Sunday, May 29, 2011

I'm watching you

I have always been a people watcher. Living through my childhood, not allowed to take part in social gatherings for the most part, meant I was always on the fringes looking vicariously through others actions. During my marriage I was kept isolated for the most part so spent a good amount of time watching others and wishing things were different. Whatever. Anyhow, now that I am free to engage in life however I choose I still find myself watching people...but almost for completely different reasons now.

Working in a convenience store has many drawbacks that do not appeal to most people. In the nearly two years I have worked in mine, the number of employees that have come and gone is ridiculous. The hours are long and you're on your feet the whole time. The pay is nothing to hoot about though it does pay the bills (if your bills are within reason I'm sure) and there are no employee benefits (at least in my store)...unless you count all the free fountain soda you can slurp down.

The one redeeming factor as far as I'm concerned are the customers. I have some great customers that really keep me entertained and coming back each night...even when I'm ready to throw in the towel from exhaustion and sore feet. Going to college full time and then heading off to work a full time night shift is simply exhausting and frustrating. Some of my customers can get me to smile or laugh even when I really don't feel like it. Most of my regular customers are great...and now and then a passing through customer can pass the time with me and a great conversation is had as I have posted about before....

and then there are those other customers.

They are easy to spot and hard to avoid since I am the only cashier most of the time. They are surly, rude, throw their money across the counter. Bitch about everything they can think of...blame me for every price they take exception too. Blame me for whatever the boss said to them that day, the wife, the kids, life in general...treat me like a mere servant whose only existence is made whole by catering and bowing to their every need..and do it with a smile if you please.

Yeah...there's those...and then there is one more category. The ones that have come to steal, the drunk ones, the out and out bullies. The ones that make me pause and watch a little bit closer...because my safety could turn out to be an issue before too long.

I've had a fair amount of the drunks...they do not take kindly to me refusing to sell them more alcohol and call me names, threaten to complain to my boss (whatever...he supports me in this) or threaten me generally. I have had to call the cops on numerous occasions for my own protection...and to get a drunk driver off the streets. Some of my regular customers have come to realize I mean business in this respect. Others have complained...whatever. I was hit by a drunk driver so I have personal issues with drunk well as my own children are out there on those streets that drunk drivers are menacing with their complete disregard for life and limb...but the very fact that someone will drink to the point of not being able to walk properly...and then get behind the wheel of a truck there by turning it into a loaded weapon....AND believe I have no right to take exception to that...well that just fucking pisses me off. What you do with your life is your business...what you do with mine, my kids, and all the other innocent people you are potentially turning into victims with your selfishness is MY business...when I have the ability to stop it by calling the cops and getting you off the streets....damn straight I will. No mercy.

The other night I had one disgruntled drunk, when I asked him politely if he was driving, ask me if I was fucking cop...I said no but I can call one if you like. He said, only a dumbass will drink and I look like a dumbass to you? I answered, well if you are drinking and driving then, YES, you are a dumbass. He yelled that he was complaining to my boss and getting me fired. And? Here's his number if you want it...I will even dial it for you since you obviously can't operate your brain much less your dialing finger.

I don't play games with drinkers and drivers. You come in my store drunk and I know you are driving...I am calling the cops. Period.

Shoplifters are something else. I have my usual trying to snatch candy...teen boys out to get laid without paying for the condom that will prevent them from being young daddies or STD statistics. Hell son, I would give them to you for free if I could. Heck, I have even praised a few of those brave enough to come up to the counter sheepishly sliding the box across the counter while trying to act all tough and studly. During recent prom night I had several boys come in through the night buying condoms (no idea if any were stolen...I don't really keep count of those...I figure it's for a good and I warned them that mistakes are made on prom night that last a lifetime..I'm happy you're taking responsibility. I had a few embarrassed laughs, a glare or two to mind my own business...but overall they seemed OK with the advice and praise. Conversation people...young people need it. I suppose I could be over stepping my bounds as a mere employee meant to just sell the stuff and not offer advice of any kind...but until someone (boss) tells me to knock it off...advice it is.

