Not In Kansas Anymore...

Click your heels, and see if home is where you hang your hat, or somewhere else inside yourself as this simple, postmodern girl takes on L.A.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I want your opinion. I really do.


I am SO pissed. Pissed enough to complain to TWO managers this evening, because yet again, I was stuck in the Hell That is the Kids Section. Why?

Because I'm a girl.

Yes, you read right.

See, whenever I close, and there isn't another female on the floor, I get stuck in Kids. Mind you, there's usually THREE other males who are non-threatening and friendly enough to be back there, but no, I get assigned there. This after TELLING my scheduling manager REPEATEDLY how much I loathe it.

I mean, NO ONE likes working back there, except for 2 of the girls, and they mostly work during the day. But we all do our time, because it's one of those things you do because you can't get what you want ALL the time, right? Right. (That's my attitude, anyway, unless I'm sick or have PMS cramps or something, whereupon I become a huge slacker/whiner. And I feel justified, I might add, in doing so, because I showed up, dammit!) When I complained to my scheduling mgr., I just said, "Listen, I know you do what you have to do, and I'm going to do what's asked of me, but I REALLY hate it back there. I'm just saying." And I left it at that, figuring that a.) he might take it to heart that with so many other employees capable of filling the post, that it's best to put someone there who at least tolerates it better or even appreciates it from time to time versus someone who said what I did, and b.) I didn't want to be seen as not wanting to help, or like I would bitch and moan each time I was asked to do something hard.

Untill tonight.

For the last week I've been in Kids EVERY NIGHT I've closed. Meanwhile, there are anywhere from 2-3 men on the floor in the main bookstore each time. They're NEVER asked to go back there. NEVER. Not that I've seen. They don't even cover it if I'm on a break ( to be fair, it's in a seperate section of the store, so they really couldn't even if they made the effort, unless it was policy) so the kids are back there, wreaking havoc til I return.

So tonight I went to the two managers on duty--both female-- and I said, "I'm going to say this, and I'm going to say it clearly: this is unfair and sexist. Every time you don't have some other girl on the schedule, I'm sent to cover Kids. I am willing to do what my job requires, and we all have to do what we don't like doing, am I right? And part of that, no matter what, means occasionally covering Kids, which as we well know is not a popular spot. I personally HATE Kids. I've expressed that repeatedly. And I wouldn't say anything else otherwise, but as this is a repeating trend with me, and you NEVER have a male back there EVER, even when there are plenty of people avaliable on the schedule to take up their fair share of Served Time, I feel the need to speak up. That's wrong, and I'm offended and pissed. I do not like it assumed that just because I have a set of ovaries I am going to be any better at it -- or come around to liking it more--than anyone else. "

To which they both responded, "That's not true. Brent ( this guy who's on duty maybe three times a month!) has covered it. " When I didn't find that sufficient, one of the managers said, "We get this complaint all the time." ( To which I responded, "Well, it's notable, then.") The other manager said I needed to talk to Mal ( who happens to be the scheduling manager-- and I told her what he told me, which was, "Some parents aren't comfortable with that." She replied, "That's bullshit.") -- and then informed me they were in the process of hiring a person who would cover Kids exclusively in the evenings because this person requested to be put there. That better be true....

And if it is true, whaddya bet she's female? I agree that while it looks odd that a man would come in looking for a job at a bookstore solely in the Kids section, why is it assumed okay that a woman would? Women are never sexual predators? Men are less capable of play and figuring out where things are? WHAT?

And just to clear up the obvious question, just in case there is a valid gender bias here ( are child predators more often male? Perhaps so-- I'd have to look that up, but even if I did, would it matter? That's the image given in the media, and parents are probably more apt to suspect it thusly, I'd wager) : Are the parents with their children? Yes, I would say that 85% of the time the parent is physically present-- physically being the operative word. They often go to a bench and read a magazine and let their kid run rampant. Or let an older sibling "watch" the kid, or have them with a peer group, mean age being around 10 ( 10%). About only 5% of the time the kid is just unattended. Which begs another question: if you're really not paying attention, what difference does it make if there's a male or a female ( predator or not) there? If I were to throw another pecentage out- that being about 50-60% - and say that THAT is the percentage of parents actually involved with their kid while they're in the section or are aware of where they are ( I can honestly say I've had parents come up to me saying "I'm looking for my son/daughter" or yell their name out at the front of the section ), would that make a difference in your opinion? I know that's awful, to ask such questions, and child predators are no joke. I don'tmean it as such. But if we're going on certain cultural biases and parents' comfort levels here, they need to be pondered. Thoroughly, I'd say.

