I have worked in retail the last two years, and I dig it. I love the fast pace, the snappy banter, and I can safely say, most customers. Yes, I’m one of those folks that actually likes people – always have. I am a social creature by nature. I was never a gal that couldn’t go to a bar alone, but that begs the question, really – are there gals that won’t go to a bar alone? Anymore?! Surely not. Well, hell, I don’t know anything.
Anyway, I can, and will, strike up a conversation with anyone from the homeless, to Dolly Parton. My Grandfather referred to me often as “chatterbox” and not in a good way. I’ve always had the gift of gab and when my family hauled ass here to the South in the late 1970’s, I was even forced upon a friend of theirs as his shotgun companion in a moving rental truck because he had bitched about his radio being broken. I rode about 250 miles with this dude and I think he was in his early 20’s and was YELTSIN DRUNK that night because he had been held verbal hostage by a 11 year old girl who was obsessed with, and chattered incessantly about – Laura Ingalls Wilder.
What I lack in information, I make up in character – I often say that at work and that’s the truth, Ruth. It doesn’t always work but more often than not people are pretty forgiving at a self deprecating joke or a “heck, let’s find someone smarter than me and ask THEM”. People are kind, and I stand by that, even today, right now, right here. I wear a uniform (omg that is yet another perk), but we’re allowed to add our own “flair” if you will, akin to the movie Office Space, and folks will often sport a hat, or scarf, or head tie, etc. Of course there are guidelines, I imagine, but they do encourage individuality. I was scheduled to work my first St. Patrick’s Day, and naturally, being a proud authentic Irish gal AND alcoholic, I had a multitude of green crap, like various shamrocks and hats and head boppers from 5k runs, parades, and drunken escapes in general, so I donned a pair and as they say, the rest is history. I got a lot of fun feedback and customers seemingly got a kick out of ‘em, so why not? I think the next holiday was Easter and I sported some bunny ears or carrots or something ridiculous and next thing you know, it’s my “thing”. My co-workers are encouraging and have even provided me a few unique offerings. I got a set of rainbow shiny (almost serpentine) “horns” that I am DYING to rock, given the right occasion.
And it’s a fine thing, don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty upbeat most days, so I love it and I’ve spent a small fortune now in “deely-boopers” or whatever you call them. I mean, seriously, I am like the LIBERACE of RIDIC HEAD GEAR. I have Pride flags. Ghosts. Turkey legs. Naturally I have some smiley faces as well and updated them accordingly:
I mean, c’mon. SAFETY FIRST, y’all. This gives some folks a little comic relief and really, if that’s all I can provide some days, I’ll take it. The world is in a lot of pain. My job is ultimately about connection, and we all know now that masks make eyes even more prominent, don’t we? Well, the eyes I’m looking in these days hold a lot of fear and grief. I can’t fix it but I can pause, try to understand, and smile with my eyes – and the stupid shit on my head. One of the kindest and most pivotal things my Mother has ever said to me was while attending a bible study in my thirties – we had to pick a trait in ourselves that we were the proudest of, and I sat there quietly, dumbfounded by the question. She glanced up at me, in her very matter of fact manner, and looked at me incredulously, “Compassion, honey! Geez, that one’s easy!” It’s such a gift a mother has, to know your light even when you don’t, or have forgotten. I don’t know if she remembers it at all, and if she does, I’m pretty certain she didn’t realize the impact of her words. And more importantly to me, how easily they came to her.
So, that’s my “thing” too, so I’m told. Don’t think the fucking irony isn’t lost on me how hilarious it would be of all THE BULLSHIT I HAVE PULLED AND DONE AND GOT AWAY WITH that I would go down as someone known for her compassion. I suppose I just need to live long enough and I would like that very much, thank ya.
My Mother would tell you she’s not surprised. My Mom would tell you I’ve been that way my whole life and I’ve always cheered on the underdog and tried to leave everyone laughing, even (and often) at my own expense. She’ll remind you of these things when you least expect it and you know why? Because she didn’t forget who you were, YOU DID. I know the new (old) Jenny is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSON than the old one and for the most part that’s great because the old one at the end of her rope was really no fun, and on the brink of buzzards. My Mother would argue that it is, indeed an improvement, but remember, she’ll say – you were sick. She doesn’t sugarcoat things, but instead delivers a succinct rendering of facts, which I think we can all appreciate these days. I know she’s my Mom, yes, and that’s exactly why the factual reporting is so damn hilarious to me, as it is rarely emotional. It’s as if sometimes she’s NOT my Mother, but a bystander reporting from the outside, and she takes the drama and shame and guilt right out of it. And I’m ridiculously grateful for that.
And then out of the blue, she’ll remind you of who you were waaaaay back then, and how you’re still that same girl. And she’ll prove it.
So, here’s to that little girl up there in the pigtails. She was trying back then and she’s still trying now, at 52 years of age. I’m going to try to be nicer to her these days. She’s certainly survived a lot, and you know what? She’s still smiling.
Thanks Mom, for always reminding me who I am, even when I forget.