Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'm Employed! Wait! I'm Not!

I’m pretty sure that I’m becoming insufferable.

You see, this is my therapy. And I really, really need therapy. So if you feel an eyeroll coming on and need to click that white ‘X’ in the upper right-hand corner of your screen, I'll understand. No offense taken.

This has been a brutal year. A brutal, unforgiving year. I find myself wondering what it is I did. Did I swindle money from helpless and lonely old ladies? Did I rape? Murder? Vote Republican?

I ask these questions because life is beginning to feel like punishment.

Let me explain.

Last week, I found work. My relief was immeasurable. The compensation sucked, as did the hours. But it was a job. A paycheck. Something to plug the nasty employment gap on my resume.

I was ready to sing. Let God on high be praised!

But like all things 2009, it was too good to be true.

I submitted applications to two stores in a Texas-based chain specializing in used books, music and movies. After a year of joblessness, I was asked to interview at both locations. I don’t think the savviest bookie in Las Vegas could have calculated the odds.

It was off the charts. It seemed like a perfect fit, and I was thrilled.

OK. So what’s the problem? you ask.

I accepted an offer for temporary employment because it was the first one offered. (Yes, I'm that desperate.) Then a second offer followed. It was for permanent employment. Caving-in to my selfish desire to remain clothed, housed and fed for as long a period as possible, I then accepted the permanent offer.

Since all my fine china and stemware is in storage, I never even entertained the idea that both interviews would yield job offers. Not me. Not in 2009. But they did.

In my view, this was an entirely understandable and acceptable decision. Especially in the revolving door that is retail. But retail isn't retail at Half-Price Books. This was an act of romantic betrayal tantamount to treason. One which demanded only the swiftest and most-severe punishment.

I first detected the foul odor of payback when the start date for the permanent position was postponed.

The next day I received a phone call from a district manager. He berated me for “exhibiting poor judgment”, explaining how I had maliciously played one store against another by interviewing with the second store while in the employ of the first. How I had deviously concealed from the manager at the first store where I was headed.

Firing squad being presumably unavailable, the offer for permanent employment was withdrawn.

As I had yet to even set foot in the first store when I interviewed with the second, I’m confused how I was in its employ. And while under the influence of ignorance, I also don’t understand if I never mentioned store A to store B and vice versa, exactly how did I pit one store against another?

In my admittedly limited experience, the sort of manipulation I was accused of required the disclosure that a second party was involved, which indicated increased demand for a particular commodity, which in turn enhanced one’s bargaining position.

But what do I know? I just write here.

The unemployed are told to remain positive in the face of evidence to the contrary. We are told to look forward, not back. And above all, we are told not to take unemployment and rejection personally. It’s just business.

Yet when the delicate sensibilities of a store manager are offended by an employee choosing a permanent position over a temporary one, it’s not just business. It’s personal, and someone must be made to pay.

Is Rambo available?

It doesn’t matter that the manager had a two-inch stack of applicants from which to choose a replacement. It doesn’t matter that the employee actually showed up for his final shift and even offered to work the following day if it would help minimize subsequent schedule changes.

It also doesn’t matter that the employee expressed genuine remorse for the short notice and explained in detail that his financial situation didn’t allow any other choice.

What matters is that a manager who was angry with herself because she awarded the permanent slots to a couple of dolts while she tossed the temporary slot to the keeper won’t have to bear the humiliation of seeing that employee work for a competing store.

What matters is that her shaky self-esteem has been soothed. What matters is that her out-sized ego has been stroked. That’s right—you’re still in control. If you can’t have him, no one will!

Her ruffled feathers have been smoothed.

Yes, I’m guilty of interviewing at two stores and choosing the best deal. But I’m fairly sure that’s what we do every day at the grocery store. Or the mall. And I’m fairly sure it’s what business does when it shops for a supplier.

It’s even what business does when it (ahem) shops for a prospective employee. It’s—dare I say—just business.

But don’t you try it.

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