Sunday, September 17, 2017

Polluted Mermaid Hair

From the ages of 21 to 29, I worked for employers that would not allow me to have alternative colored hair. Except for a few pink streaks, I've stuck to all natural colors. I became tired of the maintenance, the damage and the cost. I grew out my natural color. This lasted a good couple of years.


It lasted until a few months ago when I was online and a post about magenta hair came up.  It was so gorgeous. I thought about it for a week before deciding to do it. The thought that prompted me to take the leap?

I'm not getting any younger. I might as well have a little fun with the hair I have while I still have it.

I started with magenta. Then I was a violet vixen for a few months. I recently decided that I wanted to have teal hair. I promptly ordered teal dye from the company that made my violet dye that I loved so much. The company had recently come out with a new formula that was longer lasting with less bleed and I was so excited to try it.

I prepared my hair. But when I opened the box of new dye, the safety seal looked like it had been opened and resealed. I'd seen lots of safety seals with manufacturing defects and the products were fine. I assumed that perhaps the products were cheap because of the defect.

I know I'm not supposed to buy salon products at the drugstore. I'd heard of counterfeit products being sold online, but I was buying hair dye not a Coach bag. Imagine my surprise when I rinsed my hair and blow dried it to find that there seemed to be something wrong.  Very wrong.  My hair felt very slimy and the color mostly washed down the drain. Unfortunately, by that point it was too late for me to do anything about it. I had to go to work with my splotchy, uneven, faded new hair color. I jokingly named the color Polluted Mermaid.

Upon reviewing the seller, they'd had a number of bad reviews from others who had experienced the same thing. When I remembered I'd bought another tube of dye from the same seller in a different color, I opened the box.  This tube's safety seal had also been punctured. Two different tubes in different colors, bought on different days from the same company and both were opened. That seems highly unlikely. I'm not saying I received counterfeit product, but... it did seem likely that it was tampered.

I fixed my hair that night. I also made sure to give myself a speech about the importance of safety seals. Lesson learned. I'm sure I'll forget though.

Have you ever bought something online that turned out to be a bad purchase? Did you learn your lesson?




Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Customer is Not Always Right - A Poop Story


While updating my resume earlier this week, I realized that I've worked in Customer Service for a long, long time. If we're being honest, probably long enough to actually shave a few years off of my life.

I've learned a lot about working with younger people, managerial types, what it's like to work the floor during the various busy seasons of the year.  But most importantly, I learned a lot about customers.

The phrase "The Customer is Always Right" can be traced back to Harry Gordon Selfridge of Selfridge's Department Store in London. You may be more familiar with the story of Selfridges because of the popular PBS Masterpiece show starring Jeremy Piven. Harry Selfridge might have been a pioneer of retail in London, and eventually maybe even the world, but he was wrong. The customer is NOT always right and I've worked in retail long enough to see many examples of this.

Sometimes people are just wrong.

While working the Service Desk at a former employer, I once had a customer call the store number to ask for help. She was in our bathroom, but wouldn't specify what the problem was. I called my manager who sent me in there because "you're better at dealing with things like this".

When I walked into the bathroom, I found the woman in the bathroom stall.  She'd had a terrible accident and needed some help getting suitable to get out of the store.  I tried to be as kind and compassionate as possible. She was clearly humiliated. She asked me to get some bags we could put her soiled clothing in.  She wanted me to find some underwear and a pair of shorts like the soiled garments she'd handed me to bag up for her.

How do you choose underwear for a stranger?  She'd told me only her size, not her panty cut preferences. I was on my own.  I chose something I thought was reasonable. When I brought them to her, she asked me for something different. I found shorts similar to what she had on, but we didn't have anything that were a perfect match.  I pulled the tags off and explained she could pay at the desk. She walked out the door with her soiled clothing. After five minutes, I was afraid she would not come back in to pay. After ten, I checked to see if she was in the parking lot. When she came back in, I rang her up and she left the store.

