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9:24 am - Sat 2/12/05
The Entry Where I Mostly Rag On The Bookstore

The Entry Where I Mostly Rag On The Bookstore

(For the handful of people who find this journal really interesting and enjoyable, I'm sorry for the recent layoff.)

I'm debating whether to "edit" what I've been writing offline, or to just copy it in here "as it".

In favor of editing--It would be less boring.

In favor of copying it in here "as-is"--It would be less work.

Sorry, but I win (In part, because I have to go pick up my car at work, since I had to drive in yesterday)...

Weds 2/9/05 (2:09 p.m.)

Well, more unwelcome "excitement" at the bookstore yesterday...

I was up in Music from 6:00-7:00, and at one point, a tall, African-Amercan guy, in a blue, backwards baseball cap and blue winter coat, walked into the section (For the record, he was the only person in the section).

Was I a little "jumpy", perhaps, because of what had happened a couple nights previously? Yeah, I probably was. But I was also doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing when I went over and asked if he needed any help.

He quite angrily said "No, I don't need any ‘help', and you're annoying me".
I said, "I'm ‘annoying' you by asking if you need any help? Cause I'm kinda supposed to do that"..

That's when he suggested I was singling him out because he was black–"I don't see you ‘helping' anyone else in the store" (I wanted to say "That's because I'm working in the Music section and you're the only one here, Asshole", but I guessed that wouldn't have the desired "calming effect")–and when he immediately "played the race card", accompanied by a distinctly threatening manner, I said "I'll let you talk to the manager about it", and called Tim G.

Tim, after asking if I thought it was our dvd thief from the other night–It wasn't–came up with John C. and Jack (Two supervisors), and tried to talk to the guy.

It didn't go well. When Jack interjected at one point, to say I was just doing my job, the guy said, "Shut the fuck up! I wasn't talking to you", Tim, noting that the guy had been drinking, told him to leave.

Amidst much macho posturing, he was eventually ushered out by the three guys, and our new, part-time undercover detective, a non-descript African-American man I didn't know was the store detective till afterwards–I just thought he was a nice customer who'd decided to get involved once he saw the situation was getting-out-of-hand (He was talking to the guy, saying things like "Say brutha, whatcha wanna be like this for...?")

It was sort of funny, in a "not really that funny" sort-of-way–The guy was angry over being "profiled", because as he put it "Just cause I dress the way I dress don't mean I am what I am", then proceeded to curse at everyone, threaten to kill all of us, and imply that he was part of a gang (Who I guess were going to come back and help him kill all of us). So if we thought he was a "bad guy", we were apparently mistaken–He was just another poor, misunderstood, profanity-spewing, death-threat-making, drunken gang-banger.

And to think–All this foolishness went down because I asked if he needed any help.

(For the record? If you're in the store, and respond defensively to an employee asking if you need help, it's instantly assumed you're planning to rob us blind. Instead, you should try saying, "No thanks. I'm just looking around". Then in all likelihood, the employee will go back to their book or magazine, glad they didn't actually have to help you, comfortable in the knowledge that, if you actually are there to rip us off, at least they "did their bit".)

The whole "race" thing is such a dicey, confusing issue. Particularly when you're talking about watching for shoplifters in the store–Being a nice, white liberal (Full of nice, white liberal guilt), I don't want to feel like I'm "racially profiling" anyone, assuming that because you're, say, a black man, that you're more likely to steal from us than someone else. But by the same token, you can't give whole groups of people a free pass to rip you off, just so you can tell yourself you're not a racist.

Actually, what I think we should do is just put a sign up saying "Attention, people of all creeds and colors: Take what you want. There's really nothing we can do about it, and the corporate office will blame any losses on employee theft" (I'm glad they hired a store detective, but why is he only part-time when we need full-time, real security? He's apparently not even working weekends, which makes no sense. And the answer is that our cheap-ass company doesn't want to pony up the dough; I bet you dollars to donuts this guy will be gone in the next month or two, as he's deemed too big of an expense, and the problem will once again get swept under the rug).

Fri 2/11/05 (12:10 p.m.)

A rainy day in L.A.-town...

I have an audition later this afternoon, for ESPN. That's a good thing, of course, but it would have been better if I'd had it yesterday when I had the day off, or even this morning, instead of this afternoon at 3:40, causing me to have to call in late to work today.

I'm always concerned I'll have to do that one too many times, and things at Borders will become...adversarial (Especially under the current regime). But beyond that, I just don't like losing the work time.

Especially these days–Since the week before Xmas, I've been working ten less hours every pay period (For one pay period or so, it was up to 15 hours). 32 ½ hours a week, down from the 37 ½. that's been the norm (That's the max for "full time" at Borders).

It's just not enough, by any stretch of the imagination (37 ½ hours a week is not really enough, with that they pay me, but that's another issue). And this is the longest time I've ever sustained such a severe cut in hours with, near as I can tell, no end in sight.

For awhile, I didn't say anything about it, assuming I could ride out what would be a temporary thing. And to be honest, even though I knew I couldn't sustain what's essentially a part-time schedule, there was a part of me that didn't mind less time spent languishing at the bookstore (I only wish if they were going to lop ten hours off my paycheck, they did it in the form of another day-and-a-half off, which might actually mean something to me).

So anyway, week before last, I approached David about it, and his response was a mix of "confusing" and "discouraging"–I couldn't tell if he didn't realize I was working fewer hours, or he thought I should just be grateful because I was coming in earlier than some of the other "closers" or what, but he said he'd "look into it".

