Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 45&46

"The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering." -The Doctor (as portrayed by Tom Baker)

Today the Loris and I had a bit of a stand off.

So for the last 2 days the Loris has been absolutely frenzied. No one seems to know why, but she is moving about frenetically, barking commands seemingly at random to anyone that appears bipedal enough to carry them out. Sometimes she will give you a command and follow it up with another and then another stacking one atop the other like assy flap jacks. At some point it becomes impossible to rewind and complete the initial task she gave you so you're just always doing the most recent command, waiting for the next interruption and new direction.

It's sort of Borders history crammed into a 2 day window, isn't it. How many initiatives trickled down (or hammered down during the *marshall years) from the Home Office only to be abandoned and replaced by another. I never really understood why the people making the decisions didn't understand that micromanaging from the mid-west was never really going to work. Centralised control became less and less about trusting the people beneath you that had been groomed and mentored, and more and more about defining a series of task and, ultimately specific language, that needed to be done. As though we were computers from the 1980's and all you needed to do was write the correct command line and we'd spit out the numbers you were looking for. I don't know if this conversation ever happened. but in my head I imagine a cadre of people who think of books as products sitting in a darkened chamber, fingers tented, saying "Eventually if we pay less and less and we hire people who are willing to work for that wage eventually we will get a collection of unwashed mouth-breathers dying to simply follow orders for a meager pay check, and then ladies and gentleman of the Cabal, we will live like kings!" Hah! The joke was on them. The allure of books and music and working around smart engaging people was enough to keep a quality person applying and being hired. Don't you realize bookish people sort of intrinsically have low self-worth, if you tell me I'm only worth a dollar more than minimum wage to shelve books, I'm going to believe you, because ...I Get to shelve books! Everytime they realized Initiative A was a failure, largely i think because they didn't respect their staffs or our buying public, they would chill out for about three months and switch to Initiative B. And then when that failed, Initiative C. It was a constant stream of "now do this" from Ann Arbor. I also picture one of the Wizards walking into the offices with a bullhorn declaring the new initiatives, and demanding all the poor people who had lifted Borders up for all those years and who eventually ended up in co-ordinator-y style positions at the home office to make it happen, and then sighs of "are you effin' kidding me?" begin a train of verbal dominoes. Anyway the Loris was like that in the last 2 days, only really really concentrated.

She blamed me for 5 things before I even had my headset on. I just sort of stared at her as she performed her version of reading the riot act. I asked questions in an attempt to make her see reason, or try to trick her using logic. Suddenly, I heard Lewis Carroll pointing and laughing at me from some place in the past. She simply wouldn't come to the logical conclusions my questions should have lead her to. Then I realized that my facts weren't relevant because she didn't like them. Reality and fact have become, or perhaps they always were to her, entirely subjective. Objectivity and logic is a quaint old religion, like being a Jedi or Bridge clubs.

Nevermind that the last 16 hours of my week at borders had seen me doing record amounts of work. Yesterday the first 4 hours of my day were the fastest 4 hours I can remember experiencing that didn't involve nudity or liquor. It was just, blink, and they were over. I was in a constant flurry of dragging stuff (that I would call "trash", but apparently are now called "fixtures") out onto the floor trying to make some kind of cohesive sense out of a random assortment of stuff we just don't want to use any more. The latter part of my day, largely, if I'm being honest, became a wash. I just kind of bumbled about not really sure what I needed to do but I still worked, just not real efficiently. By the way, those hard hours...that was for liquidators. Just sit with that a minute.

And it wasn't just me, she gave my GM 24 hours to pack up every relevant document that needed to be retained and send them out. Borders wanted them by the 7th, apparently she wanted them out of her hair yesterday. And guess what, IT GOT DONE! Because that is how we Borders Folk Roll. You give us a challenge we meet it. Its not our fault historically they've given us stupid challenges.

Today was a morass of paperwork and being a sales person, and supervising deconstruction, and correcting an error which should have been caught 3 weeks ago when I told you what I was doing. OH right, 3 weeks ago it wasn't an error, it was okay. But now...because the loris didn't know what she was doing, it is my fault.

