Earth Minus Jeans Equals Slacks ( the 3rd silly bit )
Your first day
First thing's first. If you are working in a modern store in a modern shopping Mall, you will bang your head on the mechanised front shutter as it rises to let you in. You'll wait for it to reach waist height and then wrongly believe you can duck under and then straighten up in one fluid imperceptible motion.
So as you smack it hard enough to damn near put it out of action, and you hear the member of staff letting you in stifle a laugh as you rub your head in embarrassment and generally feel like a bit of a prat, please don't think that this only happens to you.
Take comfort in the knowledge that there is an unwritten law of Physics stating the co-relation between the deceptively slow rise of the shutter, and a human being's stupid attempt to look as casual and cool as they can on their first day.
So remember, it happens to everyone.
Incidentally, there have been some extreme cases where the 'new boy', in a painful early attempt to show how wacky he is, only allowed the shutter to rise a couple of feet from the ground before rolling beneath it and singing the theme tune from 'Raiders of the lost ark'.
It's quite important not to do this, unless you enjoy your jokes being met with awkward stony silences, or you are happy for people to shorten your name to 'twat'.
First day inductions, as in any line of work, can vary in their intensity. They can turn out to be anything ranging from in depth tours of the premises with helpful advice on product knowledge, sales technique and stock presentation - down to the slightly less time-consuming " Pedro, show the new kid where the bogs are will ya! ".
It all depends on whether it's going to be your day or not.
More often than not, it tends to be the latter of the two so try not to get too downhearted early on.
When you are introduced to the other members of staff, be sure to look for the signs of what you are letting yourself in for. The clues are there. The chances are that their faces will be pale-skinned, haggard and with lips that are blue, dry and cracked. But ultimately it's the eyes that tell the biggest story. Sometimes glazed, sometimes bloodshot and distant and in some severe cases, even sunken. You may notice that it is the longer serving members of staff who are the worst afflicted.
If you see a person working there who is fresh-faced with a general look of well-being, you're probably looking at a mirror.
In extreme situations where someone has worked there for longer than three years, their hands will appear to be completely independant from the rest of their body, clawing lamely at the air infront of them. You will falsely assume that they are suffering from epilepsy.
Golden Rule Number 2 - When making the false assumption mentioned above, do not make critical comments about the bright fluorescent tube lighting in-store and it's suitability. There is nothing a manager hates more than a new member of staff who immediately appoints themselves as a health and safety officer.
For all you know, they could have been visited by the real thing the previous day and been asked what precautions are taken to prevent the staff from strangling themselves with the carton of milk in the staff-room fridge.
So they're hardly going to be in the mood for the petty, smart-alec remarks of a spotty Herbert like you, are they?
What this particular staff member is actually afflicted by is a condition recognised by doctors as a new case of Repetitive Strain Injury involving the constant folding of pairs of Jeans. Only recently has this been taken seriously by the medical profession, so as of yet no specific name has been affiliated to it.
Among the many suggestions that have been so far considered are 'Accurate Seam Alignment Syndrome', or 'Fold-Grab-Fold-FLIPosis' ( though no-one quite understands why the FLIP part of that has to be in upper case ), or one of the less popular ideas 'Thatsitiquitfoldyerownfuckingjeans-itis'.
Whatever the name for this condition turns out to be, you yourself will develop the early milder symptons of this after only a few months.
See, you should have gone for that burger bar job after all. The idea of having a spotty, greasy complexion has a sudden strange appeal about it now doesn't it?
As you are introduced to the people you'll be working alongside, you will get an immediate idea of who you are going to get on with, and who you are going to be slagging off behind their back after only two days.
With each shake of the hand, you'll no doubt be thinking one of three things:
a) He seems okay
b) He's a bit of a misery, or
c) Oh christ, it's that girl I drunkenly tried to seduce at a party last week... and failed. I've still got the hand-print on my cheek to show for it.
At least with the third of these reactions, she will be sharing in the awkwardness of the moment. She will be thinking " Oh christ, it's that pathetic little creep that drunkenly tried to seduce me at a party last week... I recognise the hand print on his cheek. "
Whichever of these it is you're thinking, just smile thinly and say " Awright " and move on to the next person.
The others that you meet will include a big burly ( but friendly ) Latino called either Carlos or Pedro. He's the one who'll show you where the bogs are. You'll shake hands.... correction, he'll shake your hand and you'll just be relieved it's still attached to the end of your arm afterwards. As we said, he's friendly enough so it won't be intentional that he crushes your hand beyond repair and reduce it to a twitching, bloody pulp. He just doesn't understand his own strength.
The problem with meeting Pedro/Carlos is that high-fives is no more preferable unless you want to be sent flying halfway across the other side of the shop floor.
The most tragic case of all those you shake hands with will be the part-timer who has worked there for six years, during which time there has been absolutely no danger of him being promoted. The reasons for his lack of progression are too numerous to mention, but they include the fact he has no co-ordination whatsoever, he scares the customers, and has the kind of breath that can unbutton an entire rack of shirts from ten yards away.
His name will probably be Lenny.
Unfortunately, he will be the friendliest of your new colleagues. With the others having clocked him a long time ago, he will see you as an opportunity for someone to actually like him.
