As I’ve mentioned (multiple times) I work retail. And as a lucky retail warrior I got to spend a couple Sundays ago locked in a store in the middle of the night counting things. I was tasked with being one of the lucky folks who got to take part in my store’s annual inventory. For however shitty retail can be all the other days of the year, there’s something special about being locked in a store counting.
We have to show up as the store is closing. We have to wear all black. Like ninjas. We’re not allowed to speak to each other. We’re not allowed to wear headphones. We count. For a very long time. I don’t really know about the all black thing. It might be to give us a gang mentality. The first thing they do in the army is try to take away your feeling of individuality. Nothing makes you feel like less of an individual than being in a room with 80 other people dressed the exact same way as you. Unless of course you’re at a punk rock show then it makes you a rebel. They must think that if we all show up dressed alike then we we’ll act like a team. A tough ass bunch of black clad warriors fighting the forces of the uncounted. I’ve also been told it’s so they can watch us closer on cameras. The point being that whatever we’re trying to steal will look stark against the black backdrop of our ninja outfits and they’ll be able to spot us easier. But that seems stupid because we sell shit in black boxes. We could all just double up on the stuff in black boxes. They should have us wear denim. I don’t think we sell anything that’s encased in denim. Or they could just let us wear normal clothes. But that would imply that we’re not treating counting boxes of iPhone cases with the gravity it deserves.
It’s hard to convey just how patronizing the whole experience is. To dress it up (in all black of course) they never call it what it is. They’ll either say “annual inventory” or us a number of other little acronyms to make it sound like it’s a very important mission. But really what it is is counting. I point at something and tally up all the somethings. I then write how many somethings there are and give the list of the amount of somethings to someone else. They then take all the somethings from all the people and come up with a larger number. I remember when I was a kid I asked my mom if it was possible to count to a million (I was a dumb kid). My mom said it would be, but now I know it’s impossible. It turns out at about 3,700 HDMI cables you lose to the will the live. I imagine your brain would leak out of your ears into a pool at your feet before you even sniff 100K.
Not everyone had to spend the night counting. I very much wanted to be one of those lucky people who didn’t have to do this. I figured I would’ve been a shoe in to get out. For starters, I did it last time. I run a comedy show every Sunday nights (please come to it) so I did my best to weasel out of it. But all my weaseling was to no avail. I did the inventory thing last year and according to my boss I’m pretty damn good at counting. I think that was supposed to make me feel good. I did not. If you had done inventory before they keep track on how well we all counted. Don’t want to get a big head about it, but this guy is pretty good at it. I didn’t even know that was something that people were good or bad at. Some people are probably quicker than others, but for the most part I’d assume that counting is something that we’re all doing pretty goddamned well. We weren’t trying any kind of abstract or experimental counting. We weren’t actually trying to figure out the amount of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. Just good old fashioned sequential numbers. So it wasn’t a matter of pride, because that’s where I work. At a place where to qualify you don’t have to be great at counting. Me and the guy who sometimes forgets about 3 are both equally qualified to do the same job 364 days a year. Just not when we need to count.