234.0: So worn and wrinkly that I look like David Brinkley.
In one of my most sordid, breathtakingly and sweatily homoerotic fantasies about you, you are spending the offseason… watching all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In order to better understand me. Yeah, that’s all.
Even though my last job was working at a downtown office, it still encompassed customer service, which has been a vital part of my professional tapestry. The first internship I ever had was an online gig in high school for Prodigy, which was second only to AOL in how Americans at the time connected to the internet. It may have been a gig that took place online, but all customer service is the same.
There are days at work when I just want to pull out a little bit of Anya’s personality from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “No! No more talking for you,” I sometimes imagine myself reprimanding while I grin politely at whatever unfortunate customer I’m saddled with. “You make no sense and your presence reeks of smelly cheese!”
By the way, today is “Small Business Saturday.” I know this is problematic because it’s an occasion concocted by a credit card company, but hey, if it gets people into my store, then I guess it’s OK. I’ve heard of a place up there called The Elliott Bay Book Company. They call themselves “Seattle’s legendary independent bookstore.” Would you go in there and then tell me if it in fact seems legendary? Cool.
There’s this yummy bakery, and I’ve only ever come here to stuff my face, never to bitch and moan.
I was in line this morning and, not to point fingers as if that line were my playground, but the guy in front of me started it. In truth, it might have been better to keep my mouth shut. But after all that jive I gave in a prior never-to-be-sent about picking my battles, well, here’s one I chose.
“Is it possible to to close those doors?” said the customer. But even as the clerk rushed to oblige, and even though the Sunset was in fact draped with a typical foggy chill while temperatures soared in the rest of the Bay Area, I ignored that customer’s point.
“Well, what if they’re uncomfortable?” I countered. Not surprisingly, the man didn’t hear me — or pretended not to.
He said, “What?”
Rather than repeating myself, I expounded: “They’ve been baking all morning. And on top of that they’ve stood here all morning so that they can ring up everyone who buys everything that they spent all morning baking and after them another shift will stand here again and then after that another shift. And quite frankly when you’ve been baking and standing around all day, you want a little fresh air. Not to mention the fact that this is an Asian bakery, with — surprise! — an Asian staff. Maybe they have different temperature tolerances.”
I paused for added effect but to my surprise the man did not leap into this temporal opening.
“You’ve got a jacket on,” I said, nodding at his North Face. “Bundle up and enjoy your food.”
Now the other guy was stricken. He whirled to face the clerk, who stood helpless while her coworkers milled near the ovens and stared curiously at the scene unfolding in the near distance.
“Does he work here?” the man demanded, but just as the clerk began to vigorously turn her head, I said: “I don’t work here. I’m just a happy customer, but hey. Don’t go by me. I have morals.”
I anticipated being cussed out but instead the man said, “You ever hear ‘customer’s always right’, buddy?”
“What a strangely dictatorial conceit in a nation that loves democracy so goddamn much.” Although I was the one who ended up employing a cuss word, I made the observation with what I hoped was such a level delivery as to be icy.
“Where do you work, huh?” the man demanded.
“Wouldn’t you like to know.”
All’s well that ends well, Linc. I got the last word and in exchange he gave me a dirty look and some huffing and puffing. The clerk received me wide-eyed with reddened cheeks but rung up my purchases and a shy utterance of thanks. The man loudly crunched up his paper bag of food as he huffed and puffed from the bakery to what I judgmentally assumed was the N-Judah train that would ferry him to his financial district job. Meanwhile, so far there is no evidence that I’ve been banned from here. When you decide to run your mouth off at a business that you happen to like, it helps to buy eight bucks worth of food. The coffee was what really put me over the top in terms of how much I wanted to spend here for a late breakfast, though. That stuff is way too expensive these days.
I crack myself up — no, really I do. It’s some sort of illness. For example, lately I have taken to paring down my foul mouth (despite all the sexual innuendo I still make about, ahem, you). My favorite cuss replacement as of late is “rats!” This morning, something happened and I said “curses!” And then I cracked up at that. Curses! It doesn’t sound very serious, does it?
