Joining the Rat Race

Over the last few weeks, I had formulated this blog in my head, but up until this morning it had a very different tone.  I was going to write about how my shitty job selling cell phones had turned into an adventure in training and management positions that was bringing me to different parts of Canada, with trips completely paid for and meals expensed on the company dime. I was going to talk about how the job I thought would take me nowhere was instead bringing me into realms I thought would take at least a year for me to get into.  It was going to be titled, “In The Land of Idiots, The Man With Half a Brain is King.”  Because at the end of the day, it’s not hard to outwork people that, well, do a half ass job because they’re only getting paid $13 an hour.  It just so happens that I lucked out and I’m actually working for a rather large marketing company that runs a plethora of projects for huge corporations in Canada and the U.S.  While all of these new developments have been great, I’ve quickly realized that I have abandoned views that I held dear for the last 8 to 10 years of my life while doing this job.

Now don’t get me wrong, all of the new perks within this job have been stellar.  I was flown to Vancouver and I saw very little of Vancouver itself, but the experience of being flown somewhere that I didn’t have to pay for and training people and helping to open a whole new slew of stores was awesome.  When I came back I was thrust into a management position temporarily and instead of working at 1 of the 9 stores in Ottawa West, I was managing all of them.  That’s crazy if you consider the fact that I’ve only worked for this company for a little under 3 months.

This morning, while I was deciding that I would write this blog tonight and making a mental note to buy wine after work (20 Bees 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay), I realized something.  I’ve joined the rat race.  Something I always said I’ve never wanted to be a part of, has so quickly become a part of who I am now and where I’m going.  I had a conversation with my boss the other night where I told her that I didn’t want her assistant’s job, or her job…I wanted her boss’ job or his boss’ job and if she was on the way up, I was down with following her there, but if she wasn’t I had no problem moving up on my own.  Just thinking about saying those words and looking at my viewpoint on all of this less than a year ago, I see a complete contradiction in ideas.

I used to abhor the idea of being part of the system that I am now deeply embedded in.  I’m not talking about my views from university, where everyone leans a little bit more left than they actually are and talks about people being cogs in the wheel, etc, etc (fill in your own Marxist rhetoric here). I’m talking about the views that I had in Japan, in that alternate reality that is far removed from the “real world.”  I always wondered why people that had returned to their home countries immediately began getting jobs that seemed so counter to what their views were in Japan.  But now I realize that it’s all part of the culture.  Coming back, I quickly realized that the 4 years I spent in Japan didn’t really get me anywhere in the “real world.”  The experience gave me nothing that I could use to springboard into a career, other than teaching, which I quickly ruled out after returning.  Granted, my lack of ability to springboard into a career is probably due to my degree in history which has lessened in significance over the years as the economy has tanked.  I also attribute my new views towards what I’m doing and where I’m going and how important it is to be successful because of the culture that exists here, in Canada.  I came back to find my friends; buying houses, getting engaged, having a lot of disposable income and relatively stable in their lives.  I, on the other hand, am not stable, have no clue what I want to do and live in my girlfriend’s parent’s basement.  This thought of being behind has definitely pushed me into where I am and the new views that I have come to embrace.  In the west, no one wants to be that 30 year old that lives in his girlfriend’s parent’s basement, including me.

In Japan, I didn’t care what anyone thought or what I did because everyone there was in the same position.  You kind of give up your family and friends and start new.  No one was comparing themselves to anyone else because we all made the same money and did the same job.

Being back here amongst my friends that I’ve had for more years than I care to count 3 glasses of wine in, I can’t help but compare myself to them and as much as the experience of being abroad is something I would never give up, after about a month of being back, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.  Life experience doesn’t translate to a resume or a sweet ass job.  I find myself wondering if I’ve really made the correct decisions.  My boss is 2 years younger than I am.  My buddy who didn’t even graduate from high school owns a house and makes probably double if not triple what I’m making now.  And as much as I always said that didn’t matter to me, living in your girlfriend’s parent’s basement and having her father constantly say things like, “it’s cold outside eh?  Maybe it’s a good time to quit smoking,” kinda makes you think…did I make a mistake here?

There’s a kid that works in the pharmacy that I man a kiosk at, he’s an engineering student.  All through university and even during my time in Japan, my humanities friends and I always ripped engineering students like crazy.  And don’t get me wrong, I could own this kid in a debate on just about anything aside from civil engineering, but I look at him and think, “You’re set in a few years.”  Whereas I look at myself and think, hmmm, what do I have?  Going to Japan made me lose my command over the English language which is a humanities student’s claim to fame.  My brother, who’s an engineer, is writing me templates for professional emails and I’m actually taking them seriously because I’m lost with all of that now.  Even the template for my cover letters was written by my girlfriend’s father.  I know that I’m not alone in this, as I’ve seen that people who were in Japan for less time than I was, who are now doing their masters and are struggling when it comes to writing essays, thank you facebook.

