corporate zombies* Ate My Neighbors OR I’m Overqualified for This…Right? Right!? (Part 2)

I really need to stop keeping lofty goals for myself. Like this nugget for instance; I want to be identified as either the Anti-Christ or as the BFF of the Dali Lama-regardless if I am either.

This has nothing to do with the rest of the story I started in the last post, so anyway…

When I met my actual boss, he was anything but happy. He was already annoyed that he had no control of my hiring process so when I told him that I had no experience in retail he made little effort to hide his aggravation. He began to talk to me about how hard the job was and that I needed to “step-up to the plate” everyday. It was then that he started churning out more cliche’s and corporate buzz words then I had thought possible by a single person. He seemed like a walking stereotype of corporate America. Those people don’t really exist do they? No one could be that souless, right? He began telling me about his career at the department store, and how he had been there for around 10 years or so. Implying that if I work hard enough, I could get his position. Maybe, in another 10 years.

I was laughing to myself. There was no way I’d be stuck here for that long right? I was a college graduate, college graduates don’t get stuck working retail department stores for the rest of their lives right? Sure, in the next few weeks during my computer training (which I later found out was full of outdated information that no longer applied to the floor) I’d met some people who had been with the company for 30+ years, but they didn’t have degrees. I wasn’t the same as them, right? Right?


My first day of floor training was with Kathy, an older woman with two sons about my age. When I told her I was fresh out of college and considering going back for a teaching certificate, she laughed. It was then that told me something that knocked my normally optimistic self into a deep dark pit of worry and pessimism: she had graduated college years ago with a teaching certificate and never got a teaching job. Kathy had been working with the company ever since college.

I can still hear the echos of my perception of reality being brutally crushed by those words. It had always been presented to me that once you graduate college, you are guaranteed a nice job somewhere within a few years. Oh sure, I had heard otherwise and met other people who told me the opposite, but I was different. I was smarter, more talented and much, much more attractive than they. I would not fall into that cycle of part-time jobs for the rest of my life, it just wasn’t possible.

But here I was, in the same position as Kathy was years ago. I wondered if my fate would be the same; if my college years had been wasted (I wasn’t even paid more than those without diplomas). I kept fighting the thought; Kathy had to be some sort of outlier-an exception to the rule.

Then I met Michael. Michael actually worked in the department across the room from me, but introduced himself when he saw I was the new guy. He was easily one of the nicest, smartest, most well-educated people in the store. Turns out, Michael not only graduated from college with a double major in English and Philosophy but actually went on to get a masters in Theology. A masters degree! Something a hell of a lot more respectable than my measly Bachelors, and he was working in appliances selling washers and dryers. Washers and dryers. He spent years researching the most noble of intellectual pursuits and now was spending his days selling stuff to clean your clothes. Oh, and then he told me he had been a monk for awhile. I couldn’t help myself, so I asked him exactly what was on my mind,

“Why the hell are you working here?”

He only laughed and told me that “things had happened.” I never asked him about it after that, but I was able to figure out that it had something to do with taking care of his parents.

Great, I thought, not only was he more educated than me but he had no trouble casting that to the side to take care of his parents, qualities of a saint. And here I was bitching about not being able to get a job that required a degree. The idea that I was never going to get a good job seemed more and more real. I seemed to silently accept that fact for some time, my older optimistic self was no where to be found.

Over time, I got to know my boss a little bit more. Turns out he was part of the Special Weapons Unit for the Army. I found this out when I told him I needed some time off to go to Chicago to see my sister graduate from boot camp. I did make a formal request through the usual channels, but I was put on the schedule anyway. He gave me a big look of disapproval.

“When you were hired,” he began, “you said you had an open schedule.”

“I did,” I replied, “but that was months ago, and this wasn’t really something I could control.”

Again, the buzz words. More words that wasted time and never actually meant anything. I think he said something like “When you come back, we’ll need to touch-base to work out a tactical game plan in order to refocus time spent on…”

I stopped paying attention. It wasn’t that I realized he didn’t care, or that he thought I wanted to spend my life at the every beck and call for the company, or that he really was a walking stereotype of corporate America; I had realized one very simple thing about him: he was an idiot.

I was grumbling about my fate to myself later that day. Thinking about how I would have to fight with corporate zombies for the rest of my life just because I wanted a day off. You see, the worst part about corporate zombies is that-unlike regular zombies-you are not allowed to shoot them in the head. There’s laws against it or something.

Then I got a phone call. It was from the Human Resources department of a school district. They had just looked over my application and wanted me to attend an orientation meeting for substitutes. I could feel that old optimistic self poke his head out of the depths of my psyche,

“Hey, I got this idea! I heard the Dali Lama hangs out in Ann Arbor from time to time…”

*”Don’t give them the satisfaction of being a proper noun.”
-My fiancee


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