We’ve heard this little nugget of advice numerous times over the years, haven’t we? It’s in the family of “don’t let a bad hour ruin a good day”. A not-so-distant cousin of “it’s going to be okay, just relax.” The twin brother/sister of “shake it off”. And this family gets through the rainy days under the umbrella of “this too shall pass”.
With a new year starting, such as 2018, now is as good a time as any to address a new type of resolution that can ball up a lot of the old ones into one big, shiny, new ball that can bounce back to the frontal cortex of your brain.
Yes, I know, it is a vague and abstract idea that could do with some elaboration. Like any piece of art you could find in a museum or a Google Images search, it’s interpretive. It has different connotations for different people, going through any myriad of life experiences that can distort how they see things.
Personally, the concept of “bounce back” means “Carrie, you went through something rough just now, but it doesn’t have to ride you for the rest of the day. Tomorrow, it will only be a memory. Get through this now, and it’ll be okay. Shake it off.”
Working as a cashier at a major store in California, I get to deal with customers for hours at a time. When the cliche “it takes all kinds” was created, I have to wonder if it wasn’t first opined by someone in the retail industry.
For those reading this who are unaware, California has exercised a law recently where people are charged ten cents per bag, if they choose to buy a bag from the store, as opposed to bringing in their own to use.
It frustrates people. It frustrates A LOT of people. Especially those who feel they’re already paying a lot in this state. Then there are the people who have bags in their car and simply forgot to bring them in when they were parking. It is also said that there are conspiracies about what the state is really doing with that money. One dime on its own can feel like a drop in the bucket to some, and the difference between affording a dozen eggs, or going without. A dime (or two) for some people can be the breaker between a good day to a bad day.
How does this tie into what I was discussing earlier? Simple.
When the customer(s) come to the register to unload all their loot, I greet them, and then ask, “do you have your own bags, or do you need some of ours?”
Their bodies sink into themselves, their shiny eyes lose that glimmer, their inner Eeyore comes out to show itself.
“Shit, I forgot to bring bags.” They stall, look over what they have in the cart, try to do the math as to whether the bag purchase is really worth it, or do they want to run to the car and come back, or can all the stuff be put back into the cart, and they’ll just travel the cart all the way to their vehicle.
Who knew “do you want a bag?”, would become such an existential question?
When the customer begrudgingly concedes to the purchase of a bag, this is where I insert my own “bounce back” initiative. Call it an affirmation, call it perspective, call it cheesy, whatever.
“Not a big deal”, I say.
“If this is the worst thing to happen all day, you’re having a good day.” Sometimes, this actually cheers the customers up.
I honestly don’t remember where I first heard this. I’d love to credit it to my grandfather (He was a smart man, and my personality seems to have reflected his over the years). Looking back, though, I don’t think he gave me that gem. It may have been from a book. Lord-of-the-Rings, we all know I’ve read plenty of those.
Wherever it came from, once it was spoken to me, my ears reached for it, gripped it tightly, and tucked it somewhere along the front right side of my brain, for safe-keeping.
A shorter way of saying it is…
Back to the store:
I’ve been a cashier for about 6 months already, and felt ready to explore other areas to work in. They’ve been giving me little bubbles of time in the Guest Services area, where customers come to return items (Sweet baby cheeses, people! Try the clothes on in the fitting rooms first! Commit to the item when you’re here!)
Every time I’ve come into the store, from the outside looking in, it didn’t seem like it was too big of a stretch from doing the cashier work. The area to work in is slightly bigger – and yes, it gets cluttered with all sorts of paraphernalia – but it seems like nothing out of the ordinary when you’re just walking by.
But then you actually get around to the other side of the counter. Shit changes fast, at least for me. And the whole concept of “bounce back” gets lost in the melee of multiple balls bouncing at me. That isn’t just metaphorical either. I’ve seen actual bouncy balls being returned.
That’s right, Paw Patrol, ya furry bastard! I’m talking to you!
There’s a lot happening. Returns, more returns, sorting what items were returned to said items’ respective carts, picking up items for guests who ordered online and had it delivered here. The phone ringing on occasion. Guests coming up to complain about the restrooms. On my second day in that area, I was left alone. Everything that I could do well at when there were people around, now felt next-to-impossible, when I was alone.
Not to mention the walkie-talkies.
