Here’s my favorite experience of being fired from a cashiering job. (It was actually the only time I’ve been fired from a cashier job, but I’ve been fired from other jobs – two because I got hospitalized for depression – and they were nowhere near as much fun.) Fav because I desperately needed to get out of there and fav because I went out with a bang, not a whimper.
I had worked full-time for a year as a cashier in the little kiosk in the Enmark gas station on Merrimon – mostly closing shifts that didn’t get me out of there until 11 or later. I had been there too long, but working 40 hours I just wasn’t finding time to job hunt. When my genuinely cool boss, with mock ceremony, handed me my one-year pin, I erupted very genuinely with “No, not a year! I was never supposed to be here for a year!” He totally got the truth and the humor of this.
My time on the meter had expired: I needed to get out of there, but I was not making it happen. So life helped me out – or maybe it was just my unconscious that put this last act in motion.
This woman was having trouble making her gas pump work. I dutifully left the booth to try to help her. But I couldn’t figure out why the pump wasn’t working – or what she had done to screw it up. She became irate. “So I need to wait around here because you don’t know what you’re doing.”
To my credit, I kept it together for at least a moment, standing there in front of her. “Let me go back to the booth and see what I can figure out.” Really, “Let me get away from you before I do or say something that I regret.”
But really it was already too late. Looking back on the scene, I’ve always thought that if I didn’t pass Nancy, a friend from church, at the next pump – as I headed back to the booth – I wouldn’t have muttered under my breath, “Bitch!”
Under my breath, but still too loud. The bitch followed me back to the booth. I locked myself in the kiosk, where I couldn’t actually strangle her. She all but screamed at me through the window, “How dare you call me a bitch!” What I did next guaranteed my firing – and I have never for a moment regretted doing it. I planted my feet, looked her straight in the eye and said, “Sometimes it just fits.” If I had left that out, she might not the next day have complained to a company vice-president.
When I arrived at work at 3 p.m. the next day, my genuinely very cool boss Jim said, “I would never have fired you for this. We all have our bad moments. But my boss gave me no choice.”
So I got myself thrown out of the nest, which precipitated for me some anxiety, but mostly I knew that nothing was going wrong. I actually came quickly down on my feet and found a better job. And even if things had not worked out so well, I don’t think I ever would have regretted it. That bitch was flat-out disrespectful – my integrity was at stake. I had to defend myself. It was not the most elegant self-defense, but it was infinitely better than letting myself be run over.
I have yet to come across another front line customer server who is not thrilled to hear this story. It was a great moment in cashiering.