So on Saturday I came home crying from Starbucks. I had even spoken to HR about how overwhelmed I was feeling. And, to my humiliation, they clearly spoke to my supervisor about how I was feeling overwhelmed, and so he told me that I was doing okay and started saying more encouraging things? And then I was super humiliated? Because HR had done what HR is supposed to do? And then we had a rush and after the rush I went in the back and cried some more? And then I went home and James told me about how he went to Petsmart and there were puppies there? And then I cried because I didn’t see the puppies?
Then after a while I stopped crying and took a shower and James made dinner and everything was okay.
And we played Arabian Nights, one of my personal favorites.
Honestly that seems to have been the peak of my feeling awful. Hopefully. I worked Sunday and tonight as well and so far I’ve been doing okay. I’ve been learning recipes. I’ve gotten the hang of lattes now. I’m remembering the flavorings for different frappuccinos. Tonight, Makaela was in the back, doing dishes, and a woman walked up and ordered a Passion Tea Lemonade. I panicked. Then I took a deep breath and recited the name in my head — Passion Tea Lemonade — and realized what the recipe was. Passion Tea. Lemonade. Ice. Shake. Serve.
I’m still not very good at the job. A guy ordered a latte extra-hot and I forgot to make it extra-hot, so I had to remake it, and then nearly forgot to make the replacement extra-hot. I can’t really handle variations on the recipe yet. But, you know what? I’ve only had this job for two weeks. I think it’s okay that I’m not perfect. And I remembered tonight that this is all part of the plan. I don’t have that dream job yet. But I looked specifically for retail jobs that could cover my bills while I looked for my dream job.
I think I’m going to be okay. I think I’ve settled in enough; I think I can go out and start looking for new friends. New social opportunities. On Wednesday I’m going to go take an exercise class at the fitness center across the street. Then I’ll visit the local game store and see if there are any RPGs looking for players. I’ll start reading the GURPS manual and then find a pre-fab game online to run. I’m going to apply to volunteer at the Wake County Animal Shelter. There aren’t any historical sites in the immediate area, so I’ll cruise through a list of museums and see if there are any that are looking for volunteers.
I’ve become a crazy small pet lady. It’s time for me to branch out, learn new roads, meet new people (seriously, I only know one road here, because I live and work off of it).
This morning I managed to scoop up Sam without frightening him. His reaction was to start running all over me, exploring my arms and legs. I was able to pick him up again and hand him off to James. I’m taking it as a sign. I’ve grown up. I’ve moved beyond the bratty college student who can’t handle responsibility.
I’m feeling optimistic.
[I would have concluded with a picture of Sam but all the pictures I took were blurs]
The last job Claire and Eva worked before Labor Day was at a little farmhouse out in the country. Claire explained that it wasn’t the real real country, the house was only ten minutes from the county seat, but nevertheless the whole place had a very country feel. The house, with peeling paint and holes in the roof, was situated in a two-acre plot of land, marked on all sides by trees. You couldn’t see it from the road, which made it ideal for teenagers to explore and hide in.
“A hive of teenagers,” a cop sniffed.
The land surrounding the house was all grassland, overgrown. The previous occupants had laid down heavy gravel to the three-car garage; otherwise the grass would have prevented penetration by car. Claire and Eva hid their car behind the garage. A car meant adulthood. Adulthood meant legitimacy. They couldn’t appear legitimate, not here.
The house had, at that point, been abandoned by seven years. The owners had foreclosed on the house, had moved on to a small apartment closer to the county seat, where they had managed to find jobs. They were safe. The bank had been unable to sell the house, unable to mow the grass, unable to do repairs. The teenagers claimed the house was haunted. After seven years, the bank was inclined to agree.
Claire and Eva made their move on a Friday night in the last days of summer, when teenagers would feel the impending doom of September and act out, leave their homes, try to capture the last of the summer stars and the freedom of being young and broke. Claire was 23 and Eva nearly 21, but they still looked fairly young. They could mingle with the teenagers and lie about their age. It was better if they lied. Eva claimed 16 and Claire claimed 17. Eva’s hair was jagged and short, too short and too long to look cute; it was awkward and in her eyes. Combined with her cheeks, she could pass for 16, especially in the dark flashlight and candlelight they and the teenagers brought. Claire didn’t look 17, not even in the dark, with her long, confident limbs, neat hair, and wise face. Still, the teenagers accepted her as one of their own; lots of teenagers looked like they were in their early 20s. Perhaps Claire could get them beer later.
