Saturday, January 14, 2017

Driving For Discounts

Today I was bored and needed to get cigarettes, so I decided to do a little exploring. This time, though, I went a little further afield than just my immediate neighborhood.

I wasn't in the mood to go walking in 35 degree weather. I knew that taxes on cigarettes, soda, and many other things were much less outside of the Philadelphia city limits. I also knew that if I headed west on Market Street and went a couple of miles in that direction I'd cross the Philadelphia County line and out of the jurisdiction of those city taxes.

So, just as an experiment, that's what I did. I got in my car, drove up to Market Street, made a left, and started driving. I drove through some of the rougher areas of West Philly until eventually Market Street turned into West Chester Avenue and the neighborhood turned decidedly more suburban. I kept driving another mile or so until I spotted a Wawa across the street. I pulled into the parking lot and went in.

Much to my surprise, cigarette prices were about the same as in New Jersey, though gas prices were a bit higher. I bought 10 packs and a chicken salad hoagie and headed home. The entire trip took me about a half hour.

So it seems likely that I'll be doing more of my shopping in Pennsylvania now, though not in Philadelphia. Next, I'll have to locate a supermarket in that area and check it out. I saved myself about $20 just on cigarettes compared to in-city prices by making that trip and I bet I'll save even more by doing my grocery shopping outside the city too, without having to use up 3/4 of a tank of gas driving to Jersey and back.

Funny thing is, I don't know if I'd have bothered to go on that exploration trip if I hadn't been so annoyed by the new Philly soda tax, but now that I know how much I can save with just a few minutes drive I doubt I'll ever willingly pay city tax again except in absolute emergencies. So, in reality, the city will now get much less from me in taxes than they would have if they hadn't levied that stupid soda tax. Bet I'm not the only one either.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bad Coffee

I'm not doing well right now. Not well at all.

I've come to the conclusion that working at Starbucks is just not for me. This is a job for young people, those who can work at top speed for several hours at all hours of the day and do lots of running, bending, and lifting. Simply put, I'm having a lot trouble keeping up with the physical demands of this job.

I come home from every shift tired and aching. I really don't know what I'm doing yet and it shows. I dread going to work, even for a few hours. The kids I work with all know their jobs and have no trouble dealing the demands of a busy store while I slowly bumble around, barely getting anything done.

I fucking hate this.

Even worse, the stress is seriously getting to me. I had a panic attack tonight, my first one in months. I have some Xanax but I have to be at work by 7am and if I take any it'll knock me out until at least mid-morning. There's no way I'll sleep tonight without it, so here I am at 2:30 in the morning writing a blog post.

Even though it goes against every fiber of my being in terms of being responsible, I'm seriously considering calling out today because I just don't want to face it. The more I consider going into work in a few hours, the higher my anxiety level rises. I don't know what I'm going to do.

Maybe it's time for me to finally admit to myself that I just can't do this kind of work anymore. Sure, I can still run a cash register, do sales, maybe even be a manager if it's not too physically demanding, but I think my days as a retail grunt are over. I'm just too old for this shit, and between the effects of both middle age and injectable estrogen my body simply isn't up to it anymore.

I'm thinking it might be more than that, though. I don't think it's a coincidence that I just had my first panic attack in months, a few days after I started this job. When I'm in my own space, doing what I do well, writing, I'm fine...well mostly fine anyway. At Starbucks, I'm outside my comfort zone, working at a job I'm not particularly good at, and I'm just a ball of stress and anxiety. I've done a good job of concealing it at work so far, but it's there all the time and it's getting to me, more every time I go in. I worry that one day soon I won't be able to tamp it down on the job without taking something, and that would be bad, bad, bad.

Maybe it's time to re-apply for disability. I tried once, years ago, but was denied. I don't know, but I know I have to do something, and I have to do it soon. Very soon.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

What's Old Is New Again

So today was my first day of training at Starbucks. Mostly it was sitting in front of a laptop watching videos and learning about the company's culture and values. Pretty easy stuff, especially since they mesh so well with my own values as well as my idea of what working for a modern retail establishment should be like.

