Receipts Aren’t Magic

We spent almost 45 minutes of our lives trying to find a product she liked that was EXACTLY the $35 minimum qualifyer for the Estée Lauder gift with purchase. Lipstick is $30, and she could easily get up to the $70 qualifyer for the step up gift. A total of $260 value in free product. But of course, she will only make the exception for lipstick. Any other cosmetic product she will buy, but just not lipstick. So onward our search resumed as I prayed for my  manager to return from her lunch quickly so I no longer had to cover the cosmetics department and deal with more morons. 

I had to keep myself from laughing after she finished telling me the tale of why she no longer buys lipstick from our store. It was the most lousy excuse for having a chip-on-your-shoulder I had ever heard. Apparently one day she came in and bought her favorite lipstick. She then proceeded to go about her way and shop more. While she was looking for a different size shirt she left her purse and already purchased lipstick unattended, and when she returned her bag of lipstick was missing. Immediately she returned to the cosmetics counter and asked for a replacement…but wanted it for free. 

Never had I heard a more illogical story told to me by a customer. Even before I worked retail, the thought would never occur to me to demand a lost or stolen item replacement for free. I understand the little concept known as consequences. You know, where if you are irresponsible or risky with your personal items, you pay for it one way or another? It would be one thing if her lipstick went missing in a pre-sale, we’d replace it at no extra charge to her. Or if she got handed the wrong color. Or if it was defective. Something that was ACTUALLY our fault. No, it was stolen from her, and apparently because it was in-store that it was stolen…it was our responsibility to make up for her irresponsibility. 

Of course, we didn’t replace it, so she was a very upset middle aged woman. Now here she was, probably in her 60s, and would buy anything but lipstick from our store. 

Maybe I’m a little behind the times on customer etiquette. Or even common sense (which is more uncommon than I thought)? You don’t sue a company for getting your car hit in a parking lot right? Or am I out of the loop on modern conduct? Because I thought you go after the person who is the cause of the issue. It’s not the company’s responsibility to reimburse you for the damage of your car. If the lipstick you bought was lost in your home, you’d probably go back to the store and buy another one for losing it. Or would you? I assumed you wouldn’t return to the store asking for another one for free! The associates at the store don’t know if you’re lying or not right? How can they trust you? 

The most common excuse for stories like this are “but I had proof I paid for it.” It doesn’t matter if you have your proof of payment. Receipts are not little pieces of magic paper that vouch for your character. They aren’t a list of all the good deeds you’ve done in your life. It’s not a background check, or police record proving you’ve never done anything wrong (that you were caught for anyway). What do you want from me? A cookie for hanging on to a piece of paper? Just because you paid for it, doesn’t mean you’re a good person. Doesn’t mean anything. Just means you bought some stuff. Probably stuff you didn’t even need. 

Sorry. It just doesn’t work like that.

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Meetings and E-Mails

It was a long and pathetic e-mail. The kind that described excuses and then concluded with “thanks for understanding” and “we appreciate all you do.” The details of the e-mail included the increase in product being purchased by the corporate buyers, paired with the budget cuts causing us to reduce associate hours, and the ever concluding statement “the company is struggling.” 

“Like they have been for the last fifteen years.” I muttered under my breath. 

I knew full well that this was the typical code for “we are trying to cut back expenses because we know Black Friday is coming and we have to pay you for increases in hours for the Holidays.” The company is not struggling. Our increase in sales numbers since the previous year, even as one of its smallest and most struggling stores, was proof that the more successful stores had to be doing just as well, especially in our region. Even our regional management calls were sounding more and more positive by the week, which made me wonder if our region was actually carrying the company…things sounded that celebratory on those calls. If we were struggling as a company so much, why was it our region was doing so well? 

The e-mail felt more like a slap in the face rather than a pat on the back. The thank you was more of a bribe, hopeful that it would be enough to keep you from quitting. It felt just as fake as the lemons I set out on the blender table for “added visual interest.”In tune with the metaphore, even if the thank you was real, it would still be sour. Riddled with resentment that things were not going more smoothly. Condescendingly reminding us that the creative team was of only one person, who would have to take the brunt of all the visual work. A lot for only one person to do, especially with so many deadlines. 

Happy holidays indeed. 

Party

“This party is not conducive to catching up. What are you up to tomorrow? We can grab lunch.” 

“You’re meeting doesn’t end until 2pm and I don’t want to get stuck in rush hour traffic.” 

