2017 was supposed to be my tenth year in retail, an anniversary that, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be deprived of. If I sound consigned to this, it’s because I am.

Since losing my job on January 26th, I find myself with hours upon hours of free time. While I’ve done my best to avoid the wastefulness of the recently-unemployed by lingering in bed too long, or isolating myself at home, still I find myself thinking the kind of deep thoughts that usually accompany idle contemplation. No longer distracted by work, pressing deadlines or responsibilities, my mind wanders, recalls things good and bad, bright and dark.

A coping mechanism I was taught a long time back, perks up and I recall a phrase. Count your blessings, my mom used to tell me, when she was still with me, uttering parental idioms from a time and place when such sayings — unoriginal as they were — superseded cliche and were simply to be taken at face value. These little wisdoms were the verbal equivalent of warm-blankets doled out in life’s hailstorms, and I miss them.

The moral sticks though. Losing my most recent job, having the choice made for me, has pushed me in a direction I’m not sure I would have otherwise gone. I’m looking at returning to college, and in the strangest twist, the provincial government here might help me pay my way through school, a prospect that I’m giddily excited about.

In the automotive industry, there’s a term that negatively describes the action of veering adrift when encountering uneven surfaces: bump-steer. It seems to describe my life at the minute, though — honestly — if I say it, I’m meaning it in the best possible way. Trust me on this.

Five days of daily posts into the Prompt of the Day challenge on WordPress, I’m struggling just a little with literary burnout. I wouldn’t call it writer’s block, as I’m ultimately able to contribute something inside of twenty-four hours; it’s more a problem of not knowing how best to interpret the words that are presented. The more I think about it, the whole exercise is akin to participating in the word-association psych tests depicted in so many spy movies (eg Skyfall) — only without the benefit of being able to succinctly answer with lone words.

Today, the first thing that came to mind was an off-key encounter in 2009 with a telco executive, who needless to say, outranked me many times over at first my retail gig for, let’s just call it “The Hidden Cache for Electronics” — a sort of rebranded Canadian Radio Shack. I contemplated not using this story on the basis of its negativity, which is why it’s only dropping by in truncated form. With a happy-ending. Sort of.

NB, as we’ll call him, wanted me to sell more cellphones, a recurrent demand that despite my best intentions, I was supposedly unable to satisfactorily meet, and one which ultimately got me tossed from the company some time later. On meeting NB during a meet-and-greet, I was presented with all these exciting ways of enticing the general public into signing three-year binding contracts on a whim. The best of which, expected me to dribble basketballs — in British Columbia’s busiest mall, no less — and toss them at passing customers.

Wait for it: upon their successful receipt of the ball (assuming they didn’t get wiped out with an errant headshot) I was to ask them if they wanted to “catch another great deal.” A cellular contract.

Almost eight years later, I still can’t contain the terminal eyerolls.

I’m unable to remember word-for-word my exact response, but it was something to the tune of saying I didn’t realize when I joined this company, I was expected to do circus acts. Maybe not the most PC answer, but still, go me

Needless to say, NB was shocked and appalled at my “closed-mindedness.” He proclaimed my retail career would end in failure with that kind of attitude, that successful people do this sort of thing all the time. I asked him if his successful career had ever included (literally) throwing balls in people’s faces, but didn’t get a direct answer.

Time passed, and later that year, I somehow mustered getting promoted, no balls dribbled. In Toronto, at an annual electronics expo hosted exclusively for managers of the company, yet another suit-wearing executive stepped forward, a hand was extended, and we shook. “I’m sorry, how do I know you?” I asked, genuinely ignorant as to who this was.

“NB.”

“And we know each other from…?”

As I look back at this encounter, in all the perfect beauty of having moved on so far beyond a nemesis as to forget him entirely, I recognize that too often do I obsess on flawless comebacks. The mic-drop drop moments that set the record straight, the most retaliative sound-bite I can muster, and yet my most memorable retort was the time when none was uttered.

Perhaps then, that’s a more constructive approach I should be assuming more often, instead of — as the saying goes — practicing to win arguments I haven’t yet encountered. Cause I do that.

A lot.

I’ll be honest with you … it’s probably gonna take some time.

(Written in response to the Daily Post’s Prompt of the Day)

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