Friday, February 1, 2013

I'm Officially an Old Lady Now

When I first went back to work part-time in 1979, when my son Matt was six months old, it was one of the first times, really, that I worked with anybody who wasn't a relative or my best friend.  Having been a full-time mom for two and a half years, though, it was heaven getting to interact with actual grown-up people.

I dipped my toe back into the working world by starting in retail.  Everybody should work in retail at least once in their lives.  It would teach them a bit of humility and humanity.

Everybody I worked with worked part-time.  Do retail establishments even hire full-time people?  I'm guessing no.  We had no benefits; no insurance; no paid time off.  We stood for four to six hours a day (or, in my case, night) in high heels, clenching our jaws into a hideous facsimile of a smile, while bitchy customers....well, bitched.

I am always nice to store clerks, and to customer service people.  Why would one want to piss them off?  Will that ensure better service?  From experience, I will tell you; no.

Because we all worked for only part of the day, we arranged coffee (and, frankly, smoking) dates with one another.  Sitting in a booth at the Village Inn, we spent hours airing our grievances about store management; while flipping the lid up on the plastic coffee decanter and refilling our cups.  The waitress eventually got sick of us just sitting there; and she'd finally just breeze past us; and not ask if "everything was okay", because she just wanted us to....GO ALREADY!

I made friends with all kinds of ladies.  Women, like me, who had toddlers at home.  Moms whose kids were all in school, so they were earning a bit of extra money to fortify the household piggy bank.  Divorced ladies with sad stories.

I got to know a really kind, older divorcee, whose life had been a wringer of tears and betrayal.  She'd survived the ravages of three marriages, and now she was again on her own; robbing from Peter to pay Paul the auto mechanic, because, once again, her car had broken down.

So, I'd drive over to her apartment and pick her up; and we'd have coffee together.

As she sat in the passenger seat of my car, I watched her file away bits of paper; coupons; a dollar bill or two; neatly inside her giant cave of a purse.  If only my files at home were that organized!

I thought; this woman has her entire life stored inside her purse!

Well, I'm that woman now.  Only not as neat.

My friend Barb, taking pity on me, gave me a wonderful purse that she no longer used.  It's not all that big, but I am amazed at what I am able to store inside it!  Amazed; yet sheepish.

There was a time when I carried a checkbook and a pen and perhaps a comb in my purse.  Now I have everything!  Cell phone, checkbook (that I never use; but I still feel the need to have it handy); my wallet with all my necessary bank cards and store rewards cards; packs of cigarettes (naturally); a hair brush; lip balm; three sets of keys; my stupid work badge; little reminder notes; year-old packs of gum; my husband's eulogy that he wrote for his mom (I don't know why I have that in my purse, but I'm keeping it).

I could last at least five days just on the contents of my purse (five days only, because once I ran out of cigarettes, I would commence to attacking people at random; and then they would have to kill me in order to save themselves).

So, yes, I have become the old lady whose life is encapsulated within her leather bag.

The sad part is, I'm not even one bit embarrassed by that.

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