T’was the Season of Retail Hell

The season is upon us. As I give thanks and reflect on all the blessings in my life, I think about one of the biggest ones- besides my son, that is.

Number 1 Blessing!

I will NOT be working retail this season. Oh, HALLELUJAH.

Finally, I can just relax and enjoy the holiday. This will be the first time in probably 22 years. This is counting mall jobs as a teenager, and really, those probably count the most! The mall at Christmastime is ALWAYS a disaster. I remember working at Express at the Laurel Mall during the Christmas rush. SWEATERS EVERYWHERE. We would have to stay for hours after closing just to get the store in order, only for a bunch of ladies to come in and destroy it again the next day. And this is where I turn completely sexist…. ladies ruin perfectly good piles of clothing. Men do not. It’s a studied (by me) fact. I worked at Express (womens) and then Structure (mens). VERY little clean up for the guys. If they don’t remotely like it, they are not going to touch it. And if they remotely like it, then they MIGHT unfold it, but only if they know they are going to try it on. It didn’t take long for me to recognize this fact and transfer next door out of sheer laziness. But of course, during the holidays, all the ladies were shopping for men, so even Structure was a mess. The ladies need to see each size opened up, and for some reason, Every. Single. Possible. Color. IT’S THE SAME SWEATER, JUST A DIFFERENT COLOR!!! And don’t try to clean as they rip them apart. They find this obnoxious. Well, we were even because I found THEM obnoxious also.

Yes, this about sums it up.

I’ve never folded so many sweaters, though. For real. We had these little boards to help us get the “perfect fold”. For someone who hated doing her own laundry, and was lucky if her clothes made it into a drawer, this was a nightmare of a job.

By the next season I had managed to get myself into a great job with the “cool kids” over at Camelot Music. Now, this was not NEARLY as bad as the clothing. At least I loved music and the revolving door of freakish customers, but Christmas is Christmas. And nobody is harder on merchandise than the customers of a music store. CDs EVERYWHERE. And don’t get me started on that bargain bin… or the lines… the lines! Or the people who don’t know what they are looking for, so they try to sing it for you. It was kind of a fun game. I was pretty good at picking out horribly sung tunes. The worst was when they didn’t know any words. It was like, “Can you remember ONE WORD? Just ONE would help tremendously.”

At least we had cases for ours, but this is what it FELT like!

The next 18 years of my Christmas retail life took place in a copy/shipping store. And while I’m not going to say the name, as I have recently left and who knows what legalities are involved, draw your own conclusions. That said, HOLY CRAP. Calendars, calendars, calendars. Did I say calendars??? We were SURROUNDED by people’s 13 photos (1 for each month and 1 for the cover), tucked away in an envelope, which was HOPEFULLY labeled correctly. Some years we’d make hundreds in a day. When we got a huge contract as a 3 party vendor, it was thousands. Can you imagine? And I’d say, with all the printer/copiers went through, about 15-25% were redone due to quality issues. So we’d have tons of re-dos also floating around. It’s amazing how well it DID work, really.

“I sure hope those pictures have some customer identification on the other side!”

Now, over the years, these calendar projects started to dwindle. A lot. Last year, I ended up only doing about 5 personally. Of course, they added a whole other ball of wax- shipping. So the focus turned to packing and shipping most things great and small. Some items would take a half hour or more to pack. It is an INCREDIBLE situation. The lifting, the wrapping, the sizing, tracking “missing” packages, walking people through forms-most of whom have never shipped and have no idea how much it costs- “It’s HOW MUCH???? OH, NO. I’m not doing that. Unpack my things and give them back!” You might say, why don’t you tell them the price first? Well, until it’s in its exact box, all packed up, the weight and dimensions may change, leaving LOTS of room for quoting mishaps. It was THE. WORST. And how about those days when you were about to close up, and 5 minutes before close, in walks a couple with 5 large boxes, stuffing hanging out of them. Worst packing job ever, and the customers thinks they are “good to go”. “No, it’s fine, they’re just pillows. They can go as is.” they’d say. “I’m sorry, sir, this doesn’t meet our packing standards.”

“Oh, yeah. That should make it just fine……NOT.”

“What do you mean? THEY’RE JUST PILLOWS!” he’d rage, in full-on Christmas Fury. I’d try reasoning. “OK, let me break it down- these boxes could easily get caught on a conveyor belt and hold up the progress of ALL the packages. I can’t accept it.” “This is ridiculous!!!” he’d shout and storm out. “No, you are ridiculous. And by the way, Merry Christmas!!!” I WISH I could have said.  That job tested my patience at every turn. But especially during the holidays.

I looked at the calendar the other day to see what day Christmas falls on this year. Tuesday. So I would have had to have worked Sunday, Monday (Christmas Eve), off Christmas and right back to work on Wednesday. It would have been the worst.