Claire and Eva sat with the teenagers and listened to their rituals. There was beer there. Eva was panicked slightly; they were adults and there was teenagers drinking beer. Claire and Eva had decided that the blatant illegality of the whole situation would make it more likely that their plan would succeed. Claire even assured her that her panic made the situation even better. Still, there were cops out there.
The cops had found them, the five teenagers, Claire, and Eva, sitting in the living room doing rituals. Some of it had been show-offish stuff with the candles. There was Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. There was a telephone squeeze game. Claire had even performed a séance (entirely fake, of course). Some of the boys scared the others, pretending to be ghosts, banging the walls and breathing on girls. But finally the cops arrived, in the dark of night.
The teenagers, being teenagers, were driven back home by a pair of the cops. Only two cops remained to interrogate Claire and Eva, who were adults after all.
“Trespassing,” said the cops.
They actually had legal permission, but Claire and Eva kept tight-lipped. They were in real trouble now. Soon it would start.
“Purchasing alcohol for underaged minors,” the cops said.
“Are there any other kind of minors?” Claire asked.
Eva glared at Claire.
“We are going to arrest you,” the cops said.
“You can’t do that,” Eva said, sounding resigned but trying to sound firm. “We pay your salaries.” The cops, predictably, looked annoyed at the comment.
“We weren’t doing any harm,” Claire added. “This old house is so broken down anyway. No one even owns the place.” Claire had been doing this longer.
“Yeah,” Eva said. “Don’t you guys have robbers and murderers to apprehend?”
The two cops began reaching for their handcuffs. The two young women exchanged glances; this was getting serious, and more importantly, it wasn’t working.
Eva grabbed at her necklace, hidden beneath her shirt. The cops jumped a little at the movement. Eva was easily able to unclip the necklace. It was a cheap necklace she had bought for $2.99 eight months ago, but it was the most handy tool in her arsenal. She held it out at arms-length, away from Claire and the cops.
“Oh no,” said Eva. “This necklace was my grandmother’s. My mother gave it to me when my gramma died. I don’t want to lose it!”
The cops stared at her.
Eva felt a pull on the necklace. Her mouth tightened with effort as she pulled back. The necklace dug into her hand. She leaned back, trying to pull them, hell, trying to keep her ground. If the ghosts pulled her towards them, who knew where she would end up?
Claire gasped. There were two ghosts, flickering in and out of her sight; not one, as they had originally thought. She ransacked her brain, trying to come up with some advice for Eva, but her mind pulled up a blank. It was Repellers who handled these jobs, and there were no hard rules for Repelling. Attractors could find ghosts. Attractors were sought out by ghosts. Repellers “only” got rid of ghosts.
Oh. There was one thing she could do.
“There’s two of them!” she shouted.
“What is going on?” one of the cops asked. Claire spared them a glance; their shoulders were wide, they were looking around in all directions. It occurred to her, then, that the lights were flickering. The candles had been blown out, of course, but the flashlights were going off and on. The headlights beaming in from outside were flickering as well.
“It’s working!” Claire shouted. She didn’t know why she was shouting; technically there was no noise. But she could feel noise, in her head, the droning and humming of mundane existence rubbing against the pocket of spirituality of the house. The proximity to the rub – just a few feet away, inches from Eva’s clenching fists – drove her to near-deafness. She rubbed her ears and shouted to the cops, “We have it under control, don’t worry!” She rubbed her temple next. She rubbed the top of her head. It was inside, trying to get out.
Eva considered moving her foot, pulling back and trying to gain harder ground behind her, farther away from the source. But there would be a moment of weakness, before she gained her ground, when she would be at her most weak. It also occurred to her that the pulling wasn’t doing anything except keeping them in one place.
Claire was shouting, which meant that they were almost there. They were so close to get rid of these guys. What, exactly, did they know about these guys, except that they always did the opposite of what anyone wanted (taking out lawnmowers, breaking hammers, drying paint in the can)? But they were doing exactly what Eva wanted. They were where she wanted them to be.
Perhaps they wanted only what they couldn’t have.
Eva held out one of her hands, where another random tool sat on her ring finger, waiting to be used. A $10 ring, found at the same place she found the necklace. Cheapo and made for teenage girls who thought wearing dark clothing made them rebels.
“I hate this ring,” Eva said. “But it’s mine.”
The ghosts swarmed her hand, swirling and rubbing her hand; it was like a hundred hand dryers set at “cool” were covering her hand at once. It was hard to keep her hand still, especially since they dropped the pressure on her necklace. But they had imbued the necklace with their esoterica now. Eva draped the necklace over her hand, then twisted it and wrapped it around her hand again. In the corner of her eye, she saw Claire begin to shake; a cop grabbed her before she fell. Eva again twisted the necklace and made another loop over her hand. She did it four more times, until there were seven loops on her hand.
