You Just Keep Doing You

The other night, the X went out for a big family event at The Keg and brought home some leftover steak to share with me. Decided to have a bit of that steak the next morning for breakfast with my eggs, and mentioned it online in a group chat.

I didn’t know I what I had just unleashed.

“You mean he went to The Keg? Without you? Did he ever take you to The Keg when you guys were still together? I bet he never thought to take you to The Keg. Why didn’t he ever take you to The Keg? Don’t worry, we’ll find you a man who will take you to The Keg!

Dude, I don’t want to go to The Keg. That place always made me feel uncomfortable. Looking at the menu makes me feel anxious. $37 for a chicken dinner? And chicken is the cheaper option!

I’m not a fancy restaurant kinda gal. Years ago, a friend came in from out of town and suggested we try out Ye Olde Steak House for a real grown-up meal. We showed up in shorts and sandals, ordered nachos and taco salads, and had pretty much every other diner there side-eyeing us.

Truth be told, I’m fine with a burger and fries. For me a great date would be the two of us cabbing it to the bowling alley so neither of us has to drive; then we’d have a bunch of drinks and laugh at each other’s sad attempts at bowling; we could end the night eating pizza and chicken wings somewhere. To me, that’s a great night out.

But people around me are very hung up on this notion that I deserve someone who will take me out to fancy places and buy me expensive things. They were always flabbergasted that the X and I were together more than three years and we never went on an expensive trip, he never bought me fancy jewelry, and we never went out for fancy meals. But I never wanted those things.

As much as everyone wants to set me up with these men ready to throw gemstones and steaks at me, I know those things aren’t important to me. I’m willing to give these guys a chance, but first I have to ask them if they’ll trade in their steak dinner for maybe some nachos and burgers. I’m not going to drag them out to a dive bar where they’d feel completely out of place, but I don’t want to feel completely out of place somewhere where the waiters uniform costs more than my wardrobe. If he’s willing to find a middle ground, then I’m willing to meet him.

Of course, this goes for all aspects of meeting someone. I need to find someone who will let me be me, and let me do what I feel I need to do for myself. I have spent too long living for others, and feeling trapped in my own life.

So now, I need to figure out what’s important to me in a lot of different parts of my life. What am I looking for in a romantic partner? How much time am I willing to dedicate to a relationship? What are my career goals, and how far am I willing to go to achieve them? Do I ever want to get married? Own a house? Have kids?

Some of you out there might have the answers to some of these for yourself. Some of you might have it all figured out. And some of you might have a list the length of your arm of the things you need to figure out. You don’t have to do it today, or this week, or even this year. The answers to things probably will change over time, and that’s ok too. You don’t need to know it all 24/7. You just need to be able to do you.

I don’t know where my career(s) will take me. I love both my jobs right now, and I love writing. Maybe one of these will become a full-time thing for me, or maybe I’ll wind up just doing all three of them forever. All I know is I love all of this right now, and this is where I want to be. So I’ll just do me, and keep doing what’s been working for me lately.

Get to know yourself, learn to love being yourself, and stay true to yourself Sunshine. People are always going to try and tell you what you’re doing wrong, even if it’s only in their eyes. People will have different ideals for how they want your life to be. Just make sure you’re doing what you need to do to be the youest you you can be, even if it doesn’t make them happy.

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Embrace the Madness

Of course, the one day I sleep in a little bit is the same day the roommate decides to use the upstairs bathroom for his marathon turds instead of the one in the basement like he usually does. And of course, the one day I’m more than an hour late getting into the shower is the one day my scheduling manager calls me to come in early. Oh, and it’s hair wash day about 5 weeks into my Curly Girl Method journey.

So here I am at job #1 of the day (my book job) for a full shift. Then I have to run out of here when we close at 5pm to make it to my booze job for 5:15. I have 15 minutes to make it there, change out of my dress and into my uniform, and get into the office to count my till.

Since I was running so behind AND got called in early, I didn’t pack a lunch. I also had to leave my car at the booze job (parking there is free for employees, and it’s not at the book job) before the store opened, so I didn’t get a chance to bring in my bag with my uniform. It’s over 30 degrees here today, and I have black boots and a bag of gummy candies in my work bag.

Needless to say, my lunch hour was spent running around. Ran from book job to booze job to take my bag out of the car and put it in the locker room. Check in with the boss, make sure I have a day off later this month for the WorkBFF’s bridal shower. Chitchat with my security guy. Haul ass back towards the book job, quick stop at McDonald’s. Grab a side salad, junior chicken, and soda, and run back to the book job. Manage to eat half a side salad before I have to be back on desk.

