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Archive for November, 2007

Black Friday at the Souk

November 23rd, 2007 at 09:16 pm

I'm on holiday from the Guild, and even though I have a TON of work to do, agreed to pull a shift at the Souk.

I haven't been there in months, and there have been a few changes. Now, all the wenches have earpieces and microphones, and we've finally moved into the new millenium by adding our inventory online. So there's a little less rowdy energy, and a whole lot more hustle.

It's wierd, being back. You see a lot of the "Christmas Machinery" at work -- there's a big push to buy, buy, buy. And everyone is out shopping, so the place is jam-packed. Tempers are already starting to flare: demanding and annoyed customers, crying children. The wenches have already started the holiday back-stall venting.

There's so much pressure to get the perfect gift, but I wish there were as much focus on the everyday gifts: patience, courtesy, kindness. I have to admit, I'm not displaying as much as I should be.

I found myself getting really frustrated with a customer who wanted to pick up an order that hadn't come in yet. She'd been (mistakenly) told it was in a few days earlier, and had come back repeatedly to see if it had arrived. It still hadn't, and she kept asking me why she had been told earlier that it was. I was getting frustrated (because it still hadn't arrived, and I had no clue as to who had spoken to her earlier,) she was getting frustrated (because she didn't understand why it hadn't arrived,) and of course, trying to find a phoenix at this time of year is well...let's just say she'll have to wait for her order to come in. But I looked all over the Souk, just because you have to show the effort. So we tell her (again) that she doesn't need to come back in and check - we'll call her when it comes. She leaves, not thrilled.

So now, we're all totally annoyed: spending too much time with one shopper takes away our attention from the other people who need our help. And as we grouse about the whole situation, we realize that if this lady has been in a few times already, and isn't quite getting the concept of the phrase "it's not here yet" that maybe she's not being sucky, but maybe a little dotty instead?

And then we all felt like jerks, complaining about this little old lady who just wants a phoenix for her grandson. And even if she was being sucky, why let it get us all down?

And as we get this revelation, we get the midmorning report about our sales rate, and how we need to start pushing dragon's teeth, and the sale on leopard spots, and we have be faster in our transactions, because we're not making enough money. And it just bothers me...isn't this supposed to be the season of joy, and of being thankful?

It's hard to feel thankful when it's just reduced to the dollars, instead of the individuals. I hate the pressure that people put themselves under to equate spending with love. Because when they treat that like a number, and we treat them like a number, well...it's just not how I want to live.

And did I mention how my suggestion to not buy me Christmas gifts was met with a polite silence? In spite of the fact that a few family members are having trouble paying the rent? Oy vey.

Investments don't always = money

November 10th, 2007 at 11:21 pm

A few months ago, I started a project for the Guild-- I needed to fill up some gaps in my courseload, and so asked to do an independent assignment. It took a while to find anyone to agree to this: most of the Senior Crafters have heavy workloads of their own, so supervising a stray apprentice is really not something they have time to do.

When I finally found someone to take me on, I was thrilled -- I needed the project to fill out my course hours and keep my Guild Aid. I decided on an Illuminated Manuscript...a stretch for my abilities, but well within my general interest.

But between the responsibilities of the Guild, the Forum and the Souk, plus my total lack of organization, I had put off the work until it was very nearly overdue.

So I pulled a few all-nighters, and fueled by coffee, carryout, panic attacks and sheer blind luck, managed to finish the first part of the assignment.

It was the biggest project of the type I had ever done, and I realized that by taking on such a big job, it gave me tons of practice and helped my skills improve.

But I still had to finish the second part: translation. Still, my old habits and workload hadn't changed, so it was a long stretch of procrastination before I touched the assignment again.

And this time, I hated it.

After so long, I could see the flaws in the illustration, and the places where a little more skill would have been really useful. I could barely even look at it, I hated it so much.

And on top of that, I still had the translation! So all of this took a few more espresso-powered nights.

So when I finished, I was totally burned out: a week of interrupted sleep, piles of laundry, money $$ on fast-food, and an overall feeling of being dragged through 10 miles of country roads.

A final look at the project made me feel annoyed: the work was ok, but could have been better, if I'd taken more time to get things done.

But I knew that I didn't really have the time...or did I?

Maybe the hour on Sundays I spent surfing the internet could have been spent practicing my illuminating/translating skills. Even a little bit of effort in these areas would have eventually given me a high enough skill to do the big jobs.

It reminded me about the discussions we have about money: how the few dollars saved by packing lunches, or using coupons helped build a fund large enough to cover the car repair, or the furnace malfunction.

It's easy to think of investment when it comes to tangible things: we can see the money in the coin jar or the bank balance at the end of the month.

But it's a little more abstract to think about the time we spend and where we spend it. I think about the manuscript I did, and I realize that even 20 minutes a day (which I waste just looking for socks in the morning) could improve my situation, in the same way that skipping the daily Starbucks could improve my wallet.

So I'm rethinking how I spend my time -- realizing that little steps do add up!!!