And yes, just in case I sound like either an unlikable mean-old cat-lady type, or a "she just doesn't know their charms because she doesn't have any kids" bachelorette, I like children, and I love some of them to bits ( for the record, they usually like, if not love, me, too. )

But with ALL children, regardless of my relationship with them, I want their parents to properly watch them and make sure they're behaving ( I find few behaviors can be solely attributed to the child; parenting is really the lynchpin beyond temperment, age, etc. in a normal child). I know I can't expect perfection-- and I know I've complained about it a tad unrealistically when I've worked in retail before. I've learned since then from my many, many friends with kids that a.) sometimes, there's just invisible Brat Juice in the air when you hit the store and normal kids turn into squalling snots incapable of being behaved, even with the most attentive parent, and b.) that people in CA just DON'T really think that disciplining their kids is very important, it's more important that they "express themselves" and/or the cultural melting pot that is LA is full of different culture-dependent parenting styles ( this from careful observation and comparison with friends who are raising kids here and friends who are raising kids who don't.).
So I don't expect perfection.... I really don't. I've learned to tone my expectations way down. But I've literally chased after kids yanking books off the shelves untill I can stand it no more, and then finally said to the parent, "I'm sorry. I can't have her/him do that." And in situations where apparently, bedtimes are not enforced on the weekends? I understand stretching it a little, but I literally have had to chase a parent/kid combo out of the section after my MOD ( manager-on-duty) had given the "Thanks for shopping Big Bookseller. We are now closed" Last Call at 11pm.

Tonight, it was so busy, and so ridiculous, that I lost it on a child: she was maybe 4, and with her sister, who was 11 at best. The sister was taunting her with a book she wanted, a replica of one she was looking at--one that she had picked up at the front of the store and was entirely full of little tabs to rip out, as it was a flip book of presidents' faces-- and the 4 year old was screaming bloody murder ( can't neccessarily blame her for screaming; nor the 11 yr old for expressing her irritation at watching her little sister unattended in that way) . I went over to the two, and above the din, loudly said, ( a little too urgently and harshly) "Hold it! Hold it! Hold it! Calm down!!" They both looked at me immediately and shut up. I then ( more calmly) said, "Stop. And please be mindful not to rip out the pages."

After that I called my MOD ( Ms. "We Get That All The Time") on her employee phone and said, "I need 5 minutes. I am going to snap. I just got harsh with a kid and that's not cool." ( She was unthrilled, I think, but I took exactly 5 and went to the back and breathed, and was okay.) I mean, I MEANT what I said the first 4 times I said it: I don't like working back there! I don't like it for a reason! One of them is because I'm not entirely complicit with situations where there isn't a parent around doing what they should/being a babysitter for 7 hours ( not the job I signed on for, and not a job required in any other part of the store) and another is because I get overstimulated by that kind of chaos ( of screaming and such, not retail itself). Add the two are TOGETHER like that? I will certainly lose it, as I did. And yet, because I'm a woman, I'm more prepared for this??

So you tell me: is it really a huge deal that a woman only work in this section? Would you yourself feel uncomfortable with a male in that section, as long as he was friendly, helpful and very clearly just going about his job, shelving things? I really want to know, so if you have an opinion, and want to email me about it, don't hold back because I obviously have a pre-formed bias. I'm asking because maybe I'm missing something here.

Ugh. I close tomorrow. If I'm in Kids then, I don't know what I'm going to say. I'm probably going to insist on some scheduled times where I'm allowed to leave my isolated post and work up front with the Big People just so I can ensure a repeat doesn't ensue. Miss "We Get That All The Time" is working with me, I think; if not, you can bet that Mal or someone else will have heard ALL about it. That's fine- it's her job to say something, just like it's Miss "That's Bullshit"'s job to say something as well. I just hope I don't get in trouble.

ARGh. **&#!!&!!!