Holy shitballs, Batman! Those things are LOUD!
When I’m trying to concentrate on what I’m doing, and those radios go off, it’s disruptive and entirely off-putting. I’m in a sea of overwhelmingly obnoxious sharks. They don’t necessarily bite. They just show their teeth in a threatening way. Hence the “obnoxious”-ness. It doesn’t help that I’m working alone in that area.
Anxiety crawls through my body, taps me on the shoulder, and tells me that I’m naturally going to suck at everything, no matter how hard I try not to. That everyone can see my “Loser” cape peeking out from my work outfit, and I should run away now before I turn back into a werewolf. (A werewolf who wears a cape with a big “L” on it. You now have that image in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.)
The tears well, my shoulders cover my ears, and a look of abject fear covers my face. Like that last punch on any fighter video game, my energy is completely depleted, and I only want to escape to a safe space. A quiet corner of my apartment, for instance.
After that initial experience of independent guest servicing, I found my boss a little later and voiced my concern about whether I really belonged there. I didn’t feel right there, and my anxiety had me at a highly sensitive level, mood-wise. My manager, a woman I look up to and have great respect for, was surprised when I mentioned my condition of anxiety.
She came back to me a little later in the same day and told me she hadn’t even considered me as an anxious person because I generally handle myself very well when it comes to dealing with customers.
I explained, “when I’m at the cash register, and the people are only coming from one direction, absolutely I’m on my game. I can do that with no problem. It’s when there’s activity from five different directions at once, I get anxious.”
I don’t mention the fact that I’m Asperger’s without a diagnosis, because in all seriousness, without official diagnoses, it’s just conjecture. It’s considered “uneducated guessing”. I don’t have a doctor’s degree, I only have the history. And quite frankly, even those specialised doctors STILL don’t have all the answers to what makes someone fit into the role of Asperger’s. So I keep that part to myself. I came out as gay much easier than I ever could as an Aspie.
New Year’s Eve, I had taken on a shift that would have me in that department yet again. My entire body groaned. My spirit lost some of its height, and I could feel that anxiety demon knocking to get in through my shins.
Not this again.
Bounce back, Carrie. I’m telling myself this as my legs bring me closer to that dreaded area. Bounce back, you can do this, you’re the only one who thinks you can’t. Put on your lady-balls, and bounce the fuck back!
Later in the evening, the same manager came by to check on the progress of sorting out the returned items. My immediate workspace was fully cluttered with miscellaneous items of all the departments. Not to mention the items being held, a co-worker who was frustrated with me being frustrated with my current responsibilities, and a blaring walkie-talkie.
Now, I can put on a poker face from time to time. Not often, granted, but it has come to show up in my mental toolbox from time to time. When I can zone out into any one responsibility, it’s on. It looks like the identical sister to Resting Bitch Face (neither of them put on any make-up), but so long as nobody talks to me, and lets me do the one responsibility without talking myself, I’m good.
Then the reality that I can’t be there wordlessly sets in, and my manager asks me how I’m doing, I’m forced to look around me once again, and take it all in.
Bye Poker-Face! Toodles, motherfucker. It was nice while it lasted. Here comes good ol’ Anxiety to stand, spread-eagle, across my cheeks and eyes.
“Why do you have that face?” she asked.
“Huh?” I respond.
“You look anxious.”
“I am. It’s just…so much!”
“You don’t have to be anxious, Carrie. You can do this. Just keep going.”
I don’t have to be anxious? Really? Just that easy?
Let’s be clear, for those of you who were lucky enough to never have the condition of anxiety;
On the computer of life, “Anxiety” is not a special feature. It’s default. When you inadvertently reset, boom! There it is. That little hourglass, turning, that tells you “hang on, Sweet Cheeks! We’re working on finding the programs that help you get along in this world.”
I don’t have the money to buy an advanced Apple, with the Confidence program version 40.1. It’s just not in my budget. I have a Dell. (I named it Adele, because fuck it, I love a good pun.) I’ve only had the “Bounce Back” feature for a few years, and even that program doesn’t always run when I need it to.
So I come to the present day, where my Bounce Back feature seems to be running fairly smoothly.
I work tonight, and the full shift is as Cashier.
It’s Eureka, California, so not every customer is going to be a winner.
But it’s 2018 now, and hey, I can still bounce back.