Attendance policy

Fall retail Saturday.  Mayhem with a dash of football game anticipation.  Today was no different.  It had been raining most of the day.  It was the local university’s homecoming, and UT was playing their arch nemesis Florida.  I had been on the clock for less than an hour and pushed in carts for the second time when the phone rang.

(Note:  The conversation has been edited to exclude names other than the girl who called.  Due to her special brand of stupid, and since I don’t know her last name, who she is, where she lives, etc….I don’t mind using her name.)

Me:  “Thank you for calling ______.  How may I assist you?”
Her:  “Uhm.  This is Allie.  I’m sick and won’t be able to make my shift from 4 to close.”
Me:  “Allie.  I don’t think I’ve met you.  Are you a cashier?”
Allie:  “Yeah.  It’s supposed to be my first day but I’m sick.”
Me:  “Since you’re calling out for your first shift, you’ll need to bring a note from the doctor before you can come in for your first shift.”
Allie:  “Why are you being so rude?  I’m sick.  I don’t need to go to a doctor.  I don’t like your tone.  You’re being rude.”
Me:  “I’d be happy to let you talk to ________ (my supervisor).  Just hold on.”

I put her on hold, find my supervisor and briefly explain the situation.  She takes the phone, picks up the line, and the conversation continues.

Supervisor:  “Allie??  So you aren’t coming in for your shift?  Will you make it for your shift tomorrow?”

At this point I didn’t hear Allie’s end of the conversation, only my supervisor.  When she told Allie that she would talk with the store manager about her absence apparently Allie was more concerned that there be a conversation about my rudeness and that I be fired.  It was ridiculous, and my supervisor and I both agreed we were sort of looking forward to meeting this new hire when she finally decided to grace us with her presence.

Only a few moments later, the store manager came back in from lunch.  We told him that Allie would not be in for her shift, assuming she was one of the new hires going into holiday.  He had never heard of her either.  No one named Allie works for us.  Wondering if one of the two other local stores might have hired her, my store manager starts making phone calls.  One store had interviewed someone with a middle name that could possibly have resulted in “Allie”.  The other store recently had a young lady show up at their store for an interview with an entirely different retailer.  <<–  OOPS.  Our current hypothesis is that she was hired by that retailer, but having been careless enough to show up at the wrong store for an interview, she called the wrong store to notify of her sickness.

Alternately, and this would be WAY more fun, she just might show up for her shift tomorrow.  We’ve already decided that she might be the only person to be fired before they were hired.

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Lazy mouth

I needed an interpreter, although I’m not sure I’d understand them if they understood him.

Imagine speaking, but never moving your tongue from the space it fills resting inside your bottom teeth.  What might have been intended as articulated words formed into sentences emerges as incoherent mush sprinkled with the occasional (very articulately spoken) profanity.

My parents were incredibly demanding of their offspring during our formative speaking years.  We grew up in a rural community, hearing the requisite vocabulary. Ain’t.  Youn’z.  D’j’all.  Your mother’s sister was your Ant.  Fix’n ta.. . . .basically, it’s safe to infer your favorite Jeff Foxworthy bit here.  My parents spoke to their children as adults.  There was no baby talk.  There were no ‘fishies’, ‘birdies’.  There were fish and birds.  We were not permitted to speak poorly or lazily.  I’m not making fun of speaking ‘southern’, as I am as capable as the next genteel woman of throwing out a “Hey Y’all!”.  I’m referring to something that is not an accent.  It is not a dialect.  Within the inarticulate mumbling are actual words, although in my experience those words are usually ‘sheeee-it’ or “Damn it ‘ooman'”.  It’s as if the lips and tongue don’t move at all.  Try saying a simple sentence without moving your tongue or lips.  It’s hard.

In the midst of our interaction my effort to understand and help turns to his frustration at my inability to understand him and respond.  The lazy mouth was not limited to him.  His wife and son were loudly attempting to talk over him with equal lack of formed verbage, all the while I am at a loss.  These were not hearing impaired people.  I regularly sign with our hearing impaired customers.  Again, not being insensitive here.  Having not encountered anything like this before, and in order to provide them service, I had to hear them, then attempt to form the same sounds (silently) in my own mouth.  It was incredibly difficult to not form words.  Eventually we found their solution and they left.

