A Christmas Void, Chapter 3- Millstone’s

It didn’t take long to find work. As soon as I got internet set up in my new place, I applied for jobs everywhere in town. I only got a few interviews thought which went nowhere fast. If anyone else had offered me work, I would have taken it. I was so desperate to earn money again that I would have gone anywhere. I was running out of money, and even though I wanted a career type of job, I had bills to pay. I didn’t have a choice- I couldn’t hold out for a more glamorous job. There was one place that needed a lot of help for the holiday season, and in a small town like this, they didn’t have a lot of options in terms of who got to hire. In mutual desperation, I took a job offered to me by Millstone’s.

I never cared much for Millstone’s before, and, quite frankly, I never understood why other people were so obsessed with it. A department store with name brand merchandise doesn’t have much originality. All of their competition had similar boasts of low prices, but the prices of the merchandise all seemed the same to me. I think the only real difference with Millstone’s was their loyalty program. For every fifty dollars someone spent there, they got a ten dollar gift card (which they called Sawbucks) back to them. Also, every purchase earned them points, which they could trade in for more Sawbucks. I could see why people thought their rewards would earn them extra discounts, but I’ve always found that I saved more money by shopping somewhere else. As silly as their idea seemed to me and however little I shopped there, I was still willing to cater to their elite customers so I could finally earn a paycheck.

If I had thought more clearly, I would have turned away from them just based on my first encounter. I pushed past my instinctual warnings, thinking my nerves were just getting in the way, but I never should have given them a chance! I don’t think most people would have, but did I mention I was desperate? I walked up to a cashier, a decently good-looking guy who sort of resembled Peter Parker with Clark Kent’s glasses, and I waited for him to finish with his current customer. It didn’t occur to me then that their nearly silent exchange was sort of odd, I just concentrated on maintaining a perky demeanor in order create a positive first impression. When he finished with the customer, he listlessly inquired, “How can I help you?”

“I’m here for an interview!” I chirped.

As if I were wasting his time, he barked, “Go to customer service!” When I looked confused, he begrudgingly explained, “Just follow the aisle behind the cash registers and turn right. It’s all the way in the back.”

“Thank you,” I replied hesitantly. He ignored me and quietly attended to the next person in line. I found our interaction strange, but I figured that maybe he was the exception instead of the rule and followed his directions.

The line at the customer service desk was long, but I wasn’t there for a return. Still, I felt a bunch of stink eyes on me as I ignored the queue and went straight to the lady at the counter. She reminded me of a basketball that got overly inflated since she was very round and her clothes were so tight they almost looked like they were painted on. Her already narrow eyes looked even more narrow with her abnormally heavy use of eyeliner, and her pulled back hair fell out of its clip as her eyes furrowed on the computer screen. Since she didn’t have a customer in front of her, I politely got her attention, “Excuse me, I have an interview at eleven.”

“Then someone’ll get you at eleven!” she snapped.

Feeling a little hurt, I moved to the side and waited. I stood by the water fountain, which stood between the bathrooms. I got in people’s way a couple of times, but I chose that spot because it stood directly across from a door that read “Employees only” and I figured my interviewer would come out from there. Ten minutes went by, and that door didn’t budge. I watched the clock reach eleven, and I steeled myself up, ready to do this interview. After a few minutes of no activity, my anticipation began to wane. I decided to give them a little time since I was once the person who did all the interviews and often ran over time on my appointments. Once it turned to ten after eleven, my patience wore out. They didn’t seem very professional, and if they really wanted me, they would have came by then. If I had just walked away at that moment, our story would have ended there… The line at the customer service desk ebbed, and the lady working at the counter cheerily inquired, “May I help you dear?”

I stopped in my tracks because of the oddity of her change in attitude. Did she forget our previous interaction? I reported, “Well, I had an interview at eleven, so-.”

“I’m sorry!” she apologized. “It’s been so hectic since we’re so shorthanded. I normally do the interviewing and scheduling, but I’m stuck behind the desk today, so I’ll find someone to interview you.”

