What's with the change?

From the Supermarket Aisles to the 25th Floor

View from the Boardroom (as I tidy the chairs)
June 1, 2013

The impeccable-timing fairy has finally worked in my favour, landing me a well-paid reception job. It's a three week assignment taking me right up to the day before our Bonnaroo festival road trip (yipee!)

There's a lot to like about working on the 25th floor. It could be the whole hour to have lunch (as opposed to a quick 10 minute bite en route to playground duty). Or maybe I just enjoy being part of something very ordinary- the 9-5 work day (well, 8:30-5 but let's not split hairs). In not-so-impeccable timing, the full time work coincides with my major assignments for the two courses I've been studying via correspondence from Sydney.

But hey, I'm a pretty good multi-tasker. Is sorting the dirty laundry whilst on the toilet taking things too far? What about moving a load from the washer to the dryer? It really is a conveniently placed toilet.

The 25th floor is a long way from the supermarket shelves I was supposed to be stocking. As it turned out, quitting that job was as cumbersome as starting. I'll admit that I dogged it and rang outside of business hours so I didn't have to talk directly to my manager. But being heard on the phone quitting your shelf-packing job doesn't really fit the image of commercial real estate.

As soon as I met my manager, I knew I was going to break her heart.I'm not sure how to describe someone as taking their job too seriously without sounding condescending or devaluing the job. But when you take a very strict training scheme to even more explicit heights, then it's probably a fair call. On an extensive store tour that included the door that I had quite obviously already been through and introductions to colleagues who sized me up as not being able to do the job as well as them, my manager and I had the following conversation:
'Do you smoke?'
'I'll show you where to smoke anyway.'
'I may decide to take it up.'
I learnt early that jokes not only demean the training process, but my manager personally.

With six training shifts, I was essentially thrown in the shallow end. It was fortunate I suppose
, as in the XL shirt I was made to wear, I was likely to drown. I began thinking about the first days at all my other jobs, particularly my first day as a teacher when I turned up to a school I'd been appointed to five days previously in the city I'd moved to two days earlier and looked at the empty classroom I was to teach in the next day. Six training shifts learning how to pronounce my students' names would've been very handy.

Not only XL (and a generous sizing at that) but red also.
The highlight of my supermarket training (although I can't be certain there wasn't something more exciting as I was a probation drop-out), was the lesson on how to read a schedule.
"You scan your finger down the first column until you find your name. Each column after that corresponds to a day of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday... [I won't list them all, although my manager felt the need]. You scan across the row of your name to see what days and times you are working." I suppose this lesson could be useful for the fourteen year old first time workers. But I guess even they have to read a school timetable.

For such a rigid teaching of the rule book, my manager was quite a renegade, systematically breaking every rule just taught. I do enjoy a good 'do as I say, not as I do', particularly in large corporations where it is imperative to know the rule you are breaking.

Given her emotional investment in my training and compliments like, "Wow, you are so good at this" (stacking pasta), I spent my whole four shifts cringing at my impending departure. You may wonder why I took the job when I was going to skip out for an eight state road trip to Tennessee. It wasn't intentional- from the day I had my phone interview to my first shift was a whole month (more here). So even though I technically only worked for two weeks, I was employed for about six weeks.

Quitting wasn't an easy task. After several phone calls and transfers to people who didn't know who to palm me off to, I was tempted to ask, "Who've you gotta root to quit?"

"You quit?" the woman at the customer service desk said. Was it my accent or plain old disbelief? Apparently phoning wasn't good enough for a job I'd worked sixteen hours at. I had to make it official by bringing a letter to my manager. Given the trip there was a bus, two subway trains and another bus, and I'd already made a special trip with my work permit which they didn't initially want to see but then seemingly couldn't even schedule me without, I decided to serve the divorce papers via fax. It cost a dollar out of the $160 I'd earnt in my two weeks*.


*less taxes, $25 union startup fee and $14 regular union fee.

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