Naggy Bitches R Us

‘You’re all a pack of naggy bitches today – I’m leaving, I’m not buying anything and I’m not coming back!’

Yesterday was just one of those days at work. Customers – only a small proportion of customers mind you, not all – have recently been becoming quite complacent about following some of the necessary procedures in our store that have been put in place to protect all of us from coronavirus. And oh, suffice to say these unhappy few seriously do not like being reminded to behave differently, or being corrected when they so deliberately err from what is being asked of them!

Customers cannot try on clothing in store – in most stores actually, not just in ours. Notices are up everywhere. The fitting rooms are not only closed due to the difficulties of social distancing within such a confined space but because clothing cannot be tried on anywhere, by anyone, until it has been bought and paid for. Just before I finished my shift yesterday I was walking past an older woman who was clearly trying on a jacket from a rack in the middle of the store, so I reminded her very politely that she could not try on any items of clothing in the current coronavirus climate.

She took off the jacket angrily and glared at me, picked up her own jacket and bag with a flourish, then turned on me as she walked away saying very loudly to anyone who was listening ‘You’re all a pack of naggy bitches today – I’m leaving, I’m not buying anything and I’m not coming back!’. Apparently, as I discovered afterwards, this particular customer had also just objected to being asked to stand in a particular place at the cash desk to complete the return of an item she had bought previously. Oh dear!

I just stood there momentarily with what must have been a surprised look on my face had anyone been able to see under my mask, put the offending tried-on jacket in quarantine then carried on to the end of my shift. But her comment stayed with me, and rather than upsetting me it makes me smile at the sheer childishness of it all. We’ve all had some passive-aggressive barbed comments sent our way from people who project their own personal frustrations with the global situation onto us, whose rude ignorance hears individual insult in the politest of requests for collective compliance.

There used to be a large toy retailer here in the UK called ‘Toys R Us’, and all I can think of now when I remember this customer’s comment is adapting the catchy name for our own use as a kind of badge of honour – ‘Naggy Bitches R Us’ – because if supposedly grown adults are incapable of parenting their own behaviour themselves in an appropriate manner for any given situation, then they leave all us apparently ‘naggy bitches’ of sales assistants no real option in stores but to step in to that missing spot and help do it for them… 🙂

One Liner Wednesday

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Missing

A Bit of a Rant

Spot the deliberate mistake – yup, my Stream of Consciousness Saturday post is being posted on Sunday evening! Sorry, been busy at work this weekend, so this may well turn out to be a bit of a rant. It’s now been a whole month since I went back to work and in some ways it’s been good but in others, not so much.

Positives include still having a job to go to, and earning a full pay instead of the 80% wage we received on furlough (for which I was extremely grateful, as it was a million times better than earning nothing for the duration of lockdown). And seeing work colleagues regularly, that’s definitely good too. It’s also nice not to feel stuck in limbo any more, life is at least on the move again, even with the inevitable restrictions still in place.

And I must emphasise that most of the customers we serve over the course of the day are absolutely delighted to be out shopping for clothes in person again, are simply happy to see us and appreciate that we are out there doing whatever we have to do to make it possible, and understand that the store may be open again after a fashion, but any real sense of how things were before is still a long way off.

Negatives, however, include the very few inconsiderate customers who clearly seem to resent the lack of normality to their shopping experience and who choose to take their frustrations out on stressed-out staff who are simply doing their best to make the most of a difficult situation, by at least providing a limited service where possible. Reduced opening hours, reduced staffing levels, reduced options, granted – but at least we’re open.

So no, you can’t try clothes on in store, but you are free to buy them, take them home and return whatever doesn’t fit. We are not trying to inconvenience you, we are trying to keep you safe. Returned clothing then goes into quarantine for a couple of days before being replaced on the sales floor. And no, you definitely can’t have a bra-fitting – hello, social distancing, people! Bra fittings are well and truly up close and personal!

