Ross is where dreams go to die… or maybe not. If there is one thing I have done consistently without fail in my life, it is dream. Dreams sustain me. However, lately something has inhibited my ability to dream. It is Ross. If you have not guessed it by now, I work at Ross or “The Job” as I like to call it. Ross is a bargain-basement retail bin that attracts drones of grandparents and the shamelessly thieving. One may ask why I continue to work at an establishment that I speak of with such disdain. Well let me tell you honey, I do not work there for fun. If I could leave I would. Actually, I can leave, but my present lack of automotive mobile capability prevents me from doing so.
I am not going to knock the actual job. It is an honest way to make a dollar. The people I work with are some of the most hard working people I have met in my life and for most “The Job” is their second job. Also, while one may not need a masters degree to manage a retail store or work a cash register, “The Job” is the most multi task demanding, labor intensive, and communicatively challenging retail jobs I have ever had. What has eaten at my spirit is the way that people think they can speak to you or treat you when you are in a customer service retail position, especially when the position is held at a low end retailer.
A couple of months ago I had lunch with a co-worker who worked security for the store. This kid was 20 years old with a baby, and built like a linebacker. Anyway, we were talking about one of those customers who thought they could speak to me in any kind of way simply because I worked in customer service. (“Service” does not mean I am here to “Serve” you. This is not the Olive Garden, Honey!) Then, Security boy shared that he used to play football in high school, was set to attend college on a football scholarship, and later planned on pursuing a career in the NFL. These plans were foiled when a football injury left him unable to continue to play football. He ended his story with a sarcastically toned “Yeah, and now I work at Ross,” and a joking chuckle. I remember thinking to myself, “That’s not funny”. Now, I do not know this kid’s full story. Maybe he has aspirations of becoming the next ESPN personality or being the CEO of athletic company. Despite this, I left that lunch feeling as though this individual had settled in content and stopped dreaming bigger than himself.
I had come to the realization that I myself had settled in content and stopped dreaming bigger than myself. This realization became even clearer during another incident at “The Job” involving more of those customers who think they can speak to you in any kind of way because you work in customer service. I was doing a return and a line of 25 customers was backing up. I finished the return and the customer does not believe that she has received a full refund. It took me a long while before I realized it was because she purchased the item on Senior Discount Day ( The fact that I work at an establishment with a senior discount makes me cringe.) The customer was angered, customers were verbally complaining. One stated that “Someone else needed to come out here because she obviously don’t know what she doing.” I also heard a muffled, “She is pathetic.” As I looked into the sea of these sad sad cutthroat bargain shoppers carrying hoards of items of the polyester spandex persuasion, ceramic dogs, and plastic plants (basically piles of useless crap) all I thought to myself was I did not belong here. If I was anywhere else in the world I would not let anyone speak to me this way. If I was anywhere else no one would speak to me this way. I am a woman that is not afraid to say what I mean and mean what I say. At “the job” I am silenced in fear of running off my big mouth and coming off unprofessional. So, in that moment I was forced to be silent and suppress the disgust I had for working in establishment where I was belittled by people waiting in line to purchase dead foot skin remover, I began to cry. Despite, co workers and my MOD telling me to take a break, I stood silently balling while I took the next 25 customers and embed my tears in their receipts.
I eventually took my lunch, dried my tears, and went to the break room where I was lifted by a co worker. He was another security associate at “the job”. I hold “Security Man” in high regard as he is my age with plans of either going to Harvard and becoming an attorney or becoming a diplomat. What really earned him a gold star in my book was hearing about his two year internship in Egypt. It was during these two years in Egypt two major events happened in his life one being meeting his wife and the other being the Egyptian Revolution. Despite having the resources and means to leave, Security Man stayed in Egypt during the Revolution (bombs, grenades, and all) to get his wife’s papers together so she would be able to leave for America with him. If you cannot tell by now, I hold this young man in high regard. Anyway, I filled him in on what had just happened. He replied with a “Well, that’s retail.” He reminded me that we were still young and unlike those of the older generation that worked there, we were not tied down to “the job”. He told me that I went to school for a degree and listed off a number of other things that I could be doing. Simply put, what he was trying to get through my thick skull was that Ross is not me life!
What really brought me back to life was when he started speaking about the life he wanted to build for his wife and future children when he got up out of here. He spoke of how if became an attorney he would make more money than if he chose the diplomatic route. However, if he became a diplomat he shared that the government would pay for a home overseas, his family would be able to travel with him, and that the government would take care of his children’s education and his wife’s citizenship. He spoke of two major paths that he had to choose from, paths that I could never image, or dream up for myself because I had simply stopped dreaming.
As I listened to Mr. Security Man I saw someone in the same occupational position as I was. Though his academic history and activities make his resume shine a little brighter than mine, I felt like I was speaking to an equal. We are two young individuals in the beginning of our lives. The only difference between us is that he has refused to stop dreaming. Regardless of moments of degradation at “the job”, Security Man was still able to dream bigger than himself, he dreamed for his family. Speaking to someone I felt was in the same position as I am slapped the self loathing right out of me.
I say it over and over again in these posts. I know who I am. I know where it is I want to be headed. I simply forgot that no matter my circumstance I am still me. I am still the girl who wants more from life than boys in plaid tops and minimum wage. The only way to get where I want to go is to never forget that, keep my dreams in plain sight, and never stop working toward them. Ross will not be the death of me…or my dreams.