A couple of weeks ago I was wandering around a certain shopping center. At this point in time the exact reason for my being there in the first place escapes me, as whenever possible I try to avoid spending time in awful suburban black holes of retail boredom, especially during the silly season.
I was walking around the certain shopping center and lo and behold, I was near my old place of employment. It happens to be a cafe specialising in chocolate goods, for those of you folk playing at home. I heard the strains of Bing Crosby's voice floating in the air from up on high and suddenly like a bolt of be-tinseled lightning it it hit me - that this would be the first Christmas in FIVE YEARS that I wouldn't be working in retail or hospitality. It'd be the first extended family Christmas lunch in about three years I'd be able to attend in its entirety because I happened to be working on Boxing Day, or had to go to work to set up for a Boxing Day sale, and my extended family had decided that Christmas lunch would fall on Boxing Day. This would be the first Christmas in five years in which I'd be able to be rested, in which I'd be able to keep regular patterns of sleep instead of mentally and physically preparing myself for the midnight shifts, the long hours of scanning through gift cards, or unwrapping endless DVDs and CDs, or serving hoards of angry shoppers their post-shop hot chocolates and chocolate desserts after they demanded to know why a dessert bar doesn't serve something savory, you really should be serving something that isn't chocolate you know.
My GOD, is it ever a relief. I can watch The Shop Around the Corner and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and When Harry Met Sally (my yule-tide cinematic offerings of choice) without dreading going to work the next day. Without dreading the absurd hour I'd have to arrive to open the store in order to unwrap yet another box of sale DVDs, or to spend another day trying to convince people that they REALLY need to buy into a chocolate gift box offer that in truth probably isn't saving them any money at all.
Christmas 2006, 2007 and 2008 were spent working at a record store. I take that back. "Record store" implies something like Polyester Records. I'll rephrase; I spent those years working at a now-defunct chain store specialising in CDs and DVDs, whose name rhymed with "Blanity".
I could wax lyrical for hours (you think I'm exaggerating?) describing the myriad ways humankind's stupidity was on show during my years behind the counter there. Some of the more memorable examples include the woman who walked in, past rows and rows of CDs and asked a co-worker of mine, "Do you sell CDs here?". Or the man who asked me, "There's this song ... it's got trumpets in it. I don't know the name, or who sings it, but it's definitely on a compilation CD". Or the people who'd tell us our prices were too expensive (I don't care), that they were going to shop somewhere else (good), or who'd run up to me as I was pulling down the roller doors and yell "LEMME IN I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I WANT" then spend ten minutes deciding if in the end, they really wanted it at all.
People would shove each other out of the way, would leave their trolleys or food or children in the middle of the aisle, would push in front of each other in the line, then yell at me when I asked who was next.
Please, to observe.
Woman: I'd like twenty gift cards please.
Me: ...Okay. But just so you know, this will take rather a long time. You see, I have to do them all individually. Are you sure you want twenty?
Woman: YES I'M SURE.
Working as quickly as I can, I grab boxes and write details and scan the cards through the computer and eftpos thing.
Woman: WHY is this taking SO LONG?
Me: ... Like I said, I have to do each of these individually. I told you it would take a long time.
Woman: Well, I have A LOT of other shopping to do.
Christmas 2008 I also worked at Bardot. It's okay, I was just as puzzled and shocked. Looking back, it was almost as if I was job hunting, blacked out, then woke up in a store blasting house music, surrounded by heavily made-up skinny girls. I wasn't asked to stay on after Christmas.
Christmas 2009 and 2010 was spent at the chocolate cafe. Mercifully, it was a Jewish business and so we were for the most part spared the torture of Christmas carols on repeat. Which is more than I can say after working at Blanity. I now have the words of Michael Buble's back-catalog etched into my mind, as well as the Top 40 releases of 2006-2008, and maybe every pop-singer reinterpreted Christmas carol ever.
Anyway, even if we didn't have to listen to Christmas carols instore, that didn't save us from local children's' choirs singing outside our store, or from the shoppers with their game-faces on and their screeching spawn yapping at their heels. Aside from the usual working-at-a-cafe gripes, every little annoying thing that happened was accompanied for the most part by the look people get after wandering up and down a shopping center for hours on end, slowly ticking off names, their energy and will to live diminishing with each store visited and shopgirl chirpily asking, "Can I help you with anything?". Since when did Christmas become so painful? Probably at about the time one begins to earn money and thus can buy presents for family members.
Goddamn, for a post that claims to be rage-less, this is full of plenty rage. I guess that's indicative of how enjoyable past Christmases have been, and thus how AMAZINGLY OVERJOYED I am to have the days leading up to the 25th of December chock-full of happy vibes instead of weary bones and jeans that reek of chocolate.
I went to Chaddy a couple of weekends ago, while in the throes of a hangover no less, and as I attempted to navigate through the crowds and the trolleys and the prams I was struck with one thought that stood out in front of all the others trundling around my brain: that I wanted to thank my lucky stars that I wasn't working there.
To all those who are working in retail or hospitality, I salute you and wish you the best of luck.
To everyone else, I am glad to have finally joined your ranks. I'm going to rejoice in my yule time off and watch me some Jimmy Stewart. The thought of sitting in front of the TV with a cup of tea with the Christmas lights flashing out of the corner of my eye makes me all manner of happy. Cheap thrills y'all, cheap thrills.
Every time. Every time I watch this someone decides to chop onions in the room.