It began at 15 years old, when I obtained a permit to enter the workforce early (a local music store) and never looked back. Because why safely back away from the cliff when you can Thelma and Louise that shit. I drove right into the retail abyss and have been free-falling (And I’m Free! Freeee faaahlinnn!) ever since. Have I made attempts to remove myself from the evil grasp of capitalism? Not really. Retail does a bang up job at soul removal, creating legions of bitter, miserable folks who believe at their coriest of cores that they do not deserve a better life. For realsies.
I am soulless retail monster, just waiting to die. Like a Sunnydale vampire without the sexy Billy Idol-esque allure and lust for human flesh… at least not until I hit the corporate level.
23 years of my life sacrificed to the retail gods, and all I got was this lousy self-loathing.
In my not so much illustrious as unremarkable retail career (hahahahaha “career” what the fuck Aislynn you’re almost 40 and not even a manager), I’ve seen and experienced the best and worst humanity has to offer. Cleaning lady who told me in broken english that it’s great I’m not married and she’s proud of my big ass? BEST. Lulu Lemon housewife who told my coworker that her dog was better than him (Thanks, Beverly Hills!)? WORST.
What does all this bullshit mean to you? I wanna to tell you EVERYTHING. The broken elevators and porn addicted managers and drunk-on-the-job associates. I want you to feel my pain when all my coworkers are laid off, my frustration when my former boss takes credit for my work, and my suppressed laughter when a woman runs full tilt into a window (she left a faceprint I nearly DIED).
Let’s begin with one of my earliest traumas: JOHNNY CASH.
I’m 15 1/2 and working in, prepare yourself, the cassette room at Wherehouse music. For the children in the house, cassettes are prehistoric cd’s, and cd’s are un-evolved music downloads.
As I go about my daily tasks, listening to George Clinton’s greatest funkin hits, an older gentleman walks in, visiting our establishment from what I assume was the old folks home down the street. He looks fairly dapper, straw hat and Hawaiian shirt, as he browses our selection. Then, without warning, he bounds up to me (as well as an octogenarian can bound) and screams, yes, screams “Johnny Cash”. Multiple times, in succession, without giving me a chance to respond.
No context, no questions. Just yelling.
An old man screaming JOHNNY CASH over and over again at a 15-year-old girl.
Before I can respond, he leaves the room, and the store, in an elderly huff. A huff that says “Sure, I’m shuffling. But I’m shuffling with purpose”.
Was he looking for Johnny Cash, or just liked the way his name sounded at higher than normal decibels? Did he refuse to wear a hearing aid because the government could be trying to plant ideas in his brain via the hearing loss industry? Was he mad at Johnny Cash for spending too much at Folsom prison? Was the Hawaiian shirt a technique to distract yet comfort unwitting teens while sowing seeds of discontent and rage toward “the man”, like an anti-authority sting operation? Did all these things warrant scaring the living hell out of a teenage girl?
I never got any answers as dude never returned. I resumed my stocking and cleaning, hoping that all my other customer encounters involved inside voices and complete statements.
I learned something that day.
This was an education, of sorts, in regards to handling difficult situations, misinterpreting customer requests, and respecting my elders. It showed me that, while communication between generations can be strained and difficult to interpret, music is universal.
I just learned that I hate Johnny Cash*.
*Relax, time heals all wounds. The man in black and I are close friends now. Here, have some.