• artsy fartsy,  blue-collar working

    Why I Need to Paint a Mural on the Breakroom Wall.

    I’ve been working so hard to make money lately that I’ve forgotten to be creative. If you know my go-to bio, it says that “being creative every day makes me happy,” so you can gather from that how I’m feeling.  I’ve been slapping that phrase everywhere I have to write a bio for the last fifteen years!  I know this about me!!  So why am I not being creative?

    I blame scrolling and Ralphs. I waste all the free time I have scrolling. Bug shared the funniest (and most accurate) meme with me the other day that had a word for it: “internest“. It’s when you’ve had too much time “peopleing” so you hide in a nest of covers in bed that completely block out the world, and then you scroll the internet. You can lose hours this way. Bug and I call TikTok the time machine. You open it up and the next thing you know you have lost two hours. It’s crazy.  Want to go into the future? Open TikTok.

    The last time I did something creative was for a website I designed that hasn’t been able to go live for programming reasons, and I haven’t been able to get paid for it because it’s not generating the client money yet and the client has no funds to pay me. It’s a vicious cycle.  You have to spend money to make money but if you don’t have the money to pay, you hire a graphic designer who is a people pleaser (me!) who will work for you on blind faith that her amazing work will bring you money.

    How did I get to this point? Well,  I hate taking money before a job is complete because of that one time I worked for weeks for someone who I was terribly under-skilled to do what they wanted and needed. I knew it, they knew it so when I finally finished the challenge, they were expectedly disappointed. I couldn’t handle it. I had mistakenly thought if I really dug deep I could rise to the challenge. I didn’t. I gave them all the money back because I didn’t want to waste their money. There went all my time down the drain. So maybe I’m just too nice to be a designer? I don’t know. So many times people have been happy with my work and I’ve managed to stay afloat (with the help of my books) for seventeen years!!

    How have I managed to stay afloat? Through this blog and being creative! That brings me to my opening paragraph. I haven’t been able to be creative for a few weeks now. I’m tired from working my Ralphs job, which is very physically draining. I’m barely finishing my graphic design work, and I’m internesting because I’m depressed about the website that hasn’t taken off or been paid for.

    Today I have a day off from Ralphs. I have a few days off this coming week. I have to come back to being creative. This reminds me of when I worked at the coupon factory generating junk mail. It was such a boring job. But I was pretty high up on the coupon-creating design ladder, so I had a nice office and the respect of my coworkers. I’ve probably told this story before, but it’s stuck with me, so I’m going to re-tell it.

    There were a bunch of boxes outside my office. We had recently moved and hired a bunch of new employees so they all had new computers (with towers and huge clunky box monitors because this was back in the dinosaur days before we had laptops) and all the boxes were piled up outside my office to be broken down. All day long those boxes called to me. Make me into a castle! Make me into a spaceship! It drove me crazy. I had coupons to type and junk mail to design I had no time for cutting up boxes and taping together spaceships and castles.

    Finally, I gave into the call of the boxes and made a spaceship for my friend who had a toddler son. I wasted a whole afternoon. But you know what? I was happy! I was so happy and I was known for being happy. I was the girl who could take an ugly letter about miniblinds or deals on canned salmon and make it into something beautiful. I needed to be happy to do my job. It was my signature.  After the box-craftaganza I was able to go back to focus on my boring junk mail designs with a fresh attitude.

    At Ralphs I’ve been daydreaming about painting a mural on the breakroom wall. The employee breakroom at Ralphs is the most depressing space you have ever seen. It’s dirty. The paint is peeling. There’s one of those old massage chairs you see at Brookstone that doesn’t work that is sunken in the middle like someone has slept in it for thirty years. It’s so old and gross. The pleather is peeling and bits of it slough off. Employees flop into this chair exhausted and “internest” during their breaks. I can tell that someone tried to interior decorate twenty years ago. It has a Route 66 clock on the wall and some kind of traffic light decoration that I don’t understand. Motivational posters are taped up next to How to Lift Heavy Objects without Injuring Yourself posters and in between are hand-scrawled shouting messages about not forgetting to put “paid” stickers on the food you buy from the store and that all lockers will be cut open if they are left past a certain date that was three years ago. The place says: I’m underpaid and understaffed and my work-life balance solution is to not care about this place.

    But then there’s me. I look at this one wall in the hallway next to the women’s restroom, which is quite big and has absolutely nothing but scrapes and paint-peeling scars on it, and think: this would be a perfect place to paint a mural. I already know what I want to paint there. I want to paint really big colorful shapes and then on top of it the words that say small at the top: “Small changes make” and then below that in really more giant letters: “A Big Difference.” Brilliant, right? Wouldn’t it cheer people up and maybe we’d all start caring more and cleaning more and then this depressing store would slowly get cleaner and happier?

