Monday, April 29, 2002

Sometimes I feel as if I am split in half.

That happened last week when the contracting agency that I registered with called me for a job that would pay over $70,000 a year. I am much wiser now and wouldn't take a job just for the money, but it was a reminder of who the other me is. Not the $7.00 an hour me, but the side of me that knows I can go out into the world and kick ass. Not to be some obnoxious type-A personality, which I am the complete opposite of, but to find a place that suits me where I can use my talents to my best ability and soar. The me that doesn't hide.

I also couldn't help feeling what a difference that money would make in my life. Not to acquire things, but to pay the people back who have helped me during my down time. To contribute again, if that makes sense. My fantasy, the one that makes my heart pound a little faster, was if the job were something that I could do, meaning that the workplace and people were conducive, as well as the paycheck.

The half of me that is getting the most attention is the one who likes the simplicity of my life now. I like the non-corporate work and that there are no meetings, CEO's, annoying sales people or VP's of whatever department. A stark reminder of that was when I went to the interview at the contracting agency, I noticed that there was a difference between me and the other "coifed" women who were there. I had on pants that were not pressed, socks that I'd worn a second day, a blazer, (okay, it was a $1200 Giorgio Armani blazer), and one of the shoes I was wearing had dropped the rubber sole from the heel. (Okay, they were $300 Gucci shoes.) All relics from my past. My hair was kind of out of place, my make-up wasn't perfect, and I just didn't look as put together as those other women. Granted, they were probably applying for corporate positions, and probably administrative ones, but I couldn't help feeling like I was "the one that didn't belong."

What kills me, is how qualified I am. That is the part that does belong, and that's the Anne that I relate the best with. The one who can think up things on the fly and work with the best of them. The one who can rise to the occasion and pull off great stuff without raising my blood pressure a point. Still, I just can't help feeling like a little kid visiting dad at the office when I go into job interviews. I wonder if I'll ever get over that.

My simple half likes my life just the way it is right now. A simple job, and no pressure. A place where I can use my other talents and enjoy all the people who come into the store. Not to mention, to have them enjoy me. What a great experience that is, to meet so many people whom I normally wouldn't get to talk to and help them each in their own way. To leave them better than when they came in and feeling like they have been heard. And, they have. The other day, after I made a woman laugh, she thanked me for the smile. I can't even begin to describe how great that made me feel. A smile is something a lot of us take for granted, but I was thanked for giving someone one.

These two sides of me, the quiet, simple one and the creative, rebellious one have been in a fight my whole life. Kind of like those two Star Trek characters who were doomed to be forever embattled in a struggle against each other. One had a black half of his left face and a white on his right, the other had a white half on his left face and a black on his right. The two remained locked in an embrace, each trying to win ground over the other one. Equally strong, equally determined. It's where I find myself right now.

Unlike them, however, I'm slowly finding that these two sides have a common ground. That common ground is the girl who can come to an interview in non-pressed pants and pull it off because she has a killer resume. The one who gets called for a job opportunity a week later that pays over 70K, and the one who can put her portfolio online using HTML when she doesn't really know what she's doing when she starts out, but finds the resources and teaches herself. And not just puts it up, but makes it look good. That's the common ground. That's the grey in the black and white. And there are so many shades of that grey. Many that I haven't even seen yet.

And that is what helps me accept the "imperfections" about myself. Yes, I'll always have pangs of insecurities about the fact that I'll never be a morning person, or that I'm never going to win any fashion awards at work. I'll always be fighting with that little kid in me that says that I don't belong in the big world with all the adults. And I accept that. Because those are just parts of me. They are not the whole me. There are other parts of me that can kick ass and deal very well in any world.

So, I guess I'm saying that I'm ready to polish off my ass-kicking boots again and place them not in front of, but beside my very cozy and soft slippers.

Saturday, April 20, 2002

I woke up at ten minutes before 10:00AM today with a sinking feeling. One that only the employed with varying schedules can appreciate. The one that says you might be wrong about the time you are expected into work. I thought I was coming in at noon, but when I called the store my intuition was correct. I was supposed to be in at 10:00AM. After talking to the manager and telling him my mistake, I got dressed and headed into work. Luckily, it's about a seven minute drive. I was at the register by 10:45. And, I even managed to look decent.