We may only have two till points functioning on a normal four-till pay desk, but that is to ensure we too can keep our distance from each other, so you may have to wait a little longer than usual in line to be served. And once you reach the till point we may ask you you to stand in a specific place behind a perspex screen while you are paying for your items and for the rest of your family to stand back for a very good reason.

Oh and please have patience with us as we regularly sanitise our hands and key-pad and everything else we (and you!) touch between each customer. Speed of service to your own satisfaction is not the only consideration. There is still a deadly virus out there, it may be on the wane but it is not yet gone, and we still have no available vaccine. So while we are happy to serve members of the public day in, day out, we will do whatever we have to do to keep all of us as safe as possible in the circumstances, like it or not.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Spot

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Inevitable

Still Here…

I’m still here, all is well with me but in the same way as it took me a while to get used to being in lockdown, now it’s taking me a while to get used to being back at work part time in a local department store.

We have opened with restricted daily trading hours, and without a full complement of staff in store – many are still on furlough until footfall and sales figures warrant a more complete return to business as usual. Fitting rooms are closed, as customers cannot try on clothing for size – they are required to buy the items first, try them on at home, and return them later if necessary. Returned items are then quarantined for several days before being replaced on the sales floor.

Visors and masks and perspex screens around till points and sanitising your hands regularly and keeping your distance, and to keep smiling at the occasional customer who thinks its OK to want to behave as if there were no coronavirus out there, who doesn’t like the inconvenience of the restrictions imposed and who wants to take it out on you verbally just because you’re there in front of them, doing your best to get on with life and in doing so, helping others get on with theirs.

But then usually behind the disgruntled cutomer in the queue to be served is someone who gratefully smiles back at you, genuinely and with feeling, and who thanks you for being at work in this pandemic at all and therefore allowing them to be out shopping in person, in public again, even with all the necessary restrictions in place. Most customers are wonderfully patient and understanding, but inevitably there are always one or two who are not.

Life is certainly not back to any kind of normal, but it is moving forward towards what I hope with all my heart will be a better place for all of us in our coronavirus-infected world. We all have no option but to accept, adapt, assimilate, like it or not.

And in the meantime I continue to wake up every day and smell the roses in my garden, grateful still to have a job at all in this global economic as well as health crisis. So I might not be around so much online just now, but don’t worry, I’m still here… 🙂

Weird But Wonderful

Yesterday was my first day back at work with real customers as well as just us staff in store (I work in the women’s wear section of a local department store), and to my relief it went fine – woo-hoo! On the whole customers wore reasonable face coverings, warily kept their distance, and calmly followed the correct procedures at the till without complaint. I felt a bit apprehensive to begin with, but as my usual sales-assistant work-mode kicked in I soon got used to the initial strangeness of it all.

We’ve been provided with full-face visors to wear at work, or we have the option of wearing our own masks if we prefer, and thin blue gloves are provided if we choose to wear them. Hand sanitiser is readily available for staff and customers to use, and we have perspex screens in front of the till points in use. I’m not fussed with gloves, I’d rather just maintain good hand hygiene, but face wearing some kind of face covering in all shops is mandatory here in Scotland.

In practice I found the visor to be really good to wear in regard to ease of breathing and still being able to see people’s faces when standing still or walking about, so fine when at the till point but not necessarily so practical for the inevitable lifting and bending and reaching when moving stock around – it got caught up and fell off or at got least shunted uncomfortably out of place far too often and I spent a lot of time yesterday adjusting it or replacing it, so the perspex became smudged and soon gave me a headache to be looking through it.

Hmmm… how best to overcome that little difficulty? I’m not generally great at having my mouth and nose covered directly for long periods of time – being asthmatic I tend to freak out at the feeling – but today I think I’m going to try to wear a face mask instead of my visor on shift. I’ve got used to wearing a mask when shopping myself, but coping for ten minutes here and there in and out of a shop is different than breathing through fabric for hours at a time at work. But it’s definitely worth a try.

