Monday, September 30, 2013

Customer Service, Part 12.

Proverbs 31:30,

I judge people.  I do, all the time.  I'm judgy. I am Judgy McJudgerson.  And I enjoy it.  I enjoy it a lot. Superiority is one of life's finer pleasures, and I have it down to an art.  One of my favorite kind of people to judge are women who try too hard to be pretty or young.  We have a regular customer in our store who looks about fifty, because she is about fifty, no matter how hard she tries to plump it away.

Everything about this poor woman is fake.  She is: Fakey-lady.  From the top of the brown roots in her fried orange hair to the impossibly high heels that force her to take tiny steps like she lived in the time of foot-binding, she has completely enslaved herself to a false standard of beauty.  She has puffy injected lips, big, obviously fake boobs, and her skin has been deep-tanned, probably every day, for at least twenty years.  She wears nothing but short shorts and skirts and low-cut shirts.

She doesn't just look silly, she talks silly, too.  Every time Fakey-lady comes to the register, she brings a whole pile of books, but then only buys one or two, taking about ten minutes every time to decide which ones,  asking the cashier's opinion of each one, whether we've read them or not.  (We don't like it when customers try to make us choose for them, we imagine that if they don't like our recommendations, they will come back and complain.)

So obviously, I think I know Fakey-lady.  I think I've got her pegged.  Especially after I rang her up myself, and she did her little decider-dance with me and made me have to call up two extra cashiers to get through the rest of the customers.  But after all the other customers were gone, and we finally decided on two books (and then left and came back for more money (and then added a tote bag to her purchase)), she managed, just like all the others, to surprise me.

See, even though her total was still under one hundred dollars, she handed me just over one hundred, and a random amount of change.  And I knew I was wrong about her.  Usually, when a customer hands me a random, over-large amount of cash, it's a guy, and he hands me the money and looks at his shoes and says: "Sorry, I'm an engineer."  Because when someone pays like that, what they are looking for is even change.  And indeed, Fakey-lady's change was exactly $30.30.

So I was happy that Fakey-lady is now Math-in-her-head-lady, but on the other hand, it makes me really sad.  Just because she's smart doesn't mean her life is perfect, or that she is immune to believing silly things like that tanning and lip injections will make her young and beautiful.  So now, what silly things am I doing and believing?



Monday, September 23, 2013

I want Winter!

I've lived in the South now for, oh man, I thought writing a blog wouldn't involve math, a long time now.  And I'm grateful for the people and opportunities I've enjoyed here.  The food is spectacular.  But there is one thing the South doesn't have that I miss with all my heart: Winter.

I'm sitting here, noodling around on FB, watching King of the Hill, looking for something to write about, when this episode, Snow Job, season two, episode 13, comes on and I am sitting here in the middle of September in ninety-degree heat just about to cry.  This is a fantastic episode, about how Texans in general, and the Propane business in particular, deals with a light snowfall.  The answer is, of course, not well.  And this has been my experience in Texas.  (I know less about propane and propane accessories.)  (I know nothing about propane and propane accessories.)

Southerners don't like snow.  They don't get enough to be used to it, or prepared for it.  So they tend to freak out.  But not me.  I grew up in the Great White North, and I love snow and cold.  My mind and body are right now craving the cool down of fall, but here in the South we won't cool down until November, and there won't be real cold until January.

Of course, if you say that to a Southerner, they will object.  They have a relative experience of cold, and they believe they know what it feels like.  They do not.  I still remember.  I remember it being so cold that wind would cut right through both of your coats.  So cold that no matter how high you turn up the heat, ice forms on the inside of the windows.  So cold, they cancel Sunday morning church.

Recently, the heat was so bad in my home state they pushed back the start of school.  You can't fill an un-airconditioned building designed to hold in heat with people in ninety-degree weather.  They are not prepared for heat up there.  But I like it better that way.  In the cold, you can stay inside, drink hot drinks, and put on another sweater.  But you can't take off enough clothes to beat the heat.

