bottle of pre-mixed drinks that we sell. Both bottles were a little more than half-way full, so neither of them was sealed. Store policy is that no one can return an opened product unless there is something wrong with it, and they’re willing to make a product complaint. We take down all of their information and send the product off to be tested to see if there was something seriously wrong with it. Usually, if we get something back for a complaint, then other stores in our chain are getting the same thing returned to them. We get a notice from HQ telling us to pull the product while they investigate.

So Mr. and Mrs. Wankerpants come up to my counter, put their cooler bag down, and ‘Karen’ launches into her story.

“We were away on vacation a while back and bought this bottle here. We put it in the fridge when we got home, and then we saw the same product in a different location. So we bought it there, too. They don’t look the same, so we opened them and each had a glass of each one. It didn’t make us sick or anything, and it tasted fine. But we want out money back for these. There’s obviously something wrong with one of them.”

Now I’m not allowed to just give people back their money. There’s a certain process to everything. So I offered to run to the office, just a few feet away, and grab my manager so they could talk to him. No returns at all can get processed without a manager or shift leader’s say-so.

Well, Karen wasn’t having any of that!

“Well, wait! Look, you can see right here that the bottles are totally the same. The labels are identical even! These are supposed to be the same drink! But this one (holds up the first one they bought) is almost white, it’s so damn light! Look how blue this other one is! This looks like all the others on the shelves! There has to be something wrong here. Just give me our money back and we’ll forget the whole thing.”

Every time I tried to leave my till to go get my manager, Karen would start yammering on again about the colour difference, and how they bought it in a different town. It took at least three more tries before I was able to convince her that I was just grabbing the manager so he could enter a ‘return code’ into the register so I could return their things.

My manager isn’t an idiot. He and I both know that if you think there’s something wrong with the ginormous bottle of blue freeze you just bought, you don’t drink a good liter of it before returning it. He tried to explain to the couple that we couldn’t take the bottle unless they did a product complaint, which means we would have to enter all of their contact info into our computer. It’s a safety thing, in case your food or drink somehow really was poison, so we can contact you and let you know. But the Wankerpants couple was having none of that.  Karen kept trying to shut us down every time we opened our mouths.

“We don’t want to cause a huge fuss here. We’ll just take our money back. No need to send this away or anything, we don’t want to cause you all that trouble.”

We tried to tell her, yet again, that in order to return the bottle we needed to send it away for testing. If there’s a serious problem with one bottle, then there could be a problem with a whole batch of this stuff. We needed to make sure that there’s nothing in that bottle that can seriously harm your health.

“Well, there’s just no need for that! I mean, we each had a little glass and we’re both fine! This can’t be poison or dangerous, it’s just a little off. We’ll just take our money back and leave.”

We tried a different approach. There was a scandal a few years back where someone out there somehow was getting into juice bottles without breaking the seal on them. They could extract all the juice, and then refill the bottle with water. Then they would return them to the store, where they would be put back on the shelf. Eventually, someone would buy the bottle, open it up, and find water where there should be OJ. With people out there capable of that, we can’t just take back a bottle without sending it off to be tested. Then we’d be able to find the tiny traces of tampering that method leaves behind to prove what happened.

“Oh, I’m sure no one did that to our bottle! I mean, it didn’t look tampered with when we bought it! Just give us our money and we’ll leave.”

Ok, one last try. At this point, the boss flat out tells Karen and her hubby that he’s not returning her items because they are open. That means that anyone, at any time, could’ve put anything in that bottle and then brought it in to return it. He used our version of the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech: “We’ve been burned enough times by people trying to scam us that it ruins things for good honest people like yourself”.

What he didn’t tell them was that there is no way in hell that only one bottle of this stuff could be tainted like that without someone tampering with it. The colour difference was ridiculously obvious, and this is a very popular product for some reason. Even in our little store, we have a few dozen bottles of this in stock at all times, even more in the summer when people freeze it into slushies to drink on their patios. Someone (a stock person, the cashier who served them, someone unloading the truck) would’ve noticed this one bottle that looked nothing like any of the others. It would’ve been pulled from the stock and sent away for testing. And then we would’ve gotten the recall notices to pull all stock until testing was done, just to be safe.

And how do we know that there weren’t more bottles like this? Because if an entire batch of this stuff went out like this, we would’ve heard from HQ immediately after it had been unloaded at the first store. There would’ve been a mass recall, which would’ve made the news. We all would’ve heard about it. That means that this one individual bottle is the only one of its kind. And since it was bought from a store while they were on vacation in a town that is home to our flagship store (ie., the very last store that would ever let something like this out of their store because they’re just that strict about everything), then it must have been altered after it left the store.