Everything suddenly became still. Even the cops noticed it. Eva could hear ringing in her ears. Claire slowly stiffened and straightened in the cop’s arms. She gasped something, cleared her throat, and repeated, “Seven.”
Eva nodded. The ringing was overpowering; she wasn’t sure she would be normal for a while.
“They’re gone?” Eva whispered.
“Oh, yes,” Claire said.
My manager/trainer, Manny, was not working the Starbucks counter today. Instead, it was Alicia and Kelli, although Kelli was transitioning to the cafe counter. I was nervous. I have never worked Starbucks without Manny and I still don’t know how to make drinks.
“You don’t know how to make drinks?” they asked.
I felt defensive. “Well, I know how to follow the frappuccino instructions on the counter, if you tell me what flavors to use.”
“You’ve worked here for three weeks and you don’t know how to make drinks?”
“No,” I said. “Manny won’t let me.”
Kelli got angry on my behalf and muttered something about talking to management about this. She completely understood that watching someone else make a drink is not the same as learning how to make a drink. She, too, is a hands-on learner. Alicia began to panic. This was as bad as closing by herself — working with a completely untrained barista?
Kelli found a book of recipes. Two, actually. She showed me how the pages worked (drink order/sample picture on the front, actual method of crafting on the back). Those books were my guide to getting through my shift. Sometimes Alicia told me what flavors to use, but mostly I made drinks. By myself. With just a book as my guide.
It was awesome.
I made drinks you guys! Acceptable drinks! The customers could tell that I was new — they kept smiling sympathetically and saying, “First day?” to which I said “Yeah” because heck, I felt like it was my first day. I pretty much have the Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino down pat, and a really good idea of how a Pumpkin Spice Latte works. I just need the book open to remind myself what the flavors are. BAM.
I might go into Target tomorrow. I’m not scheduled to work, but I kind of want to sit down with HR and discuss my situation. Since discovering this book, my comfort level with Starbucks has improved dramatically. But I still don’t feel like Starbucks is the right location for me. But Alicia and Kelli are super-nice and I’m really glad I worked with them.
I did some dry-goods shopping after work. And since I was in charge I could treat myself.
I am an adult and that means I get to decide that Cinnamon Toast Crunch is an acceptable dinner.
Voltaire’s Candide: or Optimism is a novel meant to snub noses at the idea of philosophical optimism, or the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds. After all, in this world, bad things happen to good people. The book is about a good, optimistic young man, to whom terrible things happen. He never loses his optimism. Or maybe he does, I don’t know. I’ve never actually read it.*
This is relevant because when I came in to open Petsmart this morning, the entire tank of large feeder fish was infested with some kind of scale disease, and about 60% of the fish were already dead. I spent an hour today pulling dead fish out from the feeder fish tanks. It was disgusting, it was depressing, and it got me behind on my opening tasks.
And yet this is the best of all possible worlds, is it not? If there were a worst world, those fish would still be alive, festering in pain with their scale disease. If this were a worst world, there would be no hamsters.
*Candide sits on my shelf, waiting for me to decide, on a whim, that I am a smart person who does smart person things like reading philosophical 19th-century literature for fun. Last time I did that, I only got about two-thirds of the way through The Scarlet Letter, which turned out to be a thoroughly dull book not worth reading. I don’t know why Scarlet Letter is so dull: it’s meant to imitate works from the turn of the 19th century. But I’ve read books from the turn of the 19th century, and, like, things happened and the plot moved forward and the writers didn’t try to hide what was happening behind terrible, terrible writing. I HATE SCARLET LETTER.
I worked at both Petsmart and Target today. I talked to one of the full-time associates, and mentioned that I wasn’t working very many hours. She said, “Yeah, everyone’s been cut. I’m only working 30 hours this week.” So I guess I should just be thankful that I have a back-up job. Also, I talked to my manager. I didn’t bring up my concerns, but he asked if I was willing to work two stocking shifts next week. I am able to, and that means at least 10 hours next week. Hopefully more, working with all my cute animals. I explained basic rodent psychology to a mother and her two sons, sold two hamsters, and sold goodness-knows-how-much tropical fish flakes to people. I’m pretty certain every Spanish-speaking person within the Triangle area came into the store today and asked what the proper food to feed guppies is.
At Target, I spent the entire shift with Manny. He continued his over-explaining things route, but today he actually let me steam milk (twice! I messed up the first one). And in the middle of his over-explaining how to clean dishes, I suddenly interrupted him. “You use paper towels on plastic and the green sponge on metal.”