One of my first customers was a tall man dressed in black who had jet black dyed hair, wore dark tinted black sunglasses that almost cloaked his eyes, and though his sleeves were long, I could see that he had a body full of tattoos. There were even letters on his fingers. I tried to read them, but he was moving his hands so it was hard. He had a nice dimeanor for someone with his appearance that was almost more disarming than his presence. He was with his son, and bought him a book from our kids department. His son looked like any ten or eleven year old, with dirty blonde hair and in a T-shirt and shorts. When the man was through paying, I asked him if I could see the design on his left hand, which looked like an airbrushed design of some sort. He said "sure," and pulled up his sleeve to reveal a very artfully designed profile of a skull. "Wow," I said, "it looks airbrushed," to which he replied proudly, "Yes, it's amazing what they can do these days." I studied it a little more, and said, "I mean, it's skin. How do you airbrush on skin?" We talked a bit more, and then said goodbye.

As he walked away, I thought to myself that you can't judge a book by its cover. Here was a man who had an intimidating presence, but was just as nice as could be. And to my surprise, he even was a Reader's Advantage member. As I rang up his book, he said, "I have one of your cards," and pulled out his Reader's Advantage card. The RA card is a discount card that one can purchase for $25 to receive a 10% discount on our merchandise.

After he left, my coworker Jerry, came up to me and asked if I knew who that was. Of course, I didn't, and he informed me that it was Nikki Sixx of the band Motley Crue. Jerry is a man in his 50's, so I was really impressed that he knew that. I guess that Nikki is a regular. He told me that Nikki's last name is tattoed on his fingers. So, that was the lettering I was seeing. I remember seeing pictures of that band in high school since they were the big thing back then, but I would never recognize any of their members. Too much hair and make-up.

I have to say that I just love the fact that he is a Reader's Advantage member. That just cracks me up and I think it's just the coolest thing. I told my mom that, and she said that a lot of these rock stars, though they like to present the opposite, are no dummies. Life is just a kick in the pants sometimes.

I have more store stories, but they will have to wait until tomorrow.
I'm messing around with the HTML on this page, so it's going to look like crap until I get better at it.

Atticus, my beautiful black long hair cat is curled up by the space heater next to me. Yes, you still need space heaters in California. I've shorted out many offices in my time with the little energy suckers under my desk, and when I re-enter the office world, I'm sure there will be more such incidents. As always, I'll plead ignorance at what could have pushed the electricity over the limit to short out two or three offices, including mine. And, even further ignorance at why my office is always so much warmer than everyone else's.

On Thursday, I was getting out of my car in the parking lot at work when I noticed a singular helicopter hovering directly above me. When that happens in Los Angeles, there are a few things that come to mind. The first is an accident, since the helicopter wasn't moving and we're very close to the 101 freeway. If it's a bunch of them hovering, you've got a really bad accident or the end of a high speed chase. If they were circling and moving toward one direction, and narrowly missing the police choppers under them, you've got a high speed police chase. As I was walking in, I saw another helicopter making it's way toward our area, so I figured it was a bad accident.

However, there was one time that I was wrong when I lived in the Hollywood Hills. There were about three helicopters hovering over my apartment building, and I learned later that it was because a weirdo fan had been arrested for breaking into Brad Pitt's house and staying the night in his bed. Mr. Pitt lived on the next block from me, thus the hovering over my apartment building. Once I found that out, I made the trek to the top of my building, stepped outside on the rooftop and flipped the helicopters the finger.

Since September 11, one other thing enters my mind now, and that is terrorism. For the first time with the helicopters I was a little unnerved as I made my way into the bookstore. And other thoughts go through my head, such as some nut running for it and barracading themselves in our bookstore. And not caring if any of us make it out alive.

Our cash registers are right by the front door, so every time it would open I'd hear the loud buzzing of what had now become six stationery helicopters hovering above our parking lot. Whatever it was, the shit had hit the fan. About four hours later, the curiosity got to Don our manager, who called his wife to ask what was going on. It turns out that just blocks away, Robert Blake was getting arrested for murdering his wife.

