At least my cats love me — I hope.

That’s what I’m telling myself today.

Working at a convenience store is taking its toll in more ways than one. Physically, I live at the edge of exhaustion. Most days — or nights — I work eight to nine hours straight without a break. Very little of that time is spent actually waiting on customers.

Instead, I do the work other employees feel is beneath them  — stocking the coolers (which involves lugging around cases of pop and beer), changing trash bags beside the gas pumps and carrying the bags around the building to the dumpster (what do people throw away? bricks?), cleaning the bathrooms (men, the handle on the urinal is for flushing), putting out backstock, mopping the floor and generally cleaning the store. I also help the manager with special projects such as the twice monthly inventory of merchandise.

By the time I get off work, my back and feet hurt so much I can barely hobble home to collapse in the recliner for a bit after taking some ibuprophen. Then I need to get up and walk around — even though it’s painful — to work off the stiffness or I won’t be able to sleep. My hands are so swollen I had to take off the Black Hills gold ring I’ve worn for more than 20 years.

This morning, my shift ended with an adolescent temper tantrum from the mother of three who hasn’t liked me since I told her a 5 cent per gallon discount on gas is not the same as a 5 percent discount. She claims that’s an indication I don’t show her the respect she deserves.

In all honesty, I may have precipitated this morning’s explosion. Tuesday night’s shift was hectic because an event occurred in town resulting in as much business overnight as the store sees during an entire day during the winter months. In addition, I had the usual cleaning to do and was supposed to get a chunk of the grocery inventory completed. By shifting into high gear, I was able to get most of it done.

“Most” is the operative word in that sentence. I ran out of time before bagging the ice and changing trash bags by the gas pumps. When I got to work last night, I found a snide  little note from the little gal who says I don’t respect her implying I sat around all night and twiddled my fingers.

If I could afford to be unemployed, I would have quit on the spot. But I can’t, so I worked through the night — normal business, all routine tasks finished, another special project for the manager tackled. This morning, when she came in, she started talking about how busy she’d been yesterday and reiterated that I needed to get my work done at night.

I just looked her and said six words, in a quiet but firm voice, “You could have phrased it differently.”

I don’t know if it was the look,  the tone of voice or the implication that she had handled the situation inappropriately — she doesn’t like being corrected — but she quit, throwing a tantrum in front of customers and delivery men. Then she texted the manager, who called and half an hour later she was back behind the register.

That’s the second time this week I’ve had to deal with verbal attacks from an employee, which is taking a toll on my spirit. For the last  couple weeks, the manager and I have been discussing whether to fire an employee who is literally reading on the job instead of working. On one hand, his laziness means others (mostly me, but another employee does help) have their workload increased. On the other, he’s just seasonal so the problem is temporary — and having him around does ease scheduling difficulties.

We finally decided to give him a second chance and to retrain him. When I explained the situation, his first response was that he’d never been told what to do. When I reminded him that I had done so on several occasions, his second response was to say he didn’t know it was important to actually do the work. When I suggested to him the wisdom of doing the work a supervisor tells him to do, he told me he didn’t like my manner.

These experiences, seen in combination with several from the past, have me wondering if (a) God really knew what he was doing when he created me, (b) I’ve committed some unforgivable sin for which I will be forced to do penance for the rest of my life, or (c) I am tragically flawed and unable to see the flaws in my character which prevent me from living in a way that reflects God and his love into the world.

Granted, physical exhaustion is probably distorting reality a little at present. Not only is the job physically taxing, but also the resulting physical discomfort prevents me from getting much sleep. Still, it would be foolish to simply ignore feedback provided by the world.

I live in the world, and as long as I live, must navigate the waters of work responsibilities, financial responsibilities, relationships — and the vagaries of a spiritual journey that not only has me marching to my own drummer half the time, but also sets me at cross purposes to others on occasion. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have the knack of doing it well, and am tired. Part of me cries out, like Moses, “If this is the way you will deal with me, THEN PLEASE DO ME THE FAVOR OF KILLING ME AT ONCE, so that I no longer face this distress” (Numbers 11:14).

I strongly suspect God is not going to answer that prayer, though. So, I guess I’ll have to implement Plan B … just put one foot in front of the other — and breathe.

After feeding the cats.


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