Imagine you are an impressionable young person, one who is beginning to encroach upon adult self sufficiency. You decide to get a job, and what other job is as ubiquitously known to serve as the gateway to the realm of occupations than being a cashier? You see it all the time and in fact it is a staple of our culture to associate minimum wage jobs with those who have minimal skills and experience. What could be easier than scanning items and putting them in a bag? And for money! Easy choice. You become a cashier. On your first day the novelty is thrilling and the atmosphere is bright and alive. You scan things at your own pace and get to know your coworkers who are also friendly and welcoming. An old lady comes through your lane and says “Make the bags light”. Easy request. You do so, you put her chips together and 3 cans in a bag. The old woman tries to lift the bag but is unable to. “I said I wanted them LIGHT” she repeats, this time in a caustic tone before snatching each individual can out of the bag and throwing them back onto the register. This confuses you as you realize how subjective this woman’s demands are and you do not understand why you have elicited this level of anger. You begrudgingly rebag her groceries as she rolls her eyes and mutters something under her breath. This sours your mood, but does not ruin it. The next woman that comes has a huge cart of groceries. You scan all of them through for a total of $128.76. As the woman is paying she realizes she only has $56.00 left on her EBT card and so you must void things. Because the amount you must void is so great you need a front end supervisor to use their key to authorize it. (This is done to prevent embezzling money). Because of this you have to wait until a supervisor comes and they are no where to be seen. The longer you wait the angrier the customer becomes. “Are you kidding me?” she says. You feel guilty in a strange way for her inconvenience but there’s nothing you can do. Finally the woman says “You know what? This is ridiculous. I’m leaving.” She leaves the store and all her groceries. Finally the supervisor comes and you realize they have been chatting with a friend at the front of the store, leaving you to helplessly bear the consequences of them neglecting to do their job. This also leaves a sour taste in your mouth.
The longer you work there the cracks in your job’s charm becoming alarmingly palpable. The coworkers you thought were so friendly and nice turn out to be devoid of personal responsibility and will do anything to push their workload on to you whether through taking frequent, long bathroom breaks, delaying the start of their shift by talking with coworkers despite having already clocked in or outright leaving their register in the middle of a shift to talk to coworkers. You realize there is a social hierarchy and people within this clique will get away with laziness and negligence but YOU will be admonished immediately upon doing any of the aforementioned deeds. The longer you work the more you realize racial stereotypes DO actively exist. The only people that blatantly attempt to commit credit card fraud is black people. Many Hispanic people will come in with 5 kids, pay with EBT (food stamps) + WIC (government assistance for mothers/parents) and speak ZERO English, making it awkward and impossible to tell them that they have no EBT/WIC funds left in their cards. Black families will openly slap their children. If someone looks like white trash there is a 90% chance they are on government assistance. Then you meet the worst customers. The verbally abusive, give-no-fucks-that-you’re-a-human-being-too motherfuckers. You accidentally crush their bread, something that while annoying is easily remedied. But no. “What are you, a fucking idiot?” they shout at you. “This is why you work at Walmart/Target/MinimumWageJobPlace.” Eventually you come to the full realization of how toxic this place is. You tell the manager that you only want to work 4 days a week instead of the onerous, crushing 6 days a week but then after the week of processing they’ve scheduled you for 5 days and 38 hours/week. That’s basically full-time except because it’s not 40 they don’t have to give you insurance benefits. “I said I can only work 4 days a week” you tell your boss. “You need to be flexible” your boss simply responds. “We can’t meet everyone’s needs exactly”.
You see how much your own boss fucks you over. They schedule you for 6 hours and 45 minutes on some days because since you aren’t technically working 7+ hours you only get a 15 minute break. Your whole life begins to revolve around working. You wake up, go to work, and when you come back you are too tired to indulge in your pleasures and past times. Your schedule is no longer compatible with your friends and you almost never see each other. Every ounce of negativity and misplaced blame on you begins to accrue and coupled with the fact that you can’t control when you work breeds a deep sense of helplessness. You watch the days blur by and melt into each other and you find yourself seeming to always be in this groundhogs day hell of being a human punching bag. Sometimes you will be struck with inspiration or the desire to do something, but that always happens when you have to go to work. The frustration of having your life controlled by someone else creates a hot, burning fury inside you. One that you cannot release while at work, a place where you are forced to masquerade happiness. When you do call out occasionally you are guilt tripped and ridiculed by your boss. You see how the majority of people are inconsiderate, selfish or indifferent. You see how little anyone cares for their fellow human being, either through seeing people commit theft and fraud, openly cheat the system or just have very little regard for the well being of anyone. People will inconvenience anyone if it will absolve them of effort. All this for the bare minimum that you can legally be paid. You cycle through other minimum wage jobs, surely they can’t all be like this? But they all are, just in different forms whether it be the snooty, entitled rich demographic or the loud, abrasive poor ones. Now imagine you have no educational prerequisites to escape minimum wage job hell and no means to get any. That’s my life.