how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

observations of human behavior from someone who doesn't really matter

or maybe I do. this could also be observations of my own behavior by what i choose to write here. our ways of communicating also reveal a lot about who we are.

i am privy to behavior and conversations that others might not have an opportunity to witness. i get to see stuff that you most likely won’t believe, but here goes anyway.

children’s names

when we talk to the children who come through, of course we ask them their names. there are always new trends in what to name a baby, but there are some names that i wonder about. that’s all. i just wonder about what the parents were thinking when they chose that name. what was their inspiration? the ones i am mentioning below are ones that i have seen more than ten times, because to see them once is only an anomaly. to see them more than 10 times could be construed as a trend.

there are the usual celebrity names, or variations thereof, from film, music, and books such as: Beyonce, Kanye, Pitt, Angiejolie, Cruise, Beckham, Witherspoon, Jolie, Paris, Clooney, Suri, Apple, Lestat, Harry, Hermoine, Bella, Edward, Cullen, Forks {i asked. it is, indeed, from the Twilight series}, Hedwig, and so on. one odd one that sticks out is Kardashian. when i smiled at one mother and said, “So you’re a fan of their shows?” she gushed, “Oh, my God, yes, and I thought we’d be the only one but there are 4 other girls named Kardashian in her pre-school.” She was very sad over this. And why she included herself in any reactions to her daughter’s name, such as praise, envy or scorn, with the word “we’d” was a little confusing.

There are the names that honor an ideal or a moral. Names like: Truth, Faith, Grace, Love, Solidarity, Journey, Sojourner, Loyal, Path, Abundance, and Thanks.

States and cities are also a favorite way to name children more and more. Boston, Austin, Dakota, Colorado, Texas, Wichita, Houston, Boise, Seattle, Mystic, to name a few.

Parents often did and still do pull names from the Bible, too. Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, but there have been quite a few children who have come through with the name Revelations that eerily stand out a bit. One child named Revelations was a distantly cold child who flat out told me I was going straight to Hell for being the in the cult called Catholism.

There is the trend to name children after a favorite pastime. One such family had four boys and one girl. Remington, Magnum, Colt, Smith, and the girl was named Gunner. They were hunters. There was a mother who brought in her daughters Dolce, Coco, and Vanderbilt who had her latest edition of “W” magazine in her Burkin Bag.

Then there are the names that sort of escape me. There have only been one of each of these but they were so unusual that they stuck in my mind. Hardwick, Pessel, Trahorn, Alboom, Fillup, and Female; this last one being pronounced Fem-a-lee. I try very hard not to ask to many questions about the names but sometimes, sometimes I do wonder.

Parenting Styles

I know I have written of parents sending out mixed signals, giving the example of self-entitlement, and using mind murder to gain the upper hand with their children, but it never ceases to be interesting how parents handle their children. I often wonder what kind of adults these children will be after being raised like this. Most of these examples go beyond a random bad day. These behaviors seem coded into the parents who are coding them into the children.

A woman with a ten-year-old daughter came into the store. The overweight daughter was holding a waffle cone basket of ice cream. It had three scoops, toppings, sprinkles, and whipped cream. I would never have used the word overweight to describe this child because of the insensitivity of it, but it comes from listening to their conversations being carried out right not even four feet in front of me.

Mom: “The doctor said you need to lose 75 pounds. Why I let you talk me into that ice cream boat is beyond me.” To me she said, “We’ve just stopped in the mall to get a bite to eat. We’ve come back from the doctor. We’re just looking real quick. She needs a little treat after the doctor’s visit.”

The girl selected a bear to stuff. “I want this one. Stuff it.” She tossed it at me with one hand and went right back to eating.

Mom: “Don’t act that way! Oh, my God, how rude! No bear. We’re not buying anything.”

Girl: “I want it. If you want me to go back to school then buy it for me.” There was no hesitation in the daughter’s voice, no cajoling, no pleading. She was confident she was getting what she wanted. My guess from all her brief years on this Earth of getting her way.

