For seven months, I’ve been proud to pull on that red vest and talk to customers.
Working at the store has been interesting, every shift, every day.
Yes, even when I spilled paint on my favorite pair of work shoes.
Here’s the most important of what I’ve learned since October, when I started as a part-time cashier on the front end, and then moved full-time to the paint department four months later.
•Customers can make your day. A smile at the cash register always made me happy, whether it be for solving a problem with a price that somehow didn’t ring up right or for one of my product-related puns I liked to register. A chuckle and comment about that would be followed with You can see me four times a week at register 11. In paint, the smiles come from a customer agreeing with my advice on a color match in the chip section. Yes, what do you think goes with … is a challenge I’ve come to appreciate.
•Customers can spoil the moment. It’s only business, I know. But rude is rude. And to be yelled at with the F-bomb when you’re trying to locate a product is, well, uncalled for in any location. Worst moment, though: I’m on the top step of our very tall ladder, pulling down a four-can carton of water seal from the top stock. The heavy carton is in my arms, over air space, when a customer rams the bottom of the ladder with his shopping cart and shock waves travel up the steel. Now, the store has fantastic ladders. Once you lock those babies down bu stepping firmly on the bottom step, they’re as steady as they come. Nevertheless, as the collision shock wave wave travels up, ny legs wobble, my arms quake, my heart races, Whoa! escapes my lips. Fortunately, I steady all of the above, I secure the carton against my body and rail per regulations, and safely back down the ladder to put the four cans of water seal in their rightful place for another customer to purchase. Because this guy didn’t stop, or even look up.
•I can do more than I imagined. The 2013 layoff after 30 years at the big daily hit me hard in many ways. Shook me up as I freelanced in the writing business and searched for full-time gigs in my field and then took a job in, gulp, retail. And then this 57-year-old guy learned new tricks like opening shifts at 6 a.m. after closing shifts at 10 p.m. and turned 58 with a smile.
•Good, honest work feels rewarding. Physically demanding to the core, yes. But I sure have been sleeping now well.
•Retail draws interesting people. I respect and admire many of my colleagues. Great talks have been many.
If this sounds like a so-long story to you, you’re good.
I’m winding down my time at the store.
Which means, of course, that I’m leaving you with a cliffhanger.
What’s the best job you’ve ever had? What’s the hardest job you’ve ever had? What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had? And why to all three, of course.