How are you feeling? How do you usually feel after a day at work when you didn’t do so well? I wonder if every “morning after” — not the good kind, but the one that sucks when it comes after a bad day on the job — feels like a new one, because you never quite get used to the feeling of disappointment. As I have written in prior never-to-be-sents, I’ll never really know what’s going on in your head so I have to assume by projection of mine. I am only a few weeks into my new job but I have already accumulated the requisite number of good days and bad days.
Yesterday was a good day. My position is retail but because I am an events coordinator, there is also some office time. I have to admit that I enjoy the retail part a little bit more than the office part. I love being on my feet, roaming the sales floor and helping customers, engaging them. I also like being on registers. Actually, for quite some time I had already decided that I like being on registers, but I have been afraid to admit it for fear that once I do, some horrible customer service experience will instantly materialize to make me regret my admission. (Like many baseball players, I, too, am superstitious.) The bad part about being on registers is that I’m bad at math, and I am intimidated by money. Customers naturally want their transactions to be quick and accurate, so for every transaction that I go through, my heart quickens.
That’s a lot of work for my heart.
Yesterday alone, the morning had started off slowly and then exploded some time after lunch. (I am not sure why the timing worked out that way. I would have expected there to be a rush of business during 12, not a little past 1. I guess it’s kind of like that old saying about how a hush falls over a crowd every 20 minutes, or whatever.) The store was in that awkward moment between shifts when my coworkers are going and the next batch is still arriving, so for a good while I was alone at the registers. When I finally got some backup, and then was soon relieved by the next shift, the feeling that I left with was, I gotta say: it was a rush! Ringing up all those customers, accurately counting all that cash, swiping all those credit cards, bagging all those books and all the while keeping a smile on my face and pressing onward with engaging conversation even while my mind is on a million different things — I can’t believe I did it! And this will be my job, for at least 32 hours a week, which is the bottom end of full time, although I am creeping upward over the summer and according to the schedule that my boss has laid out, I will be somewhere closer to 35 by August. Woo.
That was a good day — or, well, one part of that day was good. A good portion of the day was also spent being anxious about how to interact with one of my coworkers, who is one of those types you can never tell if they’re being sarcastic or not, or if sarcasm is their way of showing that they appreciate you. When I was in my 20s — wow, I make myself sound so elderly — I used to be a bitch. I really didn’t have a problem speaking my mind and telling people off. I burned a lot of bridges. But I have found that as I have gotten older, and now at 30, that I am becoming a softie. I’ve become really sensitive, Linc. I can’t handle sarcasm as well as I used to. Although I still do reserve the right to tell the truly deserving that they can shove a brick up their ass sideways, I feel like that part of me stayed behind in my teens and 20s and is now a visitor rather than a citizen. So, about that coworker, well, I get anxious about that as much as I get anxious about handling the cash. I’m just gonna have to work on it.
I know, I know. None of this compares with being knocked out in the fourth.
There’s an acquaintance I’ve made recently who is an illustrator. He’s come out with a handful of comic books, and I was skimming through one of them not really paying as much attention to the story as I was to the great artwork. I landed on a page where the main character (I think) is opening his mail and the comic bubble above him says, “Another letter from Mildred.” In the next panel, the main character sets it aside, unopened, and the comic bubble says, I think, that he will say a prayer for her.
Even though I don’t know the context of what happened there, it stayed with me because I thought of you and these never-to-be-sents. Oh, look. Another never-to-be-sent from Joe. No one’s reading, least of all you.
Happy 4th of July, Linc. On this day in the summer of 2009, the Giants played at home and you started. I was there. I remember Randy Winn’s double. After you ran across home plate, I texted to all of my friends, “My husband scored! My husband scored!”
Written in the format of unsent (“never-to-be-sent”) letters to San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum, Baseball 2.0 discusses baseball, the world and life — though baseball could be considered to be all of the above. In particular, there is special emphasis on baseball and life through the author’s background as a gay Filipino.
All that introspection is time consuming, so there’s not a lot of opportunity to hope that Tim (variously and vaguely referred to as either “the Avatar” or “Linc,” not really because of movies or video games but due to the author’s personal superstition/belief about the power of names) actually writes back — which he likely wouldn’t, anyway.