So lazy mouth is apparently a genuine speech impediment.  (Generally associated with substantial lisp which they didn’t have.) I will say once again that I do not intend to belittle or find humor in someones difficulties in life.  I wonder, however, if you can have lazy mouth syndrome and Tourette’s Syndrome simultaneously??  Because these folks, although unable to form understandable conversational words, were quite able to drop an f-bomb with incredible acuity.

Clark takes on the Baptists

Our initial meeting of the neighbors to our rear was not a great one.  The week before closing on the house, knowing all paperwork was filed and money was legit, the then owners allowed us to install our fence.  We put stakes in the ground, ran lines, and set the fence in approximately a foot from the property line.  In the midst of our driving posts into the ground, a rather petite and VERY northern sounding older lady blasts out of her house yelling at us.  “This is OUR fence.”  “Don’t you put anything on OUR fence.”  OUR fence is 3 feet inside OUR property line.”  This was not the neighborly beginning I had hoped for.

Fast forward several months.  We are on speaking terms, and they ask us to keep an eye on their house while they spend the winter in Florida.  I take down her number, expecting no incident, however a few months later we catch a someone hunting illegally on their land.  We are officially their ‘neighbors’ now.  We share produce.  We banter over the fence.  Renee (pronounced Ree-Nee) and Clark are really cool old folks.  She’s from Brooklyn.  He’s an old school farmer from North Carolina.  They are here most of the year, but winter in Florida.  Most notably, they, (like us) are an unmarried couple living in sin within direct sight of the Baptist church.

I’ve always had an objectionable relationship with the Baptist church.  I was once told that I was going to hell simply because I had been sprinkled rather than immersed.  Aside from my own feelings, they also don’t agree with my lifestyle choices, so we’ll call it a draw and move on.

After work this evening, as I’m peeling and chopping sweet potatoes, I get a call from Renee asking if I want to participate in “the shit hitting the fan”?  She informs me that they have been attempting to negotiate with the neighboring Baptist church over their extremely high wattage spot lights that shine from the exterior side of their building into our yards.  Truthfully, it IS light pollution.  By those lights a person could sit in the yard and read a book in the dead of night.  Tonight, the menfolk of the church came to see it for themselves….and I was granted admission to the festivities.

We put on shoes and the headlamp, walk to the fence (that we share), and are met by two men.  They stood, arms crossed, admiring their steepled brick house of praise.  I asked what they thought of the flooding illumination.  One of them answered, “I love the light.  I wish I had this at my house.”  I couldn’t help it, but answered that I had moved to the country so I could enjoy God’s creation, including his night sky.  The other man tells us that the lights were put up so they could watch their children.  Before I could ask why their children would be playing in OUR yard, my fella says, “Why are your children playing at the church at 11pm?”  Still a very valid question.  With no answer, and having agreed that it is an excessive amount of light pollution outside of their property, they have agreed to shade or redirect their lights.

During this entire exchange, Clark was inside their house with the minister.  I can only imagine the conversation went something like this:  “Pastor, as you can see, your lights are rather bright.  We’d like to see them redirected.  Now I’m a completely reasonable man.  Those two women out there on the other hand…….I make no promises.”

Sunday penalty….not the football kind

Those of you who know me and know what I do for a living, are not unfamiliar with my observations about “Sunday people”.

For those of you who might be less familiar, (Warning:  This could be potentially offensive to some of your delicate flower types.) “Sunday People” are the folks in their fancy clothes, fresh out of church.  They’ve said their prayer, repented their sins of the last week, gave their tithe, and have their particular deity’s ‘good to go’ to inflict their contempt on the rest of us.  Ask ANYONE who has had the distinct experience of a retail or food Sunday.  They know the horrible manners, rude behavior, and bad tipping associated with this bunch.

