Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

Most people that recognize me say, "I didn't know you work here..." and I shrug, replying that I have two in college.  I work weekends, mixing paint at a do-it-yourself store.  I won't write about the company, or much about the people where I work, but only my own learning experiences or perhaps a story or two.

Having been at one time, a lifetime ago, trained as a chemical engineer and now, dare I say reduced to, wiping the floor of a can of paint a careless customer dropped, I think perhaps I've hit a new low.  I repeat to myself, "Jesus was just a carpenter" and other adages that enforce that all work done well is worthy work.  I tamp down my tendencies to want to improve how things are done, and try to focus on learning the trade and doing what is expected.  There is much to learn, both practical and if I chose to, educational.

I fear becoming the Mr. Nigel-Murray of the paint desk.  From the more experienced employees I've learned how to prepare and stain a deck, which product to use, the difference between this brand of paint and that, how to strip wood or waterproof a concrete wall.  But that usually isn't enough for me.  At home, I Google that xylene is chemically ortho-, meta- and para- dimethyl benzene and toluene is better named methlybenzene.  I call the rep for a driveway sealer and ask why the supreme contains only one polymer and why the lesser formula contains co-polymers.  Bits of my former education come back to me.  

My co-workers vary and several have come and gone already.  I've come to enjoy the ones that have endured, and found strengths in each.  I find myself on the other side now, no longer management, and it shines a new light on the world of work.  Looking out from the other side of the mirror is an interesting experience. 

As for customers, most are patient, kind, and appreciative.   And a small number....aren't.  Remaining positive, we won't discuss the few, but I will only say that everyone should work retail and go out into a lot of a store and gather carts (something we must do periodically if not helping customers).   It has made me much more patient myself with store clerks, and I always return my cart to a carrel.  

A story:
A young Japanese couple inquired about eco-friendly paint.  The man spoke only broken English, though his wife was a bit more fluent.  She glanced at their only girl child, three or four years old, in the bascart.  
The man asked, "What paint you have that is eco-friendly?"
I show them our 0% VOC paint.
"What VOC?"
A quick explanation of volatile organic compounds gets their heads bobbing in unison.  Yes, this is what they want, glancing again at their offspring. 
"How much?"
When I tell them it is $50 to $60 a gallon, the man responds, "What other paint you got?"
It seems that being environmentally conscious only goes so far.  

It became apparent that someone was switching labels from economy paintbrushes to our eco-friendly bamboo-handled paintbrushes, thereby paying considerably less for the "green" version.  I pictured a poor hippy who can't afford to protect the earth, so he steals the eco-friendly brush.  No, I am told by the paint manager - it is a better made brush.  


Cloudia said...

hey! I might be back taxi driving soon- nothing wrong with honest work, dear!

Good For YOU!

Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral


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pita-woman said...

If you ever transfer into the flooring dept. let me know. I want to put tile down in the house :)
I've been up there a couple times since seeing you there (and had at least 1 of the dogs w/me both times), but obviously have missed you both times...


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