cimorene: (gr arg)
So, when you print a pricetag at the Red Cross thrift store where I work, you have to navigate a hierarchical tree using arrows and Enter. An example would be "Apparel>Women's Clothing>Undergarments" or "Apparel>Accessories>Children's". Now the department is in the barcode, and the store/chain know what was sold, how long it was on the shelf first, what it cost, etc, and they use this to produce statistics.

And as a result of this, the cash registers can be programmed to automatically discount a whole department, like Women's Clothing or Furniture or Sport, all at once. This is useful for promotions like "ALL CLOTHING -50% THIS WEEK ONLY" - nothing for the cashier to do. (In contrast, with something like Buy Two X, Get the Cheaper ½ Off, the cashier has to check which it is and click 'Discount'.)

Well, this week, my department, Accessories, is on sale. The problem is, my department doesn't have a department in the store like the others. Socks, undergarments, and pajamas are in their respective clothing departments. Hats are there and also in sports. Scarves are in 4 different displays. Jewelry, wallets and sunglasses are in 3 displays unless they're designer or for special occasions. Swimsuits everyone just forgets about until the season. And most of the cashiers can't pass a test on whether all these items are part of the Accessories department or not.

Unfortunately, they need to know, because some (undergarments and swimwear) are officially categorized as clothing instead on the tag according to edicts from the chain level. So these have to be individually discounted anyway (and why not just leave them off the sale? Nobody asked me, that's why). BONUS: we just discovered my coworker in Accessories has been mistagging everything, up to and including jewelry, as clothing.

So that's hundreds of mistagged tiny items scattered throughout the store for the cashiers to (a) identify as accessories and (b) remember to check to make sure the discount rings up and individually discount it if not. Being a cashier here doesn't have any educational or experience prereqs, but it certainly requires certain abilities.

For bonus stress, I'm a cashier as well, and all week when I was at the register it meant I wasn't putting out stuff for the sale.
cimorene: (is this thing on?)
Two separate coworkers to whom I came out in conversation in the last month at the Red Cross have subsequently, the next day, gone out of their way to be nice to me. My theory is that this is a socially competent person's gesture to show they're not homophobic and regret the awkwardness.

I posted about them both on Tumblr at the time:

  1. A 40s/50s mideastern immigrant, one of those guys who's friendly to literally every human being he ever encounters and makes friends in the space of 5-10 seconds and basically everyone describes him as 'a good guy' stopped me when I said "My wife -"

    with "Wife? Really? WIFE?" and then stared at me in confusion for a while, unsure if I said 'wife' on purpose or due to error, and ultimately asked me, but not without apologizing first, "Your wife... a man?"

    "No, my wife is a woman," I said cheerfully, and then he apologized again and said "Good, good!"

    The next day he came to find me in the morning and opened with "I just wanted to talk to you for a bit," and we exchanged extra-polite and extra-bonhomous smalltalk for 5 minutes or so.


  2. A few days later, speaking English with a Finnish young man who is addicted to gaming and attributes his English skills to that, I dropped a casual "My wife" again.

    "You have a wife? You have a WIFE! Nice! That explains a lot actually!" he said.

    I think he was a little surprised that this reaction made me dissolve in laughter. "Explains what?" I said, and he gave an up-and-down gesture at my entire person, finishing with a flourish at my head. "My hair?" I said, laughing even harder.

    The next day he popped out of nowhere when I was working at my station and not on break or anything, asked if I was allergic to chocolate (no), then handed me a candybar with, "Do you want this? It's 'on me'" (with audible ironic quotes, haha), and then breezed away again while I called after him, "Thanks!"


A few thoughts about this.

In the first place, it's quite effective. As funny as these moments were at the time - nice but funny! - of course both dudes have correctly divined that you do always have a little bit of that worry when you have to come out, no matter how many times you've done it, or how friendly the person otherwise seemed. So it's a good socially adept solution, and indirect even if it is fairly obvious.

Secondly, the frequency with which these coming-out conversations hit that awkward note. Mostly one can put this down to heteronormativity and heteronormative assumptions, probably. In the second case, I guess my presentation is slightly butcher than I realized, maybe? Not that that offends me. I've had plenty of coming-out conversations, including in Finnish, including ones with casually dropping 'my wife' in conversation like the above, that have gone smoothly, or completely without comment. Those are usually with women, though, maybe?