Or I might take both visor and mask onto the shop floor, and change my face covering as necessary depending on the task at hand? The thing is, everyone’s in the same boat, no-one finds it easy because it feels decidedly odd for all of us. But we’re doing it because however restrictive and frustrating it is in the short-term it is helping us as a country reduce ongoing infection in the long-term, and that makes prefect sense. Sometimes we all have to do what’s difficult for the greater good, and that’s all there is to it.

Overall, though, even with my constant fiddling about with my face covering I really enjoyed my first ‘proper’ day back at work, and however tentative a beginning it may have been it is still a return of sorts to a normal life, or at least to whatever is going to count as normal for the next few months or so. Customers, too, were on the whole relieved to be out and about and enjoying a physical rather than virtual shopping experience. It felt good to have the normality of interaction with others again, even if at a safe distance.

Weird but wonderful is probably the best description of my day yesterday. It does feel weird to have to be avoiding yet accommodating a silent but deadly virus in every part of our daily lives, but at the same time it feels wonderful to have the opportunity to begin to end our lockdown limbo at last. Life goes on, cautiously and carefully, one small step at a time. But I’m taking nothing for granted, the threat to us all is by no means over yet. This virus is clearly here to stay, and the sooner we all accept that stark reality, the better for mankind.

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Tentative

Hugs, Hope, and Happiness

Today my youngest daughter, her partner and their three children came to visit, and to my delight I was able to have grandchildren hugs for the first time in four months!

It’s been a beautiful sunny day so we pretty much stayed in the garden, apart from the kids nipping in to use the loo or for one of us to make a cuppa, but now that lockdown restrictions here in Scotland have eased enough to allow us to meet indoors as well as outdoors (with adults still social distancing, but children not having to any more) it makes a family visit so much easier.

And I’ve been back at work since Friday, helping to get the store set up for customers returning when the business re-opens tomorrow, so altogether this week it feels like we have some forward movement in life at last – not too much too soon, but about right for where we are in the pandemic. I’m hopeful all goes well as lockdown lifts even further, and we can begin to find our way out of this coronavirus crisis as a community without causing any more harm to our health.

So my weekly smile this week consists of huge hugs, a heart full of hope, and the happiness of taking a cautious step or two in the right direction at last. Sending peace and love to all of you, because right now I feel like I have more than enough to share 🙂

A Toss Up

I found out the other day that I’ll be going back to work very soon, and I feel very much in two minds about it all. On one hand I’m delighted to be beginning the process of creating a new normal to get back to, but on the other hand… the reality of risk is rearing its ugly head along with the fear of the unknown.

Intellectually, I know that the country – the world – cannot go on forever effectively hiding from Covid 19, holed up in hope of a miracle vaccine that can make us feel safe again. At some point in time we all have to face our fears, adapting and making the necessary changes to society that allow us all to live with Covid 19 in the community rather than potentially die from it.

But emotionally I feel decidedly anxious and wary, because however much I’ve found it frustrating at times I’ve got used to feeling snug and safe in my own home and it seems crazily counter-intuitive after months of a very successful ‘Stay at Home, Stay Safe’ campaign to now be told it’s OK, it’s safe out there too even though the virus hasn’t gone yet – basically it has to be OK because the economy is collapsing.

It’s all about finding a precarious balance, isn’t it? We balance the risk of going out into the scary world where a deadly invisible virus awaits by wearing some kind of protection from infection, and because full Hazmat suits are not practical daywear for most of us in our daily lives, we compromise and stick to wearing a simple face mask and using hand sanitiser and keeping our distance from others to keep us safe.

We have to balance the risk of catching a virus that might kill us against the risk of having no future income to live on, which in a very different way also might kill us in the end. So somewhere along the line we have to meet in the middle. It has to be done, and I know it’s almost time for me to get back out there and get on with it. And in a weird way I’m quite looking forward to it, except for when I’m not.

