Friday, 27 February 2009

I've had some gin

And I'm feeling happy. I've dispensed with tobacco and caffeine in the course of the last two days - alcohol is my last remaining friend.

Today I held my first ever staff meeting. I was absolutely terrified and dreading having arranged it, but it did have to be done! The subject of discussion was the Book Room. We have one volunteer, named Richard, who sorts out the book room on a Wednesday morning, and he has been kicking up a fuss about how messy it is, and who's been ruining his system, etc - he doesn't seem to appreciate a) that other people go in there and b) how much stuff we get on a daily basis! None of us like him, he's arrogant, irritating and has a large superiority complex. So I decided something had to be done - especially as I am never in on a Wednesday and my poor assistant manager has had to deal with the brunt of his tantrums.

On the pretext of wanting to homogenise the sorting and pricing process, due to the occasional unsuitable volume making its way onto the shop floor, I arranged the meeting for Friday afternoon. Amazingly everyone involved turned up, and I felt bolstered by the presence of so many other people - I wouldn't just be facing Richard alone and playing tug of war over whether the stock room ought to be alphebetised or not!

I fail to remember the details, but the upshot of it was, I was brilliant, and so were all my non-asshole volunteers, and totally steamrollered over this guy who had been causing a fuss. And I magically managed to get him to switch his day so Katie doesn't have to deal with him all alone on a Wednesday any more. Or at all, in fact - she was thrilled! One can only hope that he will be more responsive to my instruction than hers. His tendency to barrel in and just do whatever the hell he likes, regardless of what is asked of him, will be stopped, one way or another! Let's put it this way - it's my way or the highway...

'Things are going to change, I can feel it'

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Days gone bye...

Flicking through the archives of my regular journal, I came across this tasty morsel, written back in November 2007. I found it very entertaining - shortly after this, my manager disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving me to run the shop pretty much alone over the Christmas period, before eventually giving her notice in January. On the plus side, the powers that be did hand me her job immediately, having shown I was entirely capable. I seem to have come full circle again though, and am feeling much the same as I did about 18 months ago. But with more badassness \m/.

I've got a degree, get me out of here!
So my brain is finally biting back after having been abandoned in favour of very cheap clothes and a bit of a laugh for the last 6 months. Whilst my job (assistant manager of a charity shop) is indeed very likeable, it also involves dealing with a lot of bullshit from various corners - and for £10.5k a year, I'm afraid there's only so much you can put up with before it starts to seem a little pointless. What the hell am I doing scraping soggy clothes and stuffed animals off the doorstep every morning, sweeping up little piles of crisps, spraying air freshener around after the great unwashed or listening to recount after recount of Red Dwarf episodes by our less socially able volunteers. I need some mental stimulation beyond how to merchandise the new delivery of Christmas tat, or the best way to stack bags of donations so they don't all come tumbling down and crush us to death...

Not to mention the fact that my working day largely depends on whether or not my manager has had a fight with her boyfriend that morning; or that the company that pays me such a pittance (certainly not enough to compensate for a life of flea bites, chapped hands, strained muscles, mysterious bruises all over and constantly aching gnarled feet, not to mention the broken nails) apparently has no respect for any of its employees and accordingly displays zero appreciation for us whatsoever, monetary or otherwise.

An endless supply of awesome clothes at rock bottom prices is all very well, but let's be honest....if i was being paid a decent amount of money, that really wouldn't be an issue! So if anyone knows of any nice juicy vacancies in their vicinity, do let me know! The hunt is on.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009


Another incident from a while ago.

Yesterday I went up to the stock room to be confronted by the sight of a 60-odd year old woman in a sparkly Madonna t-shirt, trousers inexplicably unzipped to display her (thankfully enormous) white knickers, and a great big grin on her face.