Mom: “I shouldn’t be doing this, but okay; but just the bear. No clothes.”

We both know where this is going. The mother spent over $130 on clothes, shoes, and accessories for this bear with the daughter eating the ice cream the whole time. She continued to order me around while ignoring her mother that she was being rude to me. Her mother also kept up her mantra, “I shouldn’t let you do this, so this is the last thing.”

As they left the store the daughter turned right while the mother went left.

Mom: “The car is this way.”

Girl: “Disney store and the food court is down this way.”

Mom wheeled around and followed in her daughter’s wake. I heard her voice getting smaller as they walked away, “I shouldn’t be doing this, so this is absolutely the last thing you get today.”

I have stood by and listened to children call their mother’s or father’s stupid, ridiculous, morons, and the horrific word, “retard.” I have heard children accuse their parents of lying saying, “You told me you were broke but you bought that medicine for {insert name of sibling}. I want this now so get it for me.”

I have seen older children, in the 12 – 15 age bracket that distain the whole experience in the store yet demand to get whatever they want. They say things like, “This place is stupid.” “I’m not putting a heart inside my bear. That’s dumb.” “This bear is stupid.” “I’m gonna take this bear home and kill it. What do you think about that?”

To the child who wanted to murder her bear I merely looked at them for a long moment with full eye contact, and said, “I think that you’re feeling very sad inside. I feel sorry for you. I hope you get better soon.”

I have stood at the register and had children slam their hands on the desk screaming at the top of their lungs because they wanted something else. I’ve had them grab things and stuff them in their bags and run out of the store trying to steal it right in front of their parents believing {most of the time correctly} that the parents will have to buy what they want. I have had bored children who are getting every single thing they want order me to “hurry up because I have somewhere I have to be. Give me the f-ing bag now!” Or the one that makes me truly grit my teeth: “Get a move on, Lady. I want it now!”

In these few select cases that I have chosen to share here, none of the parents held their children accountable at the moment of this behavior.

Children All Grown Up ~ Both Kinds

There are children who act very grown up; too grown up. There are pre-teen little girls dressed very provocatively who are hanging out with boys much too old for them. Not sixteen, not fifteen, but eleven and twelve-year olds who are trying so very hard to act eighteen and nineteen. And they boys they are with are sixteen and seventeen. These girls are not annoying little sisters. They are the “girlfriends” of these boys whose arms are draped around their small shoulders and whose hands touch them in places here in public that they should not be touching at all. I have asked one of the mall cops if he has observed this behavior and he said that he had. He is a retired New York City policeman who works there at the mall. He said their behavior is one that worries him but he cannot do anything since they are not doing anything. It is a parenting issue until it becomes a police issue. By then the parents, I think, will be either wishing they had parented a little more or they will be blaming someone else.

Boys come through the store who do little things, odd, quirky things that stick in my mind. They steal hearts. We have soft little satin hearts that we put in our animals freely when you stuff and buy them. There are some girls that do this but I mostly see boys do it. They walk quietly up to the bin and reach in and steal handfuls of them. When I say, “Would you like a heart,” implying I would let them maybe take one, they dash off with their handfuls. Their parents seldom make them put them back.

Boys from the ages of around five or six on up to older boys in their late teens and very early twenties do something that, I must admit, sort of gets to me. I never say anything to the guest but we have talked about it after work. We have underwear for both genders of bears. If you want a little girl bear and you put a dress on her, you can also put on a little pair of panties. We have cotton ones, satin ones, one with Hello Kitty on them. Very pretty. These boys pick up the underwear and sniff them. You read that right. They pick up the underwear and hold them to their noses. The older boys do it as a pack and laugh then try to catch the eye of any female around. When they catch me looking they do have the sense to look a little sheepish since I am old enough to be their much older mother, but the attitude seems to other women seems very demeaning. They much younger, little boys do it alone and try to be secretive about it. For a child barely in first grade, I have to wonder why they do it. Have they seen other boys do this? Is it something that they’ve seen at home? I am just curious since it is such a common practice that I see it virtually ten or more times a week.

