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Random Christmas

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2012 at 10:21 pm

While this final week of working retail in the Christmas shopping season was a triumph of efficient execution by me and my co-workers, it still has me wrung out. I’ve begun my mornings with migraines almost every day this week, including today. So, instead of one coherent piece, here’s a bunch of random thoughts.

  • To get a sense of what it feels like to work retail during the Christmas shopping season, it’s very much like this Jonathon Coulton song but with fewer robots.
  • If you’re worried that last week’s apocalypse didn’t happen, don’t worry there’s another one predicted for May 19 of next year, although it’s just a rescheduling of one that didn’t happen last year. See last week’s blog and click the link in the body of the text for more info.
  • With the way we bring attention to prophesied apocalypses, I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually becomes a rotating holiday where we look forward to celebrating the end of the world. It would involve mostly dancing, partying, telling the people you love that you love them, indulging all the things that make us feel good about being alive, and feeling happy to have, yet again, avoided ultimate destruction.
  • But the thing that most people forgot about on Friday was that it wasn’t just the end of the Mayan calendar, but it was also Winter Solstice. It was the darkest day of the year. The pagans celebrated this day because  the days wouldn’t get any darker and the sun would now slowly return to us.  It’s widely believed early Christians co-opted the pagan celebrations around this time to commemorate the birth of Jesus. Whether it’s Solstice, Christmas, or failed Apocalypse, the celebration is about being happy that we’re still here.
  • Christmas film & special recommendations: Scrooge, a movie musical version of A Christmas Carol with Albert Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness as Marley’s ghost. It’s my favorite version of the story on screen. It has some wonderfully dark moments, some of which are intensely cynical, including Scrooge’s song “I Hate People”, and a scene of Scrooge in Hell being fitted with his chains.
  • Highly recommended Christmas Double feature: two classics directed by Bob Clark: A Christmas Story and Black Christmas. One is about the holiday season affects the deranged thoughts of a bitter soul and the other’s about a serial killer. Sort of a joke. People who haven’t seen Christmas Story in a while think it’s sentimental nostalgia, but, really, it’s anti-nostalgia. It’s about looking at all the crappy stuff that happened to you as a kid and laughing about it.

Next year, I’m going to see if I can convince my friends and family to not buy gifts for each otherand, instead, take the money we would have spent on gifts and give it to charity. There are people in the world who need help more than we need presents.

Panic in the Streets (or Shops Anyway)

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I can’t stop looking at goofy internet videos. A solid hour of clips of Conan O’Brien interviews, another of comedian Grace Helbig making a fool of herself over several clips (Crap, I just wasted another 15 minutes making sure her I spelled her name correctly and started watching more videos), and then about a half-hour just looking at whatever was in my YouTube subscription box that I hadn’t watched yet.

I am certain that I am viewing these entertaining but mindless distractions as a way to decompress from my week of stress over Christmas shopping – not my Christmas shopping – NO, everyone else’s Christmas shopping.

This is the 17th holiday shopping season I have worked in retail. I work in a bookstore and I consider myself a member of a noble, if possibly dying, profession.  I tell myself every year it isn’t really that stressful. Every year I tell myself it is hype and exaggeration, that the customers are actually quite nice and rarely argumentative, that I have the best gig amongst retail employees. Most of that is entirely true. It’s seldom rudeness or anger that is ever the problem. I have realized that the problem is customer panic.

Customers, in an attempt to rush through a shopping list as quickly as possible, will spray you with a fire hose of questions and requests, hoping you will snap to and jump to their aid immediately. I do not have a problem with this. I am in customer service. I am there to serve.  However, I can only fulfill one request at a time and sometimes I need more information from the customer in order to accurately find what they are looking for. For example, I’ll be bombarded with a list of book titles without authors or knowledge of the books’ genres. So, in order to give the best service I can, I need to diminish the force of pressure coursing through the customer’s information hose. Otherwise, I can’t swallow what they’re aiming at me without drowning. For example, there’s a reason why I’m asking if “The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing” is fiction or non-fiction. If I don’t know what genre something is, I could point the customer to the wrong book – and surprise, there’s a novel with that title. Also, the computer inventory can only give me information as quickly as it can process it, not as quickly as the customer asks for it. 