She had wandered out of the delivery bay around the corner, like some kind of weird unearthly vision, at the same time as I arrived upstairs, where unbeknownst to me she had gone to try on the top. Of course my eyes were at first drawn against their will to her crotch, and frankly I was speechless for several moments while she gleefully asked, in her childish voice, 'what d'you think?'! Ungluing my gaze from the open trousers, I realised she was talking about the t-shirt, despite the fact that her fingers were plucking at the edge of her pants (some may get the wrong idea here, imagine a little girl who's lifted her skirt up to fiddle with the hem out of girlish shyness, unwittingly displaying her undergarments to all and sundry). I can't imagine the expression on my face, but thankfully Victoria is not the intuitive type. She went on to explain that she was going for her gold star in line dancing, so I told her that she'd better have it to make sure she looked the part.

Victoria is a little girl of about 12 stuck in an old lady's body. She has short, lanky grey hair, and wears the same jeans, american eagle t-shirt and mangy old green fleece every Thursday - every day for all I know. She smells of the great unwashed, but in hers as in some other cases it is forgivable. Her moods are irrational and extreme - some weeks she won't say a word, others she won't stop talking, regardless of whether or not there's anybody in the room. If there's a bee in her bonnet, she'll smack the table in a fit of rage - many a time I've expected her to burst into tears over some trial or other - and talking her down is nigh-on impossible. But if she's happy, due to say some success with a Tudor re-enactment or bonfire display, she'll be chattering and giggling away under her breath all morning. She even proudly brings in her certificates and trophies for dancing to show us all.

She's another one with a tragic tale (haven't they all!). When she was a child, people who weren't 'normal' were swept under the carpet - her parents sent her to a convent to live, where she probably spent a significant amount of her adult life. When she first started at the shop she was like a little church mouse, barely audible - she'd come down to the office to ask permission to use the toilet.

I asked her about where she lived now and if she had any family. Turns out she has a flat (housing association or assisted living, I suppose) , and a social worker checks up on her - and she is married. They come into the shop together sometimes to buy costumes for their dancing and shows. If there is any proof in this world that there is someone for everyone, surely she and her hubby are it.


Dara doesn't work for me any more, but I wrote this bit about him a while ago and he was such a lovely chap he deserves publication.

Dara is on the till... his first outing. I sit in the office listening and I can feel the waves of confusion emanating up the stairs. Any moment now the till will rattle and beep, footsteps will approach and the familiar 'er, Nancy...' will be heard.

Sometimes I get so sick of the sound of my own name, I'd like to install one of those bleepers in my brain, the kind they use on TV to cover up profanities. Still, I hope that Dara on the shop floor will entice young female spendthrifts into my shop. It certainly stops him sitting in the corner crying over the love songs on his iPod. Ah, the tender heart of an 18-year-old boy! He is Kurdish, a slender and beautiful young man possessed of carved cheekbones and big brown eyes that could charm the pants off Anne Widdicombe. He doesn't know that yet though, which rather adds to his appeal. Once he told me that he wanted white skin, but I'm sure it won't be long before the realises that the deep tan complexion and rugged dark locks are paying off for him.

He's an amazing young man, actually - a refugee, an illegal immigrant who escaped Iraq after his family was killed in the conflict. You'd never know it to talk to him though. The chirpy demeanor (excepting the occasional iPod moment) confused me for a while, knowing the awful things that have happened to him. But then someone else pointed out to me that he's probably just really happy to be here and not there. A few months ago he told me that he'd failed to get his visa and was under threat of deportation. His lawyer was helping him appeal and asked if I would write a letter of reference to his case.

Some might take issue with aiding an illegal immigrant to stay in this country, but frankly I am more than happy to say that I hope in some small way I was able to help him get the 5-year visa that was eventually granted. Every day I am confronted with the array of drunkards, drug addicts, shoplifters and general white trash born and bred in this country, wandering the streets in search of cash or goods at anyone's expense except their own. Dara risked everything to come here for the sake of his life - being that he didn't actually have one left back in Iraq - goes to college in the week and volunteers in my shop in his free time, for work experience. I'd rather give him my tax money than some pissed, lazy chavs who can't even be bothered to wash themselves.

