Thursday, June 2, 2011

Adapt or Die: Back in the Saddle Part 1


I’ve been retired for ten years now but recently took a job at a local department store. 
When the man said life goes in circles, I thought he meant incontinence, not working for minimum wage again.

My first part-time job was at W.T. Grants. When I interviewed for my current job, the twenty-something assistant manager said, “Never heard of it.” Not surprising since it went out of business in 1975 (circa), long before some of my co-workers were born. 

Resources say that W.T. Grant went out of business because they couldn’t adapt to the changing retail industry or compete with Kresge Corporation’s institutional K-marts. Although W.T. Grant tried building larger stores called Grant City, these stores were more individualized rather than the cookie-cutter shopping experience afforded at a local K-mart—a new trend in the early 1970’s gaining explosive popularity.  
I guess, even businesses must adapt or die.

I worry that I may become like that ill-fated department chain, insistent on doing things to my comfort level rather than allowing my mental and physical capabilities to be stretched. When I worked at Grants, the job required math skills as well as dexterity. Every item had a price tag on it. You entered the price and hit total on the machine. There were no credit cards, debits, or swipe cards. Some customers managed a store credit that had to be checked via a notebook complete with customer name and address. For all other sales, the customer gave you currency. Most often, you had to compute how much change to give back to the customer. Office staff handed you a precisely cashed drawer to bring to the register. When your shift ended, you cashed out and brought your drawer back to the office. If your drawer was short, so was your paycheck.

Today's computerized system with its bleeps and burps and sassafras manner of directing the employee rather than the employee using the machine as a tool, wore on my nerves. Within the first hour of the first day on the job, I was ready to turn on my heels, go to the manager and say, “Thank you for hiring me. It was a fun hour. Goodbye.”

“I’m out of here,” I said and turned.

A woman my age, my trainer, calmly scolded me. “No. You’re not. You can do this. It took me a month to learn. Just read the top of the register.”

Encouraged, I made the conscious decision to adapt.

I can honestly say, I’m actually enjoying my job…most days.

Businesses had changed since the days of W.T. Grant. And so have I. And perhaps the great circle of life is letting go of the old and embracing the new. There is a sense of satisfaction when something hard to learn becomes a part of you. I think of the seasons of my life where that has been true. Once I could only print. Then I learned to write. Once I had no children, then I had three.

No matter what season of life we are in, our survival depends upon the ability to adapt—whether it’s learning to use a computerized cash register or tipping wait staff at twenty percent. (Back in the Day it was only ten percent—that’s another column for another day). 


1 comment:

Sheila said...

Enjoyed this! Hope your back can hold up! :)