Archive | June, 2011


11 Jun

First of all, I want you to know that “Faker” is an incredible modern dance/performance piece by my favorite contemporary choreographer, Morgan Thorson.  This story isn’t nearly as cool as her piece.  You should prepare yourself for the letdown (and you should also check out Thorson’s amazing work).

I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve worked a lot of shitty jobs.  A. LOT.  Short of slaughterhousing and factory work, I have accumulated a pretty impressive roster of terrible work experiences.  Administrative robot for Meryl-Streep-as-Anna-Wintour?  Check.  Waitress?  Check.  Barista?  Check.  Chief executive of cleaning (what I really hope was) children’s poop off of the bathroom walls?  Check.  “Something’s missing” you might be thinking to yourself.  You’re correct.  I haven’t yet mentioned retail.

One summer, I decided that since I had a light teaching schedule at the dance studio and few administrative responsibilities, I should get a part-time job to make money beyond my wildest dreams.  Attracted as I am to bad ideas and general destruction of the world around me, I naturally applied at the newly opened Old Navy in town.  I’m a tremendous phony, so the interview was a breeze.  Did you know that I am passionate about folding t-shirts?  That I am very interested in learning more about selling tankinis to coeds?  Okay, well, you can’t see my smiley face right now (except for Megan, who I know is picturing exactly how I look when I’m pro-lying), but rest assured, you’d hire me.  I’m great at getting the job but not so good at navigating the part where I quit or get fired several months later when it becomes clear to all parties that “this is not a good fit.”

Anyway, a couple of months in to my exciting career in retail, it started to feel like my brain was melting when I was at work.  One day, three things happened that caused the melted material upstairs to harden and snap, setting into motion a series of events in my imagination and culminating in my quitting and stealing my name tag (which is now a magnet on my refrigerator currently holding up an anti-planned parenthood propaganda pamphlet which Nate brought me as a present – I collect them.  More on this later, perhaps).

Thing one:  I was assigned to “snag O.N.C.s”.  Obviously, this is terrible.  In my experience, in a retail environment, anything denoted by an acronym is bad news.  “O.N.C.s” stand for “Old Navy Cards” and that day, my assigned task was to stand directly in the path of customers as they entered the store and ask them if they would like to sign up for the exclusive, exciting and infinitely rewarding Old Navy Credit Card.  Also?  I was covered in 30 stickers proclaiming the glamour of this opportunity (the manager gathered employees and invited them to “sticker me” – I was kind-of thinking I was being initiated into some kind of involuntary sorority – having only participated in the Philosophy Honors Fraternity in college, I obviously had no prior experience to work with here – we just mostly ate pie and stroked our beards.  That is no kind of euphemism).  After my bosses and coworkers majorly freaked me out and crossed boundaries both personal and societal, I was stationed at my post.

Apart from the “stickering” this probably doesn’t sound so bad.  But the thing is (there is always a thing), I was tasked with asking each customer three times if they would like a shitty credit card.  Let it be known that “no” does not mean “no” at Old Navy.  From what I could gather, according to Old Navy, a customer’s “no” was their way of indicating that they didn’t understand the truly remarkable offer that was before them – to clarify, my job was to reiterate the perks of the Old Navy card in a new and somehow more enticing way – making me sound like I was just dense, friendly, and in love with the sound of my own voice.  Obviously, this was pretty challenging work because the Old Navy credit card is a credit card and not anything anyone wants to get involved with.  This bullshit and my role in advancing it made me pretty upset, but nowhere near as upset as I felt when I saw how often it worked.  I was feeling pretty blue about the general state of the world.  Making generalizations about the universe from the vantage point of Old Navy is not recommended.

These blues were in no way helped by the fact that I worked the closing shift the night before and had a very disheartening experience during the hour after the store is closed to customers, but the employees are still mandatorily working.  Once all of the necessary tasks had been completed, each employee was given a “job” to do for the duration of her/his shift.  Mine, I kid you not, was to “count how many pink things there are in the store.”  So you can see why I was not feeling alive with the pulse of human being-ness.  I just kept wondering why we couldn’t just go home once all of the work was done.  This?  Right here?  Is why I have a terribly tough time working for really anyone, but especially for corporations.  My brain is just not able to get on board with counting the number of pink things, and will find other ways to occupy itself and it’s vessel….. Uh oh….

This brings us to part three.  A plot began to occur to me.  I thought about how all I really wanted to do was get the hell out of Old Navy at any given time.  This led me to thinking about what kinds of things I could do that would allow me to leave

  • (a) immediately
  • (b) without having to explain anything to anyone
  • (c) with my supervisor’s blessing
  • (d) with a flourish

Let me say here and now, that if I ever “pass out” somewhere that you happen to be, I probably faked it (with the notable exceptions of that time I danced to “Livin on a Prayer” at that outdoor wedding when it was 104 degrees and the time I blacked out at Hancock Fabrics when I was pregnant – those times were real).  Passing out seems like the easiest way to get out of a jam.  See?  This is why I’m no good at stuff, because I really believe that sentence to be true.

I conducted a survey of the various locations in Old Navy and determined that the t-shirt station in “denim” was the optimal place to “fass out” (just replace the first letter with an “f” and it’s the fake version of that thing).  I practiced fassing out in my apartment the night before.  Shout out here to Sam Williams, who taught me how to fall down believably but without hurting myself for my 7th grade dance performance to Thriller.  The arts are vitally important.  Anyway, I decided that I would move my walkie-talkie to the other pocket because I didn’t want to break it.  I’m a faker, but I’m not cavalier.  I thought I’d pull a stack of t-shirts down with me (see above letter d – flourish) and then remain still on the floor covered in the tee shirts until someone found me.

It became the thing I did at work.  Well, one of the things.  I would also sit and eat a granola bar in the bathroom from time to time.  I would decide “this is the moment!”  I’d make my way over to the t-shirt station, I’d nonchalantly move my “walkie” (ugh) to the other pocket.  I’d do a quick check to make sure someone would see me gracefully (yet believably) swoon to the floor.  I’d causally put my arm around a stack of shirts.  My heart would race…

And then I’d walk away.  I’d finish my shift.  I’d get in my car.  I’d go home.

I can’t say why I never did it.  It certainly sounds like something I’d do.  I ended up quitting a week or so after I started the fass out fantasy when my supervisor told me I couldn’t have the night of my best friend’s rehearsal dinner off.  Because my contribution to the important work at Old Navy was so vital.  I stole my name tag, and have since brought it with me on several shopping trips to Old Navy, thinking that I might like to infiltrate the ranks of that ‘el ole’ (Corky Sinclair?  No?) once more.  I never use it though…

I guess more than anything, I just like the possibility.