It's kinda funny. On the one hand, a goal I set for myself a long time ago when I was maneuvered out of my last job in retail several years ago was to avoid anything that involved uniforms and nametags ever again. Of course, that was before I came to the unavoidable conclusion that it would be a long time, if ever, before I'd be able to make a living as a writer. I do make money on my writing, but it's not enough to live on. Even when I was the Media Correspondent for the Advocate I didn't make what most people would consider a living wage, certainly not if living includes paying rent and feeding oneself.

On the other hand, I've been surprised to discover that I like the idea of working at Starbucks. Of course I can't fully judge the experience yet, but I can say that I like the idea of working for a company with progressive values that reflect my own. It motivates me to see just how far I can take this job on my own skills and abilities, knowing that my being trans isn't going to get in the way.

That's a big deal for me. I've had other retail jobs where I've all but begged my bosses to let me do more and demonstrate that I can handle more responsibility only to run up against a solid pink ceiling that would never allow me to progress beyond an entry level position. In fact, in many of these situations the feeling seemed to be that my ambition to be and do more was evidence of my being ungrateful, of not knowing my place and being eternally thankful that the company was willing to employ me at all.

I'm not going to name names here of course, but I will say that on the vast majority of retail jobs I've had since going fulltime it wasn't a long time on the job before I discovered that I'd never be promoted above the position I was hired for, no matter how hard I worked, how good at my job I was, or how deserving I could prove myself to be.

In every case, the problem was the same: Someone(s) in the chain of command had a problem with me because I'm trans and as a result I'd never be seriously considered for promotion. They'd usually be ok with me ringing a cash register or stocking shelves, but not with anything that involved close customer contact like sales or management.

For example, when I worked at a big-name electronics store, they literally hid me behind a curtain, apparently so customers wouldn't see me. I repeatedly asked my managers to put me on the sales floor, where I knew I'd do well, but they staunchly refused.

At one point, there was a fire in the store I worked at and the employees were loaned out to work in other stores while our store was being repaired. I decided to see if I could take advantage of the situation and make a point to upper management in the process.

I was assigned to another local store and asked the manager there to put me on the sales floor in the computer department. He did, and with absolutely no training, going only by my own sales skills, product knowledge, the store signage, and an occasional question to those working in the department, I sold over ten thousand dollars worth of computers and accessories in one afternoon. Needless to say, I was kept working in that department until it was time for me to return to my own store.

When I returned to my home store, I went to the store manager, told him what I'd accomplished at the other store, and asked him to reassign me to the computer department. He told me I was needed where I was and ushered me right back to my phone operator desk behind the curtain. It was at that point it became clear to me that I'd never be anything more than what I was at that store because the store manager simply wouldn't allow it. When I asked for a transfer to the other store, where I felt I had the best opportunity to succeed, I was told there were no positions available there and laid off soon afterward.

I could tell several other similar stories, but you get the idea. As a trans woman, I was expected to know my place and to be eternally grateful for it. Trying to rise above that position and demonstrate I was more valuable than I was being allowed to be was considered "not fitting in", as one manager told me, and reason enough to let me go.

I've been around long enough to be a little wary of any company I work for, at least initially, but if Starbucks corporate culture is what they say it is and my ability to move up and succeed there is entirely dependent on me and how good of an employee I am, then I think I'll do well there.

There's another factor too, one which probably means less at Starbucks than it does elsewhere, but I bet it'll still make life easier on the job: No one makes me as trans anymore. The store manager knows (because I told her), but no one else there knows as far as I can tell. This is the first customer contact job I've ever had where that's been the case, probably because it's the first one I've ever had without a fully functional testosterone factory between my legs.

Tomorrow, I get to go in for more training and learn how to actually do stuff like make the various coffees. I'm looking forward to it.