In short, Mr. and Mrs. Wankerpants were trying to pull a fast one on us and didn’t expect anyone with a brain to be working retail.  Mr. Wankerpants caught on that they weren’t getting any money out of us, and finally opened his mouth.

“Come on hun, let’s just get our shopping done. This isn’t Costco, where they actually care about their customers.”

They wandered off into the store, little cooler bag all sealed up in their shopping cart. Security had to watch them to make sure they didn’t try to slip anything else into that stupid bag. Every now and then they’d wander past my till and Karen would practically yell out, “You’re right dear. At [K-Mart/Freshco/Target/WalMart/some other big store] they know how to treat their customers, not like here!”. Seriously, she must have said it like 7 times. They wandered around the store for what felt like forever, only to come back up to my register with Perrier and hotdogs. $43 worth of Perrier and hotdogs, to be exact.

I kept my customer service face on, smiling while I rang everything through. I asked for their points card and gave them their total. So, Karen pulls out a roll of loonies and a bag full of change. I took her roll of loonies and opened the ends to make sure it really was full of loonies, just like we’re trained to do.

“Oh look, Gerald, now we’re counterfeiting money too! I guess we really branched out from being common bootleggers like these idiots think.”

Right then and there, I had enough. I knew I couldn’t snap back at her, so I just dumped out all the change onto my counter. Then I counted out her damn $43 in the slowest, longest way possible. Why take a quarter when I can take five nickles? Oops, I think I miscounted those loonies, I’d better start from the beginning. I just dragged it out as long as possible.

Finally, I was through with them. I packed up their things, told them to have a nice day, and turned to greet my next customer. That’s when Karen had to get in one last barb at me.

“You know dear, I really don’t think customer service is your thing. You don’t really care about the customers. Maybe you should try going back to school, getting an education. Do you think you could find a school that would take someone like you?” Then she smirked at me and walked out the door.

And that’s when my head hit the counter. Luckily the next customer in line was someone I know, who also works retail in our little plaza, and who is in the same boat as me.

Look here Karen, I have an education! I’ve got two university degrees (BA[H] Criminology, BA Psychology), a college certificate (Certificate of Office Administration), and computer training (Microsoft Level III equivalency in both Word and Excel, with Intermediate level training in PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, and OneNote). I’m drowning in student loan and credit card debt, all so I could find myself a job where the Karens of the world wouldn’t be able to talk down to me like that. As it turns out, everyone has their Karens and everyone had the same idea. There are so many grads out there, with not enough jobs that we trained for to go around, that a whole tonne of us wind up working the very jobs our Karens think are beneath her. After hearing for years and years that without an education I’d wind up working retail, the very same people are telling me to be grateful I work in retail, and maybe I just need more education.

This just set off all kinds of things in my head. I was doing so well all week, and this one bitch set it all back. I feel like I’m just wasting my life right now like I’ll never amount to anything. If I didn’t have all of this debt, I would love to just keep the job I have forever. I love my coworkers and my friends from work. They’re like a second family to me. But I spent so much time and money trying to achieve certain things, and I just never did. And now I just feel like nothing.

I know, I can’t let one customer get me down, especially someone like the Wankerpants couple. They just struck a nerve that’s been exposed for too long.

Sir, Please Don’t Shove Bottles in your Pants

It’s been a long, strange few days. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend is worn out from his 10-hour days at work and just wants to curl up on the couch and eat pizza tonight. So instead of his usual experimentation in the kitchen, he’s making a frozen pizza and some garlic bread. Of course, he can’t just throw the pizza in the oven. He’s in there right now throwing on extra mushrooms and cheese, and grating cheese and garlic for the pre-made garlic bread. Even when he’s too tired to be creative in the kitchen, he is so damn creative in the kitchen!

I think part of the reason we’re not cooking tonight is because of the damn fruit flies in this house right now. I tried for weeks to get rid of them. I’ve scrubbed the kitchen down, gotten rid of any food sitting out, I even set up little traps for them with wine and dish soap. But they just keep coming from somewhere. Well, AAB may have found where they’re coming from. It seems that the roommate in the basement is doing more than just stealing forks from us. Every two weeks or so, we run out of cutlery and plates, before suddenly everything is clean and put away while we’re both gone. We’ve known that it’s him hoarding it all in his room. Well, it turns out it’s worse than I thought.

