Sunday, November 18, 2007
Non-Progress Report #1

The bad thing about working in retail as a cashier is that I have to talk to everyone who comes in. Everyone. The best thing about working in retail is a cashier is that, hey, I get to talk to everyone! And I do get to meet some interesting people while I'm standing behind the counter. In no particular order:

Yesterday, the first person I encountered after clocking in was a small woman, who clearly lived in a somewhat different reality than most of the rest of us, pleading with me to help her find a copy of that day's Oregonian. She needed to read the comics. She was getting very anxious about it, almost teary-eyed. She said something about someone's baby being born the day after her birthday. I helped her look for the newspaper, but it was already 3PM and we'd long since sold out. Later that day she returned to buy some children's books (is it just me, or are kids' books outrageously over-priced?), except this time she was wearing a strawberry-blonde wig and a pink hat.

The day before that, a man came to the counter with a couple of bargain-priced books of fairy tales and travel guides to the Philippines. The fairy tales, he said, were for his grandchildren. The travel guides, it turned out during the course of conversation, were for his upcoming trip to meet what I can only fairly call his mail-order bride. He lived in the Alaskan interior, had been single for 25 years, and was now so hungry for companionship that he was importing a twenty-ish Filipina. In spite of all that, he seemed like a nice enough guy, and I kind of hoped it would turn out okay for him. But these things seem to generally go badly.

There's a small, round man who comes in sometimes and immediately launches into a rather autistic account of every bookstore he's ever been to, including dates and what he bought. He particularly loves to recount his trip to London where he went to the Fnorders there, even though he was from Salem, born there in 1941, and had never been to Fnorders in Portland. And he also went to Blackwells Books three blocks away, but at the Fnorders he had orange juice. At least, I think that's what he said. I'll probably get to hear it again before I'm done. The cool thing is, every time he comes in is the first time he's ever been to the Portland Fnorders.

And a few days ago I was checking out a very pleasant man when he asked to see a DVD boxed set of I Love Lucy that was on a shelf behind me. It's an enormous set, something like 34 discs, containing the entire series. He looked it over, and told me that he was one of the twins who'd played Little Ricky as an infant, 1953-54. He showed me his driver's license with his name, and I looked it up online later, and yep, that was him.

Then there are the terse ones, but they don't bother me much. I haven't had a really rude or obnoxious customer yet, though I'm sure my time is coming. As long as they don't get in my face and scream at me that I'm a stupid cunt (which happened while I was working at Taco Bell years and years ago), I know I'll be able to cope with it. Mostly, though, I kind of like that part of the job -- it's exhausting to have to be so outgoing all day long when it's not my natural state, but I think it's good for me, too. If nothing else, I'm getting lots and lots of practice engaging strangers, which I've never been so good at. And yes, the people I talk to the most are the ones who, for whatever reason, aren't very socially skilled. For them, making conversation with a stranger is a big reach, much more so than for me, and I find that I have a lot of respect for them just for making the attempt. I certainly prefer them to the urbane types who do little more than grunt in my general direction -- it sort of makes me wonder how accurate our definitions of social ineptitude truly are.
5:59 PM ::
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