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Well, the Christmas shopping season is over. People have even finished up the hellish task of returning all those unwanted items. Glad we got that taken of and all but now we have new problems.
In the retail world, January is like a desert. The aisles, once filled to bursting have become empty. In one small store I worked at we timed the intervals between customers. It sometimes reached a full hour. Then though, we could just sit around and shoot the breeze. I'm now at one of those big box retail giants where its completely unacceptable to believe that there is simply nothing to do. But there's only so many times you can dust a shelf.
The clipboards have returned. This is a task the managers undertake to justify the fact that they have nothing to do either. They make the rounds of the store carrying clipboards and pointing out shelves that need to dusted. We're all trying to justify our continued existence. Even if that means we work with vigor at tasks that have no importance at all. A popular activity is "re-organizing", this involves deliberately making a disaster area, taking down shelves, scattering product all over the floor and plopping yourself down right in the middle. For the next few hours you carefully put things back where they were before, but different. This not only keeps your mind of the fact that there's nothing to do, but also keeps others from bugging you; trying to relieve their own boredom.
The simple fact of the matter is that unless you're at the store they don't really want to pay you, even if that means you're just wandering around pretending to be busy. I'd much rather be home, but I haven't figured out a way to get them to pay me for going about my own personal business. The other night a manager came back to where me and several other guys were working and pulls the "You think we can get out of here early tonight?" shtick. The answer that wisely stayed in my head was "sure, I'll work harder, get done quicker, as long as you still pay me for the hours I'm scheduled to work." The correct answer was "yes, sir / ma'am!". Needless to say I put forth no such extra effort. We still managed to get done a little early through no part of my own.
As an hourly wage slave you constantly play the game, you maxamize your pay for the amount of work done while they seek to maximize the amount of work for the pay given. We're not expected to work for our own benefit. You're quickly pegged as a problem if you answer every request with "you gonna make it worth my while?". So I advise against it. Instead you have to work secretly, like an undercover agent. I'm reminded of what Julia says in 1984.
"I always carry one end of a banner in processions. I always look cheerful and I never shirk anything. Always yell with the crowd, that's what I say. Its the only way to be safe."
I never saw Julia as a heroic figure. She just recognized that she was part of system that demanded certain behavior. She was better off than the party members that merely internalized their actions but not as heroic as Winston who tried to imagine alternatives. Julia was a realist.
We live within a social construct. Coping comes in many different forms, you either believe that what we have is the best of all possible worlds, you recognize the flaws and game them for your own advantage or you try to change things. The first types are the truely annoying people, the rest of us fall into categories two or three. We cope.
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