Another extremely cool thing that happened today is a pair of sneakers I ordered came. My feet are pretty big, 11.5 EEE in men's shoes, which translates to a 12D in women's. Finding women's shoes that actually fit me has been an exercise in frustration since I came out. Estrogen can feminize a body in a lot of ways but changing shoe size isn't one of them. Right now as I sit here typing this, I'm wearing women's sneakers that actually fit me for the first time in my life. I have a feeling that I'm going to be using this site a lot.

For ladies who are also in need of such sizes, I can't recommend this site enough. The prices are very reasonable, the fit is excellent, and they showed up exactly when promised. Go get 'em, girls.  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Officially Official

So today I went into Starbucks, filled out my paperwork, and got my first scheduled hours for training, Thursday and Friday 10-1. Next week, I'll have a much fuller schedule. I'm told I can have as many hours as I can handle, which is a very good thing, and it seems I can pretty much set my own schedule as far as timing goes, which is a truly great thing. There's no way I want to be traveling to work at 4:30 in the morning in Philly the middle of winter (or anytime really).

I already knew that Starbucks is a pretty progressive company, but really I had no idea. Full benefits for working over 20 hours, free food, coffee, and lots of other perks, plenty of opportunity to move up and grow, and a company culture that not only accepts diversity in its workforce but actively welcomes and promotes it.

The last part is really a new thing in my experience. I've worked for plenty of companies that say they hire and fire without regard to race, sexuality, gender ID, etc., but never one which actually goes out of its way to say not just "We don't care what you are." but takes it a step further and says "There's a place for you here." There's a big difference between just being tolerated and actually being welcomed. For me, as a trans woman, that's new.

So yeah, I'm feeling pretty good about this new job. If I can just get the housing thing worked out, I'll feel even better. I think I'll give my landlord a buzz tomorrow and see if we can work something out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Call Comes...

...and I got the job!

Next Monday, I go in to fill out paperwork and then at some point soon after that, I'll start.

Now I guess I can tell you. I'm gonna be a barista. Yeah Starbucks, and a pretty busy one too. When I was there at about 3pm yesterday there was a fairly long line so it's pretty safe to assume that this place does a good business throughout the day. That's not surprising since it's a corner store in one of the busiest areas of Center City.

Busy is good. I like busy. Busy makes the day go by faster, plus if and when there's an opportunity to move up it's always an advantage to have experience in a well-trafficked store, especially when you live and work in a major city. It's much easier to find people who can handle slow and easy. Being able to deal with fast and busy is much more valuable, especially here.

Now I have to make a Jersey run at some point this week and hit a few places for things like some (more) black tops and a new pair of sneakers to wear to work. My current pair are nice and comfy but they look like shit.

Here's the funny thing: I don't even know how much I'll be making yet. I guess I was so happy to finally be seriously considered and hired I forgot to ask. I guess it can wait until I go in on Monday.

Holy crap, I have a job. An actual, non-freelance, show-up-for-work-and-get-an-actually-decent-paycheck-with-benefits job.

Cool (coffee) beans.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Job Interview Update

So I had my interview today, and I think it went really well. It's for a position at a small place in Center City. The manager who interviewed me is pretty new to the company and is in the process of trying to put together a good team to run this store. That's the best kind of situation to be in as an applicant because you're coming into something new, not trying to replace or compete with others.

She asked good questions and I think my answers were pretty good. I also think there was a little retail manager bonding happening. I get her and she gets me, and I think that came through during the interview. It's an important thing when you're looking to put together a retail store team. She knows that I've been where she is so aside from the actual specifics of my job duties she's not going to have to put a lot of effort into training me. That makes her life easier. Also, she knows that I have experience with training retail staff so once I get comfortable in the job I can probably help out there as well. In short, I think I managed to successfully talk myself up and highlight the benefits of hiring me without sounding like I was bragging or narcissistic, which is exactly what I was trying to do.

