Identify what is most important )0( Eliminate everything else
The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. Dr. Paul Farmer
The suffering of others is not alleviated when no one knows about it.
There is no one right way to live. Daniel Quinn Ishmael
The only thing that you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right sort of people.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, January 8, 2016


Since that smarter than me phone came into my life I have eschewed paper calendars.  In the old days I used to keep a big wall calendar at home, one of those desk blotter kinds, with the huge squares and plenty of room to write down everything about which everyone needed reminding.  I also kept a small monthly calendar booklet in my bag for jotting down stuff as it came up.  It took a decent amount of responsibility to keep them both up to date.

When I worked in a book store we had two extra stores during the winter holidays, both of them selling mostly calendars, but also toys and games and who knew what the hell was going to show up in those weekly deliveries. 

One store was in-line.  That means that it was a regular store setup, with a door, a back room for overstock and a rest room. 

The other store was a kiosk.  Those are the island shops in the middle of the mall corridors, that space between long banks of in-line store spaces.  The kiosk had scant storage space, long two-sided racks on which to display the calendars and other crap, a small mobile counter and sales space with a cash register. I guess they were called terminals because of the computer components, but they really were just machines that added up the purchases and processed the payments.

The kiosk did not, naturally, have a stock room or rest room.  We were dependent on the good heart of the base store/bookstore manager for rest room and lunch breaks.  It was a mess that was too distressing and unfriendly to all of humanity to describe now.  It still makes me shudder.

So, anyway, I was putting some information into my phone's calendar...oh, my god, I just love that thing sooooo much.  That, the built in flashlight and texting are what fuels my day, most days.

And, anyway, some of the old calendar store stuff popped out of my memories.  Despite the obvious drawbacks of place and time, as well as crappy managers, I have lots of fun and weird memories of those months each year.

Especially the people hired for those part-time jobs.  Most of them were fine, but as the years rolled on we had many amusing anecdotes about the folk hired for those jobs.

There were the people who just stopped showing up.  There was the guy who stole the safe from one of the stores we managed at another mall, on his way out the day after Thanksgiving, which is the busiest day of shopping for us.  There were the people who found out that we could not keep them after the holidays and just never came back from lunch.  There were the other people who just never came back from lunch, for whom we have no idea what happened. 

There was the college student who left the kiosk unattended to walk down a few storefronts to watch movies at the video store.  When we told him that he could not do that, he started bringing in his laptop so that he could do some of his classwork during slow times at the kiosk.  That did happen, both in the early weeks and after the first of the year when we heavily discounted merchandise and sold down as much as possible before closing for the season.  He did not do schoolwork, but watched movies at, clearly, a more convenient location, one with a stool.  So much better than the video store.

We were just happy if employees showed up on time, stayed their entire shift and did not steal too much from us.  Even with such low expectations we often found ourselves disappointed.  But, as retail folk all around the world know, you do the best with what you have.

One year we had to make a new rule.  You still had to show up on time.  You still had to stay for your entire shift.  You still had to be subtle about your stealing.

But, now, you had to wear pants.

This was a man who we hired to work shifts at both in-line and kiosk locations.  Unfortunately, there was a problem with his wardrobe.  Previously, the only clothing rules were that jeans could not be work and that clothing should be modest in appearance.  No jeans is pretty clear, but the whole modestly thing was open to personal interpretation and the occasional tussle with someone who did not have a regular standard or practice where modest garments were concerned.

For this particular man, well, he did not wear jeans and his body was appropriately covered, but we were never sure what he wore from the waist down.  Maybe it was pants, maybe it was not.  But, he came to work on time.  He stayed his entire shift and I do not think he took even a paperclip home with him.  The whole situation was weird and I often thought about buying a gift card for him to go to one of the department stores in the mall to buy pants, but I could never figure out a way to do so that was not creepier than whatever the heck he was wearing to work.

Other than that, we hired lots of people who followed all of the rules, did not steal and managed to do a damn fine job during a seriously stressful time of the year to be in retail.  All of those folk were kept on; part time in the beginning (because we never had enough hours in the first place), and moving up in hours and responsibility as time went on.  Some of those fine employees needed only holiday work and we brought them back into the schedule every year.

It and they were a lot of fun and real friendships were formed.  Two of them were a young man who came back for at least four seasons, and his girlfriend who joined him after his first year with us.  They were fun and cool and hard workers.  Informed about books, learned more about books and were good with customers. 

The young man was one of my all-time favorite people and we gave him hours that worked well with his studies.  One year he was working at the kiosk when something funny happened.

Well, not funny in the beginning.  Malls attract all kinds of truly weird, seriously rude and ruthlessly bored visitors.  You can do pretty much anything you want in a mall, especially in the public (not store) areas, as long as you buy stuff, even if it is endless big pretzels and soft drinks.  But, this is not about that, this is about the young man.  I guess he should have a name.  We will call him Michael.

So, anyway, Michael was out doing his time in the kiosk during the waning months of sales, after the new year and we were all hanging on, waiting for our turn to be closed.  There were few shoppers in the mall those weeks, but plenty of young people who had nothing better to do than find a way to the mall and hang out and avoid the kind of disturbance or annoyance that would get them sent out to play in the traffic until one of their parents came to pick them up.

A group of these youngsters, all boys, were making mischief and decided to hang out around the calendar racks.  They were messing up merchandise and being generally stupid.  Michael kid his job, straightening up after the fools and asking them to stop making the messes.  They would laugh, walk off and eventually return after they were sent away from some other store.  After the third time they swaggered back, Michael got more stern with them and told them if they could not behave decently that they would have to stay away.

One of them said to the other fools, "Oh, look, now you made the lady mad."

When Michael came back to the bookstore for his lunch break he shared the whole story with me and I could not stop laughing.  Like straight from the belly laughing, on and on.  Michael was not upset because he found it funny as well and could not wait to tell me about it.

Thinking about it still makes me laugh, although not much triggers that memory.  A few years ago there was a television commercial from one of the cable companies.  There was an older man, a dad, who was explaining to a bedraggled man (who was sitting on his living room floor) that he was sorry, but, whilst he enjoyed the cable program on which the oldbedraggly character performed, it was too violent for his children to watch.  The vaguebedraggly character looked up at the man, said he understood and then said, "You're a nice lady."

In the scheme of things human, we are all the nice lady.  Just going along, doing our best, trying to not metaphorically scold other people in our heads, and avoid allowing other people, unsatisfying circumstances and, oh, just the world in general  chip away at our inherent niceness.

All of us just want to be nice and to have other people, with their weird and often selfish agendas, allow us to be nice ladies.  Some of us have cat calendars hanging in our kitchens.  Others have war planes, sport team, inspirational, humorous or Norman Rockwell calendars.  Some of us are doing all of that electronically.

Whatever method we use to keep our lives organized, surely there is room to remind ourselves to be nice ladies even when it seems that everyone and everything is working to wipe those lovely smiles off of our faces and make us want to punch them in the nose.

I have all kinds of alcohol here, most of it gifts, and I never remember to have a bit of any of it.  Tonight, with my apple and buttered panettone dinner I am going to have a wee cup of bourbon.  Or, maybe, my daughter's homemade limoncello, and make a toast to nice ladies everywhere.


  1. Replies
    1. Brilliant! Empty the cup and wear pants.

      I did not have any of that stuff, although I did have dinner of some kind.