“The state of null thought is a thing of the same stuff as freedom… And then comes the time when thought is required and I’m pulled back into the real world and parking lot by trying to figure out what to do with the half a hot dog someone left in their cart. To tell you the absolute blunt truth, sometimes working [in retail] makes one feel just about the size of an organelle.”
The quote is from a friend of mine from way back in response to the part-time retail job he had in high school. And though I am years – aeons, in fact – beyond high school I admit that I was feeling some of the same feelings he expressed as I finished my first 8-hour day in my current part time retail job. I mean, I spent an hour re-shelving 4-ounce bottles of craft paint. Who wouldn’t feel like an organelle after that?
When I got out of college and moved to the big city I got a retail job at which I was considered an artist. Sure it was a big box store with soaring flourescent lights and squeaky tile floors, but I went into a back room and did my thing and made art and brought it out to the customers and, with few exceptions, they thought it was great. They applauded my being an artist in the big box store. The flip side (because there’s always a flip side) was that the management of the store thought us artists were generally a waste of space, treated us like we couldn’t be trusted, and complained about how long it took us to do our jobs without any appreciation for how hard it was to do the job.
Fast forward ten years.
Economics being what they are and the family situation being what it is, I took my artist self back to the big box world and got a job. This time I picked a company that was notable for its employee/employer relationship – one that was fair, and just, and as kind as any big box could be expected to be. As far as I can tell, it’s all turning out to be true. I have only good things to say about the HR I’ve experienced. The flip side this time is that I’m not an artist any more, and instead of making art I frequently spend an hour re-shelving 4-ounce paints, sweeping up feathers, putting crayons back in boxes, or folding t-shirts.
So it seems that I’ve traded being an artist for being an organelle, and it’s too early to say which I’d prefer. I can only hope that I find, as my high school friend did, the state of null thought of the same stuff as freedom (before the next 8 hour shift).