the new kid


-- चार हजार चार सौ तीन --

So yesterday was the first day of training for Kibby's replacement, a rather polished looking young man I was convinced was gay the moment I laid eyes on him. I didn't want to jump to conclusions, though, so I looked him up on Facebook and . . . rainbows galore. I don't think I was so off base there. Also: he was born in 1990. Two days before my own birthday, so nearly to the day, I am 14 years older than he is. And I realized something: he is, today, all of two years older than I was when I first started working here. I found that a little depressing.

Kibby isn't going far, incidentally. She applied for, and got, the open Health and Body Care position in the Category Management sub-department of Merchandising. She's moving, like, two desks away from where she currently sits (where the new guy will take her current place). They'll be working in tandem the next two weeks as he gets trained, and then Kibby officially starts in Category Management, doing for HBC what Kevin currently does for Grocery. I get the majority of new items to enter, and old items to discontinue, from him. Kibby will presumably be having similar communications with the new guy.

So, I have mixed feelings about this. I mean, I'll be totally fine. There's just a minor sense of me being the only one among my peers here who has . . . for lack of a better word, stagnated. I'm not sure I like that word, though; it really has a negative connotation, and honestly, I'm perfectly comfortable with my lack of ambition. There are two primary aspects to that comfort: first, I am very good at what I do, and am more efficient and particularly responsive than most. If I moved on to some other position that was still connected -- the way, say, Kibby's new position is linked to that of the position she's leaving -- I'd probably be frustrated by persistent inefficiencies. Granted, they could hire someone even more efficient than I am. Such people do exist. But with all due humility -- they are rare. And second, as I actually told Alicia on one of our recent "loop walks" through Myrtle Edwards Park, I have zero desire to put myself deliberately in a far more stressful position with a greater amount of responsibility, just for the sake of position and a fatter paycheck. (I know nothing about to what degree Kibby's salary is being changed, if much at all, so I'm not making any particular insinuations or suggestions there.)

Although I would never have any desire to turn back time and re-live my past, I do occasionally get nostalgic about the "good old days" when Kibby, Shauna and I sat three cubicles in a row, the "Merchandising Asses" (Merchandising Assistants), with a real feeling of being a team in our own right. Over time we sort of scattered to the wind, first with Shauna, who left a long time ago now -- after clashing with Jennifer, she quit in 2008, and has had a few jobs since in different companies' accounting departments, very happy in the one she's in now. Jared, Shauna's eventual replacement, is the Meat Merchandiser now. Not even his replacement, Erica, is here anymore; she and her family moved to San Diego about a month ago.

I guess Jared had two replacements, kind of. He used to work support for Deli, Meat and Produce departments; now there's Patrick for Prepared Foods and Ellen for Fresh Department. Ellen was Erica's direct replacement; Patrick has been around a year or two. In any case, all three of them -- Patrick, Ellen, Steven -- are super new in their positions compared to me in mine. Shauna is long gone; Jared ascended to Merchandiser some time ago; Kibby's imminent move is perhaps comparatively lateral but probably still considered a step up. If nothing else, she was ready for something different, after 16 years.

So after the next two weeks, I'll be the last one still working the same position at basically the same level, at least in my department, fo so very long. Sixteen years. Now, it's certainly true that I have taken far more responsibility over time, and my position has evolved -- the way it exists now, I would never have gotten this job if I were in the same position and had so little experience now, as I did when applying for it in 2002. Just the company's much tighter corporate structure would have seriously worked against me. What I have going for me now is the longevity itself, a longstanding record and reputation of efficiency and reliability. Brokers are constantly saying how much they love me, and I still get at least semi-regularly complimented by superiors at work.

Often that happens unnecessarily, in fact. It did just yesterday. Kibby, Steven and I were asked to attend the first ten minutes of the Merchandising Meeting because they would be discussing how the batching of clearance items works and, as Justine (Center Store Director) put it, "You guys are the experts." Once the topic was finished, Justine told us, "It's up to you" as to whether we wanted to stay for the whole meeting -- and we all got up to leave. But then Justine stopped us and said, "Wait!" She realized she should introduce Steven to everyone. "Welcome Steven!" she said, and there was applause. And Justine added, "And congratulations to Kibby, who is moving to Category Mamagement!" Another round of applause.

These things had literally nothing to do with me so I honestly did not think twice about it, and even took a few steps back to allow the focus to be on them. But then, I guess lest I feel left out (I did not), Justine said, "And Matthew too! Thank you for all you do!" Yet another round of applause. Appreciated, but wholly unnecessary. Honestly it feels slightly like there is an "everybody is special!" quality to the proceedings when something like that happens. I'm happy to be applauded, and I even think there are plenty reasons for me to be, but I do think it should be reserved for when I have actually accomplished something. Simply having done my job for sixteen years doesn't strike me as that impressive an achievement.

