28 July 2009

shoes that don't match

When I came back from exercising, I discovered that I was wearing two different shoes: one white, one gray. Only two or three people saw me from the time I left my room to the time I returned. I thought of that Miles line about how the root word of mortification means death as I blushed all alone. When I get this unfocused, is it any wonder I fear being a danger to others and myself?

They're not even the same shape. The laces are different. How exactly did I not notice?

At least this morning when I got up, I didn't lose control and just sob for five seconds. That was yesterday. How much longer, exactly, can I keep going on so little sleep without collapsing? I really don't want to find out.

21 July 2009

How I spent my summer vacation

That's a lie, since I work full time, but I was thinking about my plans for my day off and laughingly titling it after that elementary school cliche essay.

On my day off, I will
  • go to physical therapy
  • go to my local HUD office to see if I qualify for assistance with my rent under Title 8
  • go to the art museum because it's hosting some pre-Raphaelite goodness
  • go see a movie with the gift cards my parents gave me when they visited for my graduation

I seriously never thought this would be what my summer would be like once I had my degree . . .

Wanting to lose

Like many people, I am pretty desperately looking for a job. I'd like to get into teaching full time this year--though it's unlikely for a newly-minted MFA with no formal teaching experience (since it's hard to get the teaching experience without the master's)--so I've been living this last year thinking of experiences here as my last.

My last winter here with all the moronic drivers. My last months with the view out the store's huge picture windows. My last spring concert with the choir. My last near-death icy driving experience(s) on Highway XX. My last year in retail hell.

Now that it's looking increasingly unlikely that I'll get my desired job, I'm letting myself think about the other side.

Some things I wouldn't mind being here for:
  • another state fair free admission and a free meal for volunteering at my old church's booth!
  • another autumn leaves turning and falling and leaving skeletons behind
  • another year with the friends and mentors from my graduate program we've got work to do on the alumni group
  • another Christmas concert how I love that little cathedral

Maybe it's okay to think like that, to ignore the whole poverty issue and the looming personal financial crisis and think about nature and people and beauty and how I will lose them.

Meanwhile, I'm working as hard as I can to make sure I don't see these any of these things again, and that makes me a bit sad. I would leave it all in a heartbeat in exchange for a new job. Practicality can be heartless.

19 July 2009

The Joy of Retail: 7 memorable moments at my RetailEstablishment

I've worked full time at RetailEstablishment for the last 5 years. I've stayed with it because, frankly, I'm crippled and can't get any better paying, less crazy-making jobs. If I could type and file and lift and carry and such, I don't think I would have lasted this long, but since I can't (and since the government has said, "Screw you," about my disability), I had to stay with retail while getting more hurt and taking out huge loans to get a degree I could use to get a teaching job (in theory).

The following events actually happened at my RetailEstablishment:
  • A homeless man ate a customer's food while the customer was at the counter getting some water.
  • Someone pooped in an aisle on the second floor.
  • A pair of obviously used children's underwear was left at the information desk.
  • A man entered the store and began singing, swearing, and eventually screaming at the top of his very healthy lungs like a tornado siren for over a minute in the vestibule.
  • A man obviously not in right mind entered the store, threatened customers and employees, and eventually knocked over a huge, heavy display upstairs in rage. There was glass on the display. Luckily, no one was cut.
  • A man walked into the men's room, shed his clothes, and laid on the floor.
  • A man snuck into the handicapped stall in the ladies' room and peeped under the divider at a customer.
(This list does not include all of the screaming, swearing, threatening repeat offenders caught shoplifting or trying to hustle money from customers.)

I think every United States citizen should have to work a 2 year stint in retail, like the South Korean military or maybe more like the 2 years of service Mormons complete. If this enforced retail experience happened, I'd like to believe that the retail world would be a better place because customers would know how hellish they can make life for retail employees, and they would not want to make the employees' lives more miserable. In gratitude, retail employees would go even more out of their way to serve their customers pleasantly, efficiently, and happily. I believe no one should be allowed to be in management or corporate management without four solid years of this experience. I'm a dreamer, I know.

Norm Feuti is a genius. You should read his Pretending You Care: a Retail Handbook if any of the following apply:
  • You work(ed) retail and want to know it's just as crazy elsewhere.
  • You are considering working in retail, and you think it sounds like great fun.
  • You have ever shopped in a retail store where people work.
  • You will ever shop in a retail store where people work.
  • You've been treated "badly" by a retail employee and want to know what could lead them to do that to you.
  • You are in management, and you don't hate your employees and you actually want to make their jobs easier and their lives better, so they can be more efficient and productive and better at their jobs.

The book is hilarious. I hurt myself laughing. More than once. Not only is it full of well-organized lists (such as the kinds of employees you'll work with and the kinds of customers you'll interact with), it's also full of Feuti's syndicated comic strip "Retail." It's spot on. I'd say about 85% of this book is common to every retail establishment in the U.S. I'm glad the other 15% doesn't apply to my store. Who wouldn't want a glamorous life in retail? (For the record, we don't have a rooftop place like Cooper. Sigh.)

Anyone have any of your own stories to share?

14 July 2009

Three Books I Read Recently, Part I

The best comparison I can come up with for Agents of Light and Darkness by Simon R. Green is that it feels like a quick and dirty version of one of the Dresden files by Jim Butcher. This book turned out to be a great one to read while basking in the sun. (And wondering why boys of all ages must throw themselves into the pool at the angle most likely to splash water on my books. I was ready for them this time. Ha ha ha.)