Older children, the ones already grown up and out of college, the ones who are married with possibly families of their own act no better at times than the children they are raising.

It was after we had closed on New Year’s Eve. The manager on that night, last night to be honest, and I were tired and really wanted to go home. This man was still in the store shopping having come five minutes before closing. We were trying to re-stock for the next day, closing one of our registers, all the myriad of things we need to do before we can leave the store. He was ambling around as if he had all the time in the world and in fact, he sort of did. He wasn’t meeting his girlfriend whom he was buying the bear for for another three hours. At last he came to the register after the store had been closed for fifteen minutes and said, “I’ve decided I want to put a sound in my bear.”

If we could have lifted our collective heads and sighed at the ceiling we would have. Instead we did our jobs. But after that young man left, we did talk about his lack of awareness of our feelings.

I have had a man be very rude to me in front of his son to the point where the son, probably around thirteen or fourteen, say to his father, “Dad, that was pretty rude. I think you hurt her feelings.” The father looked at his son and said, in front of me, “She just works here. She doesn’t matter.” The father looked at me and nodded, asking, “Right?”

I looked at the father and said, “I matter to someone. I know I don’t matter to you. Now how can I be of further help?” My smile was very slight. My eyes were not smiling at all. I tried to carry my body with dignity and grace. I did my job and I was not haughty. I am of service to the people who come into that store but I am not their servant. The father smiled at me and then looked back at his son. He said, “See? She knows she doesn’t matter. It’s okay. That’s the way it is with these people. They know their place.”

After the father was standing at the register, his son came and found me putting shoes on a tiger for a little boy. He leaned down and said, “I’m sorry. I think you’re pretty great and helpful. I’m not my dad.” Then he rushed away; possibly worrying his father would catch him not being just like him.

Hostile Work Environment

Not all curious interactions are between our guests and us. Some are behind the scenes with each other. There is one person I work with during some shifts who seems to wish I were not there. When she first started working there, the first words out of her mouth were, “I’ve heard of you. You’re the top person. I’m gonna take you down. I’m going to be the best and put you down.”

I said, “Nice to meet you. I’m sorry, you didn’t tell me your name. What is it?”

She has made it an adversarial atmosphere for me at every turn. She is a hard worker but her style is not my style. Instead of talking to the guest about themselves, she talks mostly about herself. She talks about her master’s degree. She talks about her recent marriage and the gifts she received. She talks about how much she is valued and loved. I have to admit that the guests who interact with her smile and nod their heads. They seem to be having a nice time. It is possible that hearing her talk about herself all through the inclusion of our time that overlaps our shifts is only grating to me, but I do wish she would allow our guests to do more talking about themselves. Their visit for us is all about them anyway.

We had an incentive program to sell a certain product and the reward was a little pin. This employee started collecting one for every group she sold and wears them. She points them out to our guests saying she is the top seller, that no one else has more than one. None of us wear more than one because the program is over. We all still sell them. We all, percentage wise, are doing very well. We just do not cover ourselves with the reward, mostly because this girl took all the pins. There are none left for the other employees. It does grate when she comes up to us, points out her pins and says, “I’ve sold more than you. I’m better than you.”

I have gotten to the point of holding up my hand to stop her and tell her, “Yes, you are better than me. Now as floor leader I need you to return to your station and work.”

She does not like it that I am floor leader and can assign her to tasks. I tread very carefully with her. She grits her teeth and smiles and salutes me. She says, “Yes, ma’am” through those gritted teeth. There is a darkness in her eyes that I am very aware of. I have overheard her speaking poorly of me behind my back to another employee. I cannot call her out on it. It would cause a disturbance throughout the rest of the workforce, and it does not affect her work, or mine, or the smooth running of the store. The person she talks to is her best friend who also works at the store but will be leaving soon to go back to college. This girl also has quite the arrogant attitude that does not play well into dealing with guests at our store or in her doing what I ask of her. But as I said, she will be leaving. I still have to live with the girl who detests me.

