Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 195- Store 3022

Today sort of felt like the last day of high school.  I cleaned out my locker.  I discussed my future plans and the next step in my life with all kinds of people.  I said so long for now to a lot of friends who have been important to me over the past few years.  We promised to stay in touch, and I sincerely hope that some of them really mean it.  Inevitably, I will lose touch with many friends, but I will look back on this time and these people with great fondness.

No, clearly this was not my last day of high school, but it was the end of an era.  I had my last shift ever at the Home Depot.  This was just supposed to be a silly little job while I was back in school.  Yet, on my first day, I was anxious because everyone at the store seemed to have known each other forever.  I was worried that I would never fit in and be a part of it all.  However, after a few lunch break conversations and some friendly (most the time) in house Big Ten rivalries, I was folded into the family.  I proved myself by working my buns off (literally, at times), always wearing a smile, demonstrating my knowledge of college football, and coming to work prepared with jokes.

I also participated in "extracurriculars."  Working in the garden department was really like a sport.  Last summer, Tom decided that he walked a ton at work and bought a pedometer to track his mileage.  Of course this became a contest between us (whether he knew it or not), and I made him get me one too.  It turns out that I was walking over five miles a day and actually building some muscles.  For those of you keeping score, I was also winning our little contest.  The job became a great way in the summer to lose my winter hibernation cushion.  I lifted all kids of things- boxes, bags of mulch, soil, retaining wall blocks, Christmas trees, climbed up and down ladders, walked briskly all over the store, and much more.  I was also lucky enough to get to go out into the community with Team Depot to work on a service project.  I was impressed over and over again by the generosity and kindness of my coworkers in the community and in our own little community.

This job also gave me many opportunities to test myself and to prove myself.  There were a number of occasions where customers assumed that I couldn't possibly know anything about lawn care or landscaping or power tools, and this only encouraged me to learn more and more in order to prove them wrong.  Every time I got a "Oh, no, sweetheart... I have a question about mowers.  Is there a mower guy around," I would put my head down, learn whatever I did not know, and do the work.  I learned not to let anyone sweetheart me out of anything.  Just because I know everything there is to know about bras does not mean that I don't also know everything there is to know about fertilizer or mower spark plugs.  Beyond that, I thoroughly enjoyed surprising people with how much I could lift, how hard I could work, how much I could endure, and how I could be pleasant and upbeat while doing it all.  I really did enjoy going into work.

The customers made it enjoyable for me too.  I especially enjoyed helping other women feel empowered to take on their home improvement the way I was trying to tackle mine.  If I could help a widow or a single woman or a divorcee get into her DIY groove, it was a good day.  I loved the old men who would come in just to wander and stop for a good chat.  I adored the middle- aged guy who came in every Friday when he got off of work to window shop, and I was so pleased for him when he finally bought that zero turn tractor he had saved for and wanted for so long.  I don't make commission, so it had nothing to do with the sale.  Rather, I saw him realizing his dream, and I got to be a tiny part of it.  I had a customer offer to make me a mixed tape and another offer to help me find Jesus (which I have already done, but thanks).  I sold a bunch of grills and was subsequently (fake) invited to barbecues all over town.  I shook hands and kissed babies and turned down offers to replace my husband.  If nothing else, I always came home with a good story.

There was no yearbook for everyone to sign today, but Home Depot does have a nice goodbye tradition.  In lieu of a card, all of the employees sign an apron with messages for their departing comrade as a keepsake.  I was hoping that I had been around long enough to warrant one of these myself, and I was not let down.  Although I have not received my apron yet (due to a remodeling of the break room and some disorganization- classic), there is an apron full of messages floating around the store somewhere that I will get as soon as they find it.  I know this because over the past few days, I have been approached by coworkers who were excited to share their messages and best wishes with me in person.  I am so touched by their genuine excitement for me, their hugs, and their kind words.  I am such an imperfect person, but their love and respect help me to believe that I must be doing something right.

I didn't shed any tears as I drove away today.  This was probably partly due to the fact that I was just too tired, as I had been at the store since 5 am.  More than that, this signifies the beginning of a new era where I will finally get to do exactly what I have been working so hard for all these years.  I am reminded one more time of high school as I think of one of my favorite cheesy Dr. Seuss quotes. 

"Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened."

Thank you, store 3022, you made my day.

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