The look on his face was devastation, but he knew I was right. Part of me missed my friends so much I almost wanted to make the exception so I could spend time with them, but I had to be practical. My gas tank was running low anyway from driving around to see people and do stuff. I was tired. My SUV was loaded down with people and my stuff all day long. By 10pm when I was ready to leave the party is when we finally got to talking and he wanted updates on my life. I was updated out. 

” It’s a no. I get it. Gotta adult properly. I’m really glad you came anyway.” 

He gave me a long bear hug, which was always awkward because he was so skinny I could wrap my arms around him twice if I were flexible enough. You were practically forced into a hug with the person next to you by lack of room in the tiny house and having to talk into the persons ear directly to be heard over the noise.

“I’ll give you a call soon if nothing else. Have a nice long talk. Drive safely Em.” 

The next morning I was tempted to call him and ask if he still wanted to do a late lunch, but it was going to be too much of a stretch. That’s the hard part of having friends you don’t get to see to often. You see them during events, where you can’t really have heart to hearts, but you both want to, so you end up awkwardly bending your inflexible schedule to try to make it all work. Because it’s worth it. They’re worth it. 

We met for lunch around 3pm. I didn’t get out of Illinois until around 6pm. Peak of rush hour in Milwaukee. 

College friends have a special place in your heart . You did most of your growing up as an adult with those people. They were the family you chose, so when you graduate, it becomes kind of endearingly stressful to navigate when to have “family reunions.” You’re tired from long drives.  Your even more tired from the long night of large groups of people crammed into the tiny house acting as venue for the reunion. But never too tired to grab a beer with your sleep deprived long time partner in crime the next day. 

College Kids

I didn’t ever recall the internet being that fast when I went to school there. Then again, it was a Saturday when I visited, and besides myself there were only two other individuals in the room, one of which was reading a paperback and not at all interested in internet use at the time. 

Things were quiet, even the dining hall had only a handful of visitors. But, I kept reminding myself it was only 10am on a Saturday. Students would be sleeping in from their all nighters and co-ed open hours the night before. It’s was still practically dark out with the cloud coverage anyway. No one probably knew it was morning yet. Who could blame them? 

On my way through the parking lot I had heard a voice I recognized. I didn’t see his face, but I knew who it was. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since graduation, but we had spent a great deal of time together his freshman year. I was over at his dorm room almost every weekend my senior year, because all my guy friends lived together. Had he even seen me? Would he recognize me? He was only shouting out his car window to another student. Probably a fellow athlete. He was a jock, but the kind who was an undercover geek. So our weekends after the games consisted of playing Fall Out: New Vegas and watching Sponge Bob or whatever good cartoon series we could borrow from whoever had it. 

It was strange to hear his voice at all, because what made the visit weirder was realizing that few to no one I knew was on that campus. Sure a few professors, and maybe one or two people were still going on their sixth year trying to graduate, but the rest? The rest were long gone, married or engaged, and living their lives wherever they ended up landing a job. Not much different than myself. All trying to make it on our own. Living without the lending hands and community you were used to. 

That was one of the things I missed about college. Communal living. You didn’t have a movie, a complete stranger would offer to let you borrow it if you mentioned looking for it. You didn’t have a ride, students would let you borrow their car, or drive you wherever if you offered to get them lunch or help them do their homework. You could walk yourself up in the library to study and the next thing you knew, seven of your friends were there with you just to hang out with you as you all tried to focus on school work. 

Soon my friend would be finished with work, and we could hang out beyond the bubble of campus. Until then I had to wait, by the fire place in the student center for her to finish work. Continuing to have flashbacks to the days gone by, and missing those moments again. 

Useful Things

I spent a great deal of time looking at the thing. The president of the museum had told me the short story. One of our donators had had brought it in with some old letter presses and disorderly wood type pieces he had come across.