We had been having problems with our bathroom at the store.  The first time, a customer approached a cashier and said our bathroom needed immediate attention. The cashier who was one of the youngest on staff informed their manager. The bathroom was shut down to the public immediately.  There are no gentle words to describe what we found in there. It was as if someone had bent over and exploded. We cleaned it that day in complete awe. We assumed someone must have had a serious and unfortunate emergency problem. We thought it would be a one-time experience.

We were wrong.

The mess would continue to happen on a monthly basis. Month after month someone would end up in the bathroom for two or three hours. We didn't have janitorial staff, so a cashier would have to leave their register for hours to deal with the mess. Dealing with the mess meant cleaning feces off of the top and bottom of the toilet, the wall behind it, the stall partitions and the floor. The mess usually was not contained to a single stall.  The entire bathroom would be shut down to clean the adjacent stalls from the splattered stool.  The first few times it happened we got everything cleaned up only to have another customer complain about a smell in the bathroom. We didn't realize that whoever was doing this was also leaving their soiled underwear in the sanitary napkin disposal.

Management had no interest in trying to find out who was doing this. It might have been weird to stake out the bathroom to figure it out, but it was happening on the same discount day every month. They could have figured it out pretty easily. Instead, month after month they asked an employee making ten cents above minimum wage to spend hours on their hands and knees cleaning up feces.

This went on for months. I didn't realize until later that the woman I had tried to treat with so much dignity was the person whose shit I'd been wiping up. I'd spent hours breathing in her brand of methane gas. When she'd handed me her panties in the bag from the sanitary napkin disposal, I thought she was just using what was available to her. Looking back, she'd stuck her panties in there many times before.

I've told this story a few times. Most people react with horror and disgust. My mother has always chided me about it. She doesn't believe I'm being very compassionate about the situation. She thinks my irritation at the situation was an overreaction. She may be right, but she also didn't have to process the return.

The corporation I worked for had three locations in our city. The location on the opposite end of town was having staffing problems and had called to request help. I was managing the front desk when I heard someone come up behind me. I turned around and was face to face with the woman I had taken a bag of soiled panties from only days before.

She put a bag on the counter, handed me a receipt and said she would like to return these shorts. She didn't make eye contact because she was busy looking at her phone. I looked at her. I looked at the receipt. She had kept the tags. The shorts were not visibly stained, and they had not been washed.

Anyone who has ever wiped their ass with the cheap toilet paper they put in retail store bathrooms knows it's practically useless. That woman didn't have any water in there. I used gloves to bag her soiled shorts because they couldn't be rolled up enough to contain the mess. There is nothing she could have done to have cleaned herself up enough that those shorts weren't in some way in direct contact with her excrement.

I realized this, so I was not touching the shorts after checking to see if they'd been washed. I had no reason to refuse the return other that I knew that I had personally sold her the shorts three days before. Management would not have stood behind me if I refused to return the item. Personal knowledge that an item had been exposed to bodily waste wasn't technically against the company return policy. There was no justification not to give her the money back. So I processed the return.

The woman was completely engrossed in whatever she was doing until I handed her the receipt. It was the only time she looked up and made eye contact. I don't think I could hide the smirk at that point. The look on her face was priceless. She left the store immediately.

I stopped working the days she was known for coming in and destroying our bathrooms. I left the company not long after.

People have tried to justify her behavior after hearing the story. Maybe she had some kind of medical problem. Maybe she couldn't afford the shorts I'd sold her. I'm always willing to consider the excusable reason someone is trying to offer. At the end of the day, it's pretty hard for me to see where this customer was right.





Thursday, September 7, 2017

Freaking (and Geeking) Out

Late last year, I was invited to attend my first CONvergence. CONvergence is a four day annual convention for fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy in media. This year's theme, "To Infinity & Beyond" was a celebration of all things Space Opera. It seemed like a cool new experience so I jumped on board.  As we got closer and closer to the end of 2017 and I started preparing, I got nervous.