I’m on desk for the next few hours, before I have to rush to the next job. Somewhere in there I have to eat my burger, finish my salad, get my schedule set for next week ( what little bit I can), and get moving. I don’t get time to sit between jobs, or breath, or even grab a coffee (which I desperately need right about now). It is pure and absolute chaos.

And I love every minute of it.

My book job is both amazing and stressful at the same time. I’m on the supply list, so I have to wait for times when shifts come available. This means that I’m up and in my work clothes at 8:30am, hair and make-up office-ready, Monday through Friday. Some days I get shifts scheduled ahead of time. Other times, I have to wait and see if I get called in. They will call me at 8:45 for a 9am shifts sometimes because they know I’ll haul ass to make it here. They’ll also randomly call me during the day to see if I can cover when someone goes home sick. So it’s not like I can take off my make-up and go back to bed if they don’t call right away. Yesterday I got a call at 1:30 to come in for 2 at a different location.

The last few weeks I’ve been lucky. I worked 4 days at this job, 4 days at the booze job, and had an entire day off from both jobs. This week (thanks to the holiday and a Stag & Doe) I had Sunday AND Monday off, then worked 4 days at this job and two at the other job. As it stands for next week I have my regular 4 days at the booze job (Monday night, Friday night, then shifts Saturday and Sunday), and work every day in between at this job. Real days off are a thing of the past for me, unless there’s a national holiday.

But I’m finding that I’m happier like this. I get to get out and walk a lot (which I love, even in this heat). I hit my steps goal for the day by lunch time today, and I still have to walk back to the other job and work a closing shift. Normally, I have snacks and such stashed away to throw in my bag so I don’t have to rely on McDonald’s (although I do end up there way too much). With the break-up and us trying to figure out how we’re splitting food costs now, I haven’t had much of a chance to replenish that though.

I love the busyness of it all. I love the rushing around, running from place to place. I get to talk to so many different people, confuse people when see me at one job but are used to seeing me at the other, and run around like mad. I eat healthier, sleep better, exercise more, my anxiety is low, and just feel better when I’m busy like this. It also helps me clear my head, so I can read and write more.

Sometimes, Sunshine, you just need to embrace the chaos and find the little things about it that bring you joy. This morning on my coffee run on the way into work, I ran into Strength at McDonald’s. We haven’t had time to talk in weeks, and only had a few minutes while I waited for my coffee. I got to check in on him, tell him a bit about the break-up, get a big hug, and I even got a free coffee. That little darling gathered up the McDonald’s coffee stickers from people there who don’t collect them, and got enough to get me my morning coffee. Wouldn’t take no for an answer.

So when things are a little chaotic (or hella chaotic, like my life right now), keep doing what makes you happy.

Lose Yourself While Finding Yourself

Hey there Sunshine, I’m back yet again! Sitting at work today, trying to put back together the pieces of my life recently. You know how things go with me (and with pretty much every one else out there these days): as soon as things start to fall into place, other things start crumbling down around them.

One thing that had been crumbling for me for many years was my identity. I would find an event, or an activity that I really enjoyed and that brought some sort of sense of accomplishment into my life. Then I’d try to cram my life full of a reasonable facsimile of that thing. I didn’t sit down and think, “What about this makes me happy? What about it brings me joy? What other things could bring me the same feeling?”. No, I just rushed out there and tried to cram crap into my life.

Case in point, for 10 years I helped out with one very specific fundraiser. The frat boys I hung around with did an event every fall called Homeless for the Homeless. Basically, they would make a shelter on campus out of wooden skids, cardboard boxes, tarps, and twine. Then, they would “live” in this shelter for three days. No one person stayed the entire time. They made a schedule so people could go to class, and go to work, and take the time to eat and warm up somewhere. But at night, a bunch of people would all hang out until the wee hours of the morning, and part of that group would actually sleep in the shelter. The entire time everyone involved would be collecting food, money, clothes, and blankets for the local Downtown Mission.

I spent a few year sleeping in the shelter. Every year, I would gather up bags of clothes and food to bring down to donate. There were even a few times when no frat brother was available to supervise the site, my friend and I were the ones left in charge. I helped build 6 different shelters, tore down 8 of them, and got to remind the design team each year why we needed a peaked tarp roof (the Year of the Flat Roof also happened to be the Year of the Sleet Storm and the Year the Roof Caved In in Multiple Places During the Night). It didn’t matter how cold, or wet, or sleep deprived I got. Something about this one particular fundraiser seemed to give me life.

So what do I do? I sign up for ALL the fundraisers!