First, let me clarify, not ALL church goers fall into the aforementioned category.  There are lots of really good people in this world.  There are lots of people who are polite, appreciative of your time and service, and still more who simply go home for lunch and family time.  As a child, I recall leaving church and driving by the only diner in our small community.  It seemed as if half of our congregation was sitting down for a second ‘communion’ and my family never participated.  I never understood why my parents opted out of what seemed like a further celebration of our church friendships.  We went home, made a simple lunch, and did family things.  Our family time never included shopping for fun.  IF we went shopping, it was because someone was popping out the toes of their shoes, or had literally outgrown their pants.  These outings were sacred, frugal, and ultimately polite.  Please. Thank you.  Waiting quietly in line.  Not being upset if your size wasn’t available, because it simply meant that someone else got there first, and that was ok.  Our necessity shopping never occurred on a Sunday.

This would be a good time for me to be forthright and say I have worked far too many consecutive Sundays.  Today it occurred to me that I am being oppressed for NOT being a church goer.  I cannot, in fact, recall the last time I was in a church for a reason other than a wedding or a funeral.  I don’t have a problem with organized faith.  I have a problem with bigotry, hipocricy, and a propaganda of hate…but that’s a different topic.  Today it occurs to me that I am scheduled every Sunday because I don’t attend a church.

If I could only find an alternative.  Some reason why I would have to have the same privilege of exemption that many of my past and current coworkers have come to expect. With this in mind, and with the basic idea that God is love (right??), and dogs love you unconditionally, I am giving consideration (albeit not seriously) to finding one of those 30 minute online ordination sites to begin The Church of Dog.  Dog is Love.  I’d have a congregation of 2 in my living room every Sunday.  There would be treats.  Everyone would use their good manners and inside voices.  No one would go shopping or dining afterward.  We’d share fruits and veggies for lunch, and after a roll in the grass we’d all have a nap.  Our church could have outreach in the community, visiting nursing homes and hospitals, sharing the love of Dog. . . . and we’d be tax exempt too!!

Long story short.  I’ll always have to work on Sundays.  Every week those “Sunday people” make me less and less likely to ever participate in their version of ‘church’ again.   I wish they’d just go home, make a simple family lunch, and spend time with their family, raising respectful and appreciative children, and helping create the better world that their congregations all pine for.

A tribute to a broken jar

This morning was not starting off well.  I woke up with a pounding headache.  The light coming in the bedroom and adjacent kitchen window was searing my retinas, so I rolled back over and put a pillow over my face.  My fella had been up for a few minutes.  He made coffee, and had just opened the basement door to go downstairs to do laundry.  The next 6-7 words (though technically the same word repeated with different levels of alarm, dismay, and heartbreak) yanked me from bed, vertical, in pants, and behind him on the steps in mere seconds.

Apparently, most likely yesterday while we were both at work, the beer shelf (recently stocked with 48 bottles of home-brewed magical-ness) had catastrophically failed.  In it’s fall, it appears to have grabbed onto the lesser stocked shelf of home-canned things, mostly jams, jellies, and some store bought canned goods.  The result looked like an explosion at a glass factory.  There were broken bottles from one side of the basement to the other, glass shards of all color and size.  There was actually something strangely beautiful in all that jagged color and shine….but then the cleanup.

Full jam jars apparently don’t shatter, but might possibly bounce.  In total, the episode could have been far worse.  Only three bottles of beer met their demise, along with one single quart of pasta sauce, the tall glass cylinder that used to house our kitchen betta, and.. . . . .my great grandmother’s pickle making jar.  I lost myself for a moment.  I’d only been it’s caretaker for a year and I had failed it.  I had failed her.  In those shards of the tall antique 1 gallon jar were her labors for her family, my mother’s time and energy for us, and the one and only time I used it to make an age old recipe last summer.  It’s easy to say it’s only a jar, but in that moment it was the weight of posterity.