AAB went downstairs to do his laundry. There, in the laundry tub in the laundry room, is a massive pile of plates, cutlery, pots, and pans. They’re not washed, and some of them are not even rinsed. If he’s letting this sit out in the open, what the hell kind of shape is his room in?

I’m thinking that our biggest goal for 2018 should be to figure out our housing situation. I’ve been putting off making any decisions because I’ve applied for jobs in other cities. I don’t want to buy a house or sign a lease, only to get a job four hours away. This is getting to be a little ridiculous, though. I think it’s time to either shit or get off the proverbial pot. I mean, living with people who have such an overarching sense of entitlement is really starting to get to me. I mean, can you imagine moving in with other people, taking all of their kitchenware, hoarding them in your room covered in filth, and not even thanking them for letting you use them? Or how about not even asking if you can use them in the first place!

Ironically, that sense of entitlement is something a few of us were talking about at the end of my shift tonight at work. We were sharing stories about truly honest people who forget to mention the case of water on the bottom of their cart, only to return later to pay for it. I know, I didn’t think such people existed, but I work with one of them! People like her seem to be very few and far between, especially where I work. Standing outside the store tonight, we were going over the shoplifters we’ve caught on camera so far this week, and how many we possibly missed.

You see, a lot of the shoplifters we catch seem to follow a few different scripts. There is the “run in, grab and conceal the bottle, run out” kind. They’re kind of like the Smash’N’Grabs I witnessed when I was with friends in a convenience store late one in Detroit. That night, after the store had stopped selling beer and had just turned the lights off in the beer cooler, a group of kids came running in. Two of them grabbed as much beer as they could carry and headed for the door, while the other two smashed pop bottles on the floor as a distraction. This isn’t a new schtick, and it’s something they actually train pretty much any and all retail workers to look out for. Sure, their exit methods vary at times. Some run out claiming they forgot their wallet in the car. Others pretend they didn’t find what they were looking for and just head for the door. Some are in and out so quickly, you don’t even notice them at first.

Another popular type is the “bring a big bag and hide stuff in it” people. I mean, how do they think they’re getting away with this? Sure, they may be able to walk out the door, but that’s only because we’re not allowed to tackle suspected shoplifters anymore. We still have them on camera, and we document the crap out of them. When we have security in the store and they catch these people, they’re going down for every single theft we have them on camera doing. Some of these people are amazing though. I’ve seen people load bags up with hundreds of dollars worth of bottles and just walk out the door with a big grin on their face like they just got away with murder.

My personal favourite is what I like to call “The Pants People”. These people walk into a store and just start shoving stuff down their pants. It’s amazing just how much one person can fit into a pair of pants, really. These are the worst people to catch because if we get the product back it all has to be sanitized if we can still sell it. I’ve actually seen people walk in with elastic bands around the bottoms of their sweatpants just so they can fit more stuff in there without it falling out the bottom. Of course, this makes them easy targets to follow, considering elastic bands around your ankles is not exactly a huge trend this season.

What gets me with each and every one of these people we catch is the sense of entitlement they have. Most of the ones that we do catch with either security or police present just seem to think that it’s their right to walk in and take whatever the hell they want, without paying for it. We’re not talking about people stealing a loaf of bread to feed their starving family here. I have seen people who have the money to pay, sometimes with them in their wallets, and just not want to. More than once, I’ve seen someone get caught somewhere and then pull out the money for the items. They seem to think that if they just pay for it then and there after being caught, they’ll just be let go. The thing is, it doesn’t work like that.

Believe me when I say that I understand how expensive life can be. I have had to do without many times before. I’ve had to survive off of what I could get at food banks. I don’t have cable, or a car, or pricey electronics (aside from the computer I saved up for). I’m not out taking trips, or going on shopping sprees like some of my friends can do. I have to budget, and grocery shop at the dollar store at times. I haven’t eaten name brand macaroni and cheese in years because that’s a splurge for me. I know what it’s like to live paycheck to 4-days-before-the-next-paycheck. It sucks. But I keep doing what I’m doing, trying to get ahead even just a little bit. I know I’m not entitled to anything, the world doesn’t owe me a damn thing, and it’s no one’s job but my own to pay for my life choices.

Then I see these little Draco Malfoy brats coming into the store, shoving a bottle or two in their coat pockets, and pulling the “don’t you know who my father is” crap when they get caught. They seem to think that because their daddy is someone important, they can get away with anything.

