Little Gifts of Grace

I discovered small gifts with huge benefits, gifts I had not noticed at this store – or any other store before. Today, for instance, a customer purchased a 2×2 squared magnifier that tucks neatly in a wallet. Perfect! This would be a perfect Scrabble prizes for my mother-in-law and father-in-law, ages 75 and 80. We play Scrabble all day long on birthdays and holidays. This also would be a prefect gift for my husband who lamented the loss of his youthful eyesight. He goes to the store to buy medicine then remembers that he forgot his reading glasses and now can’t read the writing on the medicines. With this small magnifier tucked in his wallet, I figured, he can age with the grace of a vision enhancer at the ready. This little job afforded me a small gift of grace! Yeah!

I am also reminded to ask about the Scrabble Tournaments I used to see advertised here at the store. I was always too busy, working too late, to participate when I had demanding full-time jobs. But now I could enjoy the tournaments but they have gone the way of other social activities that did not generate $10,000-plus at one time like a good book fair school fundraiser does. Learning about selling books in big blocks could be value-added for my future when I am selling books I write. What kind of activities – and where – sell the most books? I’m in a good place to find the answer.

Soul Enrichment

Once you’ve been fired – especially if it happened more than once – there’s always that fear that it will happen again. But, I decided to charge against the fear. I was afraid I could get fired for failing to meet the goals set by corporate. My time scanning the bays had been too slow. So, I called the bookstore manager and asked if I could volunteer a couple of hours to work up my speed. I was serious – and sincere. I was willing to work on my own time to work up to the goal – just to see if it was possible.

I realized that I am not always right in my criticism. I have been in management myself, made executive decisions. What if others under my supervision suspected and criticized my every decision? I might be in an executive position again some day. Here was an opportunity to behave the way I hope people in my supervision would behave, a chance to offer what I hope they would offer. We had a deadline to meet. Move $250,000 worth of merchandise out of the store in two weeks, making room for the construction of our new Nook boutique. I was on-board with this corporate goal although I personally hated to see physical store space for beloved books shrinking.

Here I was putting a corporate goal and interest above my own. This felt like personal growth to me. And I was kinda happy to discover it. This was like getting paid $8/hr. to do research – on my own soul and character. I was being enriched in ways no paycheck could ever indicate.

Practicing Humility – Yuck!

A few weeks into the job, I realized I had a pretty good attitude about everything. I had not complained that cleaning was not in my job description.  I had not debated the many demands made on me and the other low-wage employees. I had only looked at the bright side and worked earnestly. I felt proud of myself.

I had not even wasted time feeling sorry that after making $60,000 several years, then landing a job making $88,000, I had “fallen” to this minimum wage position where I was taking orders from someone with much less education, professional experience, and accomplishment. At $8/hr. I was realizing I had an unconditionally strong work ethic. I am willing to work as hard for a job that pays only $8/hr as I do for a job that paid $88,000/year. Ok, that’s stupid, but stay with me on this. I felt good about this. I gave myself credit for having a good work ethic. So, again, I got more out of this job than what my paycheck would indicate.

Also, I was reminded of a something I read recently on my horoscope:

You may learn a very important lesson today: Just because you are right doesn’t mean that everyone else is wrong. When you are proved to be correct today, you must resist the urge to gloat or to boast. Being arrogant is a very effective way to alienate people, bruise powerful egos, and put a big black mark on your reputation. It’s okay to feel proud of yourself — but not when it’s at the expense of others. Be humble, and nurture harmony.”

I am in a good position to practice humility and nurture harmony on a daily basis.  I am sure this will be value added when the economy picks up and I resume my career in public relations.

Unrealistic Goals

Zoning, scanning and pulling books to be returned, was a frustrating experience. I worked as fast as I could, but when the manager came to check on me, she was disapproving. She looked at the cart where I was stacking books, looked at the bay I was standing next to and requested my sign-off sheet.

“What happened. This is really not pretty,” she said.

“Well, I had to help a few customers, and they called for back-up at the cash rep, and…” i stammered.

“This is really not good,” she repeated. “You barely finished one…”

“Was I not supposed to go to the cash rep?” I said, defensively, feeling like a damn scolded child.

“Not unless they called you by name. When you’re assigned to a project…”

“Well, who knew?” I said. “Chalk this up to a teachable moment.”

The executives’ assumption that we could complete a bay of books in 20 minutes seemed unrealistic and unreasonable, because they obviously had conducted their test under tidy circumstances. They probably had an individual scan a bay when the store was closed and quiet. Their expectations had obviously not taken into consideration the facts that we would get interrupted by customers seeking our assistance, and that could take two minutes to ten. Nor did they take into account that pulling books would mean, in some cases, rearranging books, moving hands full from one shelf to another. Nor did this expectation take into account that you might get called to work the cash rep before finishing a bay. Also, the task of putting the books to be returned on the proper shelf in the storage/receiving room would might take extra time because certain publisher’s shelves were crammed with books to be returned, so you had to take time making space or finding a box and a marker to create more space for books being returned to certain publishers.

BUT! This corporate practice of setting tight goals and clear expectations could work well for my personal goals. I could set clear goals and time-lines for my personal and business endeavors to ensure my successes as well as this corporation ensured its success. Of course, I had learned this practice at home as a kid, then learned it again in grad school. But I accepted this reminder as just that.