Office Space

Sunday Chuckle: I’ll take “Swingline” for $100,000 Alex

Remember the film Office Space?  The character of Milton had a special Swingline stapler that was important to the storyline.  It was a one of a kind red stapler.  Swingline didn’t make a red stapler; it was painted as a special prop for the movie.  Due to popular demand, Swingline today finally sell an official red stapler inspired by Office Space.  I have one myself.

Sometimes-contributor Thussy was looking for a new red Swingline stapler on Amazon.  Check out the price on the last one!  (Free shipping, though….)  #fail

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Part 320: End of the Line #4: A New Start

A fresh start.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 320:  End of the Line #4: A New Start

My last day was a Wednesday, and Jen had come down to Kitchener from Brampton to spend the evening with me. I remember driving down to pick her up at the bus station in Guelph. I recall being very happy with my last day, and optimistic about the future.

My plan was this: I was going to take the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday “off”. I wasn’t going to do anything those days. I was just going to enjoy the first four consecutive days off that I had in ages. And I did enjoy them. I bought the movie Office Space and imagined what it would be like having a non-retail job.

Then, Monday, I was going to begin the job hunt. My goal was to apply for at least one good job every single day. The strategy worked. I had an interview by the Wednesday of the following week. The interview went very well. I was told that my personality was one of my strengths, as was my creativity. I had been stifled before, unable to use these strengths to their full potential. The agency told me they had no doubt they’d find something for me soon.

I celebrated by buying a comic book, and I headed home feeling great.

A week later I was placed at my first new job in over a decade, with Aecon Industrial in Cambridge. Nervous and excited at the same time, it was there that I began my new life. I was surprised how different the atmosphere was. At the Record Store, there was always tension. There was also micro-management. I couldn’t do anything without somebody breathing down my neck and changing what I was doing. The ironic thing was that on my reviews, I was always told that I was a micro-manager. Meanwhile, I had been micro-managed by those above me into despondence. At Aecon, I was left to work at my own pace and my own way.

I remember showing up for my first day at Aecon.  There were two new hires; myself and a fellow from Quebec.  We both wore ties.  The manager we were reporting to, Al, strolled out and gave us a briefing as to what we would be doing.  He also said, “And you can take those ties off, you don’t need those things around here.”  We both removed our ties immediately with a sigh of relief, and the three of us shared a laugh.  It was a good first day!

However, the shadows of the past continued to haunt me. I was afraid to ask questions. At the Record Store I never knew if asking a question was a good or bad thing. Sometimes asking a question, even for instructions to be clarified, resulted in my office bully getting mad at me. “You mean you weren’t listening the first time I explained this?” I heard that one at the Record Store a couple times.  It took me a while to get used to asking questions again.

Once I had settled in, life became so much more relaxed. Having every single weekend off was a luxury I hadn’t known before. It felt like I was living in the lap of it, even though I was making less money. I learned that money is not everything in life. Happiness and family are.  The previous three years were a very, very dark place.  I don’t need to paint a picture.  On the outside I’m sure nobody knew.  I wore a mask.  I put it on every day when I left the house.  But it is a tiring thing to wear a mask, and it is a rare day today that I still need one.  For that I am most grateful.

To be continued…

ANUSTART

Part 256: A Case of the Mondays

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 256:  A Case of the Mondays

Towards the end of my record store years, 2005 to the start of 2006, the mere thought of waking up in the morning of a Monday was enough to make me feel physically ill. The feelings of dread usually began settling in on Sunday evening. By Monday morning I was not feeling well at all.  I was used to being beaten down by unpleasant customers, unpredictable superiors,  and long hours with not enough time off. I was sick and tired of being used, but I was also sick.  I began to hate the mere sight of a CD, and certain songs played in store became so annoying that they haunted me at night.  I stopped enjoying music.

I remember waking up one Monday morning and thinking to myself, “I wonder what would happen if I quit my job today.” I had a home and a mortgage, but finding a new job had proved difficult. My skill set was expansive, and my time at the record store had demonstrated my loyalty.  Most jobs I was applying for were not interested in somebody with only retail experience. It didn’t matter that I was a manager, so I went from interview to interview without luck. The steady rejection impacted my emotional state in a negative way.

I called my dad, who I could always count on for good advice.

“Hey dad,” I began. “I have kind of a weird question for you. What would you say if I told you I wanted to go to work and quit my job today?”

“I would say that is not a very good idea,” he responded with seriousness. “You have a mortgage, and I’m sure you know it’s easier to find a new job when you’re already employed. Finding a good job while out of work is easier said than done. I would strongly advise that you don’t quit anything until you have something else to fall back on.”

Not the answer I wanted to hear, but I knew he was right. What I didn’t tell my dad (and what he didn’t know until he started reading these Record Store Tales) is just how miserable I was. I had become a complete basket case.  He tells me now that he regrets the advice that he gave me that Monday morning. If he had known what I was going through he would have given me very different advice.

I thanked him for his words of wisdom and hung up the phone. I got dressed and ready for work. Breakfast was out of the question. My stomach was too wound up to handle eating. At the end of the record store days, I was generally only eating one or two meals a day. I didn’t really put together how that was affecting my mental and physical energy levels.

I used to listen to the same CD in the car on the way to work in the mornings: Dance of Death by Iron Maiden. I’d get in, put on the album, and then try to take as long as possible to get to work. Red lights meant more Maiden. Then as I’d pull into the store, I’d check out the parking lot and see if any of the bosses had arrived yet. You could never guess their temperament any day, so all I could do was pray they all had nice weekends. If they were in a good mood, they’d leave me more or less alone. If not, you could cut the tension with a knife.

I hated the tense Monday mornings.

Once I entered and hung up my coat, I’d do a walk around. I’d check to see how sales were on the weekend, what messes were left for me to clean up, and what problems had come up. I’d also rush to do a quick cleaning. Any glass surfaces with fingerprints had to be wiped clean before any bosses spotted them. They had a habit of bitching about anything they saw before I did. Other store managers didn’t have to deal with the stress of having “head office” in the back of their stores, but I did.

These taut Mondays were often long and enervating. I’d open the store at 10am and wait for the first customer. Usually they were people selling scratched up CDs for cigarette money. The day would drag on, and Mondays meant getting home later than usual, since Monday was also Stock Transfer Day! Even though I was “off” duty, none of us were ever really off duty. The phone, after all, could ring any time.

I suffered in silence. I didn’t want to stress out my parents, so that one phone call to my dad was all they knew. It was a dark time, but it is always darkest before the dawn.  I survived.  I am here with Record Store Tales to prove it.