And finally, I could stand to receive more "Sorry-If-I-Kinda-Flubbed-Your-Coming-Out-Moment" chocolate ("Sorry-If-I-Offended-You-With-My-Gender-Comments" chocolate?). Like, for a moment that size, a chocolate bar combined with no repeat performance seems like a perfectly good tradeoff, and who doesn't like free chocolate? It would be great if that was just the widely socially-accepted fee. And the super-friendly conversation was equally acceptable, if not equally chocolatey. I mean, flattery is always nice, and friendly conversation is always welcome when your coworkers across the aisle insist on turning down the radio so low that you're forced to pretty much work in silence most of the time. (You probably have to have those extra-special like God-Tier friendliness skills to pull off that method successfully, though.)
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
I'm only working 25 hours a week, 5 per day, and I have adjusted to the extent of making dinner and not falling asleep right away when I get back, but I'm still not over being mentally and emotionally exhausted by having to be out of the house and "on" and interacting with people so much of the time.

I have the time for my hobbies, physically. There's a good 4-5 hours per day that isn't taken up with daily necessities like taking care of the pets. But my brain is still all jittery, and I never feel like I can prepare myself to focus on watching anything on TV (which is how I knit, while watching TV, so I haven't gotten any knitting done in a month!); or starting an art or craft project; or writing even though as usual being up and about has increased my creative energy and I have more of a feeling that I could write something. I never feel like I'm ready to do any of those things without bleeding the excess anxiety away first by reading (or surfing around the net if I don't have a particular thing to read already picked out).

By the time my brain has drunk its fill of reading material and I start to feel like "Okay, now I'm ready to start doing something new..." it's time to go to bed again.

If I plan in advance, like from the day before, that I'm going to start watching a hockey game right away when I get home, I can do it. Starting to watch a new show when I know there's a whole season to catch up with seems like a higher bar, though. I've only watched a few bits of fiction over [personal profile] waxjism's shoulder for the last few weeks.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (Default)
Sooooo, what's going on with me is that I'm with the Red Cross for the next... 6 months or so.

The last time I was in a work practice placement it was a daycare The equivalent of The Previouslies, a short summation of how I wound up switching Employment Goals ) I decided to do some retail for the time being, because I have some experience of it and it's doable without any certification or training, unlike many other fields.

My Finnish isn't perfect - it's what you'd call "fine" or "pretty good" probably, and I'm still terrified of someone unintelligible due to mumbling or regional accent coming along, but I don't have trouble ordinarily. It's also been 13 years since I was a cashier though, and the technology has changed since then, and I've never done it in Finland anyway. So when the little group of social workers, employment bureau caseworkers and mental health professionals that my therapist's workgroup belongs to heard my explanation, they swiftly concluded that a few work practice placements in different areas of retail would be best, because it would provide the best chance to polish my Retail Finnish language skills and appease my anxiety by familiarity with environment and expectations of the field.

They also sent me to a new department of the Employment Bureau, which - okay, let me just pause here to note that this is amazing as fuck: The Employment Bureau has a SECRET DEPARTMENT where they give slightly more help to people who need slightly more help. In the ordinary run of things, caseworkers there have 500+ customers apiece and are overworked and underfunded to death. I've had like four caseworkers in the last few years before this already. And when you go to their information desk, or to their ordinary caseworkers, and ask for more help, they typically send you to that Career Planning course that I was sent to a couple years ago, which wasn't useless but was aimed at people who needed help navigating the bureaucracy and things like that more than people suffering from social anxieties and culture barriers and uncertainty about their language skills.

But even though I had previously inquired in multiple places about help, nobody at the Employment Bureau had been empowered to tell me about the existence of this department, which I gather you get sent to only with the referral of a psychologist or psychiatrist? That's where the representative came from who was at the the meeting with my psychologist I mentioned, and he immediately put in a request to have me transferred to that department. I got a new caseworker from there who was calm, friendly, brisk, and reassuring. She said that if I hope to work arranging the little showrooms at Ikea there's a certification for that (Somistaja, a window dresser/display maker) which depends on the certification for being a salesperson.