In my mind I can see Ethel just shaking her head as if it’s of no matter, wiping her hands on the tattered apron she always had on.  My childhood mind remembers her house as if it was landing on a different planet.  I can remember going to the outhouse, and the eventual addition of a toilet.  That was around the same time we were forced to stop playing in the creek because Appalachian plumbing didn’t always include a septic tank. They raised and killed their own animals, some of which were not too friendly.  I recall one rooster, in particular who would chase and spur all of the kids until we were bleeding and left them alone.  No one wore shoes.  Over time you learned how far out the chestnut tree (yes, a real chestnut tree) could throw it’s sharply spined seeds.  Until you learned, you hobbled crying to momma for help digging the spines out of your feet.  There was mud.  Lots of mud.  There was no Kool-aid or Coke.  There was a pitcher of raw milk, separated into layers of milk and the cream that would later be made into butter.  If you wanted water, you pumped it straight from the well spigot.  I remember the pickle jar on the shelf directly above that spigot.

It’s so different now.  We live in a disposable age.  If something breaks we have the culturally endorsed convenience to simply go purchase another.  Many products are manufactured so poorly as to need replacement, thus insuring consumers purchase more.  My great grandmother didn’t live in that time.  She used and reused everything.  To all things there were numerous purposes, and they were purposed until their time was done.  Using her jar was part of my attempt to restore that aspect of her lifestyle into my own.  I didn’t fail her.  I didn’t fail my mother, or myself.  I’m just a sucker for the sentimentality of family and lifestyle, deeply yearning for simpler times.

The noise and the sound

I ponder a lot of randomness.  Driving home tonight, I heard something…in fact a radio show about hearing things in our environments.  It was delightfully thought provoking.  Noises and sounds.  Although I understand both words, and use both frequently, I’d never really pondered them aside from their definition.  Ignoring dictionary specifics here, these words have different visceral and emotional meanings for me.  We are constantly bombarded by noise.  In my experience, noise is the incongruous cacophony of things.  Its the environment living and breathing around us, with us in it.  Traffic.  The hum of electronics.  Chattering passersby.  Honking cars.  Neighbors mowing.  Crying babies.  The jogger and the cadence of footsteps pounding the sidewalk.  The automatic doors of the store and their small squeak as they are almost completely open.  Shopping carts being racked into each other.  We constantly filter and process multitudes of noise, our brains ignoring or pulling out things that might be important or dangerous.  Constantly processing.

If you only give yourself a moment to consider your routine, you’ll probably develop a lengthy list of your own noises.

Sounds are not these things.  Sounds are something more.  I feel certain sounds as almost tactile, often emotional, and PART of my personal landscape.   The ring of my Grandma’s phone.  The constant murmuring water in the fish tank.  The single 90 year old floorboard by the hutch that quietly eeks as I make the progress to bed each night.  The welcome home doggy giggle when I open the front door EVERY TIME I come home.  The cicadas in late summer and the crickets in early fall, all screaming out for a chance encounter in the night.  The gurgling fermentation fumes of my daddy’s homemade wine.  The coyotes on the ridge opposite my tent, yapping, howling, and communicating their hunt to the entire pack.  A canoe paddle slipping in and out of the water.  The bagpipe troupe walking around the park festival.  Screech owls.  The subdued crackle of a campfire.  These are sounds…only a few…but SOUNDS that when I think of them, even briefly, bring me a rush of recognition, the feel of a place, the smell of a place…more than just a fleeting memory, as if the entire world of that moment is recreated just for me.  I could write pages and pages around each of these sounds.  It’s that real.

It has to be beneficial for our brains to turn down the volume of the noise, and turn up the volume of the sound.  It’s beautiful to live in moments that we are able to immerse ourselves in repeatedly with the chirp of a cricket.

Contests (minor language warning)

I genuinely hate a dick measuring contest!!

“Hey, lemme ax you sumthin.”  I hate (yes, harsh word) when a person approaches me to ask a question related to my work, then proceed to tell me the ‘correct’ answer based on their particular limited experience.  Why ask the question in the first place?? Generally you ask a question or seek advice in hopes of improving a situation.  Asking me a question, hearing my answer, then following it with a series of berating or condescending statements will result in a brief series of events.

