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12/11/2003 Entry: "Retail: Part Deux"

From time to time, I think about working retail again. Not drop my career (dear God, no), I mean only part time for two basic reasons.

Part of it's the money thing. Part timers make a lot more than I suspected in many areas. What I used to work for, as a manager, is now considered minimum wage. I saw a book store hiring clerks at $7.80/hr. If I worked there, I'd make about $400 extra a month (after taxes) if I worked 20-hour weeks. I could sure use that. Not as fun money but, "worry a lot less about sudden expenses" money.

But also I feel I am kind of losing touch with real people. Yes, when you work retail, some people suck, but I had always found that a majority of people were nice, interesting, and it helped keep me polite and patient. I lost a lot of that with the tech industry. It's made me a bit bitter and kind of sarcastic. I used to be a lot friendlier with strangers, but now I am all "get out of my way, slowpoke!" and such. I'm still nice to retail and service people, though; I haven't gotten that disconnected.

Then there's also other perks, like working with something I like (books, knives), and getting an employee discount on said items.

Drawbacks? You bet!

There's the "being on my feet" thing I worry about. I have a lot more aches and pains than I used to. I have gained about 40 pounds since my last retail job in 1996, aged several years, and I am out of shape from a job where I sit most of the time. I fear I might hurt my back, knee, or ankle ... again. I figure some of those can be fixed with soft braces or wraps, but that won't deal with what will at first be exhaustion. I am tired a lot now, I can't image how tired I'd be if I was on my feet for an extra 4 hours a night on weekdays. Or maybe it would help me get into shape. I don't know.

Christine and CR don't want me to take a second job because then they'd never see me, and when they did, I'd be tired. Also, I am the guy who does the housework, like cleaning, laundry, repair, finances, yardwork, and sometimes cooking. If I took a job, suddenly our house would be a mess, no one would have clean clothes, and our money would all be gone from too much takeout. Time = money, but the reverse is also true. I'll tell you what, my writing career would not happen, and this blog would get pretty stale pretty quick.

I did the "work at home" thing for a few years, like doing web design, consulting work, graphics, and so on ... but I hated that, and a lot of the jobs ended badly or abruptly. Some of them were under the table, too, which made me nervous, although I wasn't doing anything illegal. In at least two cases, I was doing work that someone else was being paid for, but he didn't have the time or skills to do it, so he paid me to do it. And I never made enough money to even warrant a report on my taxes. But I got taken advantage of. A lot. I learned that "favors" quickly become "expectations" without extra pay. Being nice burned me, and I don't want to take a job where being nice is punished.

I probably wouldn't consider this so much if it weren't for the fact our finances are not so good. I mean, they are not TERRIBLE, but my mortgage just went up $100 (property taxes, insurance) and some home repairs we have been "meaning to get to" are turning into "rather urgent problems." I have no money to fix these things, and the longer I wait, the more expensive the fix becomes. And the less money I have. The cost of living here, what with utilities, taxes, transportation, food prices, and so on have increased as well. Our income has only increased marginally, about 1-2% a year, which doesn't even cover inflation. Our savings are almost gone, and our stock portfolio has flat-lined with the market. Our jobs are also not the most stable around; Christine's work just closed an office, and we just fired a ton of people in our California branch.

But I resent the pressure to get a second job. I want to get a second job for "gee whiz" money and to meet people. If I work for Chesapeake Knife and Tool again, I don't want to think of it as a job, but doing something I like in an industry full of strange and interesting people. And if the management sucks, I only have to put up with them part time. Or quit and not worry about it.

I am the same way with my writing career. The chances of me becoming the next JK Rowling or Steven King are remote, even if I am a good writer, a lot of it is timing, marketing skill, and sometimes just dumb luck.

We shall see.

The Peanut Gallery responds with: 2 comments

If I didn't know how rought the local economy was, I'd say "Oh, Punkie, you worry too much." But I do. So all I can say is "You are not alone." All of us who have SO's in the tech industry in NoVa or who are in it ourselves are looking at the same set of worries. With just cause. I look at the people who live and work around me and I wonder 'how do they do it?'

But then I understand reality and know that under those seemingly unruffled exteriors, they too are worried. But they continue on, putting their best face on for the rest of the world and just do what they can to make it through. Just like all of us. More or less.

I don't know if you remember Lord Argon (or Paladin) from the FanTek BBS... but he AND his wife happened to lose their jobs at more or less the same time. They have two kids, a mother-in-law, a pair of dogs depending on them and a mortgage. Needless to say, all of us who knew what was going on feared the worst. But somehow, both of them managed to keep it together and find new jobs in this economy where being unemployed for over six months without wanting to be isn't at all uncommon.

When asked about it, he said "At first you just put your head down and cry like a baby. Then you get over it and start dealing."

I guess what I'm trying to say is to be strong and don't panic. Yeah, the stakes are high. You've got a lot, so there's a bigger sense of what it is that you stand to lose. But always keep it in your heart that the things you have that are most precious to you won't go away when the money is tight and the chips are down. If **** goes south and the current job goes away, mourn for what it is you think you've lost, then get up and make it work again, just like you have always done.

Punkie, you are a natural born winner. Just like Lord Argon. I know it's in your nature to worry a lot. Just don't worry TOO much.

Always in your corner, and always your fan.


Posted by Little Miss Grimm @ 12/13/2003 01:07 AM EST

Dont do it! Save yourself!

Posted by Andy @ 12/12/2003 10:06 PM EST

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