I finally tackled Brandon Sanderson's Elantris, and I don't regret it (though I am a little irritated at my lack of self-control because this was supposed to be a book I could only read while exercising, and that structure didn't last past the first day). It made me think of the novella "Borders of Infinity" by Lois McMaster Bujold. I think the main similarity was the idea of an outsider breaking into a closed community and determinedly forcing hope on them, forcing them to live again, to live up to their potentials, to not give up and in. As I got closer to the ending, I wasn't sure how Sanderson was going to pull off a satisfactory ending that didn't turn at least one of the characters into a false-construct-representing-something-bigger (which isn't a problem in itself, but is a problem when the three main characters have been set up so humanly along the way). Suffice it to say that he pulls it off. And how. This book really is a beautiful standalone gem by a smart, witty, and well-read author.

I needed something light, funny, and fast to read, so I turned to Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time by Lisa Yee, a book I've been wanting to read since it came out back in 2005. Stanford was a nobody through most of elementary school until he discovered his talent at basketball; now all his friends play basketball, and the thing he's looking forward to most for the summer is a pricey basketball camp sponsored by his favorite NBA player. Unfortunately, he flunks sixth-grade English, and he has to go to summer school instead of camp. He's pretty sure his life is over.

On the dedication page for this book, the author said, "At age 11, my daughter, Kate, was convinced that all boys were stupid and smelly and had no redeeming qualities. I wrote this book to show her the other side of the story." There are some hilarious gross-out guy moments, but the things that made me laugh most were usually the ones Stanford referred to in passing, such as when I think he compared the unsettled feelings he has for the girl he's crushing on to the sick feeling he got when he and a friend of his ate a bunch of frozen fish sticks and then drank a lot of hot chocolate to see if the fish sticks would cook in their stomachs. There are a lot of dumb and funny moments like that, and they're essential to balance out the heavier elements.

Along with tragicomic plot strains like Stanford trying to hide the fact that he's being tutored by a geeky prodigy whose new best friend Emily just might be the first great love of Stanford's life, Stanford has to deal with a lot of family trouble. His grandmother's increasing senility results in her being moved to an assisted-living facility called Vacation Village. His mother is lonely, even after her mother-in-law moves out and she can return full-time to the job she loves. His dad is up for a promotion at work which is demanding more of his time, energy, and attention, so all he seems to have to spare for Stanford is anger and disappointment about his grades.

Stanford might be able to find some comfort in his friends except that he's busy lying to them so they don't find out that he flunked and has to go to summer school. Plus, they're thirteen-year-old boys. His friends, for the record, are a total hoot.

Of course, with that set-up, you pretty much know what's going to happen, but you don't really care when the story is told in such an entertaining way. Nothing really feels forced, so I guess the reason the story seems a bit like a comic fantasy to me is because real life is definitely not supplying me with the same kinds of happy endings Stanford gets, but I'm not holding it against him. Things were going pretty well for me, all things considered, when I was 13. We should enjoy it while we can, right, Stanford? (Even the basketball games on donkey-back.)

My favorite line in the book takes place more than halfway through when Stanford is reading a book voluntarily for the first time (The Outsiders by Hinton, given to him by a librarian). "This book is exactly like my life, except that I am not in a gang and I don't get in a lot of fights and my parents aren't dead." Right on, Sanford. That's reading in a nutshell.

07 July 2009

The Grudge: Part XVIII

I don't like to hold grudges, but apparently my body does. My physical therapist tells me there's no reason why I should still be having this much trouble with my plantar fasciitis.

"You're young!" he says as he tries the last thing he can think of before sending me to consult with a surgeon.

"It's great to be young!" I tell him as he "aggressively" treats my stubbornly stiff tendons. It's a good thing that I'm not involved in espionage because I wouldn't handle torture well.

"I'd hesitate a lot to send you to a surgeon," he tells me, "because you obviously don't heal very well."

This is true.

I imagine my powers of anti-healing have a lot to do with over six years of increasing sleeplessness caused by my friendly battle with chronic pain. My body is becoming more stiff and brittle, and it simply can't repair itself, causing me to consistently add to my growing collection of injuries. I would rather be collecting those last five state quarters I don't have.

After not seeing the physical therapist for several months due to financial issues, I returned in pretty much the same condition he'd last seen me in, which baffled him. "I mean, you're using the shoe inserts and stretching it all night with the brace and even doing the strengthening exercises. There's no reason why it should still be like this."

"Remember, with me, nothing can be easy!" I say, and he laughs.

When he told me he wanted to try really aggressive treatment for four weeks, he said apologetically, "You're not going to like coming here." We've been discussing other things he's said that we could use for our marketing materials for this treatment, such as, "This will hurt a lot" and "You're pretty much just coming here for pain."

I've never really been one for holding grudges. My mom was a master at it and my sister is, as well. I decided to take after my father. He doesn't really hold grudges because it's too easy to get distracted. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I can't maintain the energy it takes to remember being mad at someone for more than a few minutes at a time. My forgetfulness used to drive my sister crazy. She couldn't understand how I could forget things so easily. I couldn't understand how she could hold onto them for so long.

With only one mostly-working arm (and one fully-unreliable arm), I thought I definitely didn't have what it took to hold onto things, but apparently my body remembers. I am one stubborn, contradictory, ornery being.

Now, off to the next overnight shift. When that's done, I'm heading to the PT place at 6:50am, so he can tape my foot up again. He's coming in early. Poor guy deserves combat pay; he's going to hurt his fingers trying to defeat my grudge one of these days.