I see that All-Star results will be announced later this morning at the same time my shift starts. Either I will hear about it at work or will be completely unaware until my shift is over. I usually don’t pay attention to my phone unless I’m on a break, and even then keeping in touch with the world beyond my store — which lately has taken on the strange feeling of solace — isn’t vital. Usually when I get out of work there are a couple of text messages, missed calls and the occasional voicemail waiting. Whatever it is, I can deal with it later.
Your next road trip is coming up and you’re going to be in my hometown. They’ve just endured some pretty wild thunderstorms. I grew up with all of that. I’m used to darkened skies and not knowing whether or not the earth-quaking rumble in the near distance is really bad thunder or an actually approaching tornado. Once a tornado did touch down a few blocks from where I grew up. It’s weird how specific that particular weather phenomenon can be, like that time on Star Trek: The Next Generation when this human chick found out that her parents were really part of the immortal godlike Q Continuum and the continuum had decided to kill them for their human ways by unleashing a tornado on their house in Kansas… I wonder if your mind went foggy at the words “that time on Star Trek.”
As anyone who has ever worked retail or customer service will tell you, that line of work is a great environment from which to observe human nature. Yesterday, I had a customer who was otherwise friendly when she came up to my register with her book. When I rang up her book and gave her the total, her eyes bugged out and she said, “Wait — what?!” She gave me a fleeting look that reminded me of those horror movies where the filmmaker decides that in order to show the audience that the human character on screen is actually a menace, that character’s face will flash briefly with the face of a demon (accompanied by the obligatory surround-sound effects of growling, shrieking and a thumping score). I watched with a scientist’s dispassion as the customer appeared ready to rip out my throat while she snatched up the book and then her demeanor instantly deflated when she saw that the price I had rung up was correct and her assumption was not.
“Oh sorry, I thought it said something else,” she said to me with nascent humility, in a transformation that could also harken back to said example horror movie.
It is funny to wonder about how many conflicts and wars, how many bridges burned and lives lost can be attributed to assumptions and generalizations, to the words and notion of “I thought.”
I guess a part of me just stood there watching her because I was confident that the data on the register was right. I mean, it had to be, right? Usually the register has accurate information, and if the customer had gone on to insist otherwise, of course I would’ve pulled one of my colleagues to double-check.
But I was more interested in seeing it all unfold and adapting accordingly. I think this is my approach to life overall. I would hope that I’m not exactly a wallflower or someone who sits on things until it’s too late to do anything about it. Rather, perhaps I take after the land, which sits around existing and doing whatever it does to support itself and the people to which it comes in contact, while somehow being able to endure unexpected thunderstorms and those weirdly specific tornados.
I’m standing at the bus stop listening to a sweet song by some dude named Ed Sheeran on Pandora. It is a gorgeous morning. I don’t even need to wear a jacket. In fact, the guy standing near me is wearing shorts. He’s tall, very skinny and so pale. He kinda reminds me of Michael Cera, except less awkward and more preppy, as this dude is all stylish and shit with his shades and popped collar. And he’s very pale. Even though I think I’m making a reasonable attempt not to register any emotion, inside I’m cracking up because in the sunlight he is practically a tube of plain, non-minty no-frills toothpaste. But I can’t stop glancing over at him — I guess this is my “type.” Why am I not strolling closer toward him to make conversation? The weight of shyness is standing in front of me, an invisible bouncer who knows that my ID is fake.
I’m better at this when I am at bars and I have had at least one beer. That is a very unfortunate admission. My old job, though I liked it, also stressed me out a lot and, combined with the loneliness of being single, I hit the sauce more often than I ever did in the course of my whole life. I didn’t sleep with anyone, but I could have, if I’d had just one more fateful drink…
Since I started training for the half marathon, I have not had a drink. Maybe this weekend I will treat myself to one of those low-calorie beers I used to mock in another life. But this is a new life, or perhaps a reboot of my old life. And my new job? Yeah, it really helps that I get so much satisfaction out of it, even if that personal fulfillment isn’t enough to stop me from living from one Courtesy Balance Notification to another.
Work will be busy today. We are taking ticket orders for what may be one of our biggest events of the summer. I’m scared about dealing with the crush of customers I am anticipating to inundate the store. Excuse me while I unintentionally make the whole world hate me.