The department store I work in seems to have created a well-managed environment for both staff and customers to move around in, with plenty of safety measures in place to protect everyone as much as possible. So I can’t help but wonder how I’ll be feeling on my first day back, smiley and safe or frowny and fearful? Right now it feels like it could be either, and it’s going to be a toss up as to which actually wins out on the the day… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Toss

Expectation and Disappointment

I’ve definitely been feeling decidedly pensive over the last few days…

I hadn’t realised how much I’d been looking forward to Scotland moving to Phase 2 of easing lockdown restrictions from yesterday, with the expectation that the original roadmap plan set out weeks ago would be followed. But although we have indeed moved on to a Phase 2 of sorts, the initial tentative plans have now had to be altered and it feels like nothing offered has helped ease my particular situation, or at least enough to make any practical difference to where we were before, and I’m so disappointed.

I listened with mounting hope to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon making her update statement live on television on Thursday, but as the new reality of her words slowly sank in, instead of celebrating as I’d expected, I sat and cried. I do understand exactly why things are as they are – outdoor transmission of Covid 19 is low, but indoor transmission is still problematic so for most of us, indoor gatherings of any size are out – but still, it hurts.

I’d hoped at least to have a fixed date for returning to work – but sadly, the store I work in is enclosed within a shopping mall, so no re-opening for us yet. And although I’d really hoped for a move towards being able to meet family members indoors, that’s still not happening yet either. Outdoor garden visitors are now allowed to come in to use the loo as long as they touch nothing else, and we can meet up outdoors with more than one household a day but groups can still number no more than eight, social distancing is still required as before, and overall travelling distance is still restricted.

It’s not the end of the world, I know, but it really shocked me to be so overwhelmed with disappointment at the minimal changes possible for me – I hadn’t realised I was holding on so tight. I know it’s excellent news for single people and single parents with young children to be able to create an extended household with no social distancing required, but I’m not in that situation. I know it’s excellent news for all shops opening directly onto a street to be able to open again at the end of this month, but I’m not in that situation either.

So in the meantime I’m left alone with my brooding thoughts much of the time while my husband is at work, and I just have to get on with it all as it is… I watch as new infection numbers rise across the world where many places have re-opened too soon, and on the whole I feel relieved that here in Scotland we’re playing a cautious waiting game, but still… I’m tired of everything feeling so stuck and stagnant, and I just want it all to be over so we can feel safe again, meet up again, be together again with hugs and laughter…

One day we’ll get there, and if all this self-sacrifice and social restriction means I can get through this pandemic without losing any family members to Covid 19, it’ll all be well worth it in the end. But until that time, what we can’t cure, we must endure… Sigh! 😦

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Pensive

To The Wire

I think I mentioned last month that I was finally job-hunting again, looking for part time work here in Inverness now that life feels a bit more settled for us. We’d allowed for around a six month grace period after moving the 600 miles from London to Inverness, living off our savings while finding a house before starting looking for work. And here we are having taken that six months to the wire, now living happily in our new house, ready to move forward in life.

So at the end of January I started job-hunting locally as planned, but discovered to my frustration that in Inverness, January is probably about the worst time of year to look for work. It seems that everyone who has worked on temporary contracts over Christmas is now back on the hunt for work too, but in general companies have not yet begun recruiting for staff to cover the tourist season – and Inverness always expands hugely over the summer months due to tourism.

Anyway, undaunted I initially applied for eight part time jobs throughout February, most on a temporary basis and only a couple offering a permanant contract, and from those applications was offered four interviews out of that possible eight. Of those four interviews, two were unsuccessful, and to my delight two have resulted in prospective job offers. But one of those job offers turned out not to be quite as suitable as the other (due to anticipated ongoing hours of work), so thankfully for me it was a no-brainer as to which job I accepted.

Anyway, I actually had my staff induction in a local department store on Thursday, and have worked my first two shifts over Friday and Saturday, so here I am finally back at work again – woo-hoo! It’s certainly not been as easy finding work in my late fifties as it was in my twenties and thirties, or even in my forties for that matter, but I’m relieved to have found a permanant part time job with exactly the right amount of hours I was hoping for in a store I regularly shop in, in a department that seems to suit me so well 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Just a Jumble of Jobs

When I first left school I learned about the importance of writing a good Curriculum Vitae, or ‘course of life’, otherwise shortened simply to CV, in order to sell yourself and stand out in the saturated world of the employment market.