I joined student groups that I didn’t give a crap about in university. I marched in protests, walked in parades, sold cupcakes for charity, baked cupcakes for charity, and even once walked around in a blizzard wearing a banana costume over my clothes. None of these things gave me the same feeling as that one fundraiser, so I figured I just needed more fundraisers.

Looking back now, I see the error of my ways. That one fundraiser had meaning to me. At one point in time, I spent sporadic nights sleeping on the street. I had to make a box of mac’n’cheese last me three days. I once had nothing to eat in my cupboard for a week but two cans of corn, a Mr. Noodle, a loaf of bread, and half a jar of peanut butter. I had a very rough idea of what it’s like to be homeless (though I did have somewhere to go back to after a day or three, it’s a very long story). I knew what it was like to go to bed hungry and not know if I would eat the next day. I had used the food bank at the mission quite a few times, bringing home zip-lock bags of rice and butter wrapped in tin foil.

Basically, this one fundraiser I did every year was super important to me, deep in the cockles of my heart. Maybe in the sub-cockles, maybe in the liver, maybe in the kidney, maybe even in the colon. But it was me giving back to somewhere that had helped me so much 15 years ago now, and helping people who were in situations similar to what I had been through. My heart wasn’t in the act of fundraising, it was in helping the homeless.

It took me many, many years to realize this, though. I poured myself into volunteering with every single organization and campaign that asked me. I can remember standing in the Student Center in my fourth year of university, selling Cinnabons for a social justice organization. I was on their board of directors and chair of their Event Planning and Fundraising Committee, but couldn’t find the need in me to throw myself into any campaign. I think I failed at every single event I tried to put on, the Cinnabon sale included.

When I was transferred to the store downtown last year, I knew that there were changes coming. I swore that I would be true to myself, and not lose what made me me. I was determined to be the girl behind the counter who wore funny hats, danced to the radio, and marathoned Vines like they were going out of style (which they kinda did, since Vine is just gone). I thought that these were the things important to me, that these were the things that made me special.

Over the summer, Strength came into my store without a shirt on and was asked to leave. He came back in a minute later wearing jeans wrapped around his neck like a scarf. My manager came out to talk to him while he stood there shirtless in my line. Here was this super buff shirtless man standing here, trying to reason with management that his jeans/scarf concoction was no different than a woman in a tube top or a man in one of those ridiculous tank tops that is basically thread with a loose band of fabric around their middle. I’m not going to lie, Sunshine, the man was majestically gorgeous, all glistening and sweaty. He argued with my manager for a bit, giggled at my reply to his questionable fashion, and then said something I wasn’t expecting.

“I’m homeless. Where the hell am I supposed to get a shirt?”

This majestic being in front of me didn’t look like my preconceived notion of what a homeless person should look like. He was goofy and sincere, muscly and in shape, and he was cute as hell! In the movies homeless people were always dirty and stinky and covered in poop. This man looked like the opposite of that, and I was seriously shocked.

After arguing for a while, Strength was asked to leave and not come back. A few months later, he stopped in on a Sunday when I was in charge. He said he didn’t want to cause any trouble or bother anyone, he just wanted to apologize for his behaviour. He shook my hand and told me that he was all kinds of messed up, but he wanted to at least be the kind of man who could walk into our store and buy something. I got him to talk to our manager later that week, and soon Strength was a regular fixture.

One day, they shut down the streets for a festival for half the day. Strength was running around cleaning up garbage, directing traffic in our tiny parking lot, acting as security for roadside stands, and even playing basketball with random people. Once the festivities had died down and the streets had reopened, I found him curled up in a ball in the back of our parking lot. Up until that point I had been very hesitant about getting to know any of the regular homeless folk in the area. But for whatever reason that day, I just walked right over and plopped down next to him. We spent my break talking about how much work he had done, and how much I appreciated him keeping our parking lot clean and accident free. In the end I gave him the last dollar I had, plus the bag of snacks I had just bought.

From that day forward, something changed. Strength and I started hanging out in the parking lot. When I started my second job, he would (and still does) randomly meet me so that I don’t have to walk back to my car alone. After he was banned again from our store (another long story), we spent a month apart and then jumped right into coffee dates and hanging out in fast food places together. I had started keeping bags with socks, snacks, and rain ponchos in my car for him. In that month apart, I would search downtown for him and pass out whatever I had in my bag to others who needed it.

I know it sounds more than a little crazy, but hanging out with him awoke something in me. Being with him, helping others in his position, it gave me the same feeling as the old Homeless for the Homeless fundraisers. Ironically, this past year was the first time in more than 20 years that fundraiser hasn’t run. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself walking through alleyways in the middle of a rainy afternoon, passing out ponchos. I never expected to be happy to see a homeless meth addict walk through the doors of my workplace. These were not things I was taught were good things.