I would absolutely love, at some point in my life, to take one of those LOTR tours down in New Zealand.  I would like to go there while it is summer here, and winter there.  I could get myself a little shot of winter in the middle of the hell that is summer in the South.  Someday.          

Monday, September 16, 2013

I'm an introvert.

2 Corinthians 10:10

Introversion has recently become fashionable to talk about; to try to define.  For the first time, books about introversion are bestsellers, like Susan Cain's Quiet, and they are casting introversion as a positive, rather than the negative it has always been before.

So, if you want to know what introversion is, you can read all about it now.  I'm not going to bore you with the details, except to talk about one major aspect of introversion that I struggle with most.  I don't know what the official term for this is, Cain's still on my list for later reading, but I call it getting "peopled-out."  I have had enough of human company and I need to be by myself.

But I live in a small apartment with DH, and so sometimes, alone time can be hard to come by.  And I work in a job that requires me to talk to people all night long.  Customers, co-workers, managers, all night long, talk, talk, talk, and no privacy ever.

I get edgy and cranky.  I eat more than I should, and I try to use distractions to avoid the other people in my presence.  Right now I am writing and watching TV at the same time, hoping to cut down on interacting with DH, even though he is in the same room here.  He doesn't usually take it personally, he is introverted, too, but he gets all the alone time he needs while I'm at work.  His work schedule this semester only gives me two mornings a week on my own.  I love him, but I am at the end of my rope.

No, I do not need to work on this.  This is not a flaw, and it has nothing to do with how much I love people.  Sometimes, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first.  I treasure my alone time when I can get it, because the more time I spend alone, the better I feel around people.  The more time I have to myself, the better I love others.

I got started late on this, so it's short, but getting it done is making me feel better, like even though I'm feeling picked at from all directions, I can still accomplish this.  I can still reach out and speak my mind, even if only to gripe.  As long as you're on the other side of the screen today.  You might not want to get too much closer.    

Monday, September 9, 2013

I am fascinated.

Proverbs 10:4, Numbers 14:18, Colossians 3:23

I have written before about the moment I lost faith in mother, and the authority issues it gave me.  I have also written about my inability to clean my house, with which I still struggle.  These two things are connected, in my inability to grow up, which I joke about constantly, but which is becoming a serious problem.  The problem is really two-fold: I don't want to be anything like my mother, but I'm also wondering how in the world I am going to ever be like myself.

As I get older (I am over thirty, believe it or not) I have slowly warmed up to the idea that I have half my mother's genes, and I will never escape the fact that half of me is things I have in common with her.  How to reconcile myself to that, how to spin that positively, or at least neutrally, or control it so that it does not doom me to live the way she did is only one half of the problem.

But in order to survive living with her through my teen years, and get away from her the way I needed to, I did something to myself that I now need to figure out how to undo, so that I can be fully myself, whatever that means.  When my mother admitted that she had a modicum of control over her mental illness, I had two simultaneous reactions, and from that moment on, I have felt like a split person.  To my mother, I had not changed.  The dutiful daughter lived on, as a facade.  Inside, I became extremely motivated.  At school, I started working really hard, not taking good grades for granted.  I got into the best college I could, which was the impetus for my mother and I moving a thousand miles away from where we'd both grown up.  I was a duck: on the surface, steady and smooth; underwater, paddling furiously.  And it got me pretty far.

This is the other half of the problem: I'm still doing it.  At work, I am highly motivated, multitasking, large-and-in-charge, bitch-on-wheels, at least in my own mind.  But at home, I'm mostly sitting on my ass.  I love my couch and my television, and my internet full of cat pictures.  As long as I'm out in the world, I'm great.  Once I'm at my own front door, my motivation, my confidence, and my competence all hit an invisible wall, like an uninvited vampire who can't cross the threshold.

