Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Asphalt Jungle Blues

It's summer time in the asphalt jungle once again. The city groans under the pressure of another hot summer. Air conditioners work double time to keep cool the throngs of refugees from the heat. Many flock to movie theaters, shopping malls, and watering holes to keep cool. The humidity hangs heavy in the air like an electric blanket left on too long.
Brave commuters travail through the snaking freeways of Houston. Crowded into a downtown-bound bus, I watch as commuters crawl by us as we cruise in air-conditoned comfort. The slow pace allows time to read, observe, and sometimes commune with my fellow bus riders. Many bemoan the long passage between Suburbia and downtown. When I see one person driving by themselves, I think of how much gas I'm saving by not driving. By not contributing to our environmental woes by taking the bus. Some day, I'll move back to my native asphalt jungle, but in the mean time, I'll enjoy the commute.
For eight long hours, I languish in the confines of a mall kiosk hawking sunglasses. Despite my doubts, the job is easy. There are customers who need to be educated on sunglasses, those who are educated, and those who just point at style they like. I'm constantly on my toese though because of these so-called mystery shoppers. Of course, there's no real mystery. Some just give themselves away without realizing it.
I also get requests for the strangest things. Someone once asked if we carried knock-offs. I don't believe he saw the endless array of designer labels. Nope, not a single fake in the bunch. Anyone willing to spend less than $50 is kindly pointed in the direction of the nearest department store rather than the 7th Circle of Hell where some of them belong.
Most of the time a wayward shopper needs to be pointed in the right direction. Somehow, my kiosk is information central. A co-worker once noted that I sell more because I'm friendly. I just grinned at her and politely thanked her. Honestly, I am friendly, but some people just get under my skin. My biggest gripe is people not doing their job correctly, or worse, not at all.
The least my co-worker could have said is I didn't notice the big brown cardboard box sitting on the floor the whole time I was reading my magazine and sitting on the counter. No, instead, I got the short version. She just didn't feel like doing it. It's people like this that ironically enough, make me look good, but yet bring down sale numbers. My job is to serve the customers and educate them on sunglasses, but what I realize as I work more and more is that it's all about the bottom line.
If my store doesn't make enough money, it closes, and I'm shipped off to another location. Most likely in that 7th Circle of Hell, or Suburbia. It's the lesser of two evils honestly. My only problem is I have no mode of transporation. Anything outside the Beltway, hell, even The Loop may as well be No Man's Land. I'd have better luck riding a blind jackass backwards than finding my way around some of these suburbs.
So once again, I find myself in the midst of summer in the asphalt jungle. Most days are better than others. I find my refuge in a mall kiosk while others labor in the summer heat. Soon, my summer transformation will begin. My hair will turn from brown to reddish brown, and my skin will go from pasty beige to a slightly darker shade. I live for summers like these, especially when spent in the asphalt jungle.

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