Everyday by Kristen Strassel
Today’s Brew: Caramel Creme
Today I celebrate the insanity of the workplace. So many people drag themselves to a job they hate just to survive. Corporate offices make unrealistic demands on their workers, having no idea what goes into doing each individual job. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a cubicle monkey. I did my hard time in Corporate America at the mall. Retail workers make practically no money, work insane hours, give up holidays and family time, and have to keep a smile on their face while dealing with the crazy public. For many years I did retail management, until I realized I didn’t want to be the forty year old lady working at the mall on Friday night. As I got my makeup career going, I still worked part time at a well known jewelry kiosk. The longer I worked for myself, the more I realized I never wanted to work for anyone else again.
Enjoy Everyday. And get out before upper management eats your soul for lunch.
The parking lot always resembled a riot scene when it rained. I meant to leave early. But Delilah threw up all over herself, me, and the couch just before the sitter came. I couldn’t leave that mess for someone else. Then she had a breakdown when she realized I still had to go to work, and knowing that when Mama left in the middle of the day, I wouldn’t be home to read her favorite bedtime stories.
My head pounded from her tantrum and lack of coffee. Since it took me longer to find a spot that I expected, I didn’t have time to run to Starbucks before work. I’d already been talked to about being late. I dug through the toddler rubble in my backseat, hoping to find my umbrella. No dice. I grabbed the wrong jacket, no hood. I pulled it up over my head the best I could but still got soaked on the way into the mall. Well, maybe I wouldn’t be the only one who looked like a drowned rat.
“You’re late.” Carolyn, my boss, tapped the computer screen in our kiosk. 1:03.
“I know. Sorry. Delilah got sick and the parking lot was insane.”
“I don’t have time for excuses, Darcy. You’re on final warning, you know that, right?”
I sighed. My head pounded as a kid threw a tantrum over a toy next to us. “I know. Listen, I was really hoping to grab a coffee.”
“You should have left earlier.” Carolyn ignored my dropped jaw. “I’m going to lunch. I’m starving. We got shipment.” She motioned to the disorganized pile of jewelry on the counter and handed me a packet. “There’s a recall, and we need to set up the holiday display.”
“Okay.” Carolyn constantly made a mess and left it for me to clean up. “When Steph comes into tonight, I should be able to bang it out.”
“Well don’t ignore customers to get it done.”
“Excuse me!” A customer called to us.
“Welcome to the Piercing Pit. What brings you shopping today?” We had to say this to every customer that walked up to the kiosk. I thought it sounded robotic, but my low secret shopper scores and placement on final warning gave me little choice.
The lady looked at me with three heads. “Are these real diamonds?” She tapped the glass above the ten dollar earrings.
“No, they’re cubic zirconia.”
Cubes of zircon? I mean, did it really need explanation? “Not real diamonds? Would you like to see them?” I opened the case in anticipation.
“No, I only wear real stuff.” She huffed and turned away with her Walmart bags.
“Miss!” A mother with two little girls smiled at me hopefully from the ear piercing tower. “We’d like to get our ears pierced! The other lady said they’re be two of you here at one.” She looked around me, hoping to see someone else who wasn’t there.
“The other girl went to lunch. She should be back in like a half hour?” I prayed they’d wait.
The mothers face went dark as the little girls, dressed in tutus and tiaras, danced around her. “She said there would be two of you here now. We’ve already waited for you to get here. It’s Hannah and Haley’s birthday today and I promised them they’d get their ears pierced. We simply can’t wait any longer. We have a princess party to go to and they want to wear their new earrings.”
I sighed. People swarmed around the kiosk, trying to get my attention. Piercing little kids one ear at a time was a recipe for disaster. We needed two people to do both ears at the same time to avoid meltdowns. This wasn’t my first five year old piercing. “Well, I can try to do it one ear at a time, but they might c-r-y.”
Her face brightened. “Girls, can you be brave and let this nice lady give you pretty earrings?”
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” They jumped up and down. They were awfully cute. In a few minutes, they were going to hate my guts.
“Miss! Excuse me!” Another customer called to me as I pulled out the pink flower earrings for the attempted piercings. “Can I see this?”
“Do you mind?” I asked the mother as she filled out paperwork. We weren’t supposed to leave one customer to wait on another for theft reasons, but I was going to be with her for a while.
“Go ahead.” She said.
I handed customer number two the crucifix the size of my hand with the zirconia encrusted Jesus on it.
The customer spoke to his friend in Spanish, not realizing I understood every word, as he bounced the pendant in his hand. “It’s fake.” He said in Spanish.
Since it’s rude to speak in another language, I had no problem answering in English. “It’s gold clad with cubic zirconia.” Fake.
The customer looked annoyed with my gall. “How much?”
“One ninety nine.”