Initially, I will give the inquirer the opportunity to go away and do it the way they want, as long as it is understood that the particular topic is now null and void for further discussion.  If the condescension continues, I might bring up that I’ve been in this line of work for a long time and my years of experience provide my rationale for my answer.  The expectation I have for this option is almost always the outcome, with a return statement beginning with the words, “I’ve been doing this since I was a kid….blah blah….” as if they started their expertise as a fetus. (Again, if you’re so certain of your methods then why did you ask??  Oh??  Just wanted to wave around your manhood a little??)   This reaction will again be given the opportunity to go away on it’s own….but that never happens.  No.  At this point in my attempting to answer THEIR question, they (almost always a man between 25 and 55) will make some comment about not being told by ‘some girl’.

This is the proverbial slippery slope.  Here is where there is a temptation.  I’m not just ‘some girl’.  I’m proud of the work I’ve done to gain what I know.  In the course of my employment, I’ve done some extraordinarily cool things.  It would be so easy to list off the resume.  It would be fun to strip down the conversation to details and minutia to make my point…but I won’t.  See, I don’t want to be that girl.  I don’t want to wave around credentials or provide references, although on occasion my staff will do it for me – which always makes me laugh inside a little.  There is a balance of knowing it and being a know it all.

I’ll be the first to tell you if I don’t know the answer to something.  I’ll help you find resources, or we can find the answer out together.  Learning is fun.  In no way do I think I’m the only educated female this happens to.  There are idiot ass-hats everywhere.  I simply don’t like being a woman forced into a dick measuring contest only to find my opponent arrived ill equipped.

On Unexpected Dog Surprises…

Flowers on a rainy day?  Home cooked meal just for you?  Present from your favorite jewelry store?
No, not these types of surprises.

There is a hard and fast routine in our house, and by fast I mean that as soon as I walk in the door from work the routine must immediately commence.  I fling any personal belongings or groceries I might be carrying onto the nearest capable surface.  The mudroom light is turned on, the door is opened, the food is poured into the awaiting bowls, the back door is opened, the dogs eat…as if they’ve never had a meal.  I usually step outside, survey the yard and what never ceases to be an amazing horizon, then I go back into the house leaving the back door open so the dogs can go out to make their yard contributions.  They’re both quite smart, and will push open the inside mud room door to come in, (always the youngest first) at which time I close everything and we’re in for the night.

A few nights ago there was a deviation from the plan.

The elder lady dog let herself back in the house, immediately coming into the kitchen to scour the floor for any magical yummy food nuggets I may have dropped.  I look around for ‘the baby” (who is actually only 2 years younger than the old lady), but she’s nowhere to be found.  I ask the elder, “Where’s your sister?”  I get the doggie equivalent of an “I know something you don’t know.”  Intrigued, alarmed…or somewhere in between, I go out in the darkness and call her name.  Again.  Again….and finally I see a blur zig zagging the almost acre back yard.  Though certain it was her, this was NOT her typical behavior.  What was wrong with my dog?  This is the dog who must be glued to me, hates loud noises and surprises, and she won’t fetch…but she’ll let me throw it repeatedly while she shows me where it landed.

So out there in the darkness, making obtuse arcs while barreling toward me in the least direct way possible, was my dog.  I cannot explain my sense of horror mixed with pride as she was about 5 yards away and I realized my 50lb baby was herding an opossum….straight toward me.  With a grin from ear to ear as if to say, “Look mom, I brought YOU dinner!!”, my little girl was directing and redirecting a very unhappy marsupial.  I leap up a few steps while yelling, “LEAVE IT!! LEAVE IT!! NO POSSUM!!” as loudly as I could, hoping she’d remember her basic manners.  She froze, looked at me with a face full of disbelief that I’d rejected her gift, and the opossum dashed off through the herb garden never to be seen again.

We came back inside and although I’m sure professional trainers would advise against it, I gave treats.  LOTS of treats.  After all, how can you punish the dog who won’t fetch or retrieve for HERDING a wild animal all the way to her person.

