I’m an artist and writer but still hold down a necessary day job to maintain both financial and mental stability.
This day job is in retail, working in a magical and fantastical shop selling curios and jewellery.
The wonderful fripperies that inhabit my workplace don’t detract from that vital addendum in all retail environments; customers.
As I was being given money for a transaction yesterday (together with a used and slightly damp tissue) I started thinking about my work over the years in sales. This thought process was probably highlighted by the awareness that Christmas is coming, something which is considered by shop workers with the same accompanying emotions that characters in Game of Thrones view the approach of winter.
This will be my 21st Christmas working here. Twenty one years of sleeplessness, mania and close encounters with the seasonal human herd instinct combined with their issues, rage and consumer pressure.
I’m not Christian so Christmas isn’t something I celebrate and usually I arrange to be be flying out of the country for somewhere warmer on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. However even if I did align my spirituality with the traditional Christian calendar I believe that my working in retail for so long would have well and truly destroyed any festive spirit that the celebration brings.
As a career choice, especially for someone so shy, shop work would not seem to be an obvious choice.
However I have a knack for finding things, and viewing them in a different light. I also am a story teller and to many people the purchase of an object is as much about the experience of the object and its story, as the piece itself.
My years of working as a palmist and tarot reader also stand me in good steed. The cold reading that fills in the gaps that divination sometimes cannot give, grants insights into customers lives and needs and ways of relating, and also creates a depth of communication that satisfies my own insatiable curiosity about people.
However all of this becomes redundant at Christmas when individuals secede into a mass and all too often I simply become a bleary adding machine and permanently active automotom.
Christmas is the time of the year when businesses succeed or fail, when memories of Christmas experiences past rule emotions, and when the priorities of religious festivities blur into pressure, obligation, materialism and debt.
There is of course a mysticism and love hidden in this morass but working in a retail environment you rarely see it unless it’s on late night television or during a long distance phone call to an absent loved one when the season becomes an abstraction of unity and hope.
Still, I can thank God that I don’t work in an environment that makes the office party a necessary part of the proceedings. Now they sound absolutely terrifying.