Sunday, February 03, 2008

Since we’re on the topic of old jobs

The summer before my sophomore year of college, I worked in a Bible warehouse. I initially applied because it was fulltime. There weren’t many jobs in my area and there were even fewer that promised 40 hours a week. And of course, I love my Bible so working in a Bible warehouse had to be okay.

The dress code was casual. Denim shorts, a t-shirt and a good pair of Nikes were my standard apparel. It was a warehouse so I didn’t spend a lot of time making myself look presentable because there would be no presenting of any kind whatsoever. There was a clock wherein we would punch in and out. Every morning there was a line and at precisely 7:58 a.m. people would begin punching in. After I swiped my card through the machine, I would turn to pick up a bundle of orders. Each order contained a reference location and I would take my shopping cart, find said location, pick up the requested quantity and make my way over to the packing stations where I would unload the filled orders. Easy enough, yes. Nothing complicated about this job. That is probably the only nice thing I can say about my summer at the Bible warehouse.

I don’t know precisely when I started hating that place so much. But I began to loathe it so ferociously I would actually be physically sick every morning. There was not a single thing I looked forward to and finding motivation to get out of bed was extremely challenging. I forced myself to go and put in my time. I gave nothing extra because extra was never noticed. I did my job but left my personality, my sense of humor, my positive attitude at home. I was nearly fired (the only time that has ever happened to me) because I was sick one day and did not get a note from my doctor. I didn’t realize we were supposed to go see our doctor every time we got sick. “Do it again, and you’re fired,” my boss said. I’m sure I stared at her with a shocked expression on my face. I’m sure at that moment I half hoped she would just do it already so I could leave and never come back. But she didn’t. And I continued to force myself to keep going. I hate failing and I won’t give up and this became the only reason to not scream at her and quit.

One day, the power went out for no apparent reason. We sat around for about 30 minutes waiting for the power to come back on. It didn’t. The boss reluctantly told us we might as well go home and we collected our things and began the long walk through the warehouse to the parking lot. About halfway to the door, the lights began to flicker. Now, I was a sprinter in high school and I’m quite certain I never ran as fast in any of my trackmeets as I did that day. I ran as though my life depended on it. I raced to my car, slammed the door, started it up and drove away before anyone could come after me. I hated it that much.

In fact, I prayed every night that God would allow it to burn to the ground. I’m sure that’s just about the worst thing you can imagine - praying that a shed full of Bibles will burn to the ground, but I did it. I begged him to somehow make it go away.

It ended as all summer jobs do. At the end of my last day I swiped my card through the clock, picked up my stuff, and walked away with a huge smile on my face. I was done. Never going back.

It was the worst working experience of my life because it was the worst people experience of my life. I was surrounded by people with whom I had absolutely nothing in common. I was managed by people who clearly hated their work as much as I hated mine. I was only ever criticized and never encouraged. I was completely and utterly replaceable to them - I had no value. I wasn’t able to use any of my skills or talents. Conversations were almost nonexistent, certainly not condoned. I had no friends there. My efforts to make new friends weren’t reciprocated. It was misery.

I’ve never forgotten that warehouse. Years later it closed (no I didn’t set it on fire) and all of the miserable people I worked with moved on, hopefully to much more satisfying and enjoyable occupations. It had so much potential. I can think of so many ways they could have made it bearable, even fun. It makes me realize just how blessed I am to work somewhere that I love, doing things I enjoy, talking to people I actually like, and working with people that resemble friends and family more than they do coworkers. I spend 3 days a week with them and I can honestly say I would miss them if I weren’t able to come here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Also, we have Bibles here, and we actually read them. That helps.