Yeah. Right. That joke aside, 2008 and 2009 were so tough that everyone has been feeling the sting. Each year the wallet gets a little tighter, and the job market shrinks. Everyone is cutting back. Hell, I only go to Starbucks twice a day now, just to save a little extra cash. Which brings me to the purpose of this blog. Although I attended the college of my dreams, a small elite school with a five-figure price tag that has been described as "quietly prestigious" by the Princeton Review, my degree, a BA in English, was....... perhaps not the most astute decision I've ever made. The day after graduation, I was sitting back at home, in Ohio, with nothing to do, twiddling my thumbs and thinking about jobs. Ick. My mother insisted I get a job as soon as possible, so I applied for any and everything. Non-profits, retail stores, Dick's Sporting Goods; I tried everything I thought I was qualified for. It took two months before anyone would take a chance on this admittedly spoiled, somewhat pretentious, fabulously dressed English major from a tiny quaker college no one has ever heard of (Haverwhat?) That destination, which turned out to be a nearly two-year landing, was a cosmetics company that I will, from now on, refer to as, "Divine Cosmetics." As a manager, you ask? Some kind of copywriter, perhaps? Oh, maybe a product maker? No. I was going to be an apron-wearing, demo- doing, service administering seller of skin care, hair care, bath products and shower gels. Sales associate. Just above minimum wage. Not that there was anything wrong with this, but I had always thought this was the type of job to have while in school, not after graduating. Why else pay $50,000 a year for a degree from a school no one has even heard of?
It's true: I'm cute, bubbly, energetic, and enthusiastic. As I told a dear friend when choosing between this job and a more lucrative position with a non-profit (only slightly, btw), I admitted, "I don't like canvassing. I like skin-care products." The job was a perfect fit, and turned out to be an amazing roller-coaster ride of experiences, mostly good, a few not so, but all memorable. Working in customer service is a study in humanity. I am continuously shocked by the experiences I've had in this customer service position, both small and large, because each one says something about who we are as a species, as a culture, as a country. Fascinating! But more than the intellectual tidbits, which will show up from time to time, I remember with great affection the moments when customers were on their way out the door, completely unaware of the absurdity of their request, or behavior, or fashion, and waiting patiently for them to leave the view of the store so my coworkers and I could laugh hysterically at this wonderful thing called life. I learned to sell. I learned compassion (eczema sucks!). I learned how to use a cash register and re-learned basic elementary math skills. The ins and outs of essential oils. But most of all, I learned how to keep a poker face when I wanted to laugh so hard that I could have clawed my insides out, or slap someone across the face. I deserve an Oscar. Move over Streep. And I learned how to share these moments, these insights with my friends and coworkers with one flicker of the eyes, one tap of the finger, one nod, one frantic gesture. This blog begins the retelling, my chronicling, of just how absurd, how crazy, how..... interesting life is, from the perspective of the person behind the counter. I'll leave you with this tidbit, but please return, and happy reading!
It was a group interview. I stood in front of the bath bombs, the two other interviewees were next to me, slightly spaced out, so that the store was filled with our presence. The question was, "If you were a drink, what kind would you be?"
Girl One: "Coffee. I love coffee."
Girl Two: "Ummmmmm, I'm thinking a cosmo."
Interviewer: "Interesting choice. Why?"
Girl Two: "I really love pink."
Interviewer: "But a cosmo is red."
Girl Two: "Hmmmmm..."
Interviewer: "And you?"
Me, mostly thinking with my stomach: "A fruit smoothy, from the Tropical Cafe across the street. I'm smooth, creamy, and delicious!"