I am a one-girl team, trying to finish. Accessories is short-handed. Other departments have three or more people to help.
One register left to count.
“20-40-60-80 — ”
Then everything goes black — the store lights are on a timer. Uh-oh. Counting money in the dark heightens my chances of messing it up.
Finally, I shovel the money bags into my arms and try to balance them as I make my way upstairs. The glamorous and sparkly second floor isn’t quite as fabulous in the dark.
The third floor is alive. I don’t feel so alone anymore.
I am the last in a line of very tired but well-dressed sales associates waiting to turn in their money bags and be released back into reality. Somehow, I always feel like a mess in this sea of type-A personalities. I scramble to get my money bags filled out and in order.
Laura (not her real name), the customer-service manager, will be counting my bags tonight.
Laura climbed her way up the Nordstrom ladder from being a sales associate. It probably helped that she drank the Kool-Aid. Scratch that — she invented it. Every rule and code, she will enforce. If you make a decision about a customer or purchase, she will judge it. Laura is everywhere in the store and knows most everything that goes on. What with our extensive video surveillance, not a single move goes unnoticed. You are always being watched.
“The money needs to be facing upwards, Jessica,” Laura says. “I’ll do it for you this time, but next time, you need to make sure you do everything before you get upstairs. We try and make it timely and efficient up here this late.”
Just like that, I’ve devolved from Sales Superstar to Money Bag Mess-Up.
“Yes, ma’am,” I say.
I dash to the nearest computer screen and clock out number 9138934.
I look at the dashboard. “12:30!”
I am 30 minutes early for my 1:00 p.m. shift.
No sense in letting these curls fall. No sense in letting my make-up melt in the heat. So I go in.
The climb up the once-hopeful stairs at the employee entrance is exhausting. The motivational signs no longer seem bold, but transparent.
Instead of a cheerful hello to the gracious customer-service gals, I make a hard left. I head to Human Resources.
It’s a snap decision, but I will no longer answer to 9138934. Kathy, Paula, Laura — I think of them as “Javerts,” from Les Mis — they can’t get me now. Okay, maybe I’ve seen that story too many times.
I sign paper after paper, and then I am released.
I walk down the hallway, no longer a number. I am Jessica Swenke.