At work, there is a young woman named Janice. I do not know her last name yet.

She has been in this country for about three months, after being sponsored by her husband to live here. She moved from a town I missed the name of just outside Hong Kong. She has been speaking English for about as long as she's lived here. She carries around a small device which translates words from her native language to English. She says that she tries to learn one new word every day. She even tests herself now and then.

She is the happiest person I have ever known. Sure, there's other happy people--you're probably one of them. I'm prone to a lot of smiling, a lot of jokes and making bad passes at co-workers. She's different. She is happy without pretense of any sort. She smiles because it is a new day in a new place with new friends and new life. We should all do this. In short, she's just about the awesomest person ever.

I work in the back. I'm a full-time baker, part-time anything else at my store. I don't go out front except to replenish product. Janice works full-time up front with all the rest of "the girls". As a result, I get to see very little of employee-consumer relations, but I do know how that goes, as I've been working up front for two years already.

It pisses me off, almost puts me into hysterics, when customers ask her for things, and she doesn't understand, and they get mad at her because her english isn't up to snuff.

"Look, ALL I WANT IS A COFFEE, alright?" Then, a frump, a huge I-am-so-hard-done-by kind of sigh, and a rolling of the eyes. As if Janice is the asshole here. I walk out, and they look at me as if I'm going to extricate them from this horrible scene. The next time I am pulled away from my job to tend to some customer who is stricken with a plague of non-English, I'm going to say, "Look, ALL I WANT IS FOR YOU TO SPEAK SLOWLY SO SHE CAN UNDERSTAND YOU, alright?" Then I will frump, sigh as if all the world is placed squarely on my shoulders. And I will roll my eyes.

Funny. You never really know people. If only they spoke to Janice for a few seconds, saw her as a human and not as an immigrant, they would realize that she is one of the most excellent humans on earth.

"English is hard, Devon." she's told me. Except with her accent, it comes out engreese is hod, Dayvawn. "I try veddy hod. I weese peepoe could unnastan."

"Yeah, I spoke a different language, too, when I was a kid."

"You know," she says, "Deese ignorant peepoe ah cunts." Cunts is spoken with no detectable accent.

I don't know who taught her her swears, but oh man, does it make me laugh.

Dusk. The contrast of the lights on the new dark was beckoning me on again this evening. I drove past neon loops and highlighted rectangles with all of their letters missing or jumbled into new meanings. “Eat Here” replaced with “Leave Here “. “Travelodge” with “Get Reloaded”. “Stop ‘N’ GO” with “Go”. An entire freeway corridor trying to wrap its dotted white arms around me – pull me on into the night. I can’t blame her efforts though, the thick spell that sticks to your desires and the precious rarity of sunset coloring and coastal breezes made my foot press just a little harder on the gas pedal. Southbound.

I do this all the time. But when I’m just about to pass my exit I notice that my right hand has depressed the turn signal and I stare at that five fingered bastard in shock. Tonight was no exception.

I have two friends who are currently recovering from several prolonged steroid cycles. They associate with one another more than me and feed off each other’s depression. Tonight I learned that one of them was kicked out of his home for striking his roommate and that he had made a suicide pact with the other. All of this in the pursuit of the bigger, better, larger, faster. I should have taken them on an evening car ride with me instead.

My mother turned fifty nine years old today. My sister and I bought her a lawnmower and took her out for a BBQ dinner. Until that point I had no idea she had seen so much. Apparently, from her expression during her birthday ceremonies, neither did she. I made a pact with her that I would commit one million good deeds before I died. She actually looked at me and said that sharing this birthday with her was one million and one. Old gal can still make a grown man teary-eyed. Yup.

Today I handed in my resignation for my retail job which has taken up almost every second weekend for the last two years, whilst I pretended to go to Uni during the week.

The assistant manager and another full-timer were the only two working the Thursday late-night shopping shift, and I purposely went in so that they were the first I told, since they are the two I respect the most out of the staff of 6 (was 8, until two other casuals left for various reasons), and they also worked the same weekend as me so I knew them quite well.

I am the last of the casuals who served under the previous manager (A fantastic manager, tough but fair and knew the stock backwards), and upon the others leaving, I am the last casual who has worked there for more than a week.

The assistant manager was caught off guard by me wanting to quit; she knew I was unhappy with the current manager for several reasons, but was not expecting me to leave so soon, especially given the staff-shortage that is already occurring.

I was unhappy with the job for a couple of reasons:

  • Despite me being a casual, I was told in no uncertain terms there would be no negotiations of the hours I would work (I'm quite certain this is illegal - at least in Australia), this annoyed me since the particular Saturday I wanted off happened to be a small close family gathering, the first of its kind since our Dad's funeral. This was not a good enough reason, however.
  • Any new casual staff we hired were checked with a fine-tooth comb, references called, and debated over for weeks by the manager before letting them on the sales floor, only to have them leave in less than 3 months. Our average staff turnover of 3 years was reduced to three months.
  • Hourly sales figures were calculated on a monthly basis; My name and (lower than target) results were highlighted, without regard to the hours I spent on store maintenance (installing electrical fittings, repairing computers, printing off price tickets which anyone else would have taken twice the time to do). These hours of course lowered my average and provided an inaccurate indication of my work. I was singled out in 'team meetings' for this reason, despite my complaints.
  • The manager spent more time worrying about her profit margin than running the store. Stock was ordered after the demand had subsided, customers were lied to about delivery dates and product capabilities.

So I'm about ready to leave, and spend more time studying and maybe a little golf. They don't want me to leave because I'm the last experienced casual left. But if I can't negotiate my hours, I'm not sticking around.

The assistant manager will ring the area manager and try to get some heads knocked together to sort out the mess the store is in. If they're willing to let me take a day off every so often, I'll stick around a little longer, at least till they get someone trained properly.

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