I know that some people take issue with me doing some of the things I do, and that they especially take issue with my friendship with Strength. But the people who know him, the people I work with at both of my jobs, for the most part get it. We all worry about him, but no one there does more than me. Sounds crazy, right?

But this man somehow reminded me of the things that were important to me. When I looked at him and thought, “Well that’s not what a homeless person looks like”, I had to ask myself “then what did I look like 15 years ago?”. Most people don’t know much about that part of my life, but since meeting him I’ve been able to talk about it a lot more freely. I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin, and I’m doing the things that make me feel like me.

The strangest thing, though, is that the things that I thought made me so special before really don’t hold much meaning to me now. I didn’t bust out the tiny hats this Christmas, at all. I still dance at work, but not in the same way I used to. And I haven’t had a good old Vine marathon in ages (although a coworker and I do still quote them to each other). The things that I thought were important to me were just things others noticed about me, regardless of how I felt about them.

I guess in finding myself downtown, I lost the West End me. I had to lose myself to find myself?

I know this is all rambly, Sunshine, but there is a lot going on here. I’ve gone through some super huge changes since my last run on this blog, and it looks like I may have some huge and super hard changes coming up in the near future. This change, finding both strength and Strength, are a precurser to many things going on right now.

Well That Break Went A Little Long, Eh?

So, it’s been a while, eh Sunshine?

The last time we talked, I was all scared and freaked out in my new store. Let me tell you, that store is the best thing to happen to me in a long time.

Remember I was talking about the “parking lot people”? We have a pretty steady rotation of men who sporadically stand in the parking lot and either ask for money or ask someone to buy them booze (those ones are banned from the store). Well, on of the previously-banned asked permission to shop again from my manager and started cleaning our parking lot in return. Months later, he’s banned again (he is a very long story that you will hear lots more of), but he’s also one of my favourite people in the world at the moment. Lil ‘ole me, who was shaking in my steel-toed booties at the thought of dealing with downtown people, went out and befriended a piano playing homeless meth addict.

For real. Like, seriously.

For the sake of his anonymity, I’ll just call him Strength (anyone who’s met him know why). We’ve gone out on coffee dates, taken some long walks together, I bring him snacks and socks, and he’s come to my other job to play piano for me.

Oh ya, that reminds me: I got a second job.

Late in the summer, I had testing and an interview with our public library system. I came home afterwards, called my mother and spent an hour telling her how it was a lost cause. The job was for an on-call supply person to fill in at all of the library branches in the city. There I was with limited availability thanks to my customer service job, no car, and a reliance on a laughable public transit system.

Well, they loved me. I mean, who wouldn’t? I somehow got hired and wound up in a training group of eight with a guy I went to University with. He’s like the love child of Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Chandler Bing from F*R*I*E*N*D*S, but much more charming. Made for an interesting week of training.

So I’ve been mainly picking up shifts at the library closest to the store I work at. Sometimes on his more lucid days (meth is one hell of a drug, kids), Strength will stop by the library for a private piano concert and to walk me back to the store. Other days, while walking between the jobs, I will randomly run into him while he hunts diamonds and data mines. We try and make plans, but his memory is so far gone that he forgets to meet me at work an hour after I remind him to. I was actually surprised the one day when he remembered to meet me for breakfast so I could take him out for a drive in my car.

I did mention that I bought a car, right?

She’s a little green lemon….I mean, a 2005 Pontiac Pursuit. I haven’t even given her a proper name yet, since she pisses me off so much. Looking back now, I know I got royally screwed by the dealer I bought her from. There’s a recall on her power steering system that was never attended to, which causes me to lose power steering randomly at low speeds. There’s also an issue with the transmission filter being clogged because her transmission fluid has never been flushed and the filter has never been changed. This causes the traction control to turn itself off and the transmission to slip from time to time.

It’s quite terrifying, really.

Let’s see, it there anything I missed? Little Sketchpad McCaffrey turned out to be a boy. Things with the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend have been falling apart faster than the Trump cabinet. I’ve been volunteering again, wandering around and talking to homeless people and bringing them sandwiches and granola bars. Annoying Roommate is still uber annoying.

I think that’s everything.

Well, hopefully in this new year I’ll be better able to make time to write again. I’ve been working on a few things here and there in notebooks, but nothing too serious. I’ll try to update here more, get some of my twirly brain commotion onto the interwebs.

Until then, stay classy Sunshine!

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!

Updates

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.