Rant over. (For now.)

Tiresome by Tuesday!

It's going to be a long week.

Tiresome things that have happened so far this week:

My stock take - I thought I'd cleverly minimised the work by doing the stock room numbers on Friday. Unfortunately at 12pm Monday I received a phone call telling me that the large box containing 332 items of new accessories (that arrived with a lovely little note saying that it was not to be included in the stock take) DID in fact need to be counted. On Tuesday, when I had finally collated my total figure, I phone it through to the regional manager only discover that I am meant to have 200-odd items of giftware. I counted 6. Erm.

The would-be stalker - see previous post.

I couldn't get my lighter to work! Monday afternoon, popping out for a well-earned bit of nicotine (and the first since Sunday evening), I stood outside the back door for about 5 minutes like a total lemon, trying to light my cigarette. Could I get the bleedin child-proof thing to work? Could I buggery. I had to stop the man from the newsagent's across the road (the one who insists, rather irritatingly, on addressing me as 'babe') and beg a light. It's a shocking fact but I know very few charity shop managers who do not smoke. I managed for a year without giving in to fag breaks during the day, but since moving into a non-smoking house I no longer smoke much in the evening, if at all, so I have switched my cancerous routine. I must say it does break the day up rather pleasantly.

Usual endless stream of bags of crap - what in god's name would I want a broken toy guitar for? A woman actually removed it from the bag (thankfully, most aren't so considerate) to ask me if it's the sort of thing I wanted, or if *gasp* she should maybe consider putting it in the bin. 'It doesn't actually work...' she says. You'd think she would realise she'd answered her own question, but apparently not. Unwashed crockery, children's underwear, half-used bottles of shampoo, piles of homework (FFS), unfinished craft projects and incomplete jigsaw puzzles. Just a small selection. Don't get me wrong, I am often also stunned at the amazing and lovely things that people donate too - brand new Marc Jacobs necklace, a Chloe bag worth £2k, wedding dresses and vintage military attire, to name but a few. But today is a day for griping. Oh yes but I did find a pair of slightly muddy but otherwise barely worn Ugg hiking boots, magically in my size, in amongst it all, which pleased me greatly. Whilst I do not find them in the least aesthetically appealing, I really do need more practical shoes and I may well be doing significantly more walking in the months to come.

I digress. It is Tuesday night. I am tired. Thank god for mid-week days off.

Harassment, etc

I have suffered stalker-like behaviour from customers on more than one occasion whilst at work. The previous offender at first seemed like a pleasant and harmless enough chap, chatting to me on the shop floor - but the inevitable small transgressions began to appear - following me into the back room, standing that bit too close, following me from shop to shop (this was when I was working one day at the shop I now run, and covering three days at the branch down the road). Eventually someone told me they knew him and he was schizophrenic - which isn't necessarily indicative of nutterness, I have some extremely capable volunteers and friends who suffer from it and manage to keep it under control. This man clearly didn't have it under control, however, and eventually, through a course of hiding immediately when encountering him at work and in the street, he left me alone.

Yesterday I was harassed by a customer who has expressed more than usual interest in me over a number of months. He probably doesn't think he was harassing me, but at 5pm when I'm kicking everyone out, stood at the door attempting to lock it, he was hovering in the path of said door so that I was unable to close it, and attempting to cleverly bypass all my requests for him to exit the premises. Clearly he has a bit of a thing for me, and for some reason seems to think that I understand what he is getting at when he acts surprised when i refer to him as 'just a customer?' and 'when will i see you? only at work?' - very frustrating. Why do men old enough to be my father often seem to expect that I will want to go out with them. Whilst he does not look mentally unhinged and is a not a large or menacing person, I did feel quite harangued and intimidated by him when I was in the shop alone at the end of the day. Next time I will get badass on him and put my security radio to good use!