I’ve been underemployed for awhile now. By awhile I mean over six years. As long as I’ve had Holden, I have either not worked or pieced together gigs intermittently. Last year, when Holden started Kindergarten, I thought for a second about getting an office job. But I wasn’t willing to give up my slam poetry teams or Crane Coffee so I eked by instead.
Since, Crane Coffee closed and a global pandemic hit. For nearly two months, my kids have been home schooled by me and their father. And it just so happens that it worked out that I didn’t take some office job last September.
But money. I did have to take a new gig job, once the poetry season ended early and the other coffee shop that extended me an offer had to rescind it. I am working at Target now. I am 37 years old and this is my first experience working retail and oh my god, I’m only a month in and I’m here to say not only is it longer shifts than waitressing but also equally thankless.
For context, I work at a Target in an affluent part of town and maybe that contributes to my general bitchiness these days (I also waitressed at a restaurant designed for upper middle class). Rich people waving around their money and touting their selfishness really boils me up. My job at Target is to put together orders for people who order online and then either have their items shipped to them or come pick them up. Some choose this option for convenience but many of them are doing so because they’re following social distance recommendations.
So when customers come into the store for no reason than to shop because they’re bored and no one else is open, then come up to me and pester my working grunt ass who has been there since six a.m. and walked nearly ten miles to fill orders, I have to bite my tongue so hard not to snap at them. Here’s who I had yesterday.
In the candle aisle:
Her: Do you know if this is a popular candle?
Me: (Pushing my cart, only 32 minutes left to finish this batch of orders, totally going to ruin my stats if I indulge her but also could very much get in trouble if I don’t). I don’t know
Her: I mean do you sell a lot of it?
Me: (not a candle expert, have never even worked in a checkout lane) I don’t work in that department, I’m really not sure.
Her: I don’t even need anything I’m just shopping because there’s nothing else to do. (Then, pointing to the one thing on the shelf that’s out of stock) Do you think you have more of these somewhere? It must be kind of popular since there aren’t any more. Could you check if there’s more?
Me: (suppressing a giant sigh, pulling out my scanner to check) We have four in the back that just came in last night.
Her: Oh that’s wonderful. Could you go get one for me? I’ll be around. Nothing else to do anyway, ha ha.
Me: (thinking of the three hundred boxes of freight that need to be organized that I will now have to rifle through while destroying my order picking stats and getting put on a report of workers who don’t work fast enough)
Her: Hey, how do you feel about working?
Me: (thinking of the global pandemic and all the destruction it’s caused for people in so many ways; not enthused that I work with the general public and risk my life and the lives of my children and co-parent as a result) Not great. I used to teach poetry. I only work here now because–
Her: No I don’t mean that. I mean, isn’t it kind of silly that everything else is closed? The world needs to get back to work. Places can’t just stay closed forever.
Me: (now stifling a scream) I’m gonna go check on that candle in the back for you. If I find it, I’ll put it right here on the shelf.
I did not find the candle.
Today I’m homeschooling my kids. They’re doing really well. Holden is making lowercase e’s correctly and Brandon is so good at math it makes my head spin. Soon we’re going on a nature hike to see the beauty I’ve been missing in the concrete block I work inside. I had the nicest barista the other day when I was in a bad mood from the customers at Target. My bank account is not overdrawn. The world is not all selfish and entitled. I have to remind myself of that over and over. There is good and I am getting paid and sometimes I pick orders for children’s birthdays and I am happy to be contributing in a small yet not insignificant way to the special in the midst of ordinary we can share even here, even now.