Or we get the “well I’ve had a hard life, this is life’s way of giving back to me” shit-nobs who seem to think that because life didn’t go the way they planned, life somehow owes them. I have actually heard someone (not at my store, at a nearby drugstore while I was cashing out and security grabbed them) say that because they went to school for a certain career, and then couldn’t find work in that career six months later, the universe owed them for letting them waste all that time in school. Hell, if that were a good enough reason to steal, I’d be knocking over banks left, right, and centre!

It really just boggles my mind how people can rationalize something like stealing, making it seem like they have a right to do it. I get it, some people are in a place in life where stealing really does seem like the best option. Maybe they’re starving and are stealing food or something to sell for food. They could be in the throes of addiction, and can’t find any other way to pay for their habit. For them, stealing seems like the only option. These are the people society failed, the ones who need more social programs, the ones who need help. Still, that doesn’t give them the right to walk into my store and just load up their bag with whatever they damn well please. We need to fight for better social programs to help people like this, in order to stop people like this from resorting to theft.

The ones that bother me the most are the ones who have options. The ones who have the money to pay, but don’t think they should have to. The ones who do it for a thrill, or for a cheap night out. They’re the ones who pull the “don’t you know who my [relative] is” crap or pull out their wallet after they’re caught. These seem to be the majority of the ones I’m able to catch on camera, or in the act while on the floor at work. And these are the ones that piss me off the most.

I don’t know about you Sunshine, but I was raised not to take what isn’t mine. It doesn’t matter if it’s another kid’s toy, a product in a store, or credit for another person’s work. All of that is stealing, and it’s wrong. Why do these people seem to think it’s alright for them to do it?

Yes, You Really Do Need To Show ID

Well, today is a bust. I woke up feeling like death, dragged myself out of bed, and went to work. I am sore all over, my head is pounding, my neck is stiff and sore, and to top it all off I have cramps that could cripple a giraffe. We were also short staffed at work today, so I couldn’t even leave early. I have felt like falling down all day. Cases of coolers that I can usually throw around two at a time felt like they were filled with cement today. I could barely lift things, let alone be of much help doing our Monday afternoon load.

Luckily for me, the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend took the day off work today. He usually does four or five 10-11 hour days a week, one day of 8-10 hours, and a 5 hour day on the weekend. So, sometimes when Monday rolls around he’s just too damn tired to get up.  Instead, he stays home, watches a little tv, and just relaxes. But today he saw how sick I feel, and he’s been working at home all day. I came home to a freshly scrubbed kitchen. He even cleaned out the toaster and the microwave. The bed is all made and looking extra comfy for when I collapse after I finish typing this. And the ever playful Bowser Kitten looks like he’s played plenty of fetch today and will sleep well during my nap. He basically did everything I do in a day (except for the writing part) and is still going to make dinner, let me nap, and take care of me all afternoon and evening.

Having him around really cheers me up on days like today. On top of feeling horrible, I also had to deal with customers. For the most part, this usually goes ok. They put their item on the counter, I scan it, they pay, we say goodbye, and they leave. But sometimes, asking people for ID throws a wrench in our little routine. For the most part, people have no issue showing me their ID. There are always those few people out there who make a big deal out of it. Too big a deal, if you ask me. They seem to think they know my job better than I di, and frequently lecture me on why they don’t need ID. Or they huff and they puff and whine and pout and generally waste everyone’s time. Actually, there’s a whole lot of different things people do when it comes to ID that either really pisses most cashiers off, or gives us a damn good story to tell our families at Thanksgiving when they say, “Wow, your job is so easy. Must be nice to not have to deal with any real drama or work, eh?”.

And yes, I had someone say that to me last year at my parents’ New Years Day party.

1. I know the rules better than you do.

We get trained over and over about the rules when it comes to IDing people in our store. We’re told repeatedly about the consequences we could face if we don’t ID people properly. We know that corporate pays mystery shoppers just to come in and see if they get ID’d, and if we don’t ID them we could get in serious trouble. So for those of you who are wondering, all the different reasons we can have for legally asking you for your ID are as follows:

  1. You brought the product up to the counter, or are paying for the product, and look like you could be under 25.
  2. We saw you touching the product in the store while you’re shopping with someone else, they are buying something, but you are with them.
  3. We see you give money or any other form of payment, like a debit card or credit card, to someone who is buying booze.
  4. We hear you ask someone to buy you something.
  5. We hear you tell someone which product to buy.
  6. You came in as part of a large group, where multiple people are all picking up the product, talking about products, and it is all part of one large purchase.