Right, the standoff.

So as I'm walking through the door she hits me with "You got my message that EVERYTHING with the Invoices is ALL WRONG"

Mind you, I'm sipping a diet soda waving to a co-worker at the time, I had just acknowledged her, which apparently is all the impetus she needs to leap!

"Uh..that isn't how it was communicated to me, i know there are a few errors, but -"

"No it's all wrong, you have to redo everyone of them by this afternoon. Why didn't you do it yesterday when i left the Message that you never returned?"

So...let me get this correct, you call say "call me back" I don't, then you speak with MY BOSS and tell her what you need done, which she processes to ME, you know, cuz she's my boss and she gets to tell me what to do. And after that I STILL need to call you? Really? That makes no sense in anyway. My boss is your pipeline to me. Thats how it works, if you have the opportunity to say something directly to me then, by all means do, but if time and telephone don't allow it I assure you that my General Manager is more than capable of giving me a directive and seeing it done. Jeez, control freak much?

Thats what i said on the inside, I verbalized the following "My Gm told me what to do, i just didn't have time to do it as they decided to sell all the fixtures for half price and raise the discount on the merchandise while simultaneously cutting our hours so i know, selling things, much too busy to fix a few errors."

"well it all needs to be fixed"

"All what, you need to be precise, because What my GM told me to do doesn't seem like so large a task i couldn't accomplish it in a couple of hours"

"Well it's your first priority today"

Ha, loser, my first priority is verifying the deposit. Suck it, Loss Prevention comes first, yo!

Now what apparently triggered her descent into the panic room was that the documents were not filled out entirely.

Quoth the Loris three weeks ago: "You really just need to get the phone number, the rest isn't that important".

Oh but you see, thats not how it "happend". Apparently I misheard her, and so did $$$ because she was there and she was doing the same thing. About 25% of the documents were missing the information that we didn't NEED but had to have anyway. So i had to work with our corporate magician to get the project done. IN AN HOUR.

"oh you're all done, oh you all are just fabulous."I know thats why you shouldn't panic. Psycho.

So two things have happened in the last two days that seem important. The first is that i'm done. Physically and emotionally done. Yesterday morning i walked up to some of my friends working and i said to them. "I hope these cheap bastards buy every damn cd dvd book and fixture we have in here today, because I'm done. I'm sick of it. I want to close." Now the feeling is not that weird, and it's totally understandable. But the fact that i broke the seal and said it is a momentous thing. I have tried to carve a path through this as the person who helped sustain the energy and enthusiasm of my friends when I'm working. I am seen goofing off, because i feel like goofing off is an important step in living through this misery. I try to arrange after work gatherings. I try to be generally up beat and not negative. But yesterday i just kind of...puked that sentiment up. I was genuinely kind of surprised I said it. But man it felt good to say it. And frankly I think it was a sentiment everyone could agree with. I'm just done. Whats left of my store doesn't resemble what i know, what i care about. Today i sat and watched...and even helped, as someone pulled vast fields of slatwall of the wall in the kids room and left it naked and bruised with it's original carpenters math showing. Poor naked wall. It was so strange. I used to build these stores as a trainer. Helping to tear them apart has never sat well with me. But today i was kind of glad to do it, because that meant I was four pieces of slatwall closer to getting the hell out. I will, without a doubt in my heart, miss the everliving damn out of everyone I work with. But i cannot take this ...degradation...any longer. So i just breathe deep and think of England.

The second thing was that the Loris lost my trust. Up until now I really felt she was going to make this a smooth orderly transition, that she was the pragmatic and composed piece of the liquidator puzzle (The fighting Eagle...being neither of those things). But it turns out, no. She is just as slippery as any viper. As soon as she feels behind or out of control she just begins rewriting truth to fit her narrative. I'm sorry but my understanding of management is that if something is wrong, it's your job to catch it. 3 weeks of doing something should have noticed it and corrected it at 3 days. But again, it wasn't wrong then...oh no it what is it? Are you lying or incompetent? Pick one please so we know how to respond. Somehow our store is 2 weeks behind, behind what we still don't know. But whose fault is that? The legion of hard working, ethical, well intentioned and mostly happy booksellers who bust their collective asses every day to help you help us out the door, or you of the thousand directions? You who are the scarecrows third option, going both ways at all times? And you who are, you might have forgotten, in charge. That doesn't mean you just get to tell people what to do, it also means you are responsible for it being done...or not. The second she began forging history i lost the respect i had for her, and worse, I stopped trusting her. She went from being an adversary to being a nemesis. Adversaries play the same game with the same rules, they don't just switch the rules in the middle when they start losing.