He blinked in surprise, then said, “Oh thank goodness I don’t have to give that detail anymore.”
Not to say that he didn’t keep telling me which one to use when washing what dish, but it was nice that my basic pattern recognition was acknowledged.
Also, when I came home, James had left out bratwurst and roasted potatoes for me to eat. And look what my friend Steph sent me from Dragon Con:
IT’S A COUPLE COSPLAYING AS CARMEN SAN DIEGO AND WALDO IT’S MY ULTIMATE OTP AAAAAHHHHHHH
I am not happy down here. I am lonely all the time. James can only do so much, but he is one man, with a full-time job and a hobby and the need to do laundry. I can only do so much to distract myself from my loneliness and sadness, but there’s only so much drawing and translating you can do before you have to admit to yourself that you miss having friends. I refuse to go out looking for friends until my money situation improves. I’m barely breaking 32 hours a week. I haven’t actually been paid for anything yet. Friends cost money. You have to pay your way on food and tickets and food (mostly food). And I hate my job situation.
The job that I like — Petsmart — is not giving me any hours. I went from 12 last week to 8 this week. I’m entirely sure why. By all accounts, I am well-liked at Petsmart. I do my job well, I am learning fast, I get along with my coworkers. But I was promised 25+ hours and I’m not getting it. I’ll talk to my manager when I can. I’m just never in Petsmart. (It will be something simple, like, “so I’m concerned because when I was hired I was promised 25 hours a week, and I’m only getting scheduled around 10 hours a week?”)
The job that I dislike — Target — is giving me 24+ hours each week, which is fine, that’s what they offered me originally. It is the thing that is paying my bills. My coworkers are, for the most part, very nice people who are welcoming me into their conversations during breaktime. Cashiering isn’t a bad job, really. I’m terrible at the sales pitch part (I just sometimes drop a “will you be saving 5% on your purchase with your Red Card today?” but honestly I don’t really care enough to do it all the time). But I’ve got the scanning/bagging/chatting with customers down pat.
Most of the time, I’m working at the Starbucks at Target. And I hate working at Starbucks.
On Sunday I walked into Starbucks and put on my apron and started working because I’m scheduled at Starbucks about 90% of the time. As it turned out, I was supposed to be a cashier. But for those 30 minutes or so, I worked with Cheryl and Mikaela, and I was so happy. Because Mikaela looked at me and said, “I was new just a few months ago, and they didn’t explain anything to me. Have they told you how to make recipes?”
I said, “No.”
So she went through the basic recipes for a caramel macchiato and a vanilla bean latte with me. And it was the first time in literally the entire time that anyone took the time to explain how to make a Starbucks drink at Starbucks. Previously, with the manager, Manny, I was expected to write down customer drink information on cups, but he got annoyed if I flipped open the book to look up drink codes. I was “taking up too much time.” He would explain to me how to make steamed milk (a key component in about 99% of Starbucks drinks), and if I tried to make steam milk, he would snatch the milk out of my hands and show me how to make it. I’ve been shown how to make steamed milk 15 times dude. I’m not going to learn it unless I do it. One time I was told to make a salted caramel mocha, and I started making a frappucchino, because the instructions are written on the counter and so it’s the only thing I know how to make. The customer was okay with it, but I was not. I thought “mocha” just meant “chocolate” like he wanted chocolate on his frappucchino. I didn’t know mocha was an actual beverage.
If I try to make a drink, I have to constantly ask questions over my shoulder, and the answers are all “it depends on the drink” because there are so many variations. They always end up just making the drink for me. I haven’t learned the basic recipes for any of the drinks. I’m not sure why. No one has bothered to teach me. I don’t know the difference between a latte and an espresso. Does a mocha have coffee in it? I don’t know. When do you add coffee and when don’t you? I don’t know.
On Sunday, I expressed some of my concerns to a fellow cashier, who also works in cafe sometimes and therefore knows the folks at Starbucks. She nodded empathetically and said, “They need people so badly at Starbucks that they throw people in before they’re ready. Honestly, the only person I would trust to train anyone at Starbucks is Manny.”
Manny, the guy who doesn’t take thirty seconds to explain the ingredients in a recipe? Manny, the guy who snatches milk from my hands because he doesn’t trust me to make steamed milk? Manny is the best trainer they have?
I spent my day off yesterday applying for new jobs.
I don’t want to work at Target anymore.
I have been nibbled on by the were-hamster! When the full moon arises, I shall become a were-hamster! I shall enter the woods and feast on it!
ALL SHALL FEAR ME.