Performance Fleas

It’s been difficult since March. It’s been difficult for a lot of people — countless people. Trying to find unemployment during a pandemic — let alone dealing with a pandemic itself — was something we never thought would ever happen. In the grand history of Earth and life, pandemics and plagues and the like seemed to be a thing of the past. There would be no way this would ever come about with modern medicine and safety practices.

Wrong.

Despite all of 2020’s downsides, there have been many positives. Personally, there have been perks with having to “socially distance” and deciding to “social media distance,” spending time up at camp, Katey and my wedding and honeymoon, and a priceless cross-country road trip.

Personally, living with this has been extremely difficult. It’s been exhausting. It’s been creatively deflating. It’s a cliché to use the phrase “a rollercoaster of emotions” but there you have it. Since the world has seemingly gone to hell while living with COVID-19, I’ve been missing the simple things a lot — time with family and friends, going out to concerts and movies, normal dining, and evenings out on the town. I’ve missed being productive and employed, but I’ve especially missed performing improv.

Lack of performance and productivity makes me feel itchy more than it is nauseating. This anxiousness is like being covered by fleas. There is a constant, incurable itchiness. As the days go by, these figurative fleas reproduce and the situation becomes more intense.

Applying for jobs has been a bear. Employers looking for communications and marketing positions aren’t communicating. Organizations planning to hire from within are posting jobs online to simply fulfill human resource requirements. For example, Pepsi and Hello Fresh are looking for writers and copy editors but they don’t write back. However, recently, interviews are increasing. Opportunities for employment are available. If you’re down in the dumps, please take comfort there is hope. Keep at it.

There comes a time when a person can take so much and needs to say to hell with it. I was tired of sitting on unemployment. Regardless of extensions or not — it’s not the way I want live.

During the interim of looking for employment, I decided to take a part-time job. I first applied to Macy’s, who passed on me. Even though I had a couple referrals to Wegmans, they passed on me. For both, I received the standard blanketed denial email. Robots cannot tell you that a company may think you might bored in the position, that you’re overqualified, or they don’t want to risk hiring a person not versed in the business because you, the potential hiree, may not take it seriously.

However, Old Navy hired me. Thanks, Gap, Inc.! So, yes, I’m working at Old Navy part-time. When I find full-time employment, I’ll stay on board and take a couple evening shifts during the week and on weekends.

Why? Because I’m serious.

Although, I’m not where I need or would like to be, there is a lot to the retail world is necessary. Anyone could use a job in this business niche. My minimal retail experience includes a science museum gift store and a bottle redemption center, both experienced over a decade ago, working retail is a cathartic experience. It’s a slingshot for mental and skillset building — stretch yourself back, re-build that stock of potential energy for a full-blown kinetic experience, release, and fly.

Technologically Speaking

The use of technology is limited. I’m not straining my eyes by staring at a screen most of the day. I’m getting so many steps in.

When ringing purchases out at the counter, signing people up for rewards, preparing packages for in-store pickups and shipments, and clocking in and out — that’s it. Like any job personal cell phone use is frowned upon, and that’s not an issue. I’m constantly doing something — talking to customers, folding/tidying, moving, sorting, and cleaning.

Turning off always feels so good, especially when tuning in to what’s around you.

Basics of Communication

I love talking to people. Sometimes I forget how much enjoyment comes with it. If its not about their purchases, it’s simply small talk. Multitasking is natural while ringing up purchases, stuffing clothing into bags, and talking about music, sports, aspects of life, and even finding out personal connections.

Masks and plexiglass dividers are literal barriers when trying to catch information, but it doesn’t hurt to apologize and ask someone to repeat what they said.

Still, no matter the case, there is always a way to find commonalities with random people. We’re all in this life together. It feels especially important now to continue and maintain these basic connection practices.

Yes, the organization wants new and returning customers. It’s my duty to ensure this happens. The customer may not always be right when it comes to signage or company policy, but it’s being at the front to inform (if not educate) in order to ease their qualms.

Patience and Tolerance

Aside loving the aforementioned conversations, there are customers on their phones, sifting through whatever site or having a separate ear-to-ear conversation — even putting our real-time conversation on hold —when trying to accomplish a task. Some people are demanding and others are passive aggressive. At times a customer will tell you they “don’t give a shit” about something that pertains to the business.

Just smile and nod. Level with them. Or, if you’re creative enough, season in a dry, pithy retort. Even that gets them to smile and loosen up a bit.

For an improviser, there are so many characters I can explore on stage simply by taking inspiration from some of these customers — especially that “Don’t Give a Shit” guy.

Business As Usual

Retail is not an easy job. It’s not below anything. It’s repetitive. It will allow you to embrace the OCD side of your personality you never knew you had — it’s more okay to be (super) detail oriented! It’s a platform for young people entering into the workforce and an opportunity for seasoned adults to re-evaluate themselves, their skills, and gain more confidence. I’m still going to be socially awkward at times, but I’m not going to stop working at building communication abilities.

Being more of a “words guy” and disliking numbers, I don’t mind working the cash register. From my managers, I’m apparently good at the position. When it comes to signing people up for Old Navy’s free loyalty program — more transactions lead to more points, more points yield money toward in-store or online purchases — I have the ability to turn around that daily deficit and bring up the percentage of enrollment.

The retail world is a positive breeding ground for transferrable skills. This is even true for problem solving.

Company Discounts

Yeah, these are definite perks.

***

It’s great to be doing something and get out of the house. Yes, it’s a bear having to wear a mask all day; however, it’s for the greater good of the community. However, I feel safe. I’m comfortable but not too comfortable. It’s been nice reevaluating myself, my skills, and rebuilding in a sense.

Cheers to the next upcoming chapter!

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