If you bring a bottle up to the counter, put it down in front of the cashier, and your friend is paying for it, you both need to show ID. We actually had a guy last weekend put a bottle down on the counter in front of one of my little Kitten Crew cashiers, and his friend pulled out his wallet to pay. When she asked them both for ID, the one who carried the bottle up right in front of her said, ” I literally never touched it.”

She. Watched. You. Put. It. On. Her. Counter. Dude.

Luckily, this was the sassiest member of my little Kitten Crew. She can take abuse from customers, stare them down, and talk to them in a totally deadpan manner. She stared this dude right in the eye, grabbed the bottle away from him, and said: “I literally saw you put it down on the counter, so now I literally need to see your ID or you can literally just leave now.”

We get a tonne of young people who take a fit and claim they know the rules better than we do. We’ve had young kids claim they are the children of police officers and lawyers, so obviously, they know the law better than we do. They get right in our faces, try and taunt us, tell us their father will hear about this. They go the full Draco Malfoy.

If we ask you for ID, it’s because we had one of those 6 reasons above to do so. We’re not backing down. Once we ask you for ID, legally you have to show it to get your purchase. Once the words “I need to see your ID” leave my mouth, you’re showing me your ID or you’re leaving empty-handed.

2. No, you don’t need it.

Seriously, people tell us this all the time. We ask for ID and they say, “you don’t need that”.

Look, if we didn’t need it, we wouldn’t ask for it. You’re not the one who decides if I need to see your ID or not. If we have a reason to see your ID, we’re the ones who decide to ask for it. It has nothing to do with whether you think you need to show it.

3. Why would you threaten us?

One night, I had three guys all shopping together in our store. They were talking pretty loudly, so all of the cashiers knew they were shopping together. Like, we heard them talking about how much each of them was paying the other one to buy the rum for the three of them for the night. One of them grabbed the bottle, brought it half-way to my register, and then handed it to his friend who put it on my counter. I asked all three of them for ID.

Only one of them had it.

The one gentleman asked me a bunch of questions, very calmly and honestly, about why he needed ID, and what he should do the next time he comes in shopping and forgets to bring his ID with him. The other guy was nowhere near as nice. At first, he just kept insisting he didn’t need his ID. Then he basically took a sidebar with the friend who did have an ID. They whispered to each other just off to the side of my line, and then came right back up to my till. Then buddy had the nerve to look me in the eye and say, “I don’t know these two guys. I’m not with them. I don’t need ID.”

Seriously. He walked in with his two friends. He shopped with his two friends. He very loudly talked about giving his friend $15 towards a bottle of rum. Then he carried the bottle of run halfway up to my register before giving it to his friend to bring up. And suddenly he’s never met these guys in his life?

To make what turned into a very long, drawn-out, expletive-riddled story much shorter, I denied their purchase because they didn’t all have ID. I did what we’ve all been trained to do. Of course, this didn’t sit well with them.

These boys yelled and screamed at me, tried to convince me to sell to them anyway, and were just a general nuisance for a few minutes. I told them to leave, and that they weren’t being served by any of us there that night until they all had their ID with them. This didn’t sit well with them. They slowly walked back towards the door, still yelling at me. Once they got to the door, the only one in the group who actually had ID stood there staring at me. He stood there just pointing at me, and suddenly yelled out that he was going to “track [me] down and fuck [me] up”.

Want to know how you make sure you are watched by management and security in a store for the rest of your natural life? Threaten an employee.

I don’t think these guys realize, but they are being watched ridiculously closely any time they walk into any of our stores. Security knows their faces. We all do by now. All any of them have to do is step out of line in the slightest way just once, and they’re banned for life. You can’t just go around saying you’re going to track people down and mess them up and expect there to be no consequences.

4. We don’t take pictures of ID

I had a coworker who had the greatest reply to this once. It was so great that years later, we use this reply regularly. And I do mean regularly. Even on a slow weekend, the front end gets this situation a handful of times.

Someone will come into the store. In this situation, it’s usually a member of a small group of people. This group will walk around for at least half an hour, with a shopping cart, with all members of the group putting things into the cart. When they’re asked for ID at the counter, at least one person in the group will pull out their phone. They didn’t actually bring their ID with them, but they did take a picture of it on their phones. I mean, it’s not like pictures can be manipulated by modern-day technology or anything, right? A picture of a passport or license should be good enough.

No. No, it’s not.

As my coworker once said, “If all you have is a picture of your ID, then all you’re leaving with is a picture of the booze. Sorry.”

