…almost three months of working two jobs has come to an end. Poof. Finito! I am once again in awe at Time’s uncanny way of passing very quickly. It feels like it was approximately two seconds ago that I rolled into Loveland, CO with nothing in my account, nothing in my pockets but change, just nothing, and began a scramble to land some basic work somewhere so that I could get myself back on my feet for Move Round #2. When I realized, through my searching, that whatever I got would more than likely be part-time, I decided that two parts would make a whole, and picked up two. One at a fairly well-known old country restaurant chain, the other at another fairly well-known web of bookstores. I was hired at both within a week of each other, back in July, and I have been running my tookas off ever since.
What a ride. First, it took a few weeks to get the schedules for each aligned with the other. This meant that my first couple of weeks working both, I pulled all kinds of crazy double-shift maneuvers. In at the restaurant in the morning, then off to the bookstore. OR, in at the bookstore in the morning, then a superman change into the restaurant uniform before dashing up the road to job #2 while trying to drive and cram a sandwich in my face all at the same time. 13, 14-hour days. The usual.
That didn’t last long. Thank the gods. My schedules evened out and I managed to wrangle at least one day off a week, sometimes two, and just rolled with the flow. LOTS of mornings at the restaurant – I typically only pulled morning shifts there. Up at 4:00 a.m., there at 5:45 in time for the 6:00 a.m. opening. I’ve dressed myself plenty of times in the dark – fortunately it was a uniform, so nothing ever mismatched. Anyway, I just threw away my schedule sheet, which was a landmark event – this was a lined spiral page that I wrote my shifts down on by date, day, location, and time. It was the only way to keep everything sorted out, the only way to maintain track of where I was supposed to be, and when. It was, really, the only way I managed to really even keep track of what day it was. Truth.
I kept waiting to accidentally go to the wrong job on the wrong day…but that never happened.
No one knew, at either place, that I was working only until I left the state again. Truly, would you hire someone who you knew you would take the time to train and then only get to keep for a handful of months? Especially when they were set to leave at the onset of the holiday rush? I wouldn’t. So I said not a word. I was just doing what I had to do. Which made it difficult to relate to people at first because I couldn’t really talk about myself. Which, at first, was alright. I was leaving again, anyway, right? No need to get all friendly with people and connect on some sort of personable level. Right?
Yeah, that didn’t happen. It’s not in my nature to be capable of keeping people at arm’s length. I’m a connective person. And, as time passed, the whole whirlwind of leaving and coming back became a back-burner memory, at least professionally, so I was indeed able to interact and be myself without all of that ever even coming up. Fair. It was guilt-inducing, though, to like everyone I worked for and with, and have them talk about the future holiday rush, for example, and know that I would actually not be there with them for that. After I gave my notices, that level of guilt flew out the window, at least. Then it was just the realization that, if I were to actually be sticking around this place, there were a fair number of people who could have become actual friends. If I were staying.
I have come to a point where I am very, very, very tired of Goodbyes. So tired. It has been a year of Goodbyes. I was surprised to realize, when I made some farewell rounds at the bookstore today before walking out the door, that I was getting that choked-up sort of feeling. I wasn’t expecting the level of Sad from my managers and coworkers. I wasn’t expecting hugs. You know? 3 months, and I earned hug status. That was a big deal to me. It was different at the restaurant – that environment is so frenetic that there wasn’t really room for that sort of thing. But yeah, very sick of Goodbye. Sick of flitting in and out of other people’s universes. I can’t wait to get in my spot and start some Hellos. Truly.
Enough waxing Sad about all of that. On to some comparisons between restaurants vs. bookstores. And some pet peeves. And what I learned from all of this.
I hadn’t worked in the public, in a retail-type situation, for about 12 years or so. Working for the City of Denver for 11.5 years, tucked away in an office environment, I’d forgotten what it was like. What people can be like, for good or worse. I have to say that I really did have a good time this summer, at both jobs. Although the restaurant wore very thin very quickly.
I never want to work in a restaurant again. Granted, I was lucky. I was just a cashier over on the store side of the place. I stood there and rang up people’s’ meal tickets and maybe some random purchases that they decided to make. I wasn’t hauling ass waiting tables. I wasn’t scrambling around the kitchen or sweating over the grill line. Nevertheless, people are not only weird about their food, they are also weird about the swiftness in which they can pay and get the hell out, once they are finished eating. Being the only cashier scheduled for a 7-hour block, sometimes lines backed up, right? To be fair, most people were just fine to wait about a whole minute or so, but sometimes. Sometimes. Yeah, grumpy folks. Especially if there was a technical difficulty. Pet peeve #1: Someone yelling at me because my register decided to up and freeze a dying death, whereupon I am completely helpless until I can get the manager in the back, who is probably also sweating over a grill line due to understaffment, to reboot the system for me. Don’t yell at me. I didn’t curse the register with my mind on purpose.
It WAS exciting, being “backstage” in the restaurant environment. I can say that much. I’d never been behind the food industry scenes before, and it is definitely something to behold. But, for the most part, I was out front, just standing there or folding shirts or trying to figure out how on earth to sell impulse snack items to people who were already full to the gills. All while being subjected to the same country songs over. And over..and over again. In my dorky uniform. Ha!
All told, though…the restaurant was a good experience and I’m grateful to have had it. And there are some very excellent people working there, who I liked very much. And I got to play with toys a lot. I can’t complain about that. Hitting the deck at 5:45 a.m. and wandering the store turning on ALL the displays…christmas, Halloween, toys…was a blast. It was still dark out, but I had nine-gozillion things singing and dancing and squawking and making a racket inside. Fun chaos!