Now and then I get someone who wants to steal...and doesn't really bother to hide the fact...these are the ones that make me nervous. They don't seem to care that I know they are up to no good...that in itself if a bad sign. Nearly every time this is a new face, someone who has gone to the other side of town to steal so his/her face isn't familiar. Not hard to spot them...they are aggressive, loud, generally come in three's or more...and just cause general mayhem and stress. I can usually tell what sort of customer is coming through the door by the way they act once they are inside...those that just head off to whatever they came to problem...those that look somewhat confused and searching around...bathrooms that way...those that look directly at me then head for some area of the store...those I worry about. They have made eye contact with me before need...need being while paying for the item..asking for directions/help etc. They are in one instance letting me know they are there and in another telling me they don't care that I know they are there.

I have had a few close encounters with these sorts of customers...a few scary moments in which the fact that I am a lone female in store at night with no protection is at the forefront of my mind. I've had plenty of male customers tell me they would not want to do my job...the risk for harm is just too great...but what can I do? I need work, I have no skills (yet) and my choices are limited...not to mention it is use full for attending college during the day to be able to work at night. Hard as it is to maintain these hours (no idea how young people do it) is something I have to I continue on even when those scary moments arrive and make me question my sanity.

On any given night I will have periods of quiet, no customers, mixed with frantic chaos in which a horde of customers will show up out of half time during a football game. I have to do my job of checking them out, helping them, answering questions etc...while still trying to keep an eye on others in the store. Not always easy...but something interesting (or sad depending on your view) that I have noticed is that when I do get an unruly customer...someone being rude, loud, a drunk stumbling around causing trouble...even those that are directly confrontational with me...for the most part other customers do nothing.

This reminds me of videos in which a customer or employee is being harassed or abused while others standing by do nothing...a rare person will step up and defend the victim...but from my experience...this is very rare. I know it is hard to become involved in someone else's drama...but how nice it would be if doing that was the norm and not the exception?

We risk our lives (meaning personal safety/health etc) daily by driving, drinking, smoking, arguing with our neighbors over dog shit on our lawns, with others over parking spots and sale items at Christmas. We risk our lives in too many ways to count...but risking our lives to help someone else? Well that is just too much trouble and too...risky.

Anyhow, I hope to be finished with college (this stage anyhow) by next summer...then it's off to start a new stage of my life. Until then working at this store will have to do for now. Warts and all it is what it is. Not so bad generally but now and then quitting just seems the wiser better choice....if only.

No point to this post other than still fuming over a more than usual number of unruly customers of late. Memorial weekend, schools getting out, summer upon us seems to have brought them out of the woodwork...yay me. (breath deep, girl...breath deep).

Just a thought to those of you who find yourself a customer in a store such as which you know my job is low on the totem pole, economic pole, social standing pole...I do my job cause I have too. I have bills, kids, responsibilities. No, it's not my dream job. No I will not be working here forever. And no...I'm not your slave, your sounding board, your dog to kick just because I work here.

And I have a very big stick behind the counter to prove it...if needed. Just saying.


oby said...

I find invariably if one is nice to someone generally one gets the same in return. So I am always polite and kind to the gas station/convenience store clerks because they have families and are people too. And I as a customer never forget how dangerous the job can be. Sometimes if the clerk is a bit scoully or surly I will say something like, "you look like you have had a hard day". invariably they break out in a smile and say "yeah it's been tough" or it starts the conversation rolling. It breaks down the walls and they are just like anyone else...they want to be appreciated, understood (ie: the hard day comment) and treated with respect. It isn't that tough to be kind to others...I am sorry that people don't treat you better. Makes you wonder who kicked them around in their lives that they feel it is OK to kick you.

coolred38 said... is amazing how just a smile or nice comment etc can wash a lot of resentment or ill feelings away. I can have good customers and then one will come along and just put a fly in my soup...and you have to wonder why they gotta act that way?

Why is being mean so easy for some...

Jay Kactuz said...

Red, I have been following your journey for a few years now. You are a brave woman and I salute you for your dedication to family and personal responsibility.

I really don't care much for people, but I am glad to hear that you get some nice people in the store sometimes and they in their own way cheer you up and make life - and work - more bearable.

Well, I am off to a memorial service for a cousin - 61 years old - that died of cancer last week. Another reminder of our mortality. Gail was younger than I - too young.


PS: I don't think you are mean, just dogmatic about life and people!