The problem is, it doesn’t matter how much information I can absorb or disperse. The customer still has a specific number of gift recipients they are shopping for and only so many hours to shop within. These are constants. And as a result they are not yet ready to leave their state of panic. To do so would mean to slow down and that’s not acceptable.  So, in an attempt to maintain rapport, I unconsciously end up in a state of panic with them.  They see I’m panicking and this just makes them panic further. We’re in a never-ending panic loop which stretches both of our capacities and drains us rather quickly. The difference is, the customer gets to leave. I have to deal immediately with another customer and start to loop over.

The solution to consumer panic, though, seems more offensive to most shoppers than enduring the stress this panic causes. Whenever shops try to increase the holiday shopping season, everyone cries fowl, yelling about rabid consumerism or sacrilege. “Christmas decorations in November? That should be against the law!” shoppers scream. And while there is undeniably a capitalist motive, is it really a crime to remind you that the inevitable holiday shopping season is coming, a shopping season that you will most likely participate in regardless of your emotional, economic, political, or religious stance? Wouldn’t it be better to be reminded early, get your shopping done early, and avoid the stress and hassle of consumer panic? This year, I answer with a resounding Yes! But it’s too late. The panic has already started and now all I can do is remember to breathe and ride it out hoping that next year it will somehow get better. That is if the world doesn’t end in a week or so.

No Blog, but Doctor Who essay

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2012 at 1:25 am

No blog this week. I am slowly adding content to the rest of the site, scouring hard drives, cabinet files, and publications that contain work that might best showcase my writing talent. So today I point you to the new entry on my Essay page within the Writing Archive titled Doctor Who: Outsider Hero, a piece I wrote in 2004 about the nature of my fandom for the classic BBC sci-fi series and my identification with its main hero when I was growing up.

Next week I plan to have an actual, real blog post up.

42

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I feel a smidge broken. My doctor tells me I have plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the spongy material in your heel, and I’m laid up in bed for having sprained my back. I am pretty sure this is the culmination of being on my feet and lifting heavy boxes as a retail bookseller for 17 years. No longer being young doesn’t help either. At the end of this year I turn 42 and, as Douglas Adams fans know, that number is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. I could really use, as could we all, a meaningful answer to the question that is my life in this upcoming year.

If you’re unfamiliar, the meaning of the number 42 was posited by Adams in his story The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For those of you who never read the book, saw the movie or tv show, heard the radio play, or played the video game, here’s the lowdown: In the story, it’s discovered that the Earth is actually a giant computer. It was created by another giant computer named Big Thought, who had calculated that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything was, in fact, 42. When Big Thought’s creators expressed their dissatisfaction with this puzzling answer, the computer explained that the question was too vague. So the Earth was created in order to calculate just what the specific question was that 42 happened to be the answer to. Confusing? Absurd? Yes, just go with it.

So, according to this story we are basically running through these endless scenarios in order to understand the meaning of life, which is pretty much something we already knew. I am hoping that next year I will discover that the question is, “How many years does it take for someone to begin creating a personal understanding of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?” Answer: 42.

I feel pretty confident that this will happen. I am already starting to change my life in meaningful ways. I’ve started this blog. I’ve finished a 9-month program at the University of Washington for Editing. And I edited a fantastic fantasy novel which should be out before the end of this year: Summerhawk by Peter Schmit. All of these are steps to get me moving into the realm of a new career. I’ve also started taking yoga. (I’ve only taken the introductory class. I feel if I had taken more classes in the last week, I might have avoided, prevented, or at least somewhat healed the damage done to me this week.) I’m also getting a new bike after my last one finally conked out beyond repair. I feel these new attempts at discipline in mind and body are at least a first step in finding the mental and physical resources to make something meaningful out of my life.

Not that my life is a mess. It’s just  since all I can do is lie here, trying not to move my back, I have plenty of time to think about life, the universe, and everything.

Welcome

In Uncategorized on January 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Hello, and welcome to derekfetterswrites.com.

This is where you can find out about the  various writing projects that Derek Fetters may be involved with at the moment. This site also serves as an archive of previous writing and as an occasional blog about writing, the business of writing, and the creative process.

As well as writing, Derek does some editing as well, but, as an editor, he thought derekfetterswritesandoccasionallyedits.com would be too long.