Friday, November 7, 2008

Tales of My Career Path: Volume II

Last week’s post about my Housing Authority adventures got me thinking about my career path. I haven’t had a lot of different jobs, but I’ve been working since I was 15. As you may have guessed, it’s difficult for a 15 year old to get any sort of decent job, so crazy stories of my work experiences abound. Today I’m going to tell you a lovely little story about the time I worked at a Kohl’s Department Store. I hope you enjoy…

Once upon a time I was going to college and working at Kohl’s. For those who don’t know, Kohl’s is just a typical department store, kind of like Sears but without all the large appliances and machinery. Sadly, my assignment at Kohl’s was to ring customers up at the register. Ringing customers up at the cash register is the single most boring, mind-numbing job assignment possible at a department store but it turns out that only about a quarter of the entire population is smart enough to handle this task so this is where I was sent. I don’t know what’s so complicated about scanning a bar code and swiping a credit card, but only the best and brightest are assigned this job at my local Kohl’s. Come to think of it, this raises serious questions for me about the nature of ‘self-scan’ checkouts at the grocery, but I suppose that is another topic for another day.

A typical day at the Kohl’s checkout looked like this:

  • Stand around for a good hour with nothing to do once the store has opened
  • Ring up one customer
  • Stand around for another hour with nothing to do.
  • Call housewares and see if they need any towels folded
  • Fold towels for an hour
  • Ring up 6 customers who come in on their lunch hour
  • Straighten every rack of shirts within eyesight of your register
  • Stand around some more
  • Claw out eyes with own fingernails to keep insanity at bay
  • Stand around
  • Bang head on countertop 8 times
  • Ring up customer who looks slightly alarmed at the sight of you and avoids eye contact
  • Give an audible sigh of relief when your replacement clocks in 15 minutes late and finally makes it over to your register

Needless to say, this was not the ideal career choice for a girl such as myself who does crazy things like reading Dostoyevski for fun. I’m not trying to make this a brag post, but geez! I swear I could feel myself getting stupider each and every day as I made my way to my checkout counter.

As the holidays approached each year this routine would change. There would be less and less standing around and more and more ringing up customers. This was a blessing and a curse: I no longer had to bang my head on the counter out of sheer boredom, but I did have to make lively conversation with every person who came through my lane, which basically sucked the life out of me. Really, I don’t care what kind of pj’s you got to go with your slippers or which candle scent your husband likes the best. I. DON’T. CARE. And pretending to care about such mundane crap for 8 hours a day is enough to leave one nearly comatose. Believe me.

So this one day I’m ringing up customers one by one as the holidays draw closer. It was a fairly busy Saturday afternoon in December if that tells you anything – not the sort of day where you have a lot of time to deal with drama if you’re in the retail business. So I’m standing at my register and this middle aged lady comes up to me and leans in real close like she’s going to tell me a secret or she has to say something that embarrasses her. This alarms me in and of itself as I don’t know who the hell the lady is and I’m already worn out from pretending to care about 700 strangers who are all cranky from Christmas shopping. However, I put on my happy face and pretend like I am deeply interested in what she has to say. She leans forward further and whispers to me:

“There’s a naked man in your men’s department!”

Me: Excuse me?

Lady: (whispering) A naked man! (points over to men’s department)

Me: A naked man?

Lady: (nods seriously and points to men’s department)

Me: OK, I’ll take care of it.

Now, whatever possessed me to believe I could take of a naked man running amok in a Kohl’s store eludes me at the moment. I just know that a middle aged women had just declared to me that there was a naked man in my store and I was going to have to do something about it. I did the first two things I could think of: I called the store manager and I called security. Both came running to my register to confirm that I’d just said what they thought I’d just said: that there was a naked man running wild in our store.

We soon had a witch hunt on our hands. Every employee in my Kohl’s store was on the lookout for the naked man that was allegedly creeping around our men’s department, completely exposed for all to see. Being stuck at my post at the cash register, I wasn’t able to help with the hunt, so various employees simply wandered over to me at 5 minute intervals, giving me updates:

“…no one’s seen him yet…”

“… I hope he stayed out of the kids department…”

“… I wonder where his clothes are...”

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Let me take a moment to note that for as much as everyone claimed they didn’t want to see the naked man, every single person working in that store was in hot, persistent pursuit of him. I’m guessing this was the result of the same primal instinct that makes us slow down and gawk at car accidents.

After 20 minutes the witch hunt (aka, the naked man hunt) was called off and the suspect was apprehended by an innocent, 40-ish, fairly fragile Men’s Department employee named Margot. Apparently, the naked man who’d caused all of this fuss was actually…

you are not going to believe this….

a mannequin.

A naked mannequin.

I sent my entire Kohl’s store out to hunt down a naked mannequin on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of the busiest season of the year.


In my defense, the middle aged lady really did tell me there was a naked man on the loose. Also in my defense, I did think to repeat back to her what she’d said to confirm it. It’s not like she just said ‘mannequin’ and I somehow failed to catch the ‘-equin’ part. Luckily, my store manager had a pretty good sense of humor and instead of firing me, only laughed heartily every time he saw me for the next 2 months.

Even more luckily, they don’t make those mannequins anatomically correct.

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