So she sent me to the Red Cross's thrift store, Kontti, which is staffed with students, volunteers, work practicants and people eligible for the thing where social security reimburses the employer for their salary. So it's almost entirely charity, with most of the proceeds going to the Red Cross's various projects in Finland (50%) and abroad (25%), plus it's very diverse and friendly and generally a pretty nice place. Their reputation as a training ground for retail and warehouse workers who then move on to employment elsewhere is so good, in fact, that they are fairly selective with their new trainees - the big boss told us in our introduction on Tuesday that our group of 8 represented over 100 applicants over a couple of months, which is like... a Harvard-like acceptance rate. (The Swedish language got me in the door here, I'm pretty sure: EVERYBODY who hears that I'm interested in retail and speak fluent-ish Swedish gets excited, because there's a huge demand for that skill due to the legal and practical requirement for stores to have someone who can speak it on hand - there aren't really many Swedish monolinguals around, but there are still a few.) You can also get salesperson certification on the job there, as well as a long list of other certifications - the lady who was supervising me and my fellow new-cashier trainees yesterday is on the verge of finishing one in business admin. (Hence why it was my caseworker's first choice.)

We spent the first couple of days on the warehouse side, where the donations are processed, sorted and priced, and it has to be seen to be believed. It's just such an unbelievable quantity of stuff. The area around the station where the bags are emptied and unpacked is just like something out of a movie, walls made out of racks and shelves and carts packed solid with bags of donated stuff waiting to be opened - cases four feet deep and six feet tall, banana boxes towering up towards the warehouse ceiling, and an overflow area with just a five or six foot high mountain of bags just... piled against the wall like a heap of snow. But that's only the beginning of the journey, because once they're unpacked and sent to the proper departments there's yet more sorting to do. The front half of the warehouse is also packed with racks, crates, shelves and bins of objects on their way to the store front, so it's a bit like an antique mall except cleaner - one little room of china, one little room of books, one little room of paintings, one little room of toys, one little room of electronics - where the walls between them are once again made of storage packed solid on both sides with stuff. Walking in for the first time felt a bit like, I don't know, visiting Willy Wonka's factory, or one of those quaint little Museums of Curiosities.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (this is awkward)
I spent most of the last year, from May 2012 to March 2013, in the same Finnish class, with the same group of people. It had its up and down sides, and by the end I was more than done with it, but one of the benefits was that by the end the school and the routine associated with it had become familiar places, and all my classmates however irritating had become familiar people, which made my anxiety a lot lower. I'm an anxious person and new situations and people are my least favorite things.

February I spent in a work practice at a daycare, which was not enough time to get over the new place anxiety, even though the people there were nice enough. April and May I spent at the more recent work practice at the after school program, and I had acclimatized enough to be happy and excited about going there in well under a month. It didn't get as familiar as the school, of course, but it was also a more fun, entertaining, and engaging environment. I suppose actively liking the place helped reduce the anxiety, even if I still had to be more 'on' and alert there.

So now I'm doing Summer Finnish. I've only been there for five days so far, though, because of my trip to London last week - it made me miss a week where the subject theme was sports, for which I am grateful because I hate sports. I like the teacher, and I like the size and makeup of the class group better here. They assured us that they didn't divide the summer course into groups by ability level and we're all using the same materials at the same speeds, just with slightly different emphasis, some groups doing more exercises than others. Although this is only conjecture, I suspect that I'm in the "hardest" group in the sense that it is made up of the students with the best mastery of and the quickest speed at Finnish grammar, but with a comparatively weak vocabulary. Most of the students in my group have been studying Finnish a pretty short while, but all of them are determined, motivated, quick, and diligent. It's deeply soothing to have everybody doing their work and taking it seriously, with none of those assholes who were always sitting around whispering or yelling in their native languages, goofing off, skipping half of the class, etc. This class is also not moving too slow for me, which, with foreign languages, is a huge thing. Actually, it's literally a first for me. The amount of explanation that the teacher provides is always really close to the amount that I needed to grasp the concept, as opposed to the 2 to 4 times as much I'm used to.

BUT. I don't like this class. All weekend, starting Friday, I've been close to tears every time I thought about going back on Monday. And I'm not sure why. I've got my friend, Nariko, and I like the teacher, which is good, but...

  • The bus trip. It's over half an hour. I sit with Nariko and our lunch buddy Anna, but Nariko gets carsick and it's crowded and noisy, which mostly precludes soothing and pleasant conversation. I don't like crowded and noisy situations.


  • One morning on our first week I overheard at least 20 minutes of racist ranting from a guy who's in one of the other groups and I still get nauseated every day when I catch sight of him.


  • One of the older ladies in our class interrupted me with an impatient, exaggerated fake-sigh of exasperation when I was speaking in a class discussion 2 weeks ago. Before that I liked this lady and she probably doesn't remember it anymore, but rudeness is bad enough without being personal and I always take things personally. I'm now afraid and mistrustful of this lady and don't want to talk in front of her at all, which is difficult to accomplish.