“Okay,” I agreed. I decided to feel sorry for them and their situation. I thought that if they were this bad off, maybe they were desperate and would hire me quickly, so perhaps it was worth giving them a second chance.

After a few minutes, a beautiful dark skinned girl came out of that door I had been watching. Her strong jawline gave her the air of authority, but he bright red capris and skin-tight black shirt seemed too casual for someone to be giving me interviews. To my surprise, she asked, “Tiffany?” I nodded. “Come on back!”

I followed her past two empty yet messy desks to a meeting room. An empty table with plastic chairs took up the majority of the space, but they squeezed a couple of computers at the back of the room. The side opposite of the computers had a whiteboard with sales codes written on it, and the lady immediately erased everything and pulled up a chair for me. “Have a seat,” she invited. I complied and waited expectantly. She sat down and breathed, “Okay!” She looked around the room in confusion. “Where’s everyone else?”

I had no idea they expected anyone else! Based on how they treated me, I didn’t think they expected even one person to actually show up! “I was out there for almost twenty minutes and I didn’t see anyone.”

With a frazzled expression, she noted, “We usually do group interviews. Why did they only schedule one person?”

I shrugged. “After I filled out my application, I got an email inviting me to pick a time and day to come in for an interview. I picked today at eleven, and I guess no one else did.”

“Hmm, weird.” She sighed, “Oh well! Okay, well, tell me about yourself.”

“Well,” I began, “ I grew up here in Dasher Lake, but for the last two and a half years, I managed a sales division of-.”

“You did sales?” she interrupted. “You must have been good at it to become manager.”

“I was!” I obviously wanted to highlight the glory days of that job and hoped that the turmoil at the end of it all wouldn’t come up. “I even won an award at a regional sales conference last year!”

“Wow!” Her eyes sparkled, signaling she saw an opportune possibility. “So, part of the job of a cashier is to sell our credit cards, which we call Pine Passes. A lot of cashiers left because they could enroll people for our rewards program, Pine Points, but they fell short on Pine Passes. I bet you’d be good at selling Pine Passes!”

I enjoyed the buying signs of Millstone’s hiring me that I ignored the red flag of a bunch of people left the company, so I boasted, “I can sell anything!”

“Great!” she chimed. “What’s your availability like?”

I replied, “Open to close.” A little piece of advice, if you’re applying to retail, always write down the actual store hours. I always thought open to close shielded me from any overnight shifts, but I didn’t count on the store hours changing for the holidays…

“Good!” She told me, “We need cashiers who have open availability.” I made a confused face, so she asked, “What?”

“Well,” I said cautiously, not wanting to blow my chances of getting hired, “I applied for full time shoe sales.”

“Really?” Now she looked confused. “We don’t even have sales people on the sales floor! I wonder why… Oh well, we’re hiring part time cashiers right now. Is that okay?”

“Yes,” I lied. I could afford my expenses on part time, but I preferred a full time job so I could save up more money for the future. Plus, the furniture in my living room needed to be replaced badly! Still, full time jobs were rare in Dasher Lake, so I didn’t think I had much of a choice.

“Awesome!” she responded, obviously not catching on to my lack of honesty. “I’m going to give you positive feedback to the hiring manager. You should hear from us in a few days!”

She extended her hand, and I shook it. As she led me out, I took note of how utterly short the interview went, which added to my theory about their desperation. As I walked through the store, I felt reasonably confident that they had a dire need for cashiers, and she planned on giving me a good review, so I felt pretty sure that I had just gotten the job. So, why didn’t I feel more excited? Maybe because this wasn’t my plan A; it wasn’t even my plan B or C, more like plan triple Z. I also wondered if it was a foreboding feeling of my time there, but I actually felt more depressed that I pretty much already had the job. I kept telling myself that I just had bad experiences in the past that gave me low expectations of the future. Despite that logic, I still debated whether or not I should turn down the job offer and keep trying for a more promising opportunity. Something told me that though this job would turn out to be emotionally devastating, it was something that I had to go through. I decided to go with my gut and would take the job if it got formally offered to me, but I wish I knew why and hated just how cryptic fate can be sometimes!

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