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Thursday, May 28, 2015

24: Maintenance Wishes and Shopping Cart Dreams

I am so happy that I got through year 23.  Remembering how hectic that year was in general, I got exhausted just typing out everything that had happened!  It was ridiculous just how life kept twisting and turning that year.  I didn't even know what the heck was happening half the time.

At least in comparison to year 23, twenty-four was a nice journey into stability. 

Yeah, by twenty-four, I had finally settled into more of a routine.  I stopped moving around from place to place, I landed a part-time job (which would turn into a full-time job), and things were finally beginning to calm down. 

But things were not exactly far from perfection.  As happy as I was that I had landed a part-time job, it wasn't exactly the type of job that one would deem glamourous or even fun.  And my personal tale from the 24th year of my life comes from some of the worst moments from that particular job.

The lesson here is...everybody has a job that they consider to be one of the worst ones they've ever had...but we all have to have that experience to appreciate any future opportunities that may come our way.

Before we get into what the worst job that I've ever had was and what I took away from it, let us look at what was happening in the world of pop culture during my 24th birthday week.

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/2005
"Hollaback Girl" - GWEN STEFANI

That song is bananas!  B-A-NANANANANANA-S!  Seriously, I was a little concerned about Gwen Stefani when she decided to take time away from No Doubt (one of my favourite bands from high school) and release her own solo album.  I have to say, the album was a big hit and was filled with lots of great songs.  But, this song isn't my favourite from that album.  I prefer "Cool" myself.


Yeah, watching Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez get into verbal and physical sparring matches looked really good on paper.  Just a shame this film ended up being one bland motion picture that some might call a "chick flick".

"American Idol"

Surprise, surprise.  American Idol was the top show once more.  For what it was worth though, season four was considered one of the better seasons, and Bo Bice came so close to winning the whole competition.  Unfortunately for him, a gal by the name of Carrie Underwood took home the crown of American Idol that year.  Wonder whatever became of her anyway?

You know, it's just dawned on me that I turned 24 years old TEN YEARS AGO.  That's quite sobering, knowing that I've also been at my current workplace for a total of ten years.  And the fact that I've also been living at my current residence for ten years.

I guess I wasn't kidding when I said that 24 was the age where I became addicted to stability, huh?

One thing that I can say about my current job is that is has been anything but stable - not that this is a bad thing, mind you.  Having all the experience in all the departments that I've been in will likely open up a whole lot of doors at other places.  At least, that's what I keep telling myself, anyway.

But seriously, I worked in hardware, sporting goods, electronics, dairy, frozen, dry grocery, meats, produce, and the garden centre area.  That's a lot of stuff to add onto a resume, and certainly having all that experience in all those departments can only be an asset to a lot of people.

However, there is one department that I did not list.  And it is a job that I would rather never do ever again.  And it happens to be one of the very first jobs that I ever worked at my current workplace.

Have any of you ever heard of a "store standards associate"?  Well, essentially, what a store standards associate does are jobs that are designed to keep the store's standards high and to make sure that customers are given the best shopping experience ever.

The duties of a store standards associate are plentiful.  They have to empty out the garbage cans, clean up the bathrooms, repair broken things around the store, gather up the shopping carts in the parking lot, sweep the floors, organize the fixture rooms, bring shopping bags to each cash register, load up heavy items into people's vehicles after they paid for them, etc, etc, etc.

If that sounds like a lot of work - it was.  And I hated every single minute of it.

Though, surprisingly enough, it wasn't because of the work itself.  I grew up in a blue collar family where hard work was a necessity.  There was never any time to slack off because there was always something to do, and that blue collar work ethic has rubbed off on me from my parents in a big way to the point that I get easily irked when people do not put in their fair share of the work.

If there were shopping carts that needed to be collected, I went out and got every single one out there, whether it was sunny, cloudy, raining, snowing, or hailing.

(The only time I refused to get carts was during thunderstorms with lots of lightning.  Metal carts in a lightning storm?  Bad idea.)