This is no way to run an adult life.  There are things that need doing, have needed doing for a long time. I want to take my work self, my school self, my motivated, engine running, going someplace self home with me so I can have a life outside just as rich and full and top-of-the-line as I try to make my job experience.  I believe that I can do this, and that keeping writing about it over and over again is helping.  Blogging, as irregularly and inconsistently as I do, is the best thing I have found to help myself.  Writing about stuff doesn't always have an immediate effect, but I believe that the more dots I put down, the more I'll be able to connect.

This is why my writing is cyclical, repetitive, and self-referential.  It may be boring to you, but it is fascinating to me, the way we are all fascinating to ourselves.  I just have a simultaneously public and anonymous platform on which to work it out.  Aren't you lucky?


Monday, September 2, 2013

I trash tracts.

1 Thessalonians 4:10-12, Romans 14:4, Galatians 2:6-10

Two nights ago, I was at work, taking a bathroom break, when I spotted some papers tucked behind the toilet paper dispenser.  I sighed.  Not again.

The night before, when cleaning up the children's section, I saw a little piece of paper sitting, trying to look unobtrusive, at the bottom of of a display.

I have seen them everywhere, little slips, little brochures, of all types.  In color, in black and white, with pictures, or just text, photocopied, mimeographed, or glossy mass-produced: tracts.  And I did the same thing with the little piece of paper, and papers behind the toilet paper dispenser, as I do with all the tracts I find.  I wadded them up and threw them away.  Into the trash, where they belong.

How hard-hearted of me, I know.  How unchristian of me, to sabotage the evangelism effort.  But I would argue that I am in the right, on a few counts at least:

1.) It is inconsiderate to dirty up someone else's space.  It is my job to keep the store neat.  Our merchandise is the only thing that should be on our shelves.  Eating areas and restrooms must be uncluttered and free of trash and extraneous materials, including stray papers, in the interest of comfort, cleanliness, and sanitation.  It does not matter what is printed on the paper, the paper must be cleaned up.  

2.) Christian books are already well-represented on our shelves.  Any of our customers, if interested, can pick them up and learn about Jesus at their leisure.  Proselytizing in a bookstore is just about as tone-deaf to the American values of freedom of speech and thought and belief as possible.  Obviously, proselytizing is your right under free speech, too, but it is one of the most annoying and cognitively dissonant excersizes of that right.  Proselytizing is invasive.  It supposes that what you have to say is more important, more vital, than respecting someone else's mental and spiritual boundaries.  In the West, where we theoretically have all the information we want at our fingertips, supposing that what you have to say is so superior is incredibly, well, presumptuous and disrespectful.  How would you feel if someone tried to proselytize you?  

3.) It is ineffective.  If I was the first person to notice the tract, then you are out of luck.  If I wasn't the first to notice, then I was the first to engage.  I've never found a tract on the shelf, or tucked behind the toilet paper dispenser, that looked like it had been disturbed, perused, or even noticed by any other person.  And I have never met anyone who converted to Christianity because they read a tract.  Have you?

I could go on.  But to me, it seems that in our Western culture, so steeped in the stories of the Bible and Christianity that we hardly need our memories refreshed, and with so many politicians yammering on about what it means to them to be Christian and live in a so-called Christian nation, we've reached a saturation point, but for one aspect: service.  Not in the sense of church attendance, but in the sense of serving those who are in need.  Right now so many people need help with jobs and homes and daily food that if you've been congratulating yourself for leaving tracts lying around, I think you're missing the point.  No one listens to litterbugs.  But they might listen to someone who buys them a sandwich, and sits and eats with them, even if they don't smell so nice.

Please know that I am a hypocrite about this.  I don't go out and buy sandwiches for people or volunteer or even give all that much money to charity.  I just tell other people to it.  I often find myself in this position, knowing the good, and yet not doing it.  I feel like I have so little to say to those who believe differently from me.  Listening seems to bring me closer to friends who are not Christians.  But when it comes to fellow Christians, I seem to have no problem pointing out specks, particularly as they apply to me.

All of this to say: Don't make a mess.  Don't be annoying.  Don't be wasteful.  Give, listen, and serve.  And I'll try my best to live up to that, too.