On the upside, moments like that do keep me feeling the longstanding sense I have had here of job security. Another thing I discussed with Alicia recently is that I quite likely would have a far different job here by now if not for one thing: my refusal to get a car of my own. I will never forget, and actually will always appreciate, when the position Noah now occupies (Associate Center Store Merchandiser) opened up, and Scott asked if I wanted to apply for it. My immediate response was, "Would I have to get a car?" He said, "Probably." No thanks!

I have gotten out of so many things I didn't want to do by not having a car. Need Thanksgiving turkeys transferred between stores? Sorry, can't help you!

Anyway, back to the new kid. And how young he is. I suppose 14 years isn't that huge a difference. Although he's currently interacting far more with Kibby, he and I will probably interact a fair amount more as time goes on -- especially given that he's basically doing the same job I do, just in a different department. Also, I do go back to Ellen, Erica's replacement. I don't know exactly how old Erica is, but she did just have a baby a couple of years ago, so she's probably a bit younger than I am -- just not nearly by as wide a margin. Ellen is almost certainly older than I am. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say she's in her fifties. And she's also doing the same job I am doing, having come from working on staff at one of the stores. So it's not like I have any reason to feel like I'm the geezer wasting away over here. (Not to suggest that Ellen is either, for the record!) I just have some minor food for thought, considering my unchanged position over 16 years, is all.

My official title has changed three times, at least:

Merchandising Assistant (2002 - 2008; 6 years)
Merchandising Specialist (2008 - 2012; 4 years)
Assistant Merchandiser (2012 - 2016; 4 years)
Center Store Support Specialist (2016 - present; 2 years)

For the record, that current title is by far the dumbest and most pointless. It tells you exactly nothing about what I do. I guess if I wanted my title to convey what I actually do for a living, it would more accurately be called "Pricing Maintenance Specialist." Because that's the phrase I finally settled on a while ago, to tell people what I do for a living: I do pricing maintenance, for a local chain of co-op grocery stores.

-- चार हजार चार सौ तीन --


-- चार हजार चार सौ तीन --

Last night I went to a free library screening of the 2014 (though I saw it in January 2015) film about an Iranian vampire, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. I gave it a solid B at the time I wrote my review, and I think I stand by that -- Shobhit would have been bored out of his mind. But, it was still a bit more interesting to see a second time, without the burden of trying to decide exactly how much I liked it. Now I could focus more on its cultural context, what kinds of things the director was trying to say about gender dynamics in Muslim culture. I won't pretend I know much about it in exactly academic detail, but I did feel like I got a better feel for it upon second viewing.

It was also interesting to see it in this context, a free screening for the community at the downtown Central Library. After biking home, I had a quick dinner and then walked about 25 minutes to the library, as I read the last of my current library book -- which I read the last two pages or so of after the movie and then was already at a library to return it (two days before it was due back!). The auditorium was far from full, but it must have had somewhere between a third and half of its capacity. The crowd there was notably diverse, in both ethnicity and age.

I also learned that they just played it streaming from the app you can get yourself as a library card holder, for something called Kanopy. This means everything they show in these movie series, you can just as easily watch at home. The difference is that it’s a community event, seen with other people, and more importantly, projected onto a wall screen in a theatre space. I may go back at the end of the month for the third in their four weekly vampire movies for the month of October, the mockumentary What We Do In the Shadows -- another one I think I'll like better with a second viewing and no obligation to write a review.

-- चार हजार चार सौ तीन --

I just got back from lunch with Karen at the Six-Seven Restaurant at the Edgewater Hotel, that being the reason I'm posting later than usual today. It's been a little while since this was possible, but since I am back to cycling to work and back this week, I was able to ride my bike over there.

Much of it was the same as usual: we split the vegetable gyro sandwich; we chatted about all sorts of things. The one detail that stands out today, actually, has to do with how routine our lunches there have become: I was first to arrive, and when I walked up to the hostess counter, the young woman just took one look at me and said, "You're the first to arrive." She then grabbed the requisite two menus, led me over to our table, and already knew to pull one of the chairs aside so Karen could pull up to the table in her wheelchair.

Oh! But also the other thing: the first thing Karen said when she arrived was, "Boy do I have a small-world story to tell you!" And her getting inside had been delayed a few minutes because, just as she was getting out of her van after finding street parking, this couple walking past stopped and the woman said to her, "I met you! In Scotland!" When Karen, Dave and Anita were vacationing in Scotland earlier this year, this couple from Houston were checking out of the same hotel they were staying at. Apparently they had lived in the area sometime in the past and were visiting again, but they had mentioned their daughter moved to Seattle. Said daughter works at the World Trade Center here in Seattle, which is right across the street from the Edgewater Hotel -- which they were checking out of today. That was a pretty incredibly coincidence, a great story, and I guess Karen gave them her card and told her to call her the next time they're in town and they can get coffee or something.

And on that note, I'm going to get back to work.

-- चार हजार चार सौ तीन --


[posted 1:27 pm]