Ducking out.

20 May 2021

Sometimes my hands go numb, and I can feel the arthritis I’ll have in twenty years as a dull pain that lasts for a day or so. I spent the entire shift rearranging bags of fun-sized candy, fighting with the metal bars that lock into the walls. I’m exhausted. It got hot really fast, and even though I love me a sticky summer, my body hasn’t adjusted yet.

Despite feeling utterly depleted, I still can’t see myself doing a job where I sit all day, though many of those tend to come with a higher paycheck. It feels good to move, and any work-related trainings or seminars I’ve had to attend left me so much more physically exhausted than if I were moving around. That level of tired was probably a blend of being stationary but also the expectation that I should use the time to network.

Before covid hit, I was going to a class to teach me how to do the job I’d been doing for over five years already. Forty-five minutes worth of driving to sit in one spot for eight hours and listen to a bunch of higher ups jerk themselves off. I’m sorry, but your choice to advance in a soul-sucking corporation does not mean you actually have something to say.

One of the speakers was this guy in charge of important branch operations. He looks like a douchey version of Anderson Cooper, the type of guy who plays nice to your face and talks shit when you can’t hear him. I learn later on that he has some anger issues that would have gotten him in trouble had his position not come with so much imaginary esteem. I sat right at the front of the class and listened to him drone on about all the wonderful things company name does. His lack of passion and inability to stray too far from his exceedingly ordinary PowerPoint presentation made it a challenge to keep my eyes open.

A couple weeks after the training, during the chaos of panic-buying, I was arranging displayers of way too much Orbit gum onto shelves when he approached me with a doe-eyed young girl. Obvious intern.

“Hi, I’m–” he introduced himself, even though I’d just seen him. Even though I’ve met him several times over the past ten years. Instead of introducing myself again I told him it was nice to see him, and immediately turned back to what I was doing. That’s usually about all you get from the guy as a peon.

Unfortunately, he didn’t walk away. He asked me how I was. Instead of lying, I told him I was extremely stressed out. The rash on my hands from spraying 91% alcohol on them due to the lack of hand sanitizer burnt strong. My soul had been repeatedly crushed by the countless customers telling me I was a worthless sack of shit for not personally providing them with the things they thought they needed. Here I was, in the height of covid fear, arranging chewing gum on shelves because of some deadline dreamt up by someone who’d never see the display anyway.

This fucker asks, “Why?”

His total lack of understanding for what had been going on at the store-level for the past few weeks made me want to cry, scream, run up and down the aisles knocking whatever remained on the shelves onto the highly trafficked floors. Instead, I threw my arms up in the air and said, “Oh, I don’t know!” looking all around.

Sir, I should have said, I care as much about you as you do about me. Cut the niceties and take the intern elsewhere. I have nothing to offer you today. The truth is that he didn’t actually give a shit, and was most likely only pretending to so the intern would stick around. I wonder if she did.

It’s that sort of feigned care that I’ve witnessed over and over again that just really, really sucks. There have been a few “suits” who get it, that aren’t afraid to be real humans, who haven’t forgotten what it’s like to work with the public day in and day out. I got along with them just fine, joked around even, felt heard and understood by them even though at the end of the day there wasn’t much they could do to improve things, either.

So, I’ve never been good at networking, or had an interest in doing it here. Because it seemed to me that every opportunity I’ve had to do so was filled with people who either were fake themselves or met enough fake people along the way that they believed you had to be like that to get ahead. I guess fuck me for wanting to have meaningful, memorable interactions with actual human beings.

I did spend quite a bit of time at that training speaking to a man who had a pet duck. He showed me videos of the duck eating cornflakes out of a cereal bowl, wading around a full bathtub, and snuggling up on the guy’s chest to watch television with him. I learned that male mallard ducks sometimes lose their color in captivity, lacking the traditional markings without females to impress. They also have really weird penises, which I already knew for whatever reason.

Photo by Aidan Jarrett on

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