I have to say, that it was quite surprising, since with all the world events Robert Blake had become a second tier news story and thus mainly forgotten, but it was a relief as well. No terrorists were holed up too close for comfort. No one was caught driving a nuclear bomb into Los Angeles. No one had just shot up a school. However, in Los Angeles it still warranted six helicopters.

Some things never change.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

I'm tired today.

I worked at the store from noon to 5PM, and had a mini-review on my job performance. They are in the process of giving them to everyone and were up to my name. Thankfully, I got rave reviews from all the managers and the one that I was meeting with today. I was really happy to hear that. One, because I really like my job and take pride in it. And two, because other people were taking notice of it and appreciating the fact that I was there. The manager told me that I was doing a great job, and that they wished everyone had all the traits that I brought to the job. It's nice to know that if human cloning ever comes to pass, that someone considers me a worthy candidate for duplication.

Yes, it's a $7.00 an hour job. And yes, it's a part-time job, even though I work around 30+ hours a week. But, it's a job, and it's my job. It's also a bridge to help me back to being 100%. I know that in jobs like these, employee dedication to it can be sketchy. Mainly, because unless you are a manager, many of the employees who work there are students or much younger. Luckily, there are many folks like me, but there are also some 18-20 years olds. Also, I'm coming off a very bad year. I'm thankful to be there and to be able to contribute. That brings a whole new perspective. Kind of like the girl in "Our Town" when she realizes how beautiful the world is around her now that she is no longer a part of it. Well, I'm a part of it again and I too am seeing its beauty in an all new way. I'm waking up from a year where I rarely made it out of bed, and I'm happy that I stuck to it and made it through. I never lost sight of the light at the end of the tunnel even in my deepest moments of despair and doubt. So even though I know I'm rearing up for a trip back into the work world, I treat this job as if it were my career.

Another part of my job that I take seriously, is how I help the customers. I'm not a kiss ass, and I treat everyone in there as an individual. Books are very personal things. Many people are looking for books to help them cope with grief, or broken relationships. A few have come in and wanted books on divorce, and one recent woman came in looking for a book about religion and its positive effects on healing illness. Another came in looking for a book that helped explain death to young children, since a five year old and seven year old (her grandchildren, I believe) had witnessed the death of a close family friend who was 18 years old. These are very personal things, and since I understand what it feels like to be down, I try to offer a reprieve from their pain in my kindness and understanding. And also, to let them know that people, even strangers will reach out to them in their time of need.

However, if someone is a jerk or abrasive, which I've luckily had a minimum of, I very politely, don't take their shit. And, they always back down. That also comes from overcoming hardship. Nothing phases me, unless of course someone came into the store with a bomb strapped across their chest. That, I'd have to concede and say, "Okay buddy, you got me." I'm literally fearless otherwise, not to mention a stone wall of confidence. I feel like saying, "Is that all you've got? Bring it the fuck on." Of course, all with a smile.

It was hot, hot today. It's days like these where I always want to leave California. Humidity, though many people hate it is a necessary element that California just doesn't have. It's hot, dry and both the air and ground gets brown in the summer, and I hate it. I've never been a summer gal, though. Except for thunderstorms, which of course rarely occur in Los Angeles. Give me a wind ripping, rain pelting, lightning flashing, and thunder cracking storm any day over this dry heat crap. And I'll stand in the middle of it and yell, ""Is that all you've got? Bring it the fuck on."

Thursday, April 04, 2002

More interesting store notes. These happened on Wednesday night. Freak night, as it shall now be known from now on. I don't ever care to repeat that night.

First, I came out to see a strange blonde woman standing at the cafe. Without hearing a thing, I could tell from the body language of both the blonde woman and Gala, the girl who works at the cafe that something was wrong. The blonde woman, who based on her face was about in her early 40's, was dressed entirely in black, with bleached and damaged hair pulled up in a messy pony tail behind her head, stood with her feet completely together, and hands clasped as if she was a little girl at the ice cream parlor waiting for her hot fudge sundae to be made. Gala, a sarcastic and funny girl in her early twenties, had an expression void of her usual gregariousness as she listened to the woman talk in a high pitched and girlish voice. Though I don't work in the cafe, I walked up to the two, providing silent backup support to Gala, if needed. I'd heard a couple of days ago that a strange woman had come into the store, was very demanding and unreasonable, wanted 14 pumps of white chocolate in her mocha, (one is the usual amount and that is very sweet) then had them make the drink three times to get it right. She'd pulled this act several times, wanting a free drink since her last one “wasn't made correctly.” That night, the staff had had enough.