  • A different lady disparaged the Finnish attitude to child-rearing (which I agree with) by saying that in Finland she's "always afraid" that she won't be able to raise her son effectively because in Finland you aren't allowed to hit children. The aforementioned lady that I'm now afraid of did a champion job of arguing her into submission, but not before she provided a spurious anecdote about how someone she knew saw a kid misbehave on a bus and his mom claim that she "doesn't believe in forbidding things" as supposed proof that Finnish child-rearing is bogus, even though that sounds like bullshit and obviously Finns do, in general, believe in forbidding things. I pointed out that that wouldn't even be possible, because even the most permissive parent will have to forbid their child from playing with kitchen knives or running into the street without looking, because things can be dangerous. This lady eyerolled in response and huffed "Uh-huh, 'dangerous'." I don't fear her as a result, I just dislike her intensely.


  • Since the first day of class I have come out a bunch of times, as is my habit now, by simply allowing Wax to come up in conversation whenever is natural and referring to her as my wife, and answering any direct questions about her. When I was first studying Finnish, it was Finns who would stop and question me, thinking that I meant 'husband', because my grasp of Finnish led them to suppose it was more likely that I had got the wrong word than that I was gay. Now that my Finnish is better I've never come upon the slightest hesitation or surprise from a Finn, not since, oh, Christmas or so. I guess that's when my Finnish got that good. But since I got to this school, I've gotten double-takes, eyebrows, and what I take for cold stares three times, from three different older ladies, two of whom were Russian and one Ukrainian. One of them stopped me and said "Wait, did you say your parents?"

    "No, I said wife."

    "Your - spouse?"

    "Yes, and she's a woman," I said.

    Then there was an awkward silence. And the stare. Am I just projecting because of what I know about Russia? Maybe. Still. Uncomfortable.


So am I just dealing with an elevated baseline anxiety temperature to everything for social reasons, because of the people in the room I am wary of? Or maybe due to some completely unrelated cause, like hormones? Or was I still this nervous on my third week at AKK too, and I just don't remember it anymore because I got over it after?

I'm no longer too tired to make dinner, but on the other hand we've been living with the flat so messy for a while that I'm starting to want to throw away like, everything except the furniture, but I don't really have the energy for it. Which is probably a good thing because I would miss many of my possessions later. And I don't really know what to do about the kitchen. I'd kind of like to seal it from the rest of the flat and open it to the vacuum of space, which would take care of the dishes, food in the fridge that I keep forgetting to remove when I take out the trash, and mysterious, suspect smells all at once. On the other hand, it would also take the tea set that [personal profile] pierydys brought us from Taiwan before I even got a shelf adequate to display it on. So I guess it's also a good thing that I don't have access to the vacuum of space. Bummer.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (HALP)
It's only taken me to age 30 to realize that the first week (or week and a half, or two) of any new daily occupation - class, job, work practice, as long as it's the main deal for the day; it doesn't have to actually last eight hours - I will be completely exhausted.

Even though I'll be hungry, I'll be too tired to prepare any food at all in the afternoon and evening, sometimes too tired even to like, put bread on butter. Milk and cereal and like, frozen pizza is about as far as it goes. (More realistically, milk and cereal and packets of cookies.) Sometimes I will also be too tired to stay awake until 8 pm and will nap or like, go to bed at six.

So the first couple of times I sort of noticed this - and probably the only reason I did was because I was seeing my therapist weekly at the time - I just thought 'oh, anxiety must be making me tired, and I happen to be this anxious right now, it must be because it's a new place', but with no awareness that it was an absolute that that type of new daily schedule would inevitably make that happen. But it's happened regularly enough now that I'm pretty confident. It probably is an old thing, but I just didn't notice the pattern before.

I even have had a vague awareness that I should buy enough prepackaged food to feed myself for the week with zero food preparation, but this awareness always arrived either a) at dinnertime, when I was hungry and not eating properly, or b) at the store, when I was then too tired to follow through by figuring how much prepackaged food I would need and deciding to buy it and buying it. Both times that this has happened, I have thought 'Oh, I should buy like 5 frozen pizzas', then 'Except not five of the same thing, I don't want to do that, so different things', then 'I'm too tired to think of different things', then 'I'm too tired to fry eggs or assemble sandwiches microwave spaghetti sauce', then 'I guess I'll buy milk and cookies and like, cereal. And maybe bread.'

Wax does not factor into this because she has been too depressed to be relied on for unsupervised food purchase or preparation for more than a year now, which is longer than I've been aware of the pattern. I buy yogurt and bread and stuff that she asks for, she eats food when I have the energy to make it.