Golden Rule Number 3 - Do not under any circumstances take Lenny up on his suggestion that you both go for a beer after work. He will slip this craftily into the conversation at some point, usually after he has numbed your brain with the story about the day he was left in charge of the shop-floor for a whole minute and twenty-seven seconds. ( Yep, he timed it. You see, when the poor bastard gets given the tiniest scrap of responsibility, he nearly drops dead from a happy-heart attack. ) The insane plea of his to socialise with you at the end of the day is so cleverly crow-barred in, you could easily find yourself replying " Er yeah, okay then. "
Several first dayers have been duped into it in the past. They never came back the following day. What happened to them? Only Lenny can answer that one.
Your first morning will be all about settling in, getting used to your new surroundings, and being shown by a member of staff how to correctly fold a pair of Jeans. You will be shown this over... and over... and over...again. Approximately fifty-seven times, just to make absolutely sure you've mastered the technique.
Then it is usually common practice to shove you in a corner of the store with a pair of Levis to practice with even more, almost making you feel obliged to turn and face the wall and wait for the headmistress to call you into her office. There is a perfectly logical explanation for you being shoved in a corner - they're hoping to God that a customer doesn't approach you for assistance.
You won't mind, as you'll be hoping to God about that as well.
Occasionally , a seventeen year old female member of staff wearing enough make-up to go round a whole theatre company will check on you with a sweet inquiry of " Are you alright? ", and with this you will change from thinking you're outside the headmistress's office to thinking you're a resident in an old people's home. ( Be prepared that she may even go " Aah ", and with this you'll feel like a hamster. )
As you reply " Yeah I'm fine thanks ", grit your teeth very hard and try to restrain yourself from slapping the silly tart in the face. She's only trying to be friendly.
Throughout this first day, you will encounter strange Neanderthal-type beings that seem to come and go, fiddle with things and examine them, pick at them, gesture at you wildly with unintelligable questions and hold things against themselves with grunts of approval or growls of frustration.
Do not be alarmed, they're just the customers.
You'll have to get used to dealing with them eventually, but today is not the day. Today, they are like the escaped criminal that the Police advise you about. They should not be approached. Pretend you haven't noticed them and whatever you do, don't let them notice you.
If they do spot you, there are several evasive proceedures you can put into place to avoid a confrontation:
One - You could hide. It helps if the store you work in has promotional posters on it's walls. They need to be at eye-level, man-sized, and contain a scale photo of a model wearing the company's brands. Position yourself perfectly over the photo, strike a pose and don't move. Don't blink either... Okay, bit of a long shot that one.
Two - Quickly grab a pair of Jeans, hold them against yourself, clutch your chin with a thoughtful expression and go " Hmmm! " far too loudly. If the customer is still approaching you after this, walk towards them and say " Is it okay if I try these on? ". At which point they will appear slightly embarrassed and confused, saying " I don't work here, I thought you did actually... " to which you reply, " No I don't work here, I thought you did. "
Then you both laugh nervously, simultaneously say " Sorry to have troubled you, " both turn away abruptly and trip over other people's pushchairs. You may get some funny looks from your new colleagues but it works a treat.
Three - If nothing else works, you could just spontaneously combust right where you stand. Just do something.
Of course it's inevitable that at least once during the day you will be cornered by a customer, and you'll know there's no escape this time.
The scenario will be a film-maker's dream....
The customer spots you from afar. Close-up of its piercing eyes as they scan your form to confirm to the brain that you are indeed a sales assistant. Switch to a close-up of your eyes as you return the stare from the other side of the store. Zoom in even closer as your eyes widen in abject horror... It's spotted you!
Customer releases a low, evil guttural growl and turns in your direction. It's hungry, ravenous even for your opinion on whether the blue shirt or the black shirt would go best with cream chinos.
Back to your eyes again as they stretch themselves even wider before the camera shot lowers to focus on your dry quivering lips. A sequence of different angles to show different facets of your terror - the beads of sweat gathering at your temple, the swallowing motion of your throat.
Switch back again to the customer's feet as it plods slowly, heavily, but mercilessly towards you. Then a shot of its drooling mouth as it draws its slobbering tongue over its lips and bares its teeth in a sickly grin.
Back to you again, your head snapping to your left and right and behind - no way out this time sucker! It's over! You close your eyes with a whimper and await the dreadful blow... and then....
" NOOO! " A sudden scream tears across the store. You snap your eyes open and realise you're saved. Seventeen year old make-up girl has come to your rescue. The customer and yourself watch in astonished slow motion as she does her girly sprint across the shop-floor, her arms mincing at her side like tree branches in a hurricane.
" LEAVE HIM ALONE, LEAVE HIM ALONE! HE'S NEW! IT'S HIS FIRST DAY! "
She throws herself between the two of you, arms spread wide in a ' Take-me-instead-of-him ' gesture. The customer, so stunned it's forgotten how to even breathe, just backs away, recoling, shrinking back into its steaming, putrid -smelling lair....er okay, I mean he/she leaves the store.
Make-up girl puts a reassuring arm around your shoulder, cradles your bemused head and says, " It's okay, you're okay now. Nasty customer's gone now. "
At which point you can throw the restraint you showed earlier out the window and give her a good hard slap.
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