I’m More Like You Than You Know

I have ended my career working for someone else as an educator with a Masters Degree. This was not always who I was.

I’ve been a telephone operator. I worked in grocery stores. I have been a proofreader. I worked retail sales for two large companies – Belks and J C Penneys. I’ve refinished furniture. I’ve worked at Hardees. I worked for forty years and not always as a teacher.

I watch employees in various workplaces and sometimes I feel their pain.

Yesterday was such a day. I was in Walmart in the checkout line. The cashier’s card reader kept malfunctioning and she was dealing with that. The lines were very long. Bad weather is predicted and people were out stocking up on things they needed if they couldn’t get out to shop for a few days.

Just as I got to the counter, my cashier’s supervisor came over to tell her not to take her break. She had just told the cashier at the register beside my cashier the same thing. My cashier did not take the news well. I can relate, although standing there in my fake fur coat, I doubt she thought I could. My mind flashed back to a day at J C Penney’s when I’d been on the register for 3 hours and needed to go to the restroom. When my supervisor walked by, I mentioned to her that it was past time for my break and I needed to go to the restroom. She smiled at me, told me not to close my register and said she’d be right back. I waited fifteen more minutes. She didn’t return. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I locked my register and the cash drawer and left my area. As I went to the restroom, I passed by my supervisor who was seated in the furniture department yakking with other supervisors. She looked startled when I walked by and asked who was at my register? I told her no one. I kept walking. She was not happy with me, but the feeling was mutual. I quit very shortly after that. It’s inhumane to expect cashiers to work without a break, especially on a very busy day. It’s asking too much to ask them to stand there, like the cashier beside mine was doing, having to use the bathroom and not being able to leave the cash register.

A good supervisor could have taken care of this situation. All that was required was that she go from register to register working each one as each cashier took their very much needed fifteen minute break.

I told my cashier she should notify OSHA. She ignored me. She probably thought I had no idea what she was going through. Yes, I did. I notified OSHA myself when I worked in a school in Durham. The principal decided the rooms would all be painted and she had it done during school hours. I had asthma and so did several of my students. I told her the smells were affecting us. She ignored my complaints. So I notified OSHA (as did several others). OSHA was there the next day to see what was going on. They told my principal to stop immediately or to face heavy fines.

I believe if my cashier had called OSHA, they would have been there the next day to check out the situation. They talk to employees to find out if this is really happening. Then the employer must change what is going on, if it is illegal.

The door swings both ways as far as interacting with others go. I was trained to look at the customer and thank him/her for their purchase. One grocery store I went to had very unprofessional cashiers. They would almost turn their back to me as they hollered across the aisle to their co-workers about what they would be doing that night after work. I was the customer, but I only got attention when it was time to announce the amount due. Even then, no eye contact was made. I knew where I could meet up with them after they got off work from their conversations with each other, but I spent time after I got the receipt standing in the store making sure that while they were relying on the dings of the register to keep up with what had rung up and what had not, that they hadn’t made a mistake. In other words, I had to spend time checking their work. Without getting paid for doing it. I filed a complaint on them as well.

For most jobs, those of us who have lived long enough to be proud of every wrinkle either have done it, or have a close relative who has. We’re more like everyone than they think we are. That cashier might have gotten some relief if she’d just listened. Instead, she spent her time complaining and sharing notes with the cashier beside her. She completely dismissed any help I tried to offer. Her loss. It usually is when folks pre-judge other people.



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