Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sass Mouth

photoGunnar Marquardt
Did you know I haven't always been a sass mouth?

Don't worry, It's a chronic condition for which there is no cure. I may not have always had it, but now that I've contracted it, it seems my diagnosis may follow me to my grave.

The onset was slow. I think. Others might disagree. Whatever. I'm pretty sure that I wasn't that big of a pain in the ass as a kid. I kept to myself a lot and hung out with a LOT of elderly people and did a lot of educational things. I was probably for sure really weird.

(This is also why I happen to treasure very-much-so that handful of friends I still have from the wayback because they knew me when I was weird and they loved me anyway. Also, they know me now when I'm weird in all the weird adult ways and they love me anyway. You know who you are.)

My sass mouth though, in the bigger world...has gotten me in trouble. Ruffled feathers. Made me enemies. Cost me promotions. I've watched as other, more satisfactorily compliant people keep their mouths shut and succeed. Have a million "best friends". I literally have no idea how to do this. I know I USED to be able to do this. Perhaps that part of my brain has been damaged. Like Gary Busey.

Without sounding sexist, it's usually only women with sass mouths that people have a problem with. These women are often referred to as "head-strong" or "bitches". I've been called worse.

Men with sass mouths are sometimes referred to as "leaders". I know this because a million years ago I was married to a giant sociopath whose charismatic personality and sass mouth got him immediately elected as "leader" of whatever group or party he happened to show up for that day. Qualified? No. Loudest? Yes.


Anyway. Back to my sass mouth.

TWO million years ago, I worked at JC Penney. For context, here is a sampling of all of the wonderful shit I could have ordered for you via the catalog because there was no internet.

Don't lie. You have some of this buried deeeeeeep in your closet RIGHT now.

We had name tags that had our first and last names on them. We also had a straight up creeper stalker kidnapper stabby murderer type individual who came in pretty late only on Thursdays, made a loop around the store, and made a point of asking 1) what time the store closed and 2) whether you had to work up until closing.

He did this while staring at your name tag and including your name in his creepy query thusly:

"Excuse me...HEATHER WATKINS...what time does the store close and will you be working until it closes?"


And then we'd close up shop like the bunch of highschoolers that we were because all the actual grownups wanted to be at HOME with their families at 9:00 at night, and we'd head out to the parking lot behind the mall where it's all secluded and poorly lit and rapey and whatnot and whaddayaknow...there he'd be. In his car.

Another side note: This was back when there was this thing where we had HOME phones and our names and phone numbers and addresses and favorite colors and underwear sizes were all published for the world to see in this thing called a PHONE BOOK. Today, this is used for ordering pizza by people who don't just order it online. You know...Cavemen.

And I thought...WHAT THE HELL??? We couldn't catch a break. This was the second creeper with a predictable pattern and I almost wished they'd show up on the same day. There was no such thing as "security". We weren't allowed to take a picture because you know - it might make a customer mad even though these guys didn't really buy enough to make torturing the employees a good ROI (besides, they were only terrorizing the female employees, so no biggie). And even if we COULD take a picture, the technology available to us in ALL THE STORE was, no shit, a Polaroid camera.

Probably a good thing I could never snap a pic. Totally my caption for these assholes.

The other dude came in on Sundays. He took advantage of the skirts or dresses policy on those days and came in with mirrors and found a way to ask you to get something off a high display. Or some other distraction. Yes. Skirts. Or. Dresses. And no, this JC Penney was not located on the Warren Jeffs FLDS compound. And before you knew it, he got a peek of your undercarriage all smashed into the JC Penney brand control top reinforced toe pantyhose because you got the best discount on those.

Policy. Just like you know...the name tag thing.

So one day this chick named Kim quit and her name tag was just always hanging around in a register drawer where we stuck coupons and the good pens we didn't want anyone to steal. It had a tiny triangle on it - an indication that she was some kind of wandering customer service overrider overlord, able to simmer people down or give them a special discount for being too stupid to read a sale sign that very clearly was three racks over from where the item they were purchasing lived. The magic triangle was apparently indicative of her Illuminati membership. It had something else, though. It had no last name.

So. On Thursday evenings, I was "Kim". Kim with no last name. And people lost their shit. I got verbally reprimanded. There were threats of being "written up". All of this AFTER I'd already taken concerns about Rapey McStabberton and Peeper McPervypants to the Cheese. Nobody gave a shit.


Dumb luck brought the regional manager to town on a Thursday. As she made her rounds with a gaggle of nervous supervisors in tow, she stopped to talk to me. They shot me daggers. She was very pleasant but asked, "Kim, why do you have a name badge that doesn't have your last name?"

I was honest.

"My name isn't even Kim. Kim quit and left this here. My name is Heather and we have a creeper who comes in on Thursdays and makes a point to look at our name tags. He hangs around outside after closing. I don't want him following me home or looking me up. It's a safety concern. I know you would feel terrible if something happened to me and it was because he learned my full name from my name tag. I wear my own name tag on Fridays. I hope that's okay."

She had a poker face. Maybe she was full of botox. Was that a thing back then?

Anyhoo. Not long after that came the regional initiative - and then the national one - that name badges were changing. They were dropping last names altogether. Initials were okay. Just like that.

Did I get any credit? Any recognition? No. Well, nothing positive. I continued getting grief over making waves instead of just falling in line. Why did I have to question things? Why couldn't I just be compliant with the long-standing policies that nobody else seemed to have an issue with?

History is full of women who had big-ol' sass mouths. Today we look back on them and applaud their unwillingness to sit still and shut up. Specifically today - election day - I am INCREDIBLY thankful for those women who I'm sure were such a pain in the ass in their communities who dared to demand the right to vote. The ones who were deemed hysterical (not the good kind like haha she's so funny) and shunned and who lost friends and who were skipped over for opportunities.

I asked four middle aged white men today whether they had voted and all were either disinterested or had forgotten. How easy it is to take that right for granted when they have literally always had it. I may have used my outside voice when I feigned remembering their felonies prevented their participation, leaving them each to explain themselves to their conversation companions I'd blathered my way into the middle of.

I'll never land in a history book, but I'm never shutting up anyway.

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