    I mention it to one of the checkers. She loves the idea. She mentions it to the general manager on the floor, and then my idea goes to die. It’s a no-go. Why? Because I would need to do it on the clock to be covered for insurance reasons (what if I got hurt?!!) and nobody has time to pay me to paint a mural. I’m not giving up though. I think I will illustrate my idea and take it up the ladder to corporate. Somebody will lift their head up from their phone and realize this could be a small change that makes a big difference. I could get a job painting murals in all the breakrooms like they do at Trader Joe’s who have a way easier time keeping employees because they are proud to work there. What’s my boss’s biggest problem? Finding good employees.

    I think I have a case.

    Why did I just spend an hour making a graphic for no reason? Because it made me happy. Guess who’s back!

  • Apartmentlandia,  blue-collar working,  the dogs

    Grocery Culture and Cody Comes Home


    I really should make this two posts because what does grocery culture have to do with Cody but if I took the time to write two posts I probably wouldn’t finish the second one. So I’m going to jam it all together and hopefully, you feel like you’re getting a deal. Two posts for the price of one! I know. Whatever Brenda. Just get to it already.

    Every hour on the hour when I’m working as a courtesy clerk at Ralphs I push a broom around the floor, up and down every aisle. It takes me about sixteen minutes to sweep the entire store. I’m pretty much just pushing dirt around the store with a big wide broom that takes turns surprisingly well. It’s kind of fun actually and I pride myself on my efficiency in keeping the small pile of debris relatively under control. Sometimes I lose a bit in the turns but I know I’ll be back the next hour like a cuckoo clock to catch it again.

    I compose blog posts in my mind as I go. I think maybe I’ll blog about that dinosaur sticker that is stuck to the floor in the deli section that has been stuck there for two weeks. Or maybe I’ll blog about the morning stocking crew and their lively choices of music. I love it. It’s a party in the early morning hours at the grocery store. One aisle is rocking 80’s power ballads while the next is jamming to R&B. Everyone says good morning and hello as I pass by them in the aisles, dodging towering piles of toilet paper or teetering boxes of cans that are stacked up to be unloaded. It’s just a lively bunch.

    I also think about blogging about the state of the linoleum floor that is breaking into bits. Every day I sweep another inch away into the trash can. The floors are a mess. Does anyone notice? What’s the state of the grocery store’s budget for repairing these things? The store seems to be run pretty lean and there are a ton of improvements needed but nobody ever says anything about them. But I never ask either because we are all overworked and no one has time for such questions. It’s always a state of either being slammed or “if you have time to lean you better clean.” Everything needs cleaning all the time.

    I love the grocery store. One of the rules of being employed there is that you have to smile and say hello to everyone. At first, I hated it because I’m naturally shy and I never want to be that overly chipper person annoying people. But then I learned about the secret shopper system and if you don’t say hi to the person who is the secret shopper you can get docked and the whole team loses their rights to a pizza party or something. It’s a big deal. So we all say hi all the time. We say hello, good morning, how are you… We’re just a chatty bunch. And you know what happens? It rubs off on you. You can go to the store in a bad mood but after an hour of saying hello over and over with a smile, you start feeling genuinely cheerful. By the time I leave my shift I’m the chattiest person there. And I kind of love it because all the conversations are short and funny. There’s no prying into deeper personal matters. No gossip. Just friendly hellos and funny quips all day long. The grocery business is onto something.

    I don’t know who the secret shopper is but I’m dying to find out if I’ve ever said hello to them. I’m pretty sure I’m not the one who gets the pizza party privilege taken away.


    In other news: Cody came to live with me! Payam was getting a little overwhelmed with having two dogs. Cody can eat a lot AND he has so much fur. He’s a lot of work. I’ve missed my dogs terribly and I know they miss me too so when Payam asked me to take Cody I was super happy to oblige. I was a little worried my apartment complex wouldn’t allow a big dog like Cody but after some investigation, we were approved! Don’t ask me about the pet deposit though. It’s robbery. I guess they know a big dog can do some big damage to a small apartment.

    So far the hair is manageable. I bought a new special pet-approved vacuum and we’re doing our best to keep his paws clean when he comes in from a walk. I don’t think I’ll keep my white carpets white but on the upside, it is awfully cheery to have a big fluffy white dog to keep you company all day long. I might as well buy stock in a lint roller company and call it a win.

    We love having him and I think he loves being here. He really is a good only dog and I hear Whiskey is living it up being an only dog too.