5. We don’t care if you let your kid drink at home

Seriously, we all drank underage at some point. Ok, except for my mother. She waited until college before going crazy on the cherry whiskey and orange juice. But my friends (and siblings, and their friends) drank underage. But back in my day, because I am ridiculously old and can say that, we knew well enough to give our money to our of-age purchaser before they went into the store and told them what to get us without walking in with them and yelling, “Oooh, this is what I want! Buy me this!”

My parents knew we drank underage. Like most of my friends’ parents, they said they would rather we do it at home or at the home of a friend (with trusted parents somewhere nearby) than stealing booze and hitting up a bush party somewhere. When I really really wanted a bottle of Crown Royal for a party, and I had the money leftover from babysitting, my dad went out and got it for me. I didn’t have to go to the store with him and tell him what I wanted. My friends and I knew that if we were mature enough to drink, then we were mature enough to know what we wanted and give someone the money to get it.

Ok, so our parents knew better back then than to bring some whiney, hormonal teenager into the liquor store with them to pick something out. Dad basically said, “Am I grabbing something for you? Or do you have a 19-year-old friend who’s going to buy you booze behind our backs anyway?” Dad didn’t let me get the cheap gut-rot stuff. He sat me down and taught me about responsible drinking. Then, mum told me the story about the college party she went to where she and her friend had too much cherry whiskey and orange juice. The grass never did grow back properly on her neighbour’s lawn where she threw up. If watching your mother roll around on the floor doing her impression of 19-year-old her rolling around in the back of her friend’s boyfriend’s van doesn’t scare you into drinking responsibly, nothing will.

The point is that my friends and I didn’t walk into the store advertising that our parents were buying us booze, and our parents didn’t let on that they were buying for us either. If we did get the privilege of going into the store with them, it was a “blow this and you’re drinking Kool-Aid at parties until you’re legal age” kind of deal. I wish I could say that kids these days keep screwing this up, but it’s the parents I take issue with.

I have lost track of the number of parents who have loudly yelled across the store, “Honey, do you want whiskey or vodka for your prom party tonight?” while talking to their very under-age child. Again, if we think you’re buying it for someone who doesn’t have ID proving they’re of legal age to buy it themselves, we can’t sell it to you. It’s called a “second party purchase”, and a cashier could actually do jail time for that.

So when you’re yelling across the store, or we hear you say something like, “Just grab what you want and bring it up to the counter”, legally we need to ID your kid. And really, we don’t care if you let them drink at home. Seriously, we don’t. If I had a kid that age, I would let them drink too. I want to teach my kids about responsible drinking, the consequences of drinking too much, and the legal restrictions put on the sale of alcohol. And part of that means not obviously buying for your kid right in front of me.

Look, if you come in and buy a bottle of whiskey, I’m going to assume it’s for you. If you buy 12 bottles of whiskey, I’m going to assume you’re buying gifts or stocking up on something. Any of those could be for your kid, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about that. But the second you let your kid pick out that whiskey in my store, we have a damn problem, Brenda!

6. The drinking age here is 19

The next province over, the legal drinking age is 18. You still have to be 19 to buy alcohol here.

I’m in a border city. In Michigan, the legal drinking age is 21. Many many American young adults trade in their stars and stripes and freedom from ‘Merica to come to the Great White North and drink legally in bars. When those 19 and 20-year-olds go back across the border, they still have to be 21 to buy alcohol there.

If you’re a student here from another country, or on vacation here, or visiting a friend, or on an international quest for love, or doing whatever the hell you’re doing that brought you to my store, and you’re from a country that has a lower drinking age, you still have to be 19 to drink here. End of story.

7. No, I won’t seriously ID your 5-year-old

When someone comes in with little kids, I like to joke around with the kids. I ask them for ID.

You mean you don’t have anything? Drivingt lisence? Fishing lisence? Boating lisence? A lisence to kill? What about a health card? A sick card? A feeling a little pukey but still want to go to school card?

What can I say, it’s my schtick. If your 5-year-old grabs a can from your basket and tried to put it on the counter, I know you’re not buying it for them. While they’re not allowed to touch anything in the store, I know they’re just trying to be helpful.

When people bring their 17-year-old kid into the store, let them pick out something, and then let them bring it up to the counter, do you have any idea how many of these parents yell something along the lines of “What, would you ID my 5-year-old if I brought them in with me?”

8. We’re IDing you because we have to, not because we want you

The Kitten Crew probably gets this more than I do, but even I get this sometimes. And I’m really damn old, remember?

If I ask for your ID, it’s because I need to legally verify that you can buy what you’re trying to purchase. Not because I want to sleep with you. Seriously.

