In a previous chapter of my relatively short life, I imagined that sales assistants were super cool. These were the fashionable swans that glided fashionably around stores, chattering and laughing - an enviable occupation.
Oh, how naïve I was.
The reality involves sore feet, back ache and rude customers. Who knew that constantly being on your feet could be so painful? Perhaps equally painful was the removal of my rose tinted glasses. Clearly, I had romanticised working life, and now with sharp shooting pains in the balls of my feet, and an aching lower back, I saw the light. The bright, glaring, yellow light that beamed down onto the shop floor.
Furthermore, I have become that annoying sales assistant that pesters you as you enter the store. I can instantly tell when a person walks in that they don't want to be bothered, but I with the manager's eyes burning into my back, approach and ask "Can I help you with anything?" most often they respond no - but sometimes there are those who mistake me for a CEO or a director and choose to bring up issues of pricing or manufacture. "Why are these clothes made in China?!" or "Why are your clothes so expensive?" - my answers are unhelpful at least, but then again, the questioners are not too interested; rather a sales assistant to them represents someone who need not answer, rather listen to the angry tirade against profit margins and the perceived exploitation of consumers. Yet, whilst I understand the annoyance of such issues, surely the clue lies in the word consumers, as the choice to consume is, after all, a choice.
But it hasn't been all woe and misery. I've enjoyed getting the company of my fellow employees. It really has been enjoyable to step back from an academic environment and find myself challenged in an unexpected manner, whether it be in the constant interaction with customers or even the physical exertions of constant movement - tripled by the Christmas period. I've always enjoyed chattering away, indeed some teacher may have even commented that I did too much, but chatter away I have. From the husbands who grumble amiably about their wives who have dragged them here, to the tiny children who passionately claim to be taller than me, there have been many moments when I have been startled by the wit and ingenuity of complete strangers.
Perhaps the most humorous encounter occurred when I was standing at the entrance of the store on meet and greet. As a man exited, I, with synthetic cheer, exclaimed "see you later". He turned, glared, and icily replied "no you won't".
Well, one can only hope.