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This started out as a story about my brother, then when I realised I didn’t actually have a lot to write about, my ego took control and it became a story about me again.  Thank you little blog of indulgence.

Snow has hit the UK again, but not so much us.  Oh don’t get me wrong, we have it, but it’s just a little light frosting that’s mostly gone by the afternoon.  Further out you get the worse it is, usually snow.

Course everyone down North has to deal with blizzards, and it turns out so is Europe.  As my poor unfortunate brother has discovered.

He and his girlfriend decided to go on a budget trip to Paris over the weekend (very jealous over here).  They found a cheap hotel, got some cheap flights, and set out to enjoy the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Disneyland.  I’ve only seen the Facebook updates but looks as if they’ve had a great time and looking forward to hearing about it in person next time I see them.

But the drama has started.  The snow is bad enough in Paris that the airport is cancelling flights.  They arrived at the airport to find their flight isn’t leaving, and they could either get a refund or wait for an alternative flight…on Thursday.  My brother works a pretty menial job (basically puts money in his bank while he works towards his true career goal) which doesn’t take kindly to unexplained or sudden absences.  So the two of them decide to get a refund and book flights with another airline leaving tomorrow – hoping insurance will pay for hotel.

But extra daram.  Airport isn’t just cancelling flights.  Airport is CLOSED.

So now they, and a good several thousand others, are stranded in France for the foreseeable future.  No guarantee anything will fly tomorrow, and by then every hotel is gonna be jammed, they have no idea when they can leave, and the snow isn’t getting better.

At least full on airport closure is a pretty damn good excuse for not showing up at work.  If I’m honest I’m probably more worried about him making it home for his shift than he is.  Little brother takes things like this in his stride – he is far better at accepting reality than I am – in his shoes I’d probably be curled up in a ball in the corner, rocking silently as I wonder how much I’m letting my employee overlords down by not showing up.

Not so much my current job – they’d understand it entirely, but my old part time job?  Oh yeah, I’d have been having a full on emotional breakdown.  I remember trying to get emergency days off at the supermarket.  But higher management didn’t hear ‘sick as a dog’ or ‘trapped by weather’ – just ‘I don’t want to come in’.  And they all had degrees in the art of guilt tripping.  So many shifts I worked where I should have been in bed cause I was ready to keel over or spent half of it throwing up (store procedure insisted I should go home since I technically worked with food – packaged maybe but still food – but this part of the employees handbook was clearly never read by anyone under the lowest rung) because I hated the idea of letting anyone down.  As if they would somehow judge me for not giving them everything.  When I was stuck mid-transit due to snow or flooding, I spent the entire time I should have been doing my shift with a knot in my stomach and mentally preparing a 3 page speech on how sorry I was and how I’d take on extra shifts to make up for it.

Brother on the other hand?  Probably getting a drink with his girlfriend, talking to other strandees and trying to figure out what he can do with an extra night in the City of Love with the Girl he loves in the weather he (airport closure not withstanding) loves.  He’ll call his job and warn them he can’t make it in, see BBC news for full details, and then walk through the door for the next shift he has when he finally gets home.  He might not have Dad’s entrepreneurial skills but an awful lot of modern day survival slipped through.

He gets the retail jobs in a way I never did.  He knows they won’t fire him – hell even if he didn’t have a legitimate excuse there’s too much paperwork to actually let him go for not showing up.  He’s as loyal to them as they are to him – which is to say not at all – probably why he doesn’t lose sleep and can actually work towards his dream goal in a way I’ve never been able to pull off.

It took forever to realise that big retail/supermarket companies don’t really care about employees.  Not even the ones that claim they do.  You’ll give them everything, and this loyalty is never really paid back – I always thought what goes around comes around – that if I did them favours they would be repaid in kind.  Thank the lord I finally learned how to say no, and accept that not taking shifts outside my contract wasn’t necessary, and that yes, I was allowed to be off sick.  Of course, I learned this the hard way…

One December, we had the usually hassle of organising schedules.  Large student population in the employees so a lot of people weren’t going to be around.  I normally worked Sundays and had Saturdays free.  I was happy to work Christmas Eve and the 27th because I didn’t have any plans, but wanted the Sundays after New Years and the weekend after that both off.  Both were for parties, though the 2nd one after NY was the most important because it was a friend’s Birthday.  My supervisor at the time said he’d cover both shifts if I worked the Saturdays instead, which I happily did.  The first party actually fell through so the weekend wasn’t necessarily needed, but I worked the Saturday anyway.

Next weekend, I came in on Saturday, and found I was on the schedule for working the 6am-3pm shift on Sunday…when the party would be in another city a good 3 hour train trip away on the Saturday night.  I confronted my supervisor and reminded him of our arrangement, to which he replied he’d only agreed to cover the first Sunday.  Apparently he’d forgotten and made plans.  I think about it and then ask if I can at least change the shift to a 1-10, since there’s only one other person on that shift and I can catch the first train back on Sunday and hopefully make it in time.  No.

I was livid, and in a rage for a good hour, especially when I spoke to another colleague and found he’d actually been LOOKING for someone to trade this shift for Sundays, but the supervisor had told him nobody wanted to swap.  Now he’d made plans and couldn’t work the Sunday.  I even went to the managers, but they told me unless I got someone to cover my shift, I’d better show up.

However, midway through the shift the supervisor gathered up all the employees in our department for a meeting.  During which, he essentially berated each and every one of us for ‘ignoring the schedule’, ‘coming in when we felt like it’ and ‘letting every other member of the team down’.  It went on for about 10 minutes before he let us go, and left me feeling like absolute dirt.  The entire rest of the shift I was in two minds as to what to do, and even as I got on the train to make it to the Birthday party I was wondering what I should do.

The story is well known among my friends.  After a 3 hour train trip, I spent 40 minutes at the party, and then bolted out the door to grab the last train heading home.  I just couldn’t enjoy myself after the beat down I’d received and didn’t think I could face anyone at work again if I wasn’t there for that shift.  Friends said it was very much ‘me’ to do so (though think the majority of them thought I was an idiot – can’t blame them).

Six hours to enjoy 40 minutes at a party.  A ridiculous situation – but at least I wouldn’t let anyone down.

…Then came the Sunday shift.  I did my job sleep deprived and miserable, and then at 10am we got a call.  The one guy scheduled to come in at 1 to work the afternoon shift was sick and wasn’t coming in.  From 3pm onwards there’d be no one in the department.

The icing on the cake?  The general manager (who had told me I couldn’t swap my shifts) turned to me and said:

“To be honest we had too many people on this morning.  You should have done the afternoon shift.”

…My supervisor turned me into an emotional wreck for trying to get that shift, you made it clear I had to work this morning shift, I sacrificed an event I’d been looking forward to, endured 6 hours of travel and sleep deprivation to fix a problem that I hadn’t created, and then you go and make me feel guilty for not doing the shift you wouldn’t give me in the first place?

Yeah.  Suddenly saying no wasn’t so hard after that.  Despite that, I stayed with them for at least a year after that?  Guess I was just a glutton for punishment.

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