I have social anxiety. Crowds make me especially nervous. When I get nervous about something, I Google the shit out of it. Reading the available knowledge of what to expect makes things easier for me. But even after joining Facebook groups and reading blogs, my head spun with questions. Was I supposed to dress up? Would I stand out if I didn't? Would I stand out if I did? What the hell are badge ribbons for? Was I going to have fun? Would there be weirdos?  Most importantly, would there be my type of weirdos there?

Then I encountered the whole Geek Girl... thing.  It's a thing.  There is no other way to describe it.



I've never considered myself or referred to myself as a Geek. In fact, I've never known what to label myself.  While labels can be used to segregate people, I also believe they help to create communities. I've never really had a label, so when I saw the Fake Geek Girl meme I started to get uncomfortable.

Because I'm kind of a Fake Geek Girl.

I was five the first time a boy grilled me to see how much I knew before declaring that I didn't know anything. We were playing "Mario Brothers". It was our own version of "the ground is lava". The goal was to climb across the swing set to rescue the princess then swing back across without touching the ground. At the time, Billy was the only kid on the block actually owned his own Nintendo. Billy's mom had a rule that only one friend was allowed over at a time. The girls were never invited. The fact that it was make-believe didn't stop Billy from challenging the girls who tried to change or make up a new rule. When he grudgingly accepted a new challenge rule, it was imperative that he point out that it wasn't in the real game every time it was brought up. In hindsight, I should have just kicked him out of my yard.



This would not be the only time this would happen to me. After surviving puberty, if my favorite character wasn't the Token Female Character I was just "into the hot guy". It isn't like I really had a choice though. Well-written, realistic female characters who are more than an accessory or plot device were a rarity. Female characters are generally underdeveloped in character but ample in the bosom. It isn't because we see ourselves that way, but it's hard to feel like it isn't expected of us. The female characters we are given show us we're supposed to be into the main character... you know, so we can be his girlfriend, or his plot device. Then we're shamed for liking Wolverine, Dead Pool, or Hawkeye. It's a no-win situation. But adult women appreciating the abs on a grown man is really a non-issue when you look at how young women are treated.


But I digress. 

Maybe I haven't found my ONE TRUE THING. Maybe it's that I enjoy so many things that it is impossible to focus on the minute details of just one thing. Either way, if the devil is in the details then I'm never going to find him. I have never been able to remember details I don't find particularly of interest or crucial to the story as a whole. I've always been this way and there was always that hyper-fan - usually a man - who put the "fan" in "fanatic" who made me feel bad about it. He knows every line and detail. He uses his knowledge to belittle others for not being as "passionately meticulous".  The weird aggression, intimidation and competitive attitudes I've encountered have always dissuaded me from trying to connect with other fans. I believe that if you love something, you should want to share it, not drive people away. So I've shied away from Fandoms not realizing all the wonderful things that can come with them.

In using Google to learn all that I could, I succeeded in creating such anxiety in myself that I didn't want to go. I was terrified that I would be grilled by a Geeky Gatekeeper type. I was afraid of spending my entire weekend as my boyfriend's silent arm candy. I worried that I would be spend the weekend miserable because I'm not geeky enough for the Geek Con.

I could give you my Geek Credentials, and you'd probably find that I'm lacking. I'm not quite Geeky enough. I'm semi-geeky. I'm quasi-geeky. I'm the margarine of Geek. I'm the Diet Coke of Geeky. Just one calorie, not Geeky enough.

You know what else I am? A little silly. More appropriately, a little silly with a lot of anxiety. 

I had the time of my life.

There are things I wish I would've done differently. I did a few hours of free labor for a group only to find I wasn't on their VIP list as promised when I got there. I wish I would have pushed myself to interact with more people, but I couldn't because of my anxiety. I wish I would've packed more awesome t-shirts. I wish I would've gone to more panels instead of sleeping in. Also, HYDRATION. I wish I would have drank more water. I was burnt out by Saturday when everyone else was just getting there. I drank lots and lots of water, but I think I was feeling so "done" with things by Saturday because I was dehydrated. 

