Can I Help You, Sir?

>> Sunday, December 26, 2010

I'm one of the 99ers that you've heard about, in the beginning of last month my unemployment compensation has ran out and since the economy wasn't picking up, the check that I get from the government is actually a lot higher than any job I can find out there, not to mention it's a lot easier just to process a claim form than actually got through the motion of finding a job and working, so why not just sit on my ass?

And of course I have been looking for work. It's just the longer I sit out, the less confident I am with my skills so it gets harder and harder. I was doing a three day project with a placement office that was only interested in me then and there. Went through a few interview and a training day with Macy's who wanted me to sell women's shoes for minimum wage. I almost gone through with it too, if it's not for a friend who recommended me to be a Manager in Training for a fast food/coffee shop chain. It doesn't pay much more, but unlike Macy's they want me to work more than 35 hours which is a salary that I can almost live by. The drawback about it is that I'm required to work more than 55 hours and 6 days a week to justify the salary they are giving me, which is still a chunk less than my unemployment checks but as the Chinese proverb goes "When your horse dies, you've got to walk on your own", so here's me trying to walk/crawl.

Since the day that I interviewed with the manager/trainer, she had informed me that I would be dealing with a lot of undereducated people, both costumers and employees alike. And since I don't have any retail experience, she intended to start me from the ground up. From day to day, I'm in charge of fixing coffees, restocking, displaying products, cleaning, mopping, washing. I also have to be on my feet for 10+ hours a day, I have been quite out of shape, so I'm just not used to this kind of physical activities. Waking up at 4:30 in the morning to go to work also means that at night I'll being falling asleep around 8:30-9:30. I find that it's not something that I can help, around that time my eyes will automatically close on their own and even though I might be watch TV or reading blogs, my focus is gone and I will need to be in bed or I'll zonked out sitting up.

The people are a colorful bunch as well. The store I work at is at a "bad part" of town, some might even call it the ghetto. The people I work with are mostly Asian who speak little English with one white college kid, a few teenage mom, a black guy and another mom who works two jobs. Most of them are nice but have some sort of attitude problems. The customers are mostly blacks who are either meek or seriously unhappy to start with, knowing that the customer is always right, my only self-defense is with being overtly courteous. I feel like I'm from the south. With any single transaction, I'm dishing out 4~5 "sir"s/"maam"s and a couple "thank you"s. Anything that can be perceived to be wrong, people will start yelling, screaming and asking for compensations.

Our daily usual customers include a group of about a dozen people who are drug users, ringlead by a guy with muscular dystrophy riding in a powered wheelchair which rides like a tank. He's a pretty good looking black guy with a cropped beard. One time, I got off the same bus as him and had to run to the shop because I was going to be a few minutes late and that wheelchair outran me, so I'm pretty sure he'll be able to outrun any cops. To interact with these drug users are a fun part of the day, all of them order either white chocolate with whip cream filled all the way like a frozen yogurt but the thing is that they are not really coherent like they are drunk or something like a bunch of zombies. They all seat at the same corner furthest from anyone and occasionally we'll see someone flashing some cash, which our manager will come out and tell them not to or she'll call the cops. On the sly though, my manager knows that the store somehow became one of their camps and they are paying customers, so there's nothing much she can do.

Last Monday, I needed to attend a orientation session with the local franchisee's headquarter which I was surprised to find out that the whole management is composed with all Cantonese-speaking Chinese. The trainer herself is a Cantonese speaker who spoke English better than mine, the CFO is a Chinese guy, so is a gaggle of office ladies in their cubicles, the only non-Cantonese person is a black receptionist named Leisha. The training session with about 30 people of different races happens in a large meeting room where along one of the walls lined pictures of their 34 branches and under each of these pictures was a small plague with the name of the person managing each of these stores. I scanned through the names of these people since one of them is my friend and the other is the store I currently working at, of these 34 people, 33 of them were Asian and later through my friend, I found out that the other is white. Also 33 of them were female. I'm sure the owner has some control issues and I can't help but wonder what were the thoughts in my fellow colleagues head when they found out that they will never become managers.

So that's my life right now, Wake up before the cocks crow, go to work, come back and go groceries shopping, cook, eat, watch and hour or two of TV and go back to sleep. I just finished a 12-day shift without rest and rest up on X'mas. I've gained a brand new perspective and a deep appreciation of the ways of people with low income. Instead odf settling for this or actually become a branch manager, I have to believe that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. With my persistent on job applications, I have received 4 phone interviews so far and I'm expecting to hear back from a few of them after New Year's. Maybe I'll have to go on a few more, face-to-face interviews to secure them, hopefully I'll get a new job come January or February. As much as I'm trying to be a good coffee seller, my hands are breaking up from touching too sanitizers all the time and my feet aches and throbs every night. The trick now is to be able to take off a day or two to go on interviews without raising suspicions. Wish me luck.

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