I say detests me because it has come to a little bit of sabotage. Two examples. One. She follows me at times and tries to interfere or interject in my conversations with our guests. She will leave her station and come to where I am and eavesdrop until she can say something that brings her in. It is annoying to me and to our guest and I have had guests complain about it. I have spoken to her about it and she becomes defensive and uses mind murder to twist the scenario. “I was just trying to help. I know the store better than you do.” She does not as she does not work the hours I do, nor checks stock as I do, but she thinks it sounds good. I have to tell her she kept a guest waiting at another station for the interruption and she gets tensely angry at my pointing that out. But it is my job to make the flow through the tore run smoothly and to make a guest wait on her to come and interrupt a conversation between me and another guest is not correct behavior.

Two, the only other example I will give is this one. We give parties at the store. We do not accept tips. A man was trying to tip me for his daughter’s party when she walked up and said, “Oh, no, you can’t accept that. I’m shocked you would try to. Sir, she can’t accept that money. It could get her fired.”

The man was shocked that she spoke that way. He came to my defense and said, “If you and stopped to listen instead of rushing up here you’d know she had already explained that to me. You need to listen better and trust your employees more. She did a fabulous job, which I knew she would, which was why I requested her for the party. You interrupted a conversation here for absolutely no reason. You may step back and let us finish this on a more pleasant note.”

She was appalled and shocked that she was spoken to that way but he was our guest and there was nothing she could do. He was in the position of power and truly a powerful man in this city. He works in the district attorney’s office and carries quite a bit of weight within this city’s government. She had no idea who she had offended which brings the point up of you never know with whom you are dealing.

She said to me later, “I just thought you didn’t know. I didn’t mean to piss him off. Does he know my name? Do you think he’s gonna comment on it about me?” I told her I am a manager-in-training. I have worked here for quite some time now and was taught parties by the manager herself. I know what to do and what not to do. I also told her I had no idea what he would do and left it at that.

There is a vibe about her that makes me wary. It makes that particular shift heavy. I never know when I turn around if I am going to bump into her. I never know if she is going to salute me as a dictator when I merely ask and make assignment. I never know why she stares at me with that dark look. There is a coiled tension about her that has me on edge. She has dropped so many little hints, done so much chipping away at me. My work does not suffer but I find I am more exhausted after a shift with her than at any other time. It is oppressive and there is nothing I can do short of all this she said, I said. I feel this, she makes me feel that. Heresay. Impressions. Not worth upsetting the apple cart. I can endure it for the sake of the job.

But I wish more people would honor the Golden Rule. Do unto others. It really would help the world run a little more smoothly.

So this is my latest contribution. It is merely a collection of observations of things I have seen people do from someone who “doesn’t really matter.” But I think I do matter. I matter to the handful of guests who come through who really need me there to help them. I matter to the few guests who come through hurting; like the woman who is a recent widow and wanted to make a bear dressed like her husband, who wanted to put a recording of his voice in her bear so she can hold it whenever she feels her grief too intensely, which I know from experience can be almost all the time. I mattered to the family who came through with their mom who put her voice in both her daughter’s bears and who later that week died from breast cancer.

And I mattered last night, New Year’s Eve, to the little girl with no hair who wished with all her might on her tiny satin heart that she would “not die tonight.” Her hug was so strong that no, I do not think she did die last night.


Sandy said...

Of course you matter! I wish you peace in 2012. Thank you for your friendship Susan.

Debbie said...

ObservIng human behavior us always interesting, and often not in a positive way. It amazes me how some people behave, I hope things get easier for you at work. Perhaps the annoying one will quit! Wishing you a peaceful 2012.

abandonedsouls said...

hello ladies, thanks for stopping by. i sure hope things get better. if not, well, i am adopting Steve McQueen's mantra that his character recited throughout his film "Papillon:" "i'm still here, you bastards."


Miran131 said...

Thanks for sharing your observations on your blog. I hope work gets better for you.

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