 
“I told him no we don’t need it about five times. So now, we have a player piano.” 
It was a typical tall standing player piano. Dusty. Out of tune. But it came with a bunch of scrolls of music in some beautiful boxes. All labeled in a beautiful cursive hand that none of us could get over. I had half a mind to design a typeface around it. But with what time? I pondered and discarded the idea. 
Many unusual things found their home in the museum. Most of the time the unusual things were actually people…and usually they were me. I was becoming quite comfortable donating my time to the museum on my Thursdays off. I had made myself at home. Even giving myself tasks like vacuuming the gallery because the dust was pissing me off or making sure one of my fellow volunteers (and now a very dear friend) was kept company and adequately annoyed with me by the end of the day. I keep failing at that last one of course. The man is in too high a spirits to be annoyed, but it is still worth a shot. 
I had been moving a bunch of cases when I noticed the player piano. Actually it was pointed out to me, and struck up a conversation between I and the Museum President. It lead to asking what kind of music I listened to, then what kind of literature I read, and so on. The kind of conversation that most creatives judge each other on, and in our case, evaluated and found a great deal of common ground and respect. 
“I’m impressed. I would have assumed much less of you because of your age. You surprise me.” 
I often surprise older people. Mainly because they think of younger people as awkward conversationalists and easily entertained by the usual crap found in pop culture. They often tell me so, and while I do indulge in top 40 stations and like a good cartoon or anime, most people are intrigued when I tell them I don’t own a television and start my mornings with coffee and a news paper…a real one. Not one on a screen. 
“I too read a real news paper.” He said with eyes wide and full of adoration. Not because we actually like what’s in the news, but because it is so rare to find another human being who will actually take the time to subscribe and read an actual printed paper. Much less read almost all of it. But, I crave written word in all its forms, and a news paper is typically a small non-fiction essay. Local gossip and fact mixed with the rest of the world…and politics that no one cares about, but will still read ‘just in case’ one needs to be in-the-know on such matters. 
As our conversation ended and I looked at the old piano I felt a little tinge of sadness. Mainly because I sensed the desire for the thing to be useful. The desire of our President to have it be functional. My desire to let such a cool and beautiful artifact remain beautiful. Like a news paper. A piece of history that just shouldn’t die. The ‘historian in me’ as many of us volunteers usually say, really wanted the past to come back to life, and there was no better way to keep the past alive than with music from an antique. 

At the end of a day I left a note at his desk:
“My dad can tune that piano if you really want to get it running.” 

It was a start. 

Wayne

Hey, 

I saw it was your birthday the other day. Guess no one had the heart to report your account as deceased on Facebook. It’s cool though, it’s nice to have the reminder and to scroll through all your funny posts and encouraging words. I read them in your voice too, which made my eyes a little misty during my lunch break. Had to stop and read the rest at home, which was super inconvenient because my phone data is shotty at best when I’m not bumming wifi from wherever I can. worth waiting for things to load though. I needed to be reminded of you. 

I miss you. I often find myself flashing back to our time in the design studio. You telling me stories of your childhood. Your time in the service. Your time in seminary. Your lovely and senile mother-in-law doing or saying something funny that past week.  I also remember how you always wanted to take me out to Big Bowl so I could eat more…because you knew I was a poor intern and skipping meals a lot. 

I remember the warmth of your hand on my shoulder as you critiqued my design work. How you were honest, but tactful, and how you taught me that there are ways to critiquing to teach, and not just to make money. I remember how special you made me feel, and on occasion how singled out you made me feel, but only when it was necessary. Like the time you bought me that awesome red leather daily planner, and told me that I needed to get my crap together. I still have it, with the hole punch you gave me so I could design my own pages. I don’t get to use it much these days, my planner is pretty much on my phone now, but I’ll never get rid of it. I don’t think I could knowing it came from you. 

I could have sworn I had heard you humming the other day. I was sitting in the office at work checking my e-mails when I thought I heard you humming “You Got a Friend In Me” like you used to in the studio before scolding yourself saying “Nope, stop it…no humming.” Your soft and quite voice always had a smile in it, even when I wasn’t looking at you I could hear your smile. Even scolding yourself or others. I though I had heard it then, but it turned out I was trying so hard to hear you that I made you up. 

I don’t know if there are birthdays in heaven, and if not  I hope heaven is even better than we all believe it to be so your birthday is worth overlooking. As far as I’m concerned your birthday is not overlooked, but I’m only human, and down here there are so few things really worth celebrating. You were definitely one of them. 

I can’t wait to see you again, but for now I just wanna say I miss you now you’re gone. Blessings Friend. Happy Birthday. 

Here’s to Hoping 

Today was a day where nothing had to touch my heart to make it bleed. Things barely had to come near it and it would crack and bleed a little more. Making me wish I could simply disappear into those cracks and never come out. 

Retreating is easy when everythin hurts. The combination of emotional turmoil and drama from the week prior made the week ahead seem unpromising and perhaps even more painful than the week before. Even in my bed that night, trying to get some kind of sleep, I found myself hoping the next morning I wouldn’t wake up at all. 

I tore at my soul all day. Collapsed into bed moments ago. I find myself wishing my eyes were heavy with sleep instead of sorrow. I don’t want to wake up to the reality that is my life. “Just another day. One more day to heal. That’s all.” I  pleaded into the darkness of my room. Smothering my face tearfully into my pillow, hoping God could hear me still. 

