Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It Is What It Isn't

I'm not so sure about this new job. I feel like it should have bored me to death by now. Two or three days a week, I "demo" a featured product at a health food store. I have some experience sampling specialty food items from my days at Foodie Deluxe (not its real name, which - if you know me - you probably know anyway), and I guess I'm pretty good at the 30-second-to-one-minute sales pitch. Anyway, we keep selling out of the stuff that I'm pushing which seems to indicate that I'm doing my job well. But eight hours is a long time to stand in one place doing this one thing and I wonder how long I can dig this gig.

It helps that I do this only part-time, and that I receive a kick-ass 20% discount in addition to my reasonable hourly wage. It also helps that this store happens to be a surprisingly pleasant public gathering space. There's a slew of individuals who pop in almost every day, wandering the aisles, chilling in the cafe, enjoying the cheese and fruit samples. I generally dislike shopping but I've always liked shopping there. Pretty much every employee I've met has been friendly and helpful. I can envision a scenario in which I pursue other opportunities at this place because so far, I really like the company.

Yet, I am surprisingly pleased to be doing what I do now. Why is that? How can I be content with the repetition and constantly hearing myself say things like, "Isn't it great how the spice in the chutney complements that cheese?" as if I were saying it for the first time? How can I so willingly wait through those quiet half hour blocks, when I see nearly no customers and all I can do is think about stuff and anagram words on signs*? Is it the rewards and the environment that keep me interested? Or rather, is it all the things this job isn't? The latter is worth some consideration.

Number 1 - This job isn't critical to the overall operation.
I've been the boss, the only other waitress, the necessary extra set of hands to get the job done. Being valued is nice, but being critical is overrated. I love that the store will run just fine whether or not I'm dishing crab dip samples. That doesn't mean that I'm going to slack off or show up late. But, there is some comfort in knowing that taking a sick day isn't going to make another person's day miserable.

Number 2 - This job doesn't require that I work closely with anyone else. This is a biggie. I work best in situations where I can get away from other people, because my feelings are much like Calvin Tran's ~

Even though his words make no sense, I know exactly what he means.

Really, I've got no problem with team work. I can work well with a group because I'm generally nice and helpful and can crack wise in an entertaining fashion. That's the fun part of working with others. Too bad I absolutely loathe the downside of group dynamics - drama, bitching, passive aggressive behavior, mean-spirited gossip, etc. My MO in most jobs is to keep conversation light and avoid talking about others behind their backs. Okay, incompetent bigwigs and annoying people from other departments are fair game, but I'm very seriously opposed to trashing the people you work with every day. Even when complaints are warranted, I find that such two-faced behavior only makes a bad situation worse. When backbiting becomes common, I know it's the beginning of the end for me and that job.

At the same time, I don't like having to be friendly or pleasant to a person who drives me batshit crazy. Professionalism is one thing, but I can hold in a lot of emotion when I'm dealing with someone I don't like. That isn't good for me. I need to be in a situation where I can get away from annoying people.

The position I'm in now is pretty extreme. I'm physically isolated from most other employees. In fact, I stand in one place all day and hope that others will come by and visit for a bit. Again, I doubt that I could be happy doing this for years, but coming off my last long-term job (working in a tiny office with anywhere from three to seven other people at a time), I think this distance from others will be nice for a while.

Number 3 - This isn't the only job available. My recent trip to Michigan, though delightful in many regards, was a bummer trip in just as many ways. The air of recession depression is practically overwhelming. It isn't just the unemployed who are struggling. The semi-employed and those who are working jobs they hate (but are too scared to leave) are suffering, too. I've been in all three of those situations and know that each one sucks. I would have a very different perspective on this gig if I lived in Michigan because I would feel more desperate about keeping it. This is already my second job in Chattanooga and I feel pretty confident that I could find more work elsewhere if this place doesn't suit me, which takes the pressure off this being the One Big Opportunity.

I read a David Sedaris piece in which he mentions this idea that our lives are like a four burner stove, with each burner representing family, health, work/career and friends. Successful people usually have just three burners turned on, and super successful people use just two. Of course, this begs the question, how do you order your burners? Family and health would be my current top two. I suppose that being new to this town would allow work to tie with friends, only because I haven't made that many yet. In any case, work just isn't a big priority for me right now. I like making money and having a commitment to something outside of myself. I like the forced social interaction, even when it's as superficial as, "You've gotta try this artisinal salami!" I like that what I'm doing now is so different from what I had been doing for the last several years. Still, I have to admit, I'm surprised that this is enough for me right now.

*That's a boredom-fighting tip my mom taught me; my recent discovery is "spices" and "Pisces".


  1. I love the anagrams. Mine was determining phrases made from the three letters on license plates.

  2. Ooh, that's a good one! I'm using that on the next road trip.