So while I’m not working the full time day job, I do have some gigs- some holiday parties and a wedding. So that’s perfect. Go spread a little Christmas cheer, collect some dough and be on my way. That’s how work SHOULD be. I’m so blessed to be able to do what I love now and not miss moments like this with the little one:

And big thanks to my husband, for which none of this would be possible! His job has also a tremendous blessing! And on to getting the house together for Christmas… and to get creative on the gifts front! Not having a full time day job does have it’s drawbacks- all worth it, though!

Yet Another Tribute to Another Wayout Mama

I’ve been putting this off. As prepared and accepting as one can be regarding the death of a loved one, I suppose we are never really ready. We lost one of the great ones on October 25, 2012.

Faye Peterson wore many hats- literally and figuratively. She was my best friend’s mom. She was my mom’s best friend. She was my friend and 2nd mother. She was the press release office spokesperson for FDA. She owned horses. She loved her dogs. She always had a cool car, and was never afraid to press the pedal to the metal. She was an amazing linguist and loved to pick apart the English language- which was very entertaining to those with half a brain. She was a great listener and she always told you the truth, however hard it was to hear. She told you out of love. She listened out of love. She was generous and helpful.  She had big red hats, sleek Indiana Jones style hats, and everything in between. Sometimes, underneath those hats, she had purple hair. She is the first white lady I ever knew who got extensions. It looked great. She was beyond stylish, even if she was just hanging out in the kitchen, smoking Virginia Slims and having a drink.

Faye, probably making something delicious.

When I think of Wayout Mamas in my own life, Faye is at the top of my list.

We met Faye when her son, Chris, got off at my bus stop because he didn’t want to go back to his day care. Someone there had been mean to him, and is little 4 and 1/2 year old self decided to hop off at my stop. Such nerve! We tracked down Chris’ mom and she came to get him at our house. Since Chris was so against going back to daycare, my mom offered that he could just come home to our house after school. So we started watching him then- which was great for me, because we lived in a neighborhood where our youngest neighbor was around 50, save one other boy who was my brother’s age. Chris and I became fast friends. We watched him every day after school until they moved out to Fulton when Chris was starting 2nd grade. Even then, he still spent every day during our summers until we were 16. Chris and I were embroiled into each other’s lives. His parents became mine and vice-versa. We were together as much as we could be- taking all of our family vacations together and playing in bands together from small kids well into our 20’s. I will be thankful for the choice Chris made at such a young age- to choose my stop to escape his daycare. It sparked one of the best friendships between families that we have experienced.

Growing up, Faye was always so cool. Not like the other moms. She didn’t baby us. She spoke to us like adults, never dumbing down her excellent vocabulary for us. This is something both she and my mom did. If we didn’t understand something, “Look it up!” Chris and I were left with a better than average grasp of the English language, being surrounded by all these smart ladies. By the time I was a teenager, Faye and I were more like good friends than anything. From then until recent years, we’d sit and talk in her kitchen, or by phone. Either way, they were mostly marathon sessions. We’d talk about everything- music, books, tv shows, football, family, friends, relationships- you name it, we talked about it. Like I mentioned before, we would often list out all the irritating grammar mistakes people made on a regular basis. Extra points if you caught a news anchor or newspaper reporter making one of these mistakes. One of my favorites of her “most irritating” list was “for all intensive purposes”- “It’s ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES! Stupid people!” she’d rant. It was hilarious. We shared many many laughs based on simple observation of many stupid, stupid people.

So many years, so many happenings. Countless amazing memories. Sadly, when Chris passed away in 2007, Faye was probably never the same. I’m sure it was the hardest thing ever to go through, and just 5 years later, she has joined him, along with a countless menagerie of beloved animals who’ve gone on before. I know our lives will never be the same without Faye and Chris. They were family to us for so long. They still are, I know- but no words will truly be able to express the loss that I feel not having them directly in our lives.

Thank you, Faye- for always being there. Thank you for “all the beautiful things”… I wear at least one of the beautiful pieces of jewelry you have given me over the years every day. The canvas painting of all the pretty horses you gave me hangs above Patrick’s changing table and he looks at it every day. I will always tell him where it came from, and tell him all about you as he gets older. I’m so glad you got to meet him. I was so lucky to have you in my life for as long as I did. You were a tremendous friend and will not be forgotten.

Faye, Chris and I on Christmas Eve. Our Christmas Eves will never be the same without them. Faye was beyond generous and taught me the spirit of giving. And yes, this is me trying to have dark hair. It later faded to green. Nice. 🙂

And finally, here’s a song that always makes me think of you. Thank you for sharing it with me.

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