Another day won’t be enough. I know that. I know it painfully. I just hope it isn’t too much to ask is all. I never want to sound greedy when I ask God for something. I know that sounds silly, since God already knows I am greedy and loves me all the same. It’s just something I find myself doing in hopes that maybe the sinner in me would subside for just a little while, and maybe I can learn to not be so painfully aware of my failures. Maybe things will hurt less if I know most of what hurts isn’t my fault…or at least if I felt like everything isn’t my fault in life. If Only I didn’t feel like such a horrible excuse for a human being so often. If my default emotion wasn’t that hopeless sadness.

I will survive as usual, only this time I know it will be a long haul. I will have to hunker down within myself and do what I can to protect myself. So as I lay in bed I find myself trying to build up a cocoon of blankets around me. I keep imagining being encapsulated within hard titanium sensory depravation tanks in hopes that I can forget myself a little longer and protect myself a little better. 

When morning comes, the tank will open and I hope a new day will find me more fresh and hopeful. 

Here’s to hoping. 

A Day Ago

It was only by chance I had heard my alarm go off. The night previous I had been softly playing music on the tabletop as one of my few guy friends and I caught up over tea and all the druggy gossip I missed out on not being involved in the local drug culture. The volume was so low I wondered how I had woken up at all, but that was short lived since the adrenaline rush kicked in from nearly waking up late. Immediately I turned off the alarm and while walking into the bathroom to take my morning thyroid pill, I turned up the volume and set my phone down on the counter. 
I don’t know how long I let the water run after I took my pill, but it was longer than necessary. I had spent a great deal of time examining my own eyes. Looking at the variations of color, and then noticing the sad expression. You could tell, even hours later, that I had spent a great deal of time crying alone in bed that night before. 
I turned off the water the moment I finished wondering if my sink was deep enough to drown myself in. 
As I brewed my tea that morning I did my quiet time. Instead of praying to God I started journaling letters to Him, and as I wrote there was a deep part of me that doubted that would count as prayer. It would have to do. I had hoped God would understand it was the only way for me to actually concentrate on praying. I hoped He also understood why I didn’t have much deeper and more pressing things to pray about on that last page of my journal. Things seemed so normal. So ordinary and depressing. I felt tired, like I always did. I felt sad and overwhelmed, like I often had. Today was as unremarkable and completely filled with emotional fallout from all the drama of the weeks before, as any other day in my life. I prayed the usual things, because my life has become that… stagnant and usual. 
By 7:30am I was trying to get the data on my phone to load faster, to no avail, because I knew I had used up all my high speed data. I was trying to get my weather app on my phone to work so I knew weather or not I would need my coat for the day or if I could leave it home and get away with long sleeves. It was 42 degrees when my app finally loaded…and apparently sunrise was at 12:47pm. Great. 
By 12:47 pm I had hoped that it would feel like sunrise, but I was already bored to death and exhausted as I listened to our corporate leader drone on about the visual expectations for the week. I had spent that morning decorating the Shoe Department with tiny Christmas trees and greenery covered in red balls. She spoke of the other departments we would have to focus on. When the call finished I returned to the Christmas attic on and off, dragging my last few decorations to Shoes and placing them as I had been ordered to by the corporate hive mind. As I decorated I kept catching glimpses of myself in the large red orb ornaments, and wondering if my makeup could ever really cover the sadness my eyes had held so deeply that morning. If it was even possible for makeup to hide the undesired emotions I felt. I finished picking up my mess and as I started down the ladder, I wondered how easily I could throw myself off and crack my skull open on the concrete floor below. 
I quickly put the ladder away and chained it twice as well as I usually do to its place against the wall. 
Twenty minutes after I was supposed to clock out, I walked to my car. Sitting in the warmth of my black leather interior I took a moment to lean back on my seat and breath. I attempted to release the tension in my shoulders, but I just couldn’t relax enough. My mind was weary, but ever running, and every thought moved so quickly, that I found it hard to catch even one to ground me back in reality. I muttered something to myself. I don’t recall what, but it probably wasn’t coherent. I just needed to make a noise, just to remember that I had a voice to use if I needed to. My thoughts attpted to organize and as I sat there with my eyes closed I wondered how hot a car would have to be to cause you to stop breathing. I turned on the ignition, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t turn on the radio. 

I did, however, turn on the vents to get the air moving. 

Mistakes

  
I often wear my jewelry mistakes. Some people think I ought to take them apart and use them to make new ones so I don’t “take a loss” because of them. The thing is I don’t mind being reminded of how far I’ve come. I value those mistakes because I grew from them. I learned from them. So I don’t mind wearing them in memory of where I came from and in anticipation of where I am going.