It wasn't the old zombie nightmares, or anything worthy of a horror movie. No, this was something a lot more personal and a lot closer to home.
In the nightmare, I'd agreed to work the retail section of the print shop for a day, to help out. In the agreement, I wasn't supposed to work the counter or the register, just run the machines, which was why I'd agreed to help. That, and in my dream, my dad was the supervisor, and I was helping him out.
So. I walked into the main area, and this woman at the counter immediately spotted me and hailed me. "Excuse me," she said, in a snotty-haughty-I'm-better-than-you-
No one else was moving to help this woman, so I gritted my teeth, pasted on my best fake retail smile, and brightly answered, "That's not exactly how I'd phrase it, but how may I help you?"
She proceeded to go through this overly long and needlessly complex list of instructions that I summarized as, "So, you need three sets of this, in color?" I remembered my retail training, upselling, offering her binding or stapling. She went for the stapling, and I was feeling semi-okay at that point. Then she handed me the payment...a large handful of coins, mostly pennies. I knew she was waiting for me to have to count them all out to make sure it was right. I was shaking. Luckily, since I wasn't supposed to work the register, I just handed all the coins to Dad, who apparently had a change counter installed on the register just for smart-ass customers like that. I took the thick sheaf of papers and looked for the color copier.
And that's when I realized the color copier was a tabletop version. Flatbed. No feeder. No stacker. No stapler. I was going to have to hand-scan, then hand-collate, that job. I turned slowly to look at the self-serve area. The self-serve color copier was what I'd expected to find: feeder, stacker, stapler. But that woman was still at the counter, and I knew, I just knew, that if I took her copies to the self-serve area, she'd throw a fit.
That must have been the straw that broke me, because that's where I woke up, that woman's voice and words still in my head. I haven't had to work retail/customer service in three years now. But the six years I did work it have left me scarred. I've had people fling handfuls of change, mostly pennies, at me as payment, sneering, "You count it," while their children look at them, horrified by the manners their parents aren't displaying. I've had people point me out to their kids, "See, this is why you go to school, so you don't end up like her." Little do they know, I have a B.A. Fat lot of good it did me. People looked at me, saw the polo shirt and name tag, and treated me like something scraped off the bottom of their shoe. Treated me like a disposable person, like someone not worthy of respect or civility. And all I was allowed to do in return was paste on that fake smile and pretend like it didn't bother me.
Going by last night's mental blockbuster, I still have a ways to go.