Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pavlov's Army

We've all had some insane jobs. Some we talk about, some we laugh about, and some we shamefully admit to. It's just part of growing up. On a recent trip to Target I realized how much of some of my past jobs haven't left me. Even now that I'm a supposed grown up and stuff.

Whenever I'm at the frozen yogurt machine at Souplantation I still find my 21 Choices training kicking in and my peaks are still very peaky.

I still face the bills in my wallet like the ODV (Out Door Vending) Nazi at the LA County Fair made us do before us exhausted troop of sunburned band kids could go home.

When I pick up a shirt off of a table at a store I still refold it and size it like my years working on Main Street at Disneyland indoctrinated me to do.

Most of my time served in the retail penal colony was served there. Yes - I've worked at Disneyland. Yes I still go as a guest and it still feels magical and I agree, The Disney Co. is the Great and Spacious Building.

I really liked working at Disneyland. Aside of feeling married to my availability form, being grossly underpaid, and the sore face muscles from smiling (per our instructions to be happy) it was very very fun. No day was ever the same and I adored that. One day usually felt like a week because of the variety of things that went down in 8 hours there. There were always some kind of emergency or Pass Holder Insanity (PHI on the radio) to mitigate, and all that we needed to handle "with discretion". Or the awesomely sweet moments with children who still believed and were looking for their friend Cinderella. They always got first priority and I always volunteered to take the picture. It was all amazing.

Merchandise was way more fun than almost any other division. But one thing about "being Merch" that was almost enviable was the capacity we had to put our hands on just about anything in the known universe with a few phone calls if a guest needed it.

Squirting nickels - we got em.
14k gold mickey mouse lipstick cases, check.
Velveteen pirate's cape - check.
Campfire chili and fried chicken, - yes,
Rag-Time dancing shoes - got those too.
Glow in the dark lipstick - let me check with Fantasmic
Topiary Alice in Wonderland figures - straight back and to the left
Moroccan Mint tea - across the street at Markethouse

It was amazing if you kept your eyes half shut to the frequently intoxicated management, the local gay couple having a shout out backstage (daily occurrence) and the constant smell of gun powder, ammonia and melted ice cream wherever guests weren't (IE-backstage).

But this kind of we-have-everything-in-the-world-and-you-need-to-put-it-away was strangely one of my favorite aspects of the job and I got the most battle experience in the biggest jungle of Disney memorabilia of them all - The Emporium.

My favorite part of Emporium duty was go backs. Partly because I wasn't tied to a register or to a table to keep straight, or beanie babies to straighten up over and over again. I got to put back the boxes and boxes of random stuff that collected behind the registers and scour the store for out of place items. It was like one giant, lolly pop, twisty pencil puzzle with an Aaron Copland soundtrack.

It sounds tedious but I really loved it. Not only did it pacify my slight OCD tendencies to straighten things but it allowed me to get lost in my head a little bit. When I saw something that was out of place I would wonder "Now how did that happen? Why would someone abandon a crystal Sleeping Beauty Castle figurine for an Ariel tank top? Did Ariel mean more to her growing up? Was she a red head and identify more with her? Was she clumsy and afraid she might break the castle before she got to the car?" and so on and so forth. I would imagine conversations people had with each other. Mostly made up the precious conversation snippets I would pick up from other people in the store. The funniest ones we between parents and children about appropriate souvenirs:

"I know you love Goofy - but I don't $75 love Goofy and neither should you"
"If I was Snow White I would sing a song and make every squirrel here come and bite you"
"It just seems kind of wrong to put Tinkerbell on a 3x shirt - I mean - what are people thinking?"
"You don't need a Tigger key chain. You don't even have keys."

I would politely offer help or insight when I could but most of the time I was in my own head. And today when I was picking up salad dressing and candles at Target on my lunch I noticed a pair of socks, a can opener and bar of soap on the crystal light isle. Instinct kicked in and I reminded myself that I didn't work there and it wasn't my responsibility to keep Target go-back free. But I did find myself constructing a scenario where those things being there would have made sense. How pink lemonade crystal light might have reminded that particular shopper that it was their best friend's favorite and that his can opener, navy blue socks and back up bar of Ivory were at his house so he didn't need to get them here.

And after laughing at myself for a second I realized that I did that a lot and then asked why and I found myself in my Main Street costume and oval name tag holding my box of go backs with "Meet me in St Louis" in the background. It was a pretty enlightening 45 seconds in the grocery isle of Target. And this, consequently led me to marvel at the little quirks I still have that are just residue from my past jobs and how everyone must have them. So now I'm curious - what are some of your habits, dear reader, that you've adopted (willingly or unwillingly) from your past?


Tracy said...

I ALWAYS answer the phone "Company Name, this is Tracy" from the neuroses of the owner at my first job. You could be put on probation if you mis-answered. He'd call in to test you.
I feel like there's something missing when I answer a personal phone... there's this space between picking up and uttering my name that shouldn't be there and I still notice it every time!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I still fix clothing after trying it on...Pedro always gets irritated with me telling me that I don't work there. I just can't leave it. Too much time at a grocery store where things must be perfect & a clothing store where I hated fixing clothes after people tried them on...I cannot inflict it on someone else. :)