The Uproar

My Way / Frank Li

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My Way / Frank Li

photo by D. Crickets

photo by D. Crickets

photo by D. Crickets

Frank Li, Guest Writer

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Just south of the NA border sits a dilapidated deep-discount clothing warehouse that reeks of an uncommon blend of cleaning agents and natural body odors. It’s not a stylish place—in fact, it’s not even a safe place some days—but I’m proud to say that it’s my part-time workplace. Distinct from common retailers in our affluent suburban community, Gabe’s attracts the most uncommon common people. For some, it’s a hunt for fabulous deals; for others, it’s the only place they can afford to shop.

It’s my first day on shift and I barely know how to operate the register. The training given by the managers was lackluster, as they were more concerned with filling work shifts than specializing and retaining adept employees. To be fair, I don’t think any amount of training could have prepared me for the “culture” of Gabe’s. Price tags are ripped off and swapped, customers are rude (some are nice), and the standard currency is crumpled, damp cash. I drove home in shock, ready to quit.

But I didn’t leave. My friends called me crazy, but as I kept working, I became more and more acquainted with the unique and diverse employees. Honed by years of “customer service” experience, they comprise the store’s firm foundation. When they work with customers, they greet them sincerely without discrimination. They embody hard-work, neutrality, self-improvement, and compassion, bringing out the best in everyone. Abiding by an unspoken policy of unequivocal respect and dignity, they remain stoic in the face of boorish and coarse shoppers, but are always ready to light up the dimly-lit store with laughter with amicable customers.

From them, I learned how to manage the rowdy customers: stay calm, treat everyone with patience, and channel compassion. When I saw and met a new set of diverse customers every shift, I question the “community” my upscale school has fed me. When I realized that a majority of the customers are battling tangible and oppressive burdens, the petty squabbles of retweets and Snapchat streaks lost their influence on me. The humanity I witnessed in defiance towards the harsh world inspired me to keep an open mind and give lots of love.  These customers are the reason why I start shifts enthusiastically and mention my employment with pride.

I have experienced diversity in a uniform and ideal suburb. I have glimpsed a microcosm of the deep urban landscape, standing in stark contrast to the utopian suburb it resides in. I have witnessed compassion be reciprocated in indifferent, struggling souls. Thanks to the tattered clothing warehouse, I am able to call two communities home, I have experienced gritty reality, and now I see more perspectives and facets of life than I had before ever thought possible.

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