That’s just what I can think of off the top of my head right now. And that head is freaking pounding. I think it’s time for me to lay down with the always snuggly Bowser Kitten while AAB finishes dinner for us.

So is there anything else you have to deal with when IDing customers that I missed here? Leave a comment, or drop me a line at TheFailedGrownUp@gmail.com.

Night Shifts Are Bad For My Health

The end of the day yesterday, our manager on duty cornered me while I was cashing out. When the schedules for the next few weeks were made, one of our co-workers’ availability was wide open. But now, he can’t work morning shifts at all. Well, guess what he was scheduled for every single day. I had one morning shift this Monday and finagled a second one on Tuesday (lost an hour, but it’s still a day shift). But thanks to last minute scheduling changes, now my only closing shift for the entire week is Wednesday night.

I took next weekend off, for my mother’s annual birthday Christmas Homes Tour and to put up our Christmas decorations. November 18th will be my first day off since October 17th. I’m doing those 30 day stretches again, it looks like. It’s nice, banking some hours while I can. With all the last minute schedule changes lately, I’ve maxed out my hours a few times, and come damn close a few other weeks. I’m hoping to max everything out as much as possible between now and Christmas before our slow season starts in January. I figure I don’t need many days off now, considering how many I usually get the beginning of the year. I can go from a 30-day stretch to only getting 3 or 4 shifts a week.

The one thing I hate about these stretches is the fact that, for most of my shifts, I’m a closer. I help close down the store at 9pm every night, finish up all the closing duties, and then head home. With this shift, I spend the majority of my day at home, then head to work just before the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend finishes work. I get home just in time to finish eating dinner with him and then head to bed (or he heads to bed and I stay up a bit to unwind). I know, it sounds great: being home all day, running in for a shift, coming home to dinner and AAB. I hate it though.

When it’s every now and then, a closing shift is great. Even when I have to do a week of closings to be second in command (I’m training to be a shift leader), I don’t mind it. It’s when it is every single day, over and over again. It gets especially rough on me when I’m doing 30-day stretches, and more than 20 of those days are scheduled to be closings.

I don’t have a car right now. That means taking the bus everywhere. When I work days and need to head out somewhere after work, I don’t have time restraints to stick to. The transit system in this city is just horrible. If I want to get out to one of the major shopping areas in the city, I either have to take one bus that comes to the depot area about a 20-minute walk from my house, and then ride it for close to an hour, OR I can take another bus downtown, transfer to another bus that sometimes goes to the airport and has to go through some of the worst traffic jams in the city making it constantly late. Either way, I’m on the bus for more than an hour for what should be a 15-20 minute drive. And the buses don’t come all that frequently, either. If I want to go to the boot shop we use to get my work boots, I have to walk 20 minutes to the bus stop, ride the bus for an hour, wait around for close to an hour for the next bus to come around, ride the bus home for an hour, and then walk 20 minutes home. That’s about 3 1/2 hours out of my day, just to buy a pair of boots. And those buses are never on time. If I miss the bus, that sets me back close to another hour. I can’t chance that when I have to work in a few hours. If I’m doing this after work, though, then I really don’t give a damn. So I make it home an hour later. Oh well, I’ll pick up a frozen pizza and a salad instead of making a homemade meal.

That’s another issue with the closing shifts. AAB wasn’t much of a chef before we met. He ate a lot of Chinese take-out and what other people cook. When we started dating, I used to have to throw things in the crock-pot before work if I wanted anything other than frozen pizza or take-out for dinner with him when I came home from work. Some days, with the cleaning up after everyone around here and the writing and the always adorable Bowser Kitten looking up at me with those big kitten eyes and demanding cuddles, I just don’t have the time to do that. Already today I’ve had to do a sink full of dishes, sweep up a metric butt-load of leaves in hallway and dining room, put away my laundry from last night, and I still have towels to grab from the dryer and a slowly growing pile of stuff in front of my dresser that needs to be put away. This is on top of the usual sweep/vacuum/mop/scrub crap that I do daily. I have absolutely zero willpower to take random things and magically turn them into a meal in the slow cooker today.

Luckily, AAB has gotten about thirty million times better at the cooking. He’s no Gordon Ramsay, but that’s only because he doesn’t have an accent or randomly take off his shirt or walk around in a speedo. Aside from the frozen pizzas we eat weekly (usually with his amazingly doctored frozen garlic bread with fresh cheese), he’s moved on to frozen pierogies (with sauteed onions, bacon, and cheese), vegetables with a fresh cheese sauce, tuna casserole, an entire small ham, chicken with mashed potatoes and stir-fried veggies, and a whole hell of a lot of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The only problem with all of this is that most of these are heavy dishes, with few veggies. I love each and every dish he makes like crazy, but I already eat like crap when I work nights. Coming home to a giant dish of cheddar-smothered carbs is the worst and most delicious thing ever!

