Sunday, June 14, 2009

How I Survive The Frozen Desolate Wasteland Tundra of the Northernmost Nether-regions of the MTC Bookstore

My job at the MTC Bookstore is fun. I get to work with other girls that are funny and cool, and interact with a three-and-a-half hour flow of rather goofy and often awkward boys, many of whom are also funny and cool, and who pose no actual social opportunity or challenge to me whatsoever. Plus, having attended high school and some college in Utah, I recognize old acquaintances and friends, not to mention acquaintances and friends from Connecticut, and family members. I enjoy working with these strange betagged individuals who very enthusiastically want to purchase the exact poundage of bulk candy that, with their 40% missionary discount and what currently remains of their $6 weekly Blue Card allotment, they can afford.

Every day at the Bookstore sees its fluctuations in customer flow. Although some days are busier than average and some are slower, each day sees at least some really dead time in the store and at least one or two thronging rushes during my shift. I assume this has to do with the missionaries' class and lunch schedules. During the dead times, extreme boredom and brain damage from lack of stimulation sometimes becomes a real danger. The most dangerous of registers to be working during these hard barren times of stimulatory famine is the North register. There are six registers in the store: two at the South, two at the Service Desk, and two at the North. Usually, however, only five employees work at a time, so you're on your own at the North. When I walk in and see I will be assigned to the North for the week, I resign myself to being neglected and isolated for the next five workdays and mentally start building up a store of potential Self-Preservational Entertainment Tactics (SPET). I just made up the acronym SPET, I admit, but I plan on using it from now on. I like it because it sounds like a cowboy's awesome and grammatically incorrect past-tense version of spit. "That idiot boy jes gone an' spet crost my boots one too many times."

Anyway. Most of the other cashiers resort to reading the Ensign or Book of Mormon, making grocery lists, etc. when they are at the North desk. Or they stare at something somewhere and look catatonic. I do the staring thing sometimes, especially when I'm really tired or a little bit grumpy for some reason. But that behavior is not conducive to a successfully survived day at the North. One major problem with the North is that it has no unique, special reasons for existence assigned to it. The Service desk is the only place where you can order a T shirt, get something laminated, buy a watch, etc. The South desk is the only place you can pick up the pictures you ordered or or the scriptures you had your name embossed onto. The North register, though, is at a small desk tucked away at the far end of the store where very little is likely to occur. The most exciting thing that happens is when an Elder manages to neglect the big stop sign on
the photo kiosk that warns against sticking a mini SD card into the regular SD card slot without a card adapter, and goes ahead and sticks a mini SD card into the regular SD card slot without a card adapter. Then his card slips down the machine's gullet and gets lodged there, and Leonard must be paged to come out and use various skinny metal tools to cajole and maneuver it back out. Other than that though, there is little life at the North. In fact I sometimes refer to it as the Frozen Desolate Wasteland Tundra of the Northernmost Nether-regions, or some variation of that phrase.

So I often find it necessary during those weeks to reach out across the vastness of empty space that exists between me and the other desks and seek interactive connection with my fellow cashiers. The activities with which I choose to accomplish this vary. Sometimes it's playing this little game with Heather that is essentially peek-a-boo with the inclusion of grumpy faces, mirrors, and using the bodies of the people in the store to block eye contact and then poking our heads out again like three-year-olds. Sometimes I stage-whisper to other people and try to find the perfect number of decibels so they hear their name but missionaries' heads don't whip around. My efforts in the interactive regard very often take the form of poems, notes, threats, or doodles, written or drawn onto receipt paper. I roll them into scrolls and tie them with a rubber band most commonly, though sometimes they take the form of flimsy and not-flightworthy airplanes, or wadded up paper cannonballs launched in a haphazard trajectory from a rubber band sling. Anyway, then I quite dangerously and bravely slink away from my assigned post momentarily and go throw my message at some unsuspecting coworker. Often I hit them from behind while their back is turned. I also totally miss with some frequency. I then typically turn around, and, with an innocent smile and my hands hanging clasped neatly in front of me, walk calmly back to my register. I always ignore any comments or inquisitions for explanation. Then I sit and fidget on my stool feeling pleased with my tiny escapades.

We got a new employee a couple of weeks ago. This caused a minor stir among us cashiers, because he is a boy, and we are all girls. This new guy, Jared, actually already worked his last day on Saturday, having received his own mission call. We'll see him again though, in a month when he reports. I interacted very little with him, as we never worked the same desk. Basically he made weird faces at me sometimes across the store and wore his ugliest tie on Saturday per my request after hearing its hideosity described. We have also engaged in desk-to-desk rubber band warfare, in which I believe with confidence that I was the victor. One time I even gave him a receipt scroll that hit him on the arm. Gloria said she would buy me candy if I wrote him a poem. Here is basically what it said:

Dear Jared,

Now that you work at the MTC Bookstore,
It's probably best that you know what you're in for.

First, it is known that from time to time
I write dumb receipt notes that usually rhyme.
Don't ever offend the dog Sunny the Ninja
She can be very fierce and quite willing to injure.
Don't be fooled by the cookies, "Marias"--I've tried them;
The picture's deceptive--there's no jam inside them!!
If you ever want chocolate milk, better be speedy
They go pretty fast cause we all are so greedy.
If you're obviously bored, Wayne often appears
To give you a task that WILL bore you to tears!

I know that these pointers won't help you much really
And this poem to you may seem stupid and silly
But my last tip is this: at the North, to survive,
You do any dumb thing to keep your brain alive!

The next day Gloria received a projectile receipt-wad missile that said:

Dear Gloria.

I am bored.

I blame you.

Mostly I just miss you though.

Forlornly and Bored-to-deathedly,


So you see. There are ways of working through the deadly North Desk doldrums without succumbing to a coma. It just takes a little idiotic poetry and the ability to derive inordinate pleasure from throwing things at other people while bookstore customers and superior employees may or may not be watching you act dumb.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge that this was a long and rambly blog post about practically nothing, and I don't even feel too apologetic because you really didn't have to read it. Also, I would like to say that Sunny the Ninja Dog is a real ninja who is less than one inch long, but who is black as night with a little ninja mask and little ninja booties. She is generally possessed of a pleasant enough disposition, but has some killer instincts which sometimes cannot be denied manifestation in cold and sudden violence. She is very strong and swift and capable of much pain-infliction; just ask Gloria. Mostly she guards my extra coins or, more often lately, sticks with her booties (as well as some gratuitous-and-definitely-not-necessary scotch tape) to the side of my register's little screen thingy in order to intimidate customers who may be inclined towards monkey business.

Thank you to everyone for humoring my foolishness and rapscallionry with such long-suffering tolerance.

Okay that's all.


Natalie said...

Annie, I am blog stalking you, it's true. But words cannot even communicate how much I love this post of yours. So funny and yet 100 percent true...amazing.

Annie said...

Thank Natalie! It makes me so glad to know that this little story I sent floating out into cyberspace has been read and enjoyed by another MTC cashier who understands. Yes!!