Friday, 22 February 2013

And Then There Were Two



After being unemployed for 8 months, I accidentally found myself working two jobs, neither of which are related to my carefully-crafted life plan.

I started working as an art instructor in December. It’s fun and different from anything I’ve ever done, but it’s very part-time. I consider twelve hours at the studio to be a “busy week,” and I supplement that with several hours of practicing, creating personal requests, and taking art classes each week. I consider my continuing education to be a job-related expense, since we do get a few people in every class who have art minors. My approach to art has always been more of a Nike slogan than a valid instruction method: Just do it. Effective when I’m painting, not as useful when I’m teaching someone else.

Since grad school is on hold until April and I only had a few shifts each week, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a text asking if I was available to work at a florist shop during the Valentine’s rush. I would finally have a real, full-time week processing orders on the computer. Perfect!

When I got there, I found out that I was going to be running the computers as well as taking orders over the phone. I hate answering phones like most people hate cleaning bathrooms. In fact, I would clean a bathroom any day before answering the phone. I equally hate being the person to place the call. I get physically ill at the thought of calling customer service, for anything. Caller ID has been a lifesaver, because there are probably four people on earth that I will answer the phone for. See Mom? You are special!

You don't ring, I won't cry.

The first day, I stayed exclusively on the computer. It was an awkward start, as my helpful trainer explained to me how to use copy/paste. I didn’t expect him to be nearly as excited as he was when I “mastered” it. After a short break, in which I assured him that I was not a complete idiot, he described some of the other holiday-help workers he’d been forced to train and it was smooth sailing for the rest of the week. I carefully avoided all phone calls for the first day.

Day two was a different story. At some point, I was going to have to answer the phone and interact with society. Not my strong suit. It’s not that I don’t care when you call, I do. I’m just not very good at understanding what you want and how to achieve that goal if I can’t rely on visual cues. I’ve never been able to process information solely via audio; I need to see your face or preferably a PowerPoint to fully grasp the conversation.

As any instructor will tell you, there are a few distinct learning styles that are used to categorize people: visual, auditory, and tactile (or kinesthetic/kinetic). For some reason, tactile people like to tell me that they’re “touch-learners.” That makes you sound like a sexual predator; please stop. At any rate, I am very much a visual person. Given the choice between a deaf person and myself on the phone, you should go with the deaf guy every time.

I did manage to take several phone orders throughout the week, and I think I only pissed off most of them. Success?

Three days into it, I realized that I loved working at the shop (phones aside). Everything about processing orders and designing arrangements appealed to me. I asked if they needed any help after the holidays, to which my trainer asked me if I’d ever made a floral arrangement before. I responded that I hadn’t, but then again I’d never used their computer system before and that went pretty well.

I got hired the next day, without any resumes, applications, or interviews. Thank Christ, because I don’t think I can sit through another generic interview where we both dress up and pretend to give a shit about each other’s five-year plan. Job interviews are like a first date without any hope of drunken sex at the end.

I’ve been working at the florist shop for two weeks now, and I’ve been excited to show up every day. Each afternoon, when it’s time to leave, I’m surprised to see that I haven’t looked at the clock once. I didn’t even know what my hourly wage was until this afternoon, and even after recovering from the shock and Googling “poverty” I still wanted to continue working. Is this what people mean when they say, “job satisfaction?”

I may never enjoy answering the phones, but it’s not as terrifying after the first hundred times. I even called customer service to try to get a W-2 this afternoon and realized after I hung up that I wasn’t even shaking. This is a serious step in the right direction for me.

I’ve also learned how to use a helium tank to blow up Mylar balloons. The first few were disastrous, and I couldn’t help but think, “How many engineers does it take to blow up a balloon…”

Somehow, mine never end up looking like these.

Properly inflating those things (without exploding them) and then attaching a ribbon without letting them get stuck to the ceiling is quite possibly the most complicated thing I’ve done in a long time. Maybe I would be better at it if I was a “touch-learner.”

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