He hasn't said anything about it to me since, I'm still on the schedule at 32 ½ hours a week, and just when I'm thinking I should do exactly what Joe suggested weeks ago–which was to write a letter, wait a week or so, and when I get no response, send a copy to the regional H.R. person–I have to call and say I can't make it in at my scheduled time (I can just see if I ask to talk to him about the problem–"Well Jim, you can't seem to make it in at 4:00, so why do you want to be on the schedule at 3:00?". Never mind that my having to call in late happens, on average, maybe once or twice a month).

What's really discouraging about all this is the deeply depressing feeling that I just can't make any headway; It seems like any time I get some extra money, some big bill crops up, or they cut my hours at the bookstore, and I watch that "extra" money just...drain away. Turns out it wasn't "extra" after all.

____________________

But I want to move off the not-very-interesting subject of the bookstore, and onto the not-much-more-interesting subject of me...

I'm sure I'm not the only middle-aged guy who's ever thought this, but for some time now, I've really been wrestling with a depressing, downright panicky feeling–"I'm only 43 years old, and I feel like I'm totally out of gas. What the fuck am I going to be like at 53, or 63?" (With the way I'm feeling, I don't think "73" is going to be an issue).

I feel so tired, so dull, so slow. Literally "weighted down"–How did such a skinny kid turn into a 260 lb tub of blubber?–and barely able to keep putting one foot in front of the other, when I need to be running full-out, if I'm going to make anything happen out here.

And mentally, I feel like I'm in a fog. Often depressed, unmotivated, and maybe worse than anything, boring (I'm not "Good Looking Guy" or "Really Nice Guy", or "Really Hardworking Guy", so if I quit being "Funny, Entertaining Guy", just who the fuck am I?).

Is this what the ongoing, long-term effects of sleep apnea feel like?

Is this what depression feels like?

Is this what the natural process of aging feels like?

My guess at the answer is "All of the above", in a big unhappy ball of interrelated cause-and-effect.

Sat 2/12/05 (1:48 p.m.)

Had an audition today, for ESPN. I thought I sucked frankly, but who knows?

(Callbacks are on Monday. They'd said they'd be calling our agents early Monday morning if we get called back. Cause of course, it's not like actors have other jobs or commitments or plans or anything, so why should we get anymore notice than that?)

____________________

Over my weekend, guess who got caught at the store, putting dvds down his pants? Yes, it was our poor misunderstood "gangsta" (The store detective caught him, but since he hadn't left the store, there wasn't anything to do but take the stuff back and tell the guy to get out).

In a way, that makes me happy–This was obviously a bad guy, and it's nice when the bad guys get caught–but apparently, he wasn't dissuaded by the original confrontation, so I doubt he'll be put off by getting caught, particularly since the only "down side" was that he didn't get anything...this time (If he didn't know the rule before, he knows it now–Apparently, a store detective can only arrest you once you get outside the store. Even if you're walking around with dvds down your pants, you haven't technically stolen anything till you leave the store). He'll just wait till the store detective isn't there, and go to town–Making me wonder, again, why we don't have guys round-the-clock (And again, the answer is–$$$).

During my evening lunch break, Tim and I talked with the the detective (His name is David, but I'll probably keep referring to him as "the detective", to avoid confusion with David the GM). And it was pretty depressing–Basically, it is very difficult to actually bust a shoplifter, between observing the legalities, and the lack of support one gets from corporate (An example of the latter–He busted a guy trying to steal at the Sunset and Vine store, kicked him out, the guy threatening him all the while, only to have the guy come back to the store with a gift certificate from Patricia Cripps, who's the regional manager or some such thing. It sounds crazy, but apparently, he gave her the right line of bullshit, and she didn't even bother to check with the detective to get the full story.

I imagine this sounds like I'm getting upset about nothing; If the corporate office apparently doesn't care about getting shoplifters, why should I?

Well, because "shrink" means less money for the store, which means fewer people hired/less hours available to work, which means a more unpleasant environment when I'm at the store, and a more difficult personal life when I'm not.

Because it's a morale-buster: If thieves get free-rein, it's that much harder to give a fuck about the store ("If corporate doesn't care, why should I?"). And odd as it may seem, at some level, I want to be able to care about the store...but they make it all but impossible.

Because even though I know life is sometimes unjust and unfair, it still sucks to have it thrown in your face: Here I am, obeying the rules, working a steady job, and I'm struggling to get by, while someone can come in, and in one visit, steal what I make in two weeks, with no repercussions.

Because now, not only do I feel like I'm less valued than the customers (No big news flash there), I'm actually less valued than the thieves: If someone threatens to come back and steal some more, if they threaten to kill us, they can come back to the store anytime, no problem (We can't officially "ban" anyone). I found out from Tim yesterday, during our conversation with the detective, that there are only two people that are officially "banned" from the bookstore--two people that other customers complained about.

Kathy suggested that I find another job, even before trying to do the Notary/commercial thing, but I don't really want to do that--I have a strong suspicion that a lot of what I'm talking about would apply to any retail chain, and I don't want to make a lateral move, where the situation is as bad, or worse, than where I'm at now, and I'm "the new guy" to boot.

The atmosphere is pretty poisonous at the store, but I'm going to put my head down, keep moving ahead, and count on being out before year's end.

Which apparently, is what David wants--There's a strong feeling that he's making moves designed to get the long-term people out, so he can hire the people he wants, I guess to remake the store in his own image.

And while it seems a little bit sad to me, it feels like my only defense in this situation is not to care, and to just give the guy what he wants, as soon as possible.

Which in reality, is what I want.

Well, speaking of Borders, I better hop on the bus and get down there--I told them I'd be moving my car by mid-morning.

Sorry if this has been overly boring, but what can I say? This is kind of "what's going on" right now.


 

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