The building in which the department store is situated is thirteen stories tall (the elevators do not stop on thirteen), but I had only been up to the eleventh floor. This floor seems to mark a boundary of some sort; beyond this point, the escalators are beautiful narrow wooden contraptions dating back to the 1940s, and they are never turned on. I had heard rumors that once upon a time, the employee cafeteria (does such an institution still exist?) was located up there. Curiosity got the better of me, and though I knew that as an oddity, I was very likely being watched on camera, I decided that I would see what was beyond for myself.
Since I had heard "cafeteria," I had expected some sort of large, open chamber. I was disappointed to find that it was really a series of dingy hallways ... somewhat like a high school, but full of maintenence articles and unused equipment. I encountered a gentleman, and I questioned him about recent history. Yes, the cafeteria had been up here ... the marketing section had been up here once, too, a couple a years ago, before they got rid of it. Burdened with this information, I retreated down the immobile escalators. Though it would've been nice to have found a key to the roof, it was instead time to find my supervisor.
She was down on the first floor, where the morning meeting was being held. They passed out small potted plants to the mothers who were present, and folks munched on donuts while others in positions of higher authority pontificated on something or other (which I wasn't paying much attention to, as I had a creme filled donut and it was, after all, now 7:45 in the goddamn morning). When this was over, my supervisor and I marched on up to the fourth floor, where I was to be stationed for the day.
We could find no one. Indeed, it seemed that the other person who was to start at 7:45 with me had called off, and I was more or less on my own until others came in slightly later. My supervisor watched me open the cash register, then left to begin her busy day. I managed on my own, more or less ... though I did, at first, have customers who were such long-time shoppers they knew the cash register/discount coupon procedure better than I did, which I found embarrassing.
Finally, someone else in the department arrived. I shall call her Mrs. Bright, for age seemed to have freed her passion for colors. She was attired in a very electric blue hoodie, floral pants in hues of blue, green, and pink, and shoes that matched. She was definitely a smoker of some years; her voice had grown low and harsh. She was very honest, and though her interactions with others were kind, I could sense an impatient overtone in much of it. "After awhile, you'll learn to hate them," she told me quietly, as we walked to another register that I opened and proceeded to run on my own until another associate came in and thereby rescued me from this fate.
Mrs. Bright learned to like me. Would I learn to hate customers? I don't know. I don't hate them yet, though I still dislike retail. No matter how much more the clothes may cost, you will still meet people of varying attitudes. There will still be those who are capable of picking up after themselves, and those who think that you are being paid to do it for them.
I had a number of people tell me that I was doing an excellent job for my first day, or that I was adorable, or that I was very pleasant. Mrs. Bright had a laugh at the last one later in the afternoon, she said that I had only learned to hide my anger, I hadn't punched anyone! I don't recall feeling angry at any point during the day, though ... my moods passed from boredom, to embarrassment, to bemusement, to depression, to exhaustion, and back to boredom again. Cashiering is tough because you are on your feet all day (here, in heels or dress shoes, because comfortable things like sandals or sneakers are not professional and are therefore not permitted), not because it requires your full brainpower to make it go.
You can't open the dressing room doors from the outside except with a key. I had no key, so when someone locked it and crawled out through the opening at the bottom of the door, I had to do the same to open it back up again.
One customer was very pleasant, very patient. When we completed the transaction, she began telling me a story. She had, once upon a time, applied to work at this very department store! During register training, she had discovered that she hated cashiering, that she sweated through all hours before the lunch break, that she just could not figure it out. When lunch arrived, she walked out, and never came back as an employee. As she walked away, she asked me if this was my first day, if I was alone. When I replied yes to both questions, she burst out laughing. "I don't mean to laugh," she managed through her mirth, "but I'm glad it's you."
My mind blanked. In my surprise, my tongue was as empty as the blank nametag which I had been supplied but been told not to write my name on. Habit produced an audible "Thank you," but that was a nothing, it was meaningless in the context.
People would joke about me not having a name, or when I hit the wrong keystrokes while entering my cashier number and came up with an "Invalid Associate," not existing. It was funny, in a way, but it was also very sad. They were right. I am a nobody, here, a floater with nothing to distinguish me from customer or associate.
I'm having to deal with an issue I never really had trouble with before. It is not envy ... it is desire. Suddenly, here I am, faced with rows upon rows of things that I have an increasing want to wear, but remain unable to afford. I have been drawn to a particular dress ... of which only four remain. It is slip-style, red silk, gold embroidery ... and over one hundred dollars, far out of my reach at present. I find myself wondering what it is like to dress up as a princess every day, what it is like to wear all these impractical but oh so frothy garments. Why do I want, suddenly, to wear flimsy gauzey shirts and embroidered skirts? What is this that has overcome me?
When I started this entry of the day's highlights, I was so tired, I soon had to stop. It began as a bunch of monosyllabic words, short phrases ... I had to lie down for a couple hours before I could make anything more of it. erikadoor says retail is going to eat me.
[Edit: So I started changing from "professional" to "comfortable" clothing, and apparently got distracted in the middle of the process and forgot about it. While the boxer shorts/sweater combo may not be too unusual, the nylon slip worn over the shorts is definitely not an essential part of one's outerwear.]