August 5, 2003

Back to Retail

Yesterday I did the unthinkable. Okay, so maybe it’s not all that unthinkable. But it’s something that definitely wasn’t in my ten year plan. I went in to interview for a second job at the new Best Buy store they’re building outside Carson City. With the new baby coming, finances are going to go from tight to impossible, so it’s time to have a little more income. If I had better marketing and business sense, I could start doing freelance web design and computer consulting in earnest to bring in the dough. But, I’m still lacking in those skils, so it’s off to work for someone else for now.

Best Buy seemed like an ideal choice. It’s a store that’s open at night, so I could work evenings no problem. It takes two of the skills I have, computer knowledge and retail sales experience, and marries them perfectly. And it’s nice and close to home, so I don’t have to travel all the way across town or to Reno to work. It’ll just be like I’m stopping off at the store on my way home…and staying for five hours.

Sure there’s problems with it. The pay will probably be pretty low compared to what I’ve gotten used to, and it won’t make a huge dent in the finances. If it pays for diapers, though, I’ll be happy. Plus, it’s a return to retail. When I took off that Kmart vest four and a half years ago, I thought I had bid my final farewell to the world of retail. Now here I am going back. Could be worse, I suppose. Out of all the past jobs I’ve had, retail was one of the most enjoyable. I mean, it’s not like I’m going back to work at Wendy’s! Another problem is that it’ll mean working twelve or thirteen hour days, and my body might decide it doesn’t like that. And, on top of it all, I have wife and a soon-to-be kid. I would like to see them once in a while. Add to that the fact that Viola is interviewing with the Douglas County School District for a sign language job (she gave up on Carson City after all the stress they put her through), and my wife and I might just become passing acquaintances. There’s a married couple here at my office – he works from 4am ‘til noon, and she works from noon to 8pm. They only see each other at midday to switch off the kids. I can’t imagine what their home life must be like, and I don’t want Viola and I to turn out like that. But, that’s the price you pay for screwing yourself over with credit card debt, I guess. Better to make all your mistakes while you’re young and still have time to recover from them.

It’s not all negative, though. I wouldn’t be going for the job if I thought I would absolutely hate it. There are things I miss about working in retail. Human contact is one. At my office, I’m down here in the basement. I have no windows. Nobody ever comes down here, because it’s the basement and there are no windows. I have grown to quite like my solitude, but a side effect is that I’ve forgotten how to talk. I try to speak, and my vocal cords feel weird. I can’t carry on a normal conversation, because my brain doesn’t think in terms of full sentences anymore. It thinks in fragments — computer broken — website good — junk email bad. When I have to talk to somebody, I can’t, because I’m so out of practice. Actually being around people, not only co-workers but hundreds of different customers every day, might help me to recapture some of those skills. I was never very good at conversation, but if I can flex my talking muscles a little and learn to finish a sentence without trailing off, I’ll consider that progress.

Working at a computer store should help me keep up to date in the industry too. I’ll be able to see all the new products when they hit the shelves. I’ll know how much everything costs, and I’ll see when something becomes obsolete and disappears from the store. Plus, I applied to work in the service center. That means I’ll be seeing different computers come through for repairs every day, different configurations, different problems. I’ll be able to see how real people use computers, instead of just my little nest of 50 workstations here that I’ve nurtured since birth. I can see the good, the bad, and the ugly of home computers, what programs people have installed, what kind of troubles they run into, what kind of needs they have, and how willing they are to spend money to get a problem fixed. All of this knowledge will come in handy when I do get better business skills and start using the Computer Vet name to run a company instead of just a website.

I’ll be able to work with a team, other people that actually know computers. Right now I work in isolation. My wife is probably the most computer literate person I know, and she’s only at the intermediate-beginner stage. So I never talk about computers. I think about computers, I write about computers, but I don’t talk about them. I just don’t know how. So being around other people that know computers like I do will not only exercise that talking muscle I mentioned earlier, but it will actually allow me to talk about my field of expertise, which will be a new experience for me.

In sum, I think I’ll enjoy working at Best Buy. For a couple of days, at least. After the baby comes and our life becomes super hectic, I might have to rethink it. Of course, I can adjust to having two jobs easier than my wallet can adjust to having three mouths to feed, so I might have to just take it on the chin if it turns out not to be the idyllic experience I envisioned. My grandfather worked two jobs in Brooklyn to keep his family fed, I think I can do the same in Carson City.

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