Vomithorse resided over Smoker's Paradise, reminding everyone to drink the damn water. I should have listened better.
But overall it was an amazing experience and I hope I get to go again.

The staff I encountered were all friendly and engaging. Complete strangers spoke to me in lines, in elevators, and even complimented me. I introduced myself to complete strangers (which is totally not something I do at home).  The panels I attended were awesome. I got to see how amazingly artistic and creative people could be. It was unbelievable how friendly and welcoming everyone was. Everyone was just there to have fun, and find other people who enjoyed the same things. People were there just... being. Which is a really hard thing to describe but a really great thing to get to see.

And the Fake Geek Girl thing? I went to panels not having seen or read everything that was being discussed and still enjoyed them. No one cared when I didn't know about something, because they were excited to share with me. When people found out I was a CONVirgin, they were extra welcoming. I didn't feel like a Fake Geek Girl at any point and I realized how ridiculous I was being. Am I a Fake Geek Girl? Maybe. I don't really care anymore. I'm going to keep liking what I like and I'm glad I didn't allow some judgmental strangers on the Internet deter me from meeting people who would introduce me to more amazing things. I'm proud that I went even though I was anxious. I walked away with knowledge, a new perspective, and a list of new things I couldn't wait to check out for myself.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

I Miss Cleaning My House


When I was 24, I was involved in a workplace accident that would change my entire life.

My coworker was improperly operating a motor-powered cart, ran into my back and pinned me to a counter top. At the time, I tried to "walk it off". The pain hurt for weeks. Little did I know, it would never get better.

After a year of physical therapy and evaluations, none of which included a simple x-ray or MRI, I was finally sent to a neurologist. The neurologist demanded an MRI. The MRI showed damage to my spine. Interestingly enough, that's when Workman's Comp decided that I might have been born with back problems and they were no longer going to pay for my treatment.

Bastards.

It's hard for people to understand that I have chronic pain. I hurt every day, but at some point I just got tired of talking about it so I do not complain.  I am usually capable of pushing my body past the limitations in the moment. Not everyone can do that. I can push my body to do things that I shouldn't. The penalty for that is a flare-up of pain that will last weeks, and the inability to do anything the next day. I've adjusted to my new normal. While I am fortunate enough that I can get up and go to work every day, there are things I struggle with every single day.

My house has never been as clean as it was when I was in my early twenties. I used to get on my hands and knees and scrub the floor. I haven't been able to do that since I was injured. Scrubbing the bathroom is the stuff nightmares are made of. I can do it, as long as I accept that I will not be doing ANYTHING the next day and sometimes even the day after that.

I've adjusted when it comes to most things. One thing I haven't made peace with yet? I can't mop my kitchen floor.

It's hard to take pride in the appearance of one's home when you cannot have clean floors.  Maintaining a clean floor at my house means literally begging someone to mop my floor for me, then dutifully cleaning up every single spot, spill, drip, drop and dribble like a maniac because I will not be able to get someone to help me mop it again for another 3-4 months at least.

The depression of not being able to live in a space I feel comfortable in is crushing. At some point, something in me just kind of broke and I developed a very "fuck it" attitude.

Dishes on the counter? Fuck it.

Laundry? Fuck it.

Giant piles of stuff at the end of my bed? You know what to do.

It's really, really hard. I was never like this before and while I've never been a great housekeeper, it didn't take much for me to do the things I wanted or needed to do.  Now, I feel like I can never catch up. My options are to live in it, exhaust and upset myself begging for help, or pay someone I can't afford.

There's a lot of things I wish I could have back. I wish I could do things like ride 4-wheelers again. I wish I had my old waistline back before exercise became torture and I actually was just being lazy. But the thing I want back the most, other than pain free days, is the ability to really clean my house.