I guess my major point in all of this random emo whining is that, being back in Canada has made me realize two things.  The first being that, in the west or potentially Canada only, you’re sucked into the rat race without even realizing it, all of a sudden you just realize, fuck, I need to succeed, at all costs.  Vacations and experience become secondary, your primary reason for existing is to move up and make more money.  The second thing is that the way you view the JET programme or any teaching abroad programme out of university is totally different than how you’ll view it when you return.  All of the experiences and the amazing things that you go through seem to take a backseat to you being able to find some sort of stability and success in the western life that you abandoned.  Kind of a negative blog post for anyone reading this that’s still in Japan, but I’m sure that it’s different for everyone.  I guess all I’m saying is that eventually everyone becomes a rat and they end up running in the race, or they stay abroad forever.

B

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Re-tales – This job is interesting…sometimes

I have recently been working as a “sales associate” for a cell phone company. Now this doesn’t sound like that bad of a gig for a “right back into the country and not really sure what I’m doing or where I’m going” type job. But this job has been interesting and soul sucking all at the same time. As I sit here typing this, I’m drinking a six dollar bottle of wine in hopes of washing the weird and strange memories of the day away.

All of this began about a month ago when Mo and I finally settled in Ottawa. First things first…a cell phone. We went into a kiosk at a pharmacy/drug store and that in and of itself seemed weird. A cellphone kiosk in a drug store. Granted, Drug stores have become more than just, hey get your medicine and/or condoms here type places. There’s a small grocery section and an electronics section where you can buy cameras and oddly enough a cell phone kiosk. To be fair, I’ve seen other kiosks in video stores too. That’s just as weird if not weirder.

While purchasing our lovely little devices that would connect us to the rest of the world, I began chatting with the sales associate’s boss. It’s not a stretch for me to be doing that as I’ll pretty much talk to anyone who will listen. Mo and I were both being our jovial, amazing selves and this woman was hooked. After about 5 minutes, I just threw down on her, “Hey, you guys hiring?” Next thing I knew, BAM, interview scheduled, business cards obtained, emails given out. That was weird? I hadn’t even heard back from my attempt to be a sales associate at the Sunglass Hut, which I would have been perfect for. My god, how ridiculous is that title? Sales associate makes me think of a guy in a pin-striped suit with slicked back hair in an office acting all sorts of douchey and making a crap ton of money while exploiting the child workforces in Asia, not of the pimply faced kid trying to sell me a hundred dollar pair of sunglasses, but I digress.

The interview for our (yes, mo and I both had interviews set up at the same time, for the same job) job went like this.

Me: Hey how’s it going?

Mo: Hi

Boss lady: Hi

Me: So who do you want to talk to first?

Boss lady: Actually, I’ve decided you’re both hired, so I’ll tell you what the job is and you can tell me if you’re interested.

That’s actually how it went, now a month and a half later, I’ve been given a full-time position at one store, opposed to bouncing around from store to store throughout the region like Mo is still doing.

Now don’t get me wrong, the job is cool, the boss lady is cool and I genuinely like it sometimes, because I have been priding myself of not pressuring anyone to do anything. We get told here and there that would should be trying to “close sales” and use “closing techniques.” Um, my view on that? If someone really wants the fucking phone, they’ll buy it. Otherwise, I’m not pushing anything. I provide information and the service for someone to purchase something, not because I’ve manipulated them into thinking they need it, but because they actually want it given all the facts.

This has been quite a learning curve for me seeing as a month ago, I wasn’t even sure what phone I was buying or why and I really didn’t care. Now I can debate the intricacies of the Android, Blackberry and iPhone operating systems at length. I talked to a woman earlier today for 2 hours about 2 phones out of the 18 or so that exist in my realm of expertise (I only learn the phones that are at my kiosk, god, I work at a FUCKING KIOSK).

At the beginning, and I guess technically I still am at the “beginning” of this job, it was fun and exciting and new and I was stoked to be learning and communicating on a regular basis in English. The job is pretty much talking to random strangers and that is my forte. Granted, I’d be better with a few drinks in me, but I still get by alright without them. Speaking of, bottle of wine number 1…DOWN! Bring on bottle number 2. Had it been a 10 dollar bottle, I’d be out. Thank you friend that works for a wine company that led me to this.

Over time though, standing near or around a kiosk all day at a store that has me located next to or near NO ONE that works at the store is a bit soul crushing. It’s a pharmacy, 90% of the people that are in there aren’t there to look at cell phones, that’s for sure. Working 12 – 8 on weekdays or 10 – 6 on weekends guarantees that the first half of each shift will be filled with old people who will ask me questions about where they can find Epson salts. You should see the looks I get when I have to tell them I’m not too sure because I just work for the cell phone company. YIKES!

All this free time does leave me time to randomly judge people that avert their eyes when they see me because they think, oh, he’s gonna jump out at me and try to sell me something, which is pretty much the opposite of what I’m doing. I’m just the bored guy that needs to talk to someone every once in a while or a will EXPLODE! The quiet times are the soul sucking times. It’s horrible. I have to stand at all times and I pretty much have a 15 or maybe 20 foot radius around the KIOSK (ha jeez) that I feel comfortable moving into. I have dubbed this area, “the boredom zone.” When I roam into the magazine section that is adjacent to my kiosk, I have hit an all time low on the day.

