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.

Friday, May 13, 2011

So yesterday I had a chat with a naked lady....

After spending 23 years in Bahrain I've come to expect women to be more clothed than "normal" in seeing arms or legs was very rare there in the early things are more relaxed and the expat community are fairly free to wear what they want...within reason. Besides the amount of skin covered up in the public sphere...the amount we see in the private (home, friends house etc) is generally almost the same as in the street. Your not likely to catch more than the usually accepted amount of skin even when inside and away from the prying eyes of the public (men).

I got used to that and funny enough when I came back to the states I was immediately blown away with what passes for being dressed while out in public these days. I've seen some women who apparently didnt finish getting dressed before leaving home...maybe they had an Walmart...and thus left most of it laying on the bed. Or something (men too but generally it's the women whose state of undress is their fashion). As with all get used to it.

Yesterday in college I entered the girl's changing room for the first time in the 3 semesters I've been attending this college. The dressing and shower rooms are split in two with the shower area having a small dressing area as well. I was chatting to my fellow class student when around the corner came one of the college instructors stark naked...coming from the shower area...not so much as a wet rag to hide the strategic bits.

Now I'm not a prude or anything...Ive seen naked before...but here is my beef with this. I grant you that it is a shower/changing room set up. I grant you that your likely to see some nudity etc...people are in a hurry and shit happens. What I dont get it...for those who choose to walk around stark naked...why do you assume the rest of us are ok with seeing you in such a state?

In other words, your "right" to be naked supercedes our right not to see you naked? I dont mind seeing women naked (or men for that matter)...the human body is amazing in its many forms...what I do mind is when someone takes away my right to choose whom I see naked. The girl's locker room was set up in such a way that she (or anyone) could easily dress in the same area they showered in. In other words, there was no need for her to parade around why force the rest of us to see her that way?

Now I know someone will get on here and say...well you dont have to go in the shower rooms if your afraid or upset to see someone completely naked. Your right...I dont have too...but what has that got to do with anything? Even inside the shower room why cant a certain amount of modesty be expected? Just because we are all women does that mean all the women in there are quite fine with complete nudity...just because you love being naked does that mean everyone around you loves for you to be naked too?

Anyhow, it irritated me...maybe Im oldschool....but I feel like I should be able to choose whom I see naked...and unless you are fully aware that everyone around you is fine with seeing your saggy bits and untrimmed glory...then maybe you should grab a towel and keep your goods to yourself?

Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rejoice in the Death of the Boogeyman?

Anyone that has spent any amount of time reading this blog, reading my words, will know that my father's favorite past time was to reign terror on those he was meant to protect. I have forgotten the number of beatings I sustained at his hand, the number of times I was dragged from my bed at 2 a.m. to be beaten and then clean an already clean house. I have forgotten how many times I stood there quaking in my shoes as he walked down the hallway with the buckle on his belt jangling in anticipation of making contact with some part of my body yet again. I forget how many times he forced me to stand in the corner with my sodden underwear pulled down over my head because I had dared wet the bed yet again. I have forgotten how many times he drew blood from my body, created bruises to bloom prettily on my skin, or in someway damaged the flesh and bone that made up the person that was me. I have forgotten how many times my bedroom door opened in the night...

What I have not forgotten is how he made me feel.

The day my mother called me in Bahrain and told me he had died still echoes in my mind. The words speeding across the phoneline, across the planet and into my ear, words I had waited so fucking long to hear, words I whispered to myself as I laid awake at night tembling in my bed while listening closely for stealthy footsteps to come calling....words that were yearned for but never heard...words that I thought would make me rejoice in their anticipated glory.

I did not rejoice when I heard those words...I cried.

My Boogeyman was dead. Dead. DEAD!!! How could he be dead? Things like him did not die...they skulked away into the darkness to terrorize another day. Why do we have Friday the 13th part 52 if not for the fact that Jason can't be killed...cannot die. No matter the abuse to his body, the stabs and gun shots, the drowning and emmolation by fire...he merely stands up and brushes off the futile attempts at ending his henious life...and stalks away to find more prey.

For sure when I was young I prayed and begged for his death, or at least his absence from my life...but deep in my heart I did not truly believe he COULD die. Monsters dont die. My father could not be dead. If my father could die...well that only meant one thing....that I (me) could die as well. With my father's death I was faced with my own mortality and the tears sprang quickly to my eyes and fell with this new found revelation. If monsters could die....what chance did the rest of us have?