You see, when I work any other shift but a closing shift, I can eat so damn healthy. The best is when I get a full day shift, the whole 8 1/2 or 9 hours that includes a lunch. I make big Tupperware bowls of salad, chopped veggies, hummus, Tofurkey (the shredded imitation chicken that you heat up in a frying pan with a little oil is like crack for me), whole wheat pasta and brown rice, and giant bottles of water. The best I ever ate was when the work BFF and I did our midnight shift (which we’re hoping to get at Christmas too). I was basically snacking on an entire cucumber a day, eating salads with whole grains and some Tofurkey or mushroom meat for my dinner break, and snacking on soup and salad before work. I was drinking less, eating better, moving more, and hitting my steps goal like 3 hours into my shift. I was like the healthiest person alive that week! Ok, so I drank a Rockstar Pure Zero to start every shift, but I was also chugging water and drinking green tea and sometimes a fresh juice from the cute fattoush place in the plaza. Working these full-day shifts or a steady midnight, where I’m constantly moving and putting things away and getting stuff done, is like the greatest thing ever for me.

Closing shifts…… they’re like the total opposite. When I work closings, I usually go to bed a little after AAB. I stay up, drink wine, and just sit on the couch watching TV or doing Buzzfeed quizzes on my phone. I don’t move or do anything. When I’m home all day, I’m cleaning and writing, which usually involves a lot of sitting down, or a lot of standing in one place and scrubbing something. I don’t go out, I don’t take walks, and I don’t eat very well. I’ll have some leftover pizza, or some soup, maybe some chips or something like that. Closing shifts don’t involve a whole lot of stocking shelves or unloading pallets usually, so I spend the majority of the shift standing at my cash register, dancing around a bit just to keep moving. I’ve actually walked in place at times, just because it’s the only way I get to move around at all. Sometimes I’ll get stuck on cash for an entire shift, barely moving around. I have to run out to the dollar store for a soda just to get some steps in. And since it’s dark when we leave, someone always gives me a ride home. We have to reject the sale of alcohol to a lot of angry young people for either not having an ID, or for already being drunk. These people live in this neighbourhood, and so do I. I don’t want to be walking home alone and run into a group of people I pissed off earlier in the night. So I get barely any walking in.

Like I’ve said before, self-motivation is not my strong suit. If I don’t have to be up early, I usually won’t get up early. When I don’t work until afternoon, I’m not getting up with AAB at 6am. Even today, when I knew I had a bunch of stuff to get done, I stayed in bed for kitten cuddles until almost 10am.  Working closings, I stay up too late drinking red wine and wasting time doing nothing. Then I sleep in, frantically try to get things done around the house, and run off to work to stand around behind my till and listen to the Kitten Crew debate about whether Joe or Nick Jonas is totally “bae”. It almost seems like a waste of a day sometimes.

And knowing I have to leave by a certain time to go to work sometimes gives my brain excuses for me not to start new things. On days when I do wake up early, I’ll tell myself that I’m going to get everything I need to get done by 11am so I can start learning how to knit, or walk down to the Multifoods for mushroom meat and be home in time to grab my things and leave for work. But my brain will just shut that down. Why rush things? I could run my ass off all morning scrubbing and washing and sweeping and mopping, and have no time to relax, or I could take my time and take a few breaks to read Not Always Right. Some days it’s like I get absolutely nothing done. I keep telling myself not to bother starting things because I could just run out of time to finish them before I have to go to work. Then I’ll be all miserable because I couldn’t finish what I was working on, and that will ruin my shift. Sounds pretty stupid, eh? But that’s what my brain tells me sometimes.

Maybe I just stress myself out with these damn closing shifts all the time. Closing shifts mean I’m not moving around much, I get maybe an hour in the entire day to see AAB, I don’t get to wind down on a walk home, and I eat like crap. Working constant closing shifts just makes me feel like crap. I hate it. I am so glad I picked up a hand full of day shifts for next week. Now my weekend will start early Friday afternoon, and AAB and I can have a proper night in together. We can have time to watch a movie, make dinner together, play fetch with the always playful Bowser Kitten, and unwind together.

I know it’s unreasonable to expect to get the best shifts all the time. But shouldn’t it be just as unreasonable to get the worst shift all the time?

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.