As I waited in line behind the woman, I made no secret of my feelings about her behavior. I stared at her as she explained her plight to Gala, who offered her one free drink if the manager approved it. The woman would occasionally glance nervously at me and I didn't avert my gaze. I hate scam artists, and I hate people who take advantage of businesses and people who are only trying to provide them good service. The workers do a good job in the cafe, and don't deserve a woman who only comes in to cause trouble and make it an uncomfortable environment for not only the staff, but for the other customers.

Carter, the manager came over and helped the woman from then on. He made a drink for her and gave her the free one she’d requested. She went over to the bar with the sugars and straws, messed around with her drink a bit, then came back to Carter, complaining that the whip cream was watery where it was touching the drink. Carter graciously scooped the whip cream off the drink, blended it again, and then put more whip cream on the new drink. I was watching every move, my eyes never leaving the woman. She repeated the same at the bar, then came back and asked Carter to remake the drink, which he did. She repeated this another time, then told Carter that both me and Gala were making her uncomfortable and talking loudly about her. (At her third return from the bar, I had said to Carter, "Oh for crying out loud, what now?"). As she talked to Carter and pointed over her shoulder at me like a child tattling to the teacher that I'd butted in line at the monkey bars, I still didn't avert my gaze or my incredulous expression. She then accused Carter of overcharging her a few cents for the drink and lambasted him for such a dirty deed. After a few more words and taking both her drinks outside, she came back in, said she'd thrown the drinks away and wanted her money back. Carter gave her money back to her, and then told her that she was banned from coming back to the cafe. She balked at this, and said that she wanted to speak to the store manager. Carter pointed her over to Larry.

She told her tale of woe to Larry, who completely backed his employees. When the woman whined that she was made uncomfortable by me and Gala, Larry said that of course we were looking at her, because she was being obnoxious, and that is likely going to bring attention to her. It was great. I had already returned to my cash register, but could see the action going on at the customer service desk. This woman obviously had a mental illness, maybe borderline, but it's not the burden of the cafe people or other customers that she holds up. And, if she gets enough responses like ours, perhaps she will get help.

And that was only the beginning of the night.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Some interesting store notes in the last couple of days. When you work with the general public, you get so many different lives that cross your path. Working at the cash register, I am on the front lines of the world.

I helped Gary Sinise's mother two days ago in the store. She came in to pick up some books on order, and told me her last name. I said, "oh, like the actor," and she reacted kind of surprised and said, "Yes." Then, she wanted to find another book on tape and I couldn't find it for her and we got to talking a bit. I was really helpful to her and gave her some suggestions on how to find it, and then she said as she was about leave, "By the way, Gary is my son." I was really surprised, and after reacting, told her that she had a really talented son and should be proud. I don't think that she would have told me if I hadn't been so helpful to her. It was an afterthought. She was a really nice lady, looked great and had absolutely not a stitch of plastic surgery. Kind of like a nice looking midwestern mom. She lives in Idaho half the time, and the other half in Los Angeles. Must be nice to be able to escape to your own private Idaho. I checked the Gary sites, and she is indeed his mom.

On the other end of the spectrum, another son's mother came in later that evening and as she placed her books on the counter, said in a New Zealand or Australian accent, "I need to send these to a prison." I looked at her blankly, because I wasn't sure why she was telling me that, and she said, "Oh, you've not done this before." I said that I hadn't, and that she must be referring to a service that I wasn't aware of. I called a manager, and he walked me through the procedure. A little girl was with the woman and referred to her as "grandma." So, through conversation, I figured out that the little girl's dad was in prison and she was under the care of her grandmother. Mom wasn't pleased with her son's present predicament, and said so many times. I didn't ask what he had done, as it wasn't my business, and the little girl who kept looking at me through the bluest eyes was present.

So, two mothers, with two sons. One, whose son had become a world renowned actor. Another, whose son had ended up in prison. Both shared with me their stories. That is what I like about my job, getting to peak beneath the layers of people that we ordinarily would just pass by.