Just before I left for my my adventures abroad, I was surprised and delighted to receive an expression of interest from a pet store after they noticed my meagre experience volunteering with the People and Animal Welfare Society. After a casual interview and some online negotiations, I got the job! I was nervous but mostly excited, and quite sleep-deprived as I began working the day after I returned.
Things there have been great! My experiences with Coles came rushing back and I quickly familiarised myself with the shop floor and the storeroom. Although it was daunting to be in a new environment with little guidance, I got into the swing of things reasonably quickly. I realised that my boss was too busy to oversee my every action (unlike Coles, where they preferred to micromanage me so I was always filling exactly the rollcages that they wanted me to) so I had to use initiative. This is something I’ve always had trouble with – I’ve largely shunned responsibility, preferring to be told what to do. It gives me comfort to know the parameters of my role, and to understand the expectations placed on me. It gives me discomfort to be thrown into a disorganised world and told to do whatever I feel like. Normally such independence would have stressed me, but apparently my affirmations are working because I took a deep breath and got over myself.
In previous jobs, I’ve worked only for the money, or for the idea that the job somehow improved my life. This was different. I actually cared about the store, and about its customers, and about their pets. I wanted to make it a good experience for the people we were serving, and so I asked myself, “If I owned this store and were running it all by myself, what needs to be done?” Although it’s simplistic, I’ve never thought like this before, and it opened a flood of possibilities. I single-handedly reorganised the canned petfood in the storeroom so that future generations would have an organised system for where to put what flavour. It sounds like such a little thing, but I made a difference in the way that all future staff will use the storeroom. And I’m so proud of that.
I also take great delight in using the cash registers, a dream of mine I’ve treasured since I was five or six. I always thought that sales assistants earned huge amounts of money because of all the cash they kept in the register, and so I aspired to be like them some day. I was fascinated by the beeps and boops of the scanner, the click-clack-tat-tat of the buttons and the briiiiing, thwack, slack-slack, shhhhh-thud of the cash drawer. Now that I’m older, that fascination lingers, and I take tremendous joy in scanning items and pressing buttons.
Since those early days (three weeks ago, anyway), the shine has worn off somewhat. Now that I understand how the store works, I’ve settled into routine. Stay on the registers to input customer data (another highlight of my work. I love creating order and recording information about the world. Perhaps I should become a researcher?) and make boop-boop noises, restocking the ridiculously tiny yet horrendously popular cans of Fancy Feast, and.. You know, I don’t really know. The time just passes, between serving customers, bagging dozens of fish, feeding cats, building birdcages and all the other strange and assorted tasks that come from retail work. But I’m using my initiative less now, and I think that’s limiting my ability to help the store and its customers. For example, the storeroom in this new store is horrendously shaped and thus poorly organised, but I more-or-less know where everything is now, so I see no need to reorganise it. If future generations of employees come to work at the store, they’ll figure it out after a few days like I did, right?
The hours aren’t my hours of choice (8-4, Friday-Monday), which exclude me from taiji, karate and iaido on the weekend, but perhaps when uni starts in a few weeks I’ll get the opportunity to reschedule. It’s bloody tough work having to exert energy for eight hours a day, leaving little time for morning rituals or enough sleep, but I’m slowly getting better at taking care of myself. Sleeping early is the hardest thing, but probably the most important as well. Without sleep, my knees give way, I respond to conversation in my head instead of out loud (leading to some awkward “Are you listening?”‘s, “Of course I am, didn’t you hear me reply?”‘s), I pour cereal into coffee mugs and fall asleep on the road. So I’m instituting a general 9:30 rule, where no matter what I’m doing, I’ll go home and sleep if the clock strikes such an hour.
The upside of all this work is that I’ve got more money than I’ve ever had before. It’s refreshing to have several hundred dollars in my bank account, but I actually don’t know what to do with it all. I’ve increased my donations to charity, have started giving several hundred dollars to my mother (whom I owe an infinite debt), have bought a bunch of crap I don’t need but like having (doubtless the start of a decline into materialistic whoring) and have bolstered my savings. And with the rest? No idea. Maybe I’ll just throw it in the air to dance in it, or slip it into people’s shoes when they’re sleeping.
Peace everyone! Holiday photos (and a conclusion of my account) in the near-future.