I also didn't mind loading things into people's vehicles either.  Most of the time, the customers were very helpful and appreciative of the help I gave them, and in most cases, the cars or trucks that they had come in with were big enough to load the items that they bought.  But I'll be the first to admit that I was cursing on days in which I had to try and cram a barbecue in a Sunfire, a patio set in a Mitsubishi, and a television set into a Volkswagen Beetle.

(Keeping in mind that in 2005, there weren't too many flat screen televisions...if any at all.)

And, you know what?  The bathrooms were not even that bad.  Granted, cleaning bathrooms is not exactly my idea of fun.  Actually, I don't think that they would be ANYONE'S idea of fun.  I still remember the time that a little kid threw up in the washroom, and there were three of us on duty at the time.  The other two were wimps and refused to clean it up, but I had a stomach of steel and cleaned the whole mess up myself. 

(Truth be told, the only thing that I would have a hard time cleaning up is blood.  I have never been able to stomach the sight of my own blood, let alone anybody else's.  I guess that's one reason why I never went to medical school.)

No, what frustrated me about working store standards was the fact that when it came down to some people that I worked with, I felt like I was taken advantage of.  A lot.

Fortunately, I feel free enough to talk about those experiences, as A) enough time has passed, and B) all the people who were the worst with me are no longer employed at the place I work at.  So, I consider this to be my opportunity to be a real open book about my store standards experience.

You see, I get that when it comes down to maintaining the standards of the store, you had to do a lot of work to make it happen.  Basically, every single time something spilled on the floor, I had to be there with mop and bucket to clean it up.  And it was fine if the spill was worth cleaning.  Like, if someone spilled a whole case of V8 all over the floor, that would be a substantial spill to clean up.  If someone accidentally spilled a container of motor oil all over a cash register, you can bet that it will take a couple of hours to clean up (and it did - believe me, I know).

But if you have a spilled cup of coffee - and you have seven people standing around it, waiting for a store standards associate to clean it up.  I'm sorry, but go and grab a paper towel and blot it yourself!  I maintain that store standards associates are some of the busiest employees in the whole store!  Seriously, if people are able to, help them out!  They'd probably be more receptive to you if you tried your best to meet them halfway.  Trust me.  I know.

And then there's the idea that you have to work together as a team to ensure that everything runs smoothly.  All of us store standards associates had to work as a team in order to make sure that carts were stocked, customers were served in a decent amount of time, and that the store was kept clean.  And all it took was one person not to do their job and everything would fall apart.

One perfect example of this took place the day before Canada Day, 2005.  I was working the 4:30-10:00 shift, and it was scorching hot outside.  Believe it or not, temperatures in Ontario in late June can get as high as 32 Celsius with humidity.  And I found out that the person who was supposed to be with me that day called in sick.  So, I had to go outside in the scorching hot weather to collect shopping carts and load heavy items into people's cars.  Because I was the only one on duty, it made getting a break near impossible as nobody else in the store could do the job.  So by the time I had gotten my lunch period, it was almost seven and I was about ready to pass out from dehydration.  My first destination was to the water fountain and on my way there, you'll never guess who I saw.

Not only did I see the guy who called in sick shopping in the store - but he had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to take any of his shifts!

I tell you, if I had the energy, I probably would have decked him right in the middle of the store.  Yes, I would have likely gotten fired.  But I told myself that it would have been so worth it. 

Ultimately, I decided against it.  But I will say this.  I never really spoke to him after that.  He ended up quitting the job a month later, and I have to say - I was almost relieved.  And after slugging it out for thirteen months (which included two Christmases), I asked the store manager if I could move to a different department because I was getting frustrated with the work.  I felt as though I had more than proven my work ethic and that I would like to challenge myself a little more at the job.  To my surprise, the store manager agreed, and by January 2006, I had been moved to the grocery department!

So, what did I learn from store standards?  I learned that I was a lot more physically strong than I thought I was.  I learned that I have the stomach to clean almost anything.  I learned that when people screw me over, I tend to get extremely ticked off, but luckily I have the self-control to stifle my urges.  But most importantly, I learned that sometimes hard work pays off.

Next entry, we talk about my 25th year.  Did I mention that I went to Hogwarts that year?  Believe me!  It's true.  Kinda.

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