This is why I hate being an adult. Or living far away from my parents at least. Parents always help get food for you if you whine, no matter how large you are and how tired they are. At least, in my experience. Maybe my parents are really soft touches.

So like: does this happen to other people? Or something like this? What do you DO? Even sort of lying here on the sofa, after resting for 4 hours, I am intimidatingly exhausted by the thought of the amount of brainpower that would be required to assemble a shopping list, but 'pre-planned shopping list' is the only potential solution I've thought of besides 'continue buying milk and bread and cereal and cookies and bananas on the way home'.
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (why is the beverage gone)
Tomorrow I'm going to start that work practice at the public after school program, 10-17, M-F, for the two months until school's out.

I specifically requested this, with the main motivation that I find older, school-aged children a little more interesting and a little easier to relate to than preschoolers. There's no question they're scarier for me too, since my Finnish fails to be up to the task of communication more often, and many of them still aren't really old enough to understand why I "talk funny" or don't understand something.

(As I found at preschool, some six-year-olds in an average small group are sophisticated enough to explain usefully for me, e.g. with synonyms and simpler vocabulary! But most children this age cannot conceptualize a lower level of language mastery in that way as separate from just not knowing. If I ask what's a snail, they say "But everybody knows snails: it's an ANIMAL!", not "You know, it's this big and slimy and lives in the garden, but it doesn't have a hard shell on its back", which is more or less how the language teacher tackles it.)

Anyway, school kids should be harder to follow - their conversations faster and more complex - but I'm hoping also better at explaining themselves to me, so maybe the language immersion will be more helpful than the one at the daycare was. That one was actually very useful to me! But a lot of the time went by without practicing much if any new vocabulary, at least with the children themselves, because your average 3-year-old is just not that vocal. (If I'd spent all that time with the niecephews at age 3, or any of the kids in my family, it would have been a different story: all those stories about Perrin were from when he was 3... .)

Speaking of the niecephews, my girl and [personal profile] waxjism's goddaughter/eldest niece Big C who is now 8 goes to Swedish after school, which is run out of the adjoining classroom to the Finnish one, and according to Brother in Law #1 is super excited for me to arrive. It's kind of the cutest thing ever. (I was chuffed to find out she still thinks I'm cool because she's old enough now to act very possessed and calm in person, no more of that OMG HI!!! :D that we got from the niecephews when they were wee.)

The last point is that the after school is located in a breathtakingly gorgeous nouveau building downtown, less than a block from the art museum, and possessed of an enormous marble staircase with wrought iron rails. Can't wait to take some photos there.

siiiiiick

21 May 2011 07:12 pm
cimorene: A black-and-white vintage photograph of 1920s singer Helen Kane in profile, with a dubious, side-eye expression (o noes)
I am sicker right now than I've been in aaaaaages, unless you count full-blown panic attacks (I haven't had one of those in over a year though; most of mine are limited-symptom attacks). This seems to be just a flu with fever and cough, but I don't think I've had one of those in the last ten years. It's the same bug Wax is recovering from right now, evidently, so I know what to expect, more or less.

On the other hand, I think I'm too sick to answer email. I can read it, but I can't seem to gather the energy required for more than a few lines at once. Sorry bout that if you're waiting; just give me a few days.

And speaking of a few days, even though the fever came on HARD the night before my interview Friday (causing me to shiver so hard I bundled up in more blankets than I'd use at -25° out), I think it went okay, though not perfectly. I will be hearing from them Wednesday at the latest. I did have to walk there and back at +13° C up a steep hill, and that no doubt contributed to my misery the rest of yesterday. But I did have a sort of good feeling there.

I spent large portions of several years of childhood home sick from school, before I figured out a) food sensitivity and b) the fact that I get debilitating abdominal cramps if anything, including elastic or the waistband of tights, digs into my belly. I watched Singin' in the Rain every time I was home sick, so when I decided to watch it today and Wax threatened to put on her headphones, I muted it and put on the closed captions instead. And proceeded to loudly call out and sometimes exclaim angrily over every minor rephrasing of the spoken lines. I think they do it to make them fit better, but sometimes they really destroy the sense of a line, or even ruin a punchline. It lifted my spirits a bit, but all the recitation can't have been good for my throat, which is just now about as irritated as I get by reading canon inaccuracies about TOS or Sherlock Holmes.

Cat report )

Also is 4 years old too young for button eyes? I'm making Coraline-inspired ragdolls for the niecephews.

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