Pet Peeve #2, while I’m thinking of it: DON’T HAND ME CRUMPLED UP CASH. I mean, really? REALLY?! Nothing like someone paying a $20 check in all ones that are tossed on the counter willy nilly, whereupon I have to waste time sorting and straightening them all out before I can get them in the drawer. Thereby wasting precious time, if there is a line. See Pet Peeve #1.
Oh, and Pet Peeve #3: Smiles are nice. I HAVE to smile at you. Sometimes it’s genuine. Even at 6:00 a.m. Try smiling back. It makes my day. For real. If you don’t smile back, you get growled at and will not receive your obligatory, “Have a great day/afternoon/night!” Yup.
Overall, the restaurant clientele were pretty fun folks, though. I shared many a laugh with people who I will never see again. It’s all good.
In contrast to the frenetic madcap zany ZOOM of Planet Restaurant, the bookstore became my haven. I loved that job. I really did. I worked for this very same book chain all those 12 years ago when I worked retail the last time. Ironically, it was the very last retail job I had before I went City. Different store, but same groove. Walking back into it was interesting, in that some things had changed over the decade and some change since I’d been employed under that noble umbrella…but a LOT was the same, too. Mirrorworld. So it didn’t really take me too long to get into a groove there. I love being on the floor. I love hunting books for people. I love a challenge, I love a quest, I love a scavenger hunt. That being said…
Pet Peeve #4: If you don’t know the title OR the author, chances are there is not much I will be able to do for you. SOMETIMES I can pull what you’re looking for out of the ether, because yes, I am THAT good. But “That red book with the yellow lettering on it that was on that one display 5 months ago,” does not give me much to work with. Especially since I wasn’t around 5 months ago.
I’m fairly certain that, 5 months from now, if I were to be at this same store, I bet I could pull even that out of the ether. But yeah.
So yes, the bookstore was my haven. And I truly truly liked every single person I worked with there. That is very rare but oddly true in this case. Every single person. My favorite was one of the managers…I loved geeking out over the Avenger’s LEGO sets with him, or Batman, or Mumford & Sons, or what have you. He was awesome. And then there was my whacky gal who would do the spaz disco dance with me. Which we did even as I was walking out the door today. Or my Monday Night Closing Party gal. Or, or, or. Just good people. I like those people. I told a couple of them today that, while I’m stoked to be heading to Louisiana, I wish I could transplant and transfer them all with me. They are just that awesome.
Aside from the “minimal info about a book” pet peeve, I don’t have many others from the bookstore. At least that I can think of right now. Book clientele was a different breed from eaters. They were a little more mellow, for the most part. Even if I couldn’t find their red book with the yellow lettering that was on that display 5 months ago, they understood. They knew it was Them, not Me. Overall, finding books for them, even out of the ether (which I did, because yes, I am THAT GOOD), putting that book in their hands, and seeing this…JOY of “yay my book!” on their faces, was the ultimate reward. Truly.
Shelving and straightening and stocking and wandering rows of shelves and being in the presence of books, with the gentle smell of coffee wafting to me from the cafe was my haven. Truly. And, no dorky uniform. I was free to be me. Which was a beautiful thing. Truly.
Truly. If the wage of a bookseller was more…livable…I would do it forever. I really, really loved my bookstore job.
(The irony of this being that, 12 years ago, I HATED it…but I think it was just a case of Bad General Manager. Even my most recent boss apologized to me when I told him I worked at that particular store during that particular year. Funny stuff.)
Which is why I am excited because I will more than likely transfer to the bookstore in Metairie. I am very happy about this prospect. First, because I might get to experience the Joy of the Bookhunt for a little while longer. And secondly, because it’ll be something to bring income in to start with down there, which is something I did not have the first time. Transfer paperwork was sent, manager recommendations were hearty. Now I just have to GET there and poke my head in and say “hi I’m on file when do I start” and there we go.
I could go on and on. And on. But I already have. Sitting at over 2000 words already! So, in closing, what I’ve learned:
ADAPTABILITY. First and foremost. Shove me into a new and foreign-from-my-routine situation and I will roll with it and be just fine. This applies to other parts of my life this year as well as work. But in this case, yes – I learned the practices and policies and myriad ins-and-outs of TWO different and very fast-paced places. And I did it. And I was good at it. This delights me because I have a copiously large amount of professional confidence now that I did not have the last time I moved and was running the gamut of job interviews. At that time, I’d been cloistered for so long in that office job that I honestly wasn’t certain if I was the “quick learner” that I professed to be. Now I have proof. I am. My interviews for “real jobs” in New Orleans will go a lot differently this time, I think. Also because:
I can’t count how many conversations and interactions with total strangers I’ve had in the last three months. Working with the public has burst me out of a shell I didn’t even know I had. I can talk to anyone. About anything. And I no longer feel shy or awkward doing it. That is going to make this 2nd move a lot different too.
My final lesson was a large one on how to interact with that person who is ringing up my cigarettes or taking my order or pouring my beer…I’ve always been a pleasant sort, but some people aren’t. Being on the receiving end of the people who aren’t, I find myself going out of my way to be even more kind. Just be kind, world. That gal behind the counter is just trying to make her way. Be kind.
Oh, and a huge plus? Thanks to the retail diet and exercise program, I dropped about 15 pounds this summer! Just a nice little lagniappe there.
And that is that. Just like that, the jobs are done, and I now turn toward relocation prep as we wind our way to Hit the Road day. Onward.