Friday, November 9, 2012

Black Friday Pennies

I just watched The Secret for the very first time, and I have to say the movie is even more effective than the book. If you haven't seen it, it's pretty affordable, and the books serve as pretty solid follow-ups:
Now one of the things it teaches is that like attracts like. If you want a better life, you can start by being grateful for what you already have.

Right away I thought about things that I am grateful for. My collections, my friends, all sorts of things.

And then I saw a post from some people on Facebook who are not happy. So I'm hoping that this blog will cheer them up.

Black Friday is just two weeks away, and it reminded me of one more thing I'm grateful for.

I'm grateful that I no longer work retail.

Now I know many of you reading this are either unemployed or working for almost zero pay, so I hope this blog will make you feel much better about your situation.

It was 2007, and I went to work, knowing that I would be the sole cashier in a School Supply store on Black Friday. At first, I was assured that it would be mostly empty, since my shift was in the morning and afternoon, hours after the Target midnight sale, held just down the road. Oh sure, we had office supplies, toys and all kinds of "educational" things, but we're not Taaaargee~eeet (chided my boss) so it'll be a quiet day. Everyone will be too pooped to shop here!

She had no idea that 5 hour energy was now on the market.

By 3:30 the store was PACKED. If I had the chance to swim over to the door, I would have started turning away people, since there was no room left.

And these teachers and business people were ruthless. They were grabbing at each other, yelling, screaming, cursing, I even saw one strange woman slapping a child over a box of flash cards. FLASH CARDS!!!

And nobody could be bothered to read a label. Every nine seconds I had people vying for my attention. 

These are ACTUAL QUOTES from people teaching YOUR kids:

"Is this REALLY a number two pencil? If it's not a REAL #2 then it won't work on paper."

"Can't I just buy the flash cards one at a time? Why to I even need to teach my preschool class about the letters K and S. Doesn't C do all the work for me??"

"This says educational Bingo. But I can't understand the instructions!! If I can't understand the rules of Bingo, will my first grade class?"

"Excuse me. EXCUSE ME!! Can I get a discount if you take out all the ugly, uppercase letters in the Flash Card box?"

These are all adults, over the age of 35, in charge of children. Scared yet?

Well there was one woman in the store who was actually really nice to me. A teeny tiny little old lady, easily about 104 years old. 4'2, thick glasses, just the most adorable creature you'd ever see.

Her questions were smart, so I had no problem fighting through the crowd to assist her.

I return to the counter, and realize that I have about 30 minutes left until I can go home. It's starting to snow outside, so I get the counter ready for customers finally ready to make their purchases.

15 minutes before check-out time, it starts to hail pretty hard. The snow is building up on the side of the windows ~ which are three feet above ground. I have no boots, so I'll be trucking home in my thin sneakers. Lovely.

The little old lady comes to the counter first with about $400 in goods. I offered her cheaper goods, but she was set on what she chose. "Don't worry about me dear, I have the money." She makes room in a little red wagon she brought in, and had been using as a shopping cart.

That should have been my tip off.

The other customers are right behind her, pushing and shoving each other, and heckling me. "HEY STUPID BITCH what's the hold up?? I've got a REAL job to get to, just tell the old broad to step aside so I can get my purchase done FIRST!!" screams a man in the back. Sadly, the other teachers echoed the same sentiment.

I was determined to finish with the old lady, since she came up to me first, and unlike the others wasn't acting like a pain in the ass.

But just as I ring up her last item...


The cash registers go DEAD and the power flickers in and out.

I tried everything to boot the computer system back up, but all it did was just make noises.

The mob behind the old lady hear the computer doing dead.

This pisses them off more. Now they're really heckling me.

I reach under the cabinet and pull out the carbon papers. I'll just do a make-shift receipt and write down everything. Using the calculator, I make up the lady's tally.

"Will that be cash, check or credit?" I smile to the elder.

"Oh no, none of those things. Hold on, let me bring out my payment."

As she leans over, the heater dies. Now the store is icy cold, and I have no way to boot anything back up. Wait, did she say she won't pay in cash, credit or check? WTF does she have then?

Remember when I said she had a little red wagon?

Well from the wagon, she produces a jar.

*PLONK* goes the jar on the counter. 

And suddenly my lip quivers. 

Tears start streaming down my face, hot at first and then freezing to my cheeks.

"Oh no... you wouldn't... please... have mercy... tell me you wouldn't!!"

The old woman smiles at me with the warmest gaze I'd ever seen.

And yet... she says the most terrifying words a retail worker will ever hear.....

"I'd like to pay for this in pennies, if you don't mind. All $400 worth."

I realize too late that there is no room left on the counter or in my area for the other customers or for this psycho woman's $400 in pennies. And I am the only employee left in the store.

I damn near lost an arm, fighting off cold, hungry, angry teachers, ready to kill over flash cards, while counting $400 in pennies.

And then, after counting up to $399.98 she looks at me and says:

"Oh wait, turns out I did have cash after all. I think I'll buy some LCR dice as well. Also, I just remembered I'm on the tax-exempt list, since half of this is going to my local church. So can I get my tax-exempt sheet, a separate receipt and have this all on the same order, please?"

And then the lights went out.

Every day now, before I sit down at the computer, I smile at my pens. I caress the paper neatly before I draw and all at once I am grateful.

Grateful not to be in retail anymore.

Next time you're looking through the want ads, smile and be at ease. It's not easy being without a job.

But it's better than counting pennies.

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