Irrational Fears

(I am in NO way writing this to belittle or suggest that any person’s genuine fears aren’t valid.)

While going about my business yesterday, I overheard a rather disturbing conversation being had by one of our “Sunday families”.  The mother and father were holding the little girl near to their bodies.  In a tone that could best be described as Vincent Price meets Martha Stewart (scary firm), they told their daughter about the evil that is a snake.  Apparently these hatchlings are blood thirsty creatures that only want to live under her bed with the sole intent to bite, harm, and KILL….or worse.  And here it is that I’ve been handling them all these years.

This started me thinking about things we fear with little or no reason.  Even more-so, why do we instill these fears into children.  Shouldn’t a parent want their child to be….well…never mind.  In this case the parents wanted their child to be just like them.  Afraid.  I suppose if you raise a child to fear the world around them, they’ll never be able to leave you.  So there’s that basis.

I know several people who are afraid of clowns.  Although I’m not necessarily afraid of them, I understand the underlying creep factor of a grown stranger wearing caked on make up to disguise themselves, all while pasting on a big superficial smile to cover God knows what kind of mental disorder….all to attract children.  See….completely irrational….or is it?

Most people have an underlying fear of the dark.  Maybe not the literal dark so much as what is in the dark.  The things we can’t SEE.  Street lights, night lights, motion sensor lights, sleeping with the television on….all for the fear of something we can’t be sure is there.  Personally I love sleeping in the woods with no lights, knowing there is the nearby companionship of things whose home I have temporarily invaded.  To me, fear of the dark is a fear that you don’t really ‘own’ the space you’re filling.  Once you own your lack of ownership you’ll sleep a lot better.

There is a strong movement afoot in the media to create fear in our communities.  Fear of what isn’t like us.  Fear of others whose upbringing or culture may not be just like yours.  Much like the family with the snakes, fear leads to hate.  Hatred of a thing is a slippery slope.  (Philosophical rabbit hole—->>)  Most people have a far easier time taking a shovel to something they’ve been taught to fear their whole life…..  Irrational fears serve no one.

As for me, I have two real irrational fears.  I own them.  They are mine.
I am completely freaked out by earwigs.  The vile little insecty creatures with what look like pinchers on their butts.  I know they can’t hurt me.  I know they won’t hurt me.  I will still scream like a frightened beast and head for the high ground…then remember that they can climb very well.  <<Shudder and cringe>>
My second fear might not be so irrational.

I am terrified of becoming the old lady who cannot figure out how to use the pin pad at the grocery store.  I’m afraid that one day I will go to get coffee creamer and granola bars, stand at the check out with my card in my hand, and have to be told how to use the machine.  I see it every day, and it scares the hell out of me.

“Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.”
~Master Yoda

An animal…you know, anything alive that’s not a plant.

People are always looking for a deal.  I’m guilty of it myself.  The new current trends are ‘super couponing’ and price matching.  Nothing alarming here, and there are simple policies in place that we follow.  Regarding animals:  No coupons.  No price matching.  In my world view (which I’m certain is only mine), this policy is in place because THEY ARE LIVING CREATURES with a heartbeat and eyeballs, thus deserving of a nonnegotiable status.
Yesterday a man comes in and looks at the small furries for a minute before I approach him to ask if he has questions.
“How much is your gerbils?”
I reply with the price.
“How much is your guinea pigs?”
Again, I tell him the price.
“Well ______ (local competitor store) has them for less.  Do you price match?”
I explain that we don’t price match animals.
“What about fish?”
“What about that scorpion?”
I repeat that we don’t price match animals.
“What about snakes or lizards?  __________has them for $10.”
I take a deep breath, pondering exactly how insensitive or crass I intend to sound, then make the following statement.  “Sir, ______ does not have a license to sell animals.  They don’t sell living things.   And for clarification, an animal is pretty much any living thing that ISN’T a plant.  We do not price adjust animals.  If you need anymore assistance please let one of us know.”
Some days you just have to politely educate, then shake your head and walk away.