My mother had the audacity to believe I was shedding tears because, after all, he WAS my father. At the end of the day, paternal love won out and my tears fell for him...not despite him. Meanwhile years later she told me she did not shed one tear while she watched him die. (yes she was there at the time...another story). I despised the fact that she assumed she was stronger than me and that even in death his life meant nothing to her...but was supposed to have meant something to me?

No Mother, the tears fell because Death came calling. The Great Equalizer. I cried because in his death I saw mine. There was no room to rejoice at the passing of the Monster...and to this day I have not so much as smiled at the thought that he no longer walks this earth...because he stall walks the corridors of my mind. He still lives and breaths and terrorizes in the one place he cannot die...or that I am unable to kill him once and for all. The flesh and blood of my Boogeyman is dead but his words, actions, and terror live on for as long as my brain is a thinking living object of self abuse.

Did you hear that Bin Laden is dead? Yes. It's True. The Boogeyman to end all boogeymans has died an ignomous death after wreaking such havoc, such terror...after playing with the hearts and minds...and bodies of so many and leaving them shattered and broken...and afraid. I watched as the news unfolded and spread like wildfire through the a snake twisting and slithering through the 140 character limit that is Twitter as people spread the news via their fingertips rather than shocked lips and wide eyes.

The Boogeyman is dead? Is it true? How can it be? The Boogeyman can't die. It must be a rumor, a lie...Bin Laden is legend, legends don't die....but wait...hold on...yes YES!! it is true. The President is speaking...people are smiling...clapping...rejoicing!!!

I watched and read as people rejoiced over the death of this man, this Boogeyman...and it saddened me and angered me so much I was surprised I took it so personally. Who was Bin Laden to me? I was not in New York when the towers came person in my family was personally affected by that trajedy...but I was standing in the living room of a Bahraini family's home at the time as it unfolded on the large screen TV. The room grew quiet as we took in the sheer scale of the horror that was playing out like the latest Hollywood action film before our eyes. As tears started to fall and splash on my cheeks I heard a sound that seemed to not belong in that room...a sound that offended and assaulted my ears...and then my eyes as I turned to make sense of it. That family was cheering and clapping and whistling and grinning from ear to ear. Rejoicing at death!!! As those buildings burned and bodies plummeted I heard whoops and shouts of joy.

I could not make sense of it. Death is here. Death is walking among us. Death has come calling and you REJOICE!!! Death...the great equalizer. There is no rejoicing in death...even when it is your "enemy", your Boogeyman. Those Bahraini's rejoiced in the death of their fellow human beings...just as so many across the world rejoiced at the death of Bin Laden.

I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now. Why the cause for celebration? If he can die, if the Great Boogeyman of our time can die after being little more than a rumor, a superb player of the Cat and Mouse game, a vex on the lives of global travelers who want nothing more than to get from point A to point B without having to disrobe or be felt up in the process....the "focus" of pointless wars and even more pointless now he is dead. Great. What do we do now...once the cries of celebration are ended?

There is always room in this world for another such as he to spread terror..mayhem...destruction. Should we not stop the rejoicing and instead focus on what really matters. Why a man such as he was created in the first place...because even with this death...if we do not change the ways in which we run this we treat each we force our ideals on each other rather than find room for we quickly rush to shed blood in the name of some Higher Good...rather than stop and listen to an opinion that is not like our own....and allow that person to have it and express it without feeling anger that he dares think and believe differently than me.

To rejoice in death but to remain intolerant in life is the very foundation of what men like Bin Laden sprang from. If he believed in his cause...if he believed in his mission...if he believed he was fighting a Jihad just as he claimed...then there is nobody who is rejoicing at the death of Bin Laden more than... Bin Laden to speak. He got what he wanted...what he worked for...what he killed for. Our intolerance will ensure that other men like him are created...and Boogeyfied...and "martyred " in exactly the same fashion....but the question many more people will have to die before that point is reached? How many more Bin Ladens must we suffer through before we realize WE are the creators of our own Boogeymen?

As children we have no choice, no power, no where to turn when our Boogeymen place a hand on our bedroom door knobs and enter our lives...we must stand mute and powerless as our childhoods are stolen...ripped away while we yearn for a peaceful nights sleep. As children we do not create our own Boogeymen for they are quite happy to create themselves and terrorize without invitation. As adults the power to create men such as Bin Laden is the burden we share...each side of this global clash of cultures are people molding and shaping and giving life to the Boogeymen such as Bin Laden...and now that he is gone...the next one in line. We have that power...and oh how we love to use it.

Bin Laden is what...there are more like him...thanks to the human desire to focus on what makes us different than what makes us far...for many..death is our only commonality. What a shame.