There's no way to be certain of course, but I have a strong feeling that I aced the interview. She promised me a call tomorrow before 2. With any luck, tonight will be my last night among the almost totally unemployed. I do see potential in this job and with this company, but even if that proves not to be the case, it's almost always easier to get hired when you're already working somewhere.

So, I guess I'll know and will report more tomorrow. Right now, it's almost time for Maddow.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Clearing Hurdles

On Monday, I'll get to do something which until now I haven't been able to successfully manage since I moved here:

I have a job interview. An actual, face-to-face, come-on-down-and-meet-the-boss, opportunity to score myself some work. It's part-time at a local retail establishment which I don't think it's appropriate to name unless and until I actually get the job.

Sure, I wish it was for something full-time, but hey, I gotta start somewhere and this is a job I know I can do and be good at. It's also for a company with a pretty progressive rep and I know the trans thing isn't going to be an issue. It shouldn't matter, of course, but it does.

If there's anything I've learned looking for work here in Philly, it's that too many employers just don't want to hire a trans person. It's no surprise that they're not open about it. After all, it's illegal here to refuse to hire someone because they're trans so no smart employer is ever going to admit to it. Still, there are plenty of clues which tell me that's what's been going on.

Many of the jobs I've applied for I'm fully qualified for, some even overqualified, especially the ones in retail. Yet in no case until now have I gotten an actual interview. Instead, I get a "Thanks for applying, but..." form email in just about every case.

Having been a retail manager who's made and participated in hiring decisions myself, I have a good idea of what companies are looking for as well as what constitutes a red flag. I've seen candidates rejected for all kinds of reasons, but most commonly for two things: Potential longevity on the job, and physical appearance.

The first one is usually when the job is something that will require an investment in time and (sometimes) money to train a new hire. Many employers are reluctant to make that kind of investment in an employee they believe will quit as soon as something better comes along. This includes young people who will likely be off to college soon as well as those who (like me) also work in other industries.

The other is tied up in how a potential new hire appears and how management thinks they might be seen by customers. Sometimes, it's genuine racism or anti-LGBT sentiment where a manager believes that customers don't want to see a person of color or someone visibly Queer behind the counter. Other times, it's when someone comes in for an interview inappropriately dressed.

While racism and anti-LGBT bigotry are always the wrong things to base hiring decisions on, I have far less sympathy for those who dress inappropriately for interviews. Showing up for a job interview in clothes that make you look like you just walked off the basketball court, a street corner, or out of a club sends a message you don't respect the job, that getting hired isn't important enough to you to dress to impress.

No one expects an applicant for a low-level retail position to show up in Brooks Brothers or Lord and Taylor, but you can say a lot to a potential employer by wearing an outfit that indicates respect, both for yourself and for the company you're hoping to work for. I've seen many potentially good candidates rejected out-of-hand because they showed up in baggy pants and a backward cap, a skirt that was too short, a top that was too revealing, too much or too slutty makeup, etc. These cases can often be sad, because even though the applicant might be fully qualified, no one's going to consider their qualifications once it's been determined that their manner of dress is inappropriate and/or disrespectful.

It's important to remember that regardless of the level of the position, you're applying for work at a place of business, one which the manager interviewing you is highly invested in. If your appearance doesn't reflect the same kind of respect for that job and that business your interviewer has, you might as well just turn around and go home because you're not getting the job.

Simply put, managers hire people who they believe are going to make their own jobs easier and make them look good. If you don't convey that message through how you present yourself for an interview, a good manager will keep looking for someone else who does.

In many cases, trans applicants start with one strike against us the moment we walk in the door. We're trans, and that itself can bring with it a fair amount of baggage in terms or who and what people think we are and how we live our lives. If you can get past the hurdle of actually getting the interview in the first place, proper presentation at an interview can go a long way toward quelling those kinds of fears and inspiring your interviewer to judge you based on your qualifications rather than your trans status.

I've already got two possible outfits picked out for Monday. I'll make a final decision that morning, when I see what the weather's like. For this interview, business casual is the look I'm going for.

Fingers crossed.