Did I ever tell you about my first job? Andrew, way down under at The Other Andrew, has pulled the rip cord on his job and announced he's quitting to the ingrates he toils for (editor's note: right on, Andrew.) which puts me in mind of my first experience with gainful employment. Semi-gainful, actually.
I was employed by Sears Roebuck, in their catalogue department, in the little hell hole I grew up in. Giant containers of rubbishy goods would pour in and I would have to sort it all out to be handed over to the eager catalogue customer. This was long before amazon.com and UPS had revised the equation. The customer would have to actually come into the store and wait at some soul-deadening counter to have us fork over whatever polyester miracle their fancy had lit upon. The counter was green formica, the walls were green, the fluorescent light was green; we might as well have been working underwater.
My boss was a withered gargoyle named Inez Duncan. Miz Duncan to you, sucker. She had no life, her only passion was the Sears catalogue department. If you can imagine a more hateful version of the Church Lady, you have a close approximation of Miz Duncan.
There was no consideration of "workers rights." Communist bastard. We regularly worked overtime for no extra pay, breaks were viewed as some slacker luxury and my fellow inmates bought into this wholeheartedly. They were all middle aged southern ladies of the trashiest white trash extraction and I suppose the job was a welcome relief from the old man back in the trailer.
I was young and had no idea that work wasn't supposed to be oppressive. I sliced my hand open during the Christmas rush and worked for nine hours with a rag wrapped around it. The guy who shared my duties got fed up and just walked out one day and I was berated for his disloyalty.
After I had been there a little more than a year, my brother invited me to go on a camping trip with him. Miz Duncan not only turned down my pathetic whimper for a week off, she was actually trembling when she forbade me to talk about it. I was standing there surrounded by aisles of Sears flotsam and jetsam shrinking in front of this pathetic tiny old bat when I had an epiphany: I didn't have to take this crap. Up to that point it had never occurred to me that I might have a choice in the equation. I had assumed part of having a job was swallowing all the shit that was dished out with it.
I can still cheer myself up during low moments now by remembering Miz Duncan's look of astonishment and baffled rage when I said "Well, then I quit." Happy times.
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