The idea was to provide a positive sense of progress from one thing in life to another, a sensible story of education and work from school through to wherever you are now. So you would start with your contact details and a single sentence personal mission statement blurb-y kind of thing, then record your educational achievements, then show a clear career path from past to present, then highlight any particular skills you’d like to mention. Sounds fine, except…

My life course is not at all a straight linear path progressing neatly and clearly from one level to the next with increasing complexity and responsibility. It’s more of a ragged jumble of unlinked jobs interspersed here and there with a couple of full-time chunks of educational improvement, and extended gaps of family focused housewifery. And the older I got, the more nonsensical it all looked trying to record it all succinctly on one sheet of paper.

To be fair to myself, for a long time the type of jobs I was applying for (and getting) had no need of a CV at all. The Healthcare, Civil Service and Education sectors that take up a good 15 years or so of my working life required filling in a succesion of very robust sector-specific in-house application forms. But still I persevered in the background with updating that old-style CV of mine until about 10 years ago, when once again a CV became a necessary tool for job-hunting and I had a bit of an epiphany that turned it all on its head.

To make sense of the story of where I was in life at that moment I realised I needed to create a skills-based, not a career-path-based CV. So ever since that moment of clarity I find it much better to have my contact details at the top, then a section highlighting my transferable skills built up over decades of working a variety of jobs across many different sectors, then have my simple list of previous employment, and finally a small section at the bottom noting my further and higher education.

What my CV says about me now is – this is the mature me, these are the transferable skills I can bring to your company, this is cumulatively where I gained that experience – and oh, by the way, I have a degree. It feels much better this way, feels a more authentic record of who I am and where I am in life just now, and far better suits the type of work I’m looking for these days. I’m not a career-girl, and realise now I never really have been, although for a while I gave it a good try…

So right now I’m job-hunting again for the first time since relocating from London to Inverness, and am looking for something part time, reasonably local, that doesn’t require me working evenings or nights. My children are all adults now with children of their own, we’ve bought our own home and are mortgage free, and I’m not looking for any level of responsibility or anything that requires tipping that precious work-life balance too far towards taking work home with me, mentally or physically.

So realistically I’m basically looking for minimum wage retail employment or something along those lines. And if anything in that line isn’t forthcoming any time soon, I’ll consider going back to working in a pub, which is what I did for the last five years we lived in London. So in my own best interests I definitely don’t want to be shoving my degreee down anyone’s throat, or highlighting how many zeroes I used to earn annually working as a univeristy administrator way back when.

And being well into my mid-fifties now, I really need to try to turn my advancing years into a blessing not a curse, into an eminently employable and reliable jack-of-all-trades broad range of experience, not a past-its-best badge of out-of-touch obsolescence. But it’s not an easy task, and rejection is still rejection and it still stings, however old you are.

I’m confident I’ll get there eventually, though, and hopefully my odd jumble of jobs won’t hold me back in my quest – at least they show I’m capable of adapting to many different work situations! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Progress

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Epiphany

Gobbledygook Take II

I just remembered a funny conversation that took place years ago, while I worked as a Floor Manager at McDonald’s – I was going round the customer seating area with the Lobby Hostess, and we were discussing toilet checks. She said she’d swept the floors and wiped down the hand dryers, and I reminded her (trying to be tactful in a public area where people were eating and we were going to be overheard) not to forget to check the porcelain was clean too. She stopped in her tracks, a lovely Glaswegian lass with a strong voice that belied her petite constitution and said ‘Whit? Aw aye, right – yous want me tae check the chanty’s nae boggin’!’ I guess from her perspective, my attempt at being discreet about a clean toilet bowl was nothing short of gobbledygook! 🙂