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Thursday, May 02, 2013

Finding Gratitude in a Thankless Job

Sometimes, a Thursday Diary entry will just pop up out of nowhere. In this case, a temporary transplant to a different department inspired this post. Don't worry's going to be “mostly” positive.

May 2, 2013

Can I just say that my shift at work yesterday was one of those shifts that left me absolutely confused? I felt as though I was on an episode of Doctor Who, or an extra in that lame movie “Hot Tub Time Machine”, and had warped back in time exactly eight years ago, to May 2005.

Now, May 2005 was one of those months in which my life was not exactly where I wanted it to be. I was just about to turn 24 years old, I was probably at what was my heaviest weight ever, and I had been at my current workplace for a grand total of seven months.

In short, I was a retail newbie.

Now, here's the deal. I never actually worked inside the store when I started my job at my current place of employment. For the first year or so, I was sort of the player behind the scenes, so to speak.

The perks were that I got to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors (sort of similar to the job that I currently hold), and that I got to stay in my own little world most of the time. Truth be told, it was sort of nice to be away from all the hubbub of the business of the store every now and then.

But there were a ton of cons in addition to the pros.

I'm talking about the thirteen months that I worked as a store standards associate. Thirteen months that began with a Christmas season, and ended with a Christmas season. And, let me tell you, it was by far one of the worst positions that I have ever worked!

I began that job in December 2004, two weeks before Christmas. And, I won't sugarcoat it, it probably would not have been my first choice at a job.

Now, some of you are wondering “what exactly does a store standards associate do?”

Well, if you are asking that question, allow me to enlighten you.

A store standards associate...

  • Goes out into the parking lot to bring in all of the shopping carts that have been either left behind in shopping cart corrals, or scattered all over the lot...regardless of whether it is sunny, rainy, windy, snowy, hot, cold, or lukewarm. I'm pretty sure that the workplace draws the line at collecting carts in a hurricane, though. That would be unsafe.

  • Inspects the washrooms on a semi-regular basis each day to make sure that they are at their height of cleanliness. Easily the WORST part of the job.

  • Responds with a mop and bucket whenever they hear a page for a clean-up. But, just to get this out of the way, a clean-up means that you have spilled an entire case of juice, or spilled a bottle of motor oil at the cash register, or heaven forbid, cleaning up vomit or worse. A clean-up does NOT include a splash of Tim Horton's coffee that could easily be cleaned up with a single piece of paper towel.

  • Having to help customers load heavy, awkward, and expensive purchases into their cars, trucks, vans, or trailers. These include but are not limited to curio cabinets, futons, flat screen television sets, gazebos, patio sets, mattresses, pool tables, treadmills, trampolines, barbecues, etc...

So, as you can see, store standards is not one of those jobs where you can take the time to sit back and smell the roses. You worked, and you worked damn hard.

Or, at least that was the idea.

You see, part of the main frustration with the store standards position was not so much the work that was associated with it. Sure, the work was tiring and monotonous, but the way I looked at it, it was a job, and I had the belief that if I gave it my all, people would eventually take notice. And, the work itself was nothing that I couldn't handle.

Some of my co-workers on the other hand...well...let's put it this way. Their general apathy towards the whole job made me want to lie down in the middle of the parking lot, set the cart pusher to radio control, and arrange it so that it would run over me.

(Well, okay, it never got THAT bad. That was merely a gross exaggeration on my part.)

Just to get this out of the way (and just to prove to you that my disdain for store standards was somewhat justifiable), I will tell you that there was one incident in which I had stayed out for nearly four hours on a day where the mercury was right around 35 Celsius, and I was almost passing out from dehydration (which admittedly was my own fault for not drinking enough water prior to my shift beginning). And, when I came in, the store standards guy who was supposed to be working with me (who had called in sick the last few days) not only was found shopping inside the store, but had the audacity to send someone else to ask me if I would take his extra shifts for him!!!

CONFESSION: I'll be the first one to admit that had I not been feeling so poorly at the time, I likely would have done something to him that would have gotten me fired. Thankfully, it turned out to be a one time thing, as I completely ignored him after that incident.

And, can I just say that sometimes, those carry-outs that I had to partake in were more frustrating then they really should have been, depending on the circumstances behind them?

Sure, most of them were easy-peasy, and they slid right into the vehicles with little to no difficulty whatsoever. But, let me ask you this. Have you ever tried to squeeze a barbecue inside the back of a Pontiac Sunfire? It can't be done unless you remove it from the box! And, that's frustrating.

Or, have you ever tried to load up a package that is 50 x 45, and the space that you have to work with is significantly less than that? It can't be done unless there is a rope handy to tie it to the roof, or use the rope to tie down the trunk.

Or, have you ever tried to cram an entire patio set inside a Mitsubishi? It can't be done. Ever. Even if you take it out of the box, disassemble all of the pieces that make up the table, chairs, and umbrella, and stuff the bits and pieces inside the car. You can't do it. Take it from someone who knows.

Let's put it this way. When I got the chance to move into the food department in January 2006, I literally jumped at the chance to move on from that job. And, I thought that once I had left that position, there would be no way that I would ever go back...

...well, that is until yesterday when staffing issues forced me to fill in for a day.

But, you know, a job is a job, no matter what it is. It may not have been my ideal work position, but I got it done without “much” complaining.

Hey, we're only human, right?

If anything though, going back to the department I started in (and didn't have the most positive memories of, honestly speaking) was a wake-up call of sorts. It kind of reminded me how far I have come over the last few years, and how much I have grown since then. I'm not the same person I was eight years ago. At the same time, going back to how it used to be has taught me that I should never forget where I came from. I suppose for some people, they would have pitched a fit over having to go back to the one place they hated the most...and, honestly, five years ago I would have likely been one of them.

To be completely honest, I think everyone in the world should, at some point in their lives have to go back to the one job that they hated the most, and work at least one shift in that job, just so people can have more appreciation for the work that they do now.  I know that after working store standards for a day, I value my current position in the store a lot more than I used to...

...well, my current position for about two weeks, anyway.  

I'm not going to lie to you, I wasn't the most thrilled person last night...but it would have made me look even worse had I refused. And, sometimes it takes that perspective to realize that maybe gathering shopping carts every once in a while isn't as bad as it is made out to be.

Though, let's make it clear, I don't want to do it again. :D

Again, we're only human, right?

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