“No, no discount.”
He handed me back the pendant and walked away without another word.
“Okay, who’s getting earrings first?”
“Hannah is!” The mom clapped and Hannah entered the kiosk, climbing into the piercing chair. Haley followed her, making a bee line for the pile of shipment on the counter.
“Oh no, honey, don’t touch.” The mother glared at me for reprimanding Haley. I put on my gloves as the phone started ringing. I ignored it. The caller persisted, calling over and over.
“Do you mind?” I asked again. “I’m really sorry. I’ve got a sick kid at home, I’m worried it’s her.”
“Go ahead.” She said as I took my gloves off.
“Thank you for calling the Piercing Pit.” I said quickly, dying inside as Haley made another dive for the shipment.
“Hi Darcy, it’s Susan.” The district manager. Great. “How’s it going?”
“Busy.” I hoped she took the hint. “I’ve got twin five year olds waiting for piercings, I’m surrounded, and Carolyn went to lunch.”
“Okay, well I won’t keep you, but you know that the attachment goal is 30 percent, and you’ve consistently been at 22 percent.”
Really, now? “I know, the customers just don’t want it.” The attachment was a warranty that used to be free. The customers weren’t fools, and I didn’t blame them for not wanting to buy it.
“Well, everyone else is hitting it.” Everyone else faked it, I knew it for a fact. They manipulated the prices and put the warranty in. “And the goal is going up to 37 percent. We can’t keep people on staff that aren’t making their goals.”
“But I double my sales goals.” I eyed Hannah getting antsy in the piercing chair. “I’ve really got to go, Susan.”
“The company wants attachment numbers. I expect 37 percent when I call for numbers tonight.” She hung up.
“Okay, let me dot your pretty ears.” I went back to Hannah. I dotted my new glove to show her it was just a marker.
“No! No! Nooooo!” She cried.
“Honey, it’s just a marker.” The mom held Hannah’s hands to sooth her. “Let the lady mark your ears.”
Hannah let me dot her ears, and I had the mother check the dots before I made things permanent. “I think that one needs to be moved.” She declared.
The marks were perfect. I wiped it off and remarked it. “How’s that?”
She shook her head. “No. Let me do it.” She made a dot in a horrible spot.
“That’s really uneven. Let me fix it.” Customers eyed me from behind Hannah. I moved the dot back to the original spot.
“Perfect.” The mom said. “Okay, Hannah! Are you ready?”
“No.” She pouted. I tried to remain calm.
“Let me just measure to see if your earring will fit.” It was my trick to get the gun to kid’s ears. It always worked. Without her even knowing, I pierced her ear.
Hannah wailed as if I clawed her heart out of her chest with my bare hands. Her hands shot up to her ears as she screamed. People stared at me as they walked by, disgusted with such a public display of child abuse.
“She’s probably not going to do the other ear.” I said to the mother.
“She can’t go to her party with one earring!” The mother growled at me. “Let me do it.”
“I can’t let you do that.”
“Miss!” The lady behind the piercing chair called to me. “Can I see something?”
“Not while I’m doing a piercing. Just a minute.”
“Are you serious?” She scoffed and turned away.
“I’ll give you a minute and see what she wants to do. I can give you your money back if she decides not to do it.” The phone rang again. “Thanks for calling the Piercing Pit.”
“Hey Darcy, Delilah threw up again. She’s asking for you.” My heart broke into a thousand pieces.
“I can’t come home right now, baby.” I did my best not to cry as my baby pleaded with me to come take care of her. “I’ll be home as soon as I can. Love you.”
“We’re going to wait.” The mom declared. “Can you take the earring out?”
“You’ve got to keep it in for 24 hours, and then bring it back, then I can refund the money.” A look of horror spread over her face, realizing she had to bring her lopsided, imperfect daughter around for another day with a visible reminder of her shortcoming. “I’m really sorry. If I take it out now, it will bleed everywhere.”
“I want to talk to your manager.”
“She’s on lunch.”
The mother rolled her eyes and stomped off. I turned around to the sea of impatient faces that surrounded me. “Who was here first?” Of course, they all were.
I waited on two people at a time, skipping the mechanical greeting, ringing them up fast, no time to ask about attachments. The phone rang again. Please don’t let it be Delilah.
“Thanks for calling the Piercing Pit.”
“Hey Darce, it’s Stephanie. Listen, I’m not going to make it in tonight. My boyfriend won’t give me a ride.”
“Your shift isn’t for three more hours. We’re really busy with the rain. You need to find another ride.”
“I tried. No can do. I’m sorry.”
“Whatever.” I was too busy to deal with it right now.
“Hey,” Carolyn came back in to the kiosk, her coffee in hand. I practically drooled looking at it. “Why isn’t the shipment done yet?”