What makes all of this worse is that I cannot have drinks on the floor, because it’s unprofessional…um, so that means, no coffee, because the zombie like old people…yes, a lot of them are zombie like…may be offended. YEEAAAAaaaahhh, I get that (where’s the sarcastica font?). But back to judging people, what has blown my mind the most thus far has been:

1) The sheer volume of people with permanent bitch face. You know, they just looked pissed, and it’s not because they are pissed off, it’s just because that’s the way their face is, but 9 times outta 10, they’re bitches when you talk to them.

2) The senior citizens that look like zombies. Honestly, I had an old dude walk up towards my kiosk and start looking at a poster for a phone, he stared at it for a good 20 seconds and then I said, “Would you like to see that phone sir? I have a live demo here.” I bring the phone over, open it up and hand it to him. He still hasn’t said a word. I tell him he can scroll through the options if he wants, he pushes one button, puts it down on the counter in front of him and walks away. Not saying a word. Uhh…alright.

3) Mafackin BRATTY kids. The other day, a girl comes in with her mom. She’s 13. She broke her iphone 3. It’s still under warranty and could probably be fixed for free, neither of them seem to care about that, but their looking for a loaner phone for her. So I walk them through a few. All the phones less than $200 apparently…SUCK and are RIP OFFS, according to the 13 year old. She bitches and whines and her mom is like well, I don’t know what you want, you broke your phone? Just when I think, ok, they’re leaving for sure and this girl is going to be smart and get her iphone fixed, BAM, they buy the most expensive smartphone I have…UHHHH, WTF?? I had randomly said, “I have this and it could be a replacement full out I guess.” I was just letting them know it was an option. And the mom was just like, FINE and took it. You have GOT TO BE FUCKIN KIDDING ME.

Now as much as I dislike the sheer boredom and everything that goes along with working retail as a “sales associate.” Here is what I have come to love…the HIGH of a sale. Now, maybe it’s still because this is a new feeling, but my heart starts beating as soon as I know it’s gonna happen. Maybe that because I realize I’m going to have to go through an intense computer program that could potentially crap out on me at any minute and leave my high and dry or maybe it’s cuz I’m fuckin STOKED. Getting a sale keeps me happy and mafacking 元気 (genki) for at least 3 hours. I’m so happy afterwards. Granted, I haven’t made a sale in 5 consecutive shifts now, but it’s gonna happen soon!!!! That’s pretty much all I like, and the fact that I’m smarter than pretty much everyone else that does this job. Mo and I recommend stuff to our boss all the time and she’s like, HOLY SHIT that’s a good idea. The fact that some people can’t open and close the store, very simple things and fill out minimal paperwork as daily tasks BLOWS MY MIND. So I do enjoy thoroughly when the boss lady’s assistant, who is a jackass, tries to tell me how awesome he is because he’s 22 and had more jobs than years I’ve been alive and how he worked for a law firm….um….you’re an idiot. Moving on.

The other things I enjoy are just the sheer randomness of working in a pharmacy/store in general because of the oddness and craziness that can happen. People generally suck, that much is true and they’re generally assholes too, that also sucks. But every once in awhile shit is just FUNNY. The old woman that needs people to check in the back to see if they have any more paper towels on sale, because the 22 packs of 6 that she has aren’t enough.

Or the people that ask the stupidest questions. It’s 4:30pm on Halloween. A woman walks up to me and asks, is the Halloween candy on sale yet…hmmm, do you see the billions of people running in last minute to buy candy right now? Cuz I do, and somehow I feel like 2 hours before Halloween actually goes down no one is reducing prices. It’s fuckin candy!!! It’s gonna sell regardless.

Working sales, or even in any kind of customer service role does give you a glimpse into random people’s everyday lives and that I like. Today, I had 2 guys stop DIRECTLY BESIDE ME. I was standing at my computer minding my own business. And all of sudden this guy starts talking about how he’s just broken up with his fiancée and she moved out this week and that the wedding was supposed to be getting married this Friday. These guys were so close to me that I could have reached out and touched them, but this one dude felt that it was the perfect time to discuss how much “Cheryl was a bitch” and how much her parents now, “hated him.” The stood there for 20 minutes. At one point I felt uncomfortable and left to smoke and I came back and they still continued to stand there and discuss Cheryl the bitch. It was if I didn’t even exist to these guys and I probably didn’t. They saw me but just didn’t care.

So far, I’m not quite sure where I stand on this job, some days, all day I think, I need a new job NOW and other days I think well, this isn’t too bad. At the end of the day, it’s paying the bills and that’s all that matters at this point. Well, Mo has been talking to me non-stop for the last 2 paragraphs, so I should probably go.

I hope you’ve been Brentertained. I still have wine left.

B