We've all encountered this before. But when it's someone who is basically giving you your last rites with an organisation you don't have any compulsion to work through it, no motivation to smooth it over. Every boss you've ever had has done this to you, i'd almost be positive of it. But you need to have a relationship with them, and human relationships are complicated and sometimes very ugly things happen and you just ...get over it...and move on. Because you have to to show up at work the next day and not start kicking the holy shite out of someone. All of us make compromises to be able to be near the people we want to or need to. You can say that becoming a professional should mean that you check your feelings at the door, but it doesn't. If anything it heightens them because this your money! But it's the connections you make to folk who work next to you just trying to pay their bills or raise their children or save up money for a vacation that make work work. And when you take that connection out of the equation you do not have the need to forgive an insult of any magnitude, let alone one where you ostensibly call someone illiterate, incapable, lazy and a liar, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. It's only made more hideous by the fact that the mistake was yours. And now you just lie about it.

There is a lightness to all this dark though. The feeling of being over it, of having taken almost all you can from a job, and just waiting to be cut free is freeing in it's own right. There is now an excitement in me for the end of days. I know I'll still see my co-workers, I'll make the effort, and many of them will too. It's kind of like the end of the breakfast club, detention is over, but Judd Nelson and his weird nostrils still get to fist pump at the end. I feel like, as with all quests, i have entered the darkness and i'll have to come out eventually, as a meta-observer of my own life, I know the darkness clears soon. I mean that , both professionally and personally. A change is coming, i can feel it, and I'm excited for it. The end of this means a new beginning for something. I hope for all of us it's something more positive, but even if it brings hardship, just treading water through this hardship to get to that one is kind of...lame. So lets get it done, already.

If I were capable I'd insert a sports metaphor here, but...I'm not. So instead ...uh...Go team Borders!

Crush the Liquidators!

U-G-L-Y you aint got no alibi, you Ugly! You Ugly.

Nerds rule. Soulless money sucking corporate scavengers drool!Etc.

* this wasn't a type-o, henceforth I refuse to capitalize that persons name. He doesn't deserve the correct case I can't begin to take from him what he took from all of us, but I can take his capital M.


  1. Whew!

    Even though I don't have to deal with all this nonsense nearly as much as you, I too am kind of now eagerly awaiting The End. Every day is either tedious, confusing, frustrating, or depressing, and now that we've been doing this over a month I can't really stomach the idea of ANOTHER whole month, or more. I'm hoping we're three weeks and out.

    Nevertheless, I will volunteer to be there until the end, for some of the reasons you spell out in the torrent of words that was today's post!

  2. When the vacuum almost broke b/c of the tooth picks, lollipop sticks & even cigarette butts on the floor one morning, I basically quit. That and not the bathrooms! I complain about the bathrooms, but they are kinda supposed to be gross. And accidents happen there. But that stuff on the sales floor, that is conscious. That is not having any respect for the people who work there AND the other people shopping/browsing there. I can't keep up. No matter how much I clean, everything still looks a mess. I know the Loris is judging me on this, but I can't bother to care. Other than my co-workers, everything I liked about working at Borders is gone. Today -day 47- I actually had a few people complain about prices at the register. No teacher discount? No Borders Rewards? No, that can't be right, that (hardcover) book should not be $7! Most of the customers I dealt with were fine. But those 3 really pissed me off. Sixty to 80% isn't enough? You aren't poverty stricken! Go to Haiti or rural Kentucky & see how lucky you are! That's what I want to say to them now. As you say, it needs to end.