I Cannot Brain Today

It’s true. As the Internet cats would say: I cannot brain today, I has the dumb. (Oh my glob, how much I love Internet cats) After 9.5 hours in a retail setting, (a shopping mall, no less) I am truly astonished at the functionality I am mimicking right now. I’d like to thank coffee and my co-worker’s small and agile hands for keeping me upright right now. And yes, that’s a terribly mysterious segway into my blog. I was a journalist at one point, people. I do know how to write a lead to keep you reading. (Please keep reading)

I was informed late yesterday that the woman in charge of all the cafes in my region is coming for a visit next week. She only visits once a year and so this is a big deal. Not only this, but the district manager is going to come *sometime* that week as well. And she’s probably going to have more fun tips for making my Christmas season hellacious…more than likely something even more asinine than making me color a table with a Sharpie. At least, I reflect, both of my superiors are female and are strong, driven women in a competitive corporate system. Good for them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help me be any more prepared for their critique of my management of the cafe. Even worse, I’ve been on vacation for a week and so the cafe is in a deplorable state. My assistant didn’t just drop the ball, she lost it somewhere in the good intentions and desire to be well-liked and respected by the other servers. The only saving grace here is some really bright shining stars that are these other servers. When I was pulling my hair out as a bus of 40ish high-schoolers pulled up and entered the cafe for a frappe-a-looza, my co-worker was calm and helpful. She even massaged a tight stress-filled kink out of my back after the students got their drinks and left. That’s going above and beyond folks. 

So, no matter how bad things spin this Holidon’t Season (see what I did there?) I can at least be greatful that I’ve got a support system of employees who work FOR me and WITH me to keep the coffee brewing. So, perhaps, as a customer of cafes or a shopper this season, you are wondering what you can do to ease the pain of those in retail who are haggard, underappreciated, but tirelessly working to get you in and out of the throng of glitter and wrapping paper? Even if you aren’t, here’s some tips to recieve better service and make yourself seem like a much better human than you probably are. 

1: Yes, you are going to have to stand in line. Coffee, books and toys are a popular thing during the gift-giving time and if you want to please little Sally with her favorite Shakespearian play, you are going to have to interface with humans. We don’t really enjoy it any more than you do, but the difference is, if we don’t pretend to be ecstatic about your purchase, then we may have a less firm footing on job security. The solution is to either to shop online for everything and enjoy the mixed bag of shipping costs and returns OR be patient and enjoy the weirdness that is people being people during the holidays. Grab some popcorn and watch the masses attempt their quest for the perfect feeling to convey they appreciate the other mammals in their life. It’s excellent writing material. 

2: We are exhausted, so if we make a mistake, please be forgiving. Today, I truly understood the hyperbole of being so tired that you “fall into a chair.” It was no hyperbole today. I started working before the sun woke up, and I finished when the sun was calling it quits. Lanks said it was the equivalent of being “so tired you be tripping.” (Isn’t he just swell? I cannot brain today and so I just replied “Fo Real.” Geez) Point is: a little bit of kindness to a barista that hasn’t had a lunch or bathroom break all day, and forgets you wanted whipped cream, can make everyone’s tender little emotions last a little longer. Because, honestly, I used to get really psyched about Christmas and was the girl planning the white elephant parties for the whole office. But, then retail impatience, corporate greed, and mean mean people squashed my little heart so hard that it turned straight-up Grinchly. Be the difference this Holidon’t and inspire good feelings and junk, because that’s what it’s supposed to be about right?

3: Try to remember that Santa is a metaphor. I hope I’m not shaking the foundations of anyone’s universe when I clue you in to the fact that the robust man in the center of the shopping mall is not a diety and is not an actual gift giver to small children. (Even though I enjoy the sentiment, he’s not a drug-addled bear either, Night Vale) Santa is a guy (who probably went to college) who is donning a costume to inspire our hearts to an idea that is larger and most unworthy of us. The idea behind Santa as the figurehead for Christmas, and all the other holidays that parade after him, is that it’s better to give than to recieve. It’s a harder concept than you imagine. When’s the last time you truly gave and expected absolutely nothing? Studies say that even when we hold the door for another person, we are expecting a thank-you or an acknowledgement of our goodness. If we don’t get that affirmation, then we feel slighted. My tip is to break this cycle of dependant emotions, and do something truly selfless. Love someone who (appears ) to not deserve your love and attention. Buy a gift for someone you’ll never see or talk to. True charity, without the swelled chest. It’s a hard one, and I don’t mean to say I’ve got this one down just yet. But I think if more people subscribed to being a yearround Santa when the opportunities present themself, then the world might be a kinder and sunnier place. Even as misguided and sometimes dorky I imagine my father to be, he truly gives to people who need help when he knows his help is what they need. He will pull over on the roadside and offer help to the scraggliest, scariest looking guy in town, and that’s pretty admirable.

Take these musings for what they are worth. National Novel Writing Month is in full swing, and I’m blogging every day to try and do my part to the literary world. And hey, at least I’m not gabbing about babies and my love life today, right? Right. Next entry: Dating someone 10 years before even considering marraige? Is that a thing? And what’s up with the Dutch these days?


-Anna R. Kotopple