The Therapy Journals of the Fat-Headed Klingon Woman

One woman's journey to becoming Her True Self

Scenes From A Gift Shop and Postcards From Nowhere May 19, 2015

Hello, all! It occurred to me that I hadn’t really posted much about *where* I actually work. Well, I mean, you know the main part. I’m in Alaska, at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. I work in the Gift Shop. It is quite the unexpected experience, to be sure. Now, I have been in gift shops before. I have been in the Statue of Liberty gift shop, and the Mount Rushmore gift shop (I think) and Branson, South Padre, and Disney World, and I have never given enough thought to what a unique work environment it is.

*

The view from the counter.

The view from the counter.

To start with, it is BUSY!! FIrst of all it’s like a really expensive garage sale. There are people hanging around outside the door waiting for it to open 10-15 minutes early. I’m pretty sure I have never done that, either at a garage sale OR a gift shop. The second thing is that there are predictable lulls and rushes. We know ahead of time when there are going to be four or five buses rolling in and how many hundreds of people are expected to pour out of them. We also know that they will either be jumping off their motor coach and on to another excursion bus (and be ravenous for snacks and water in the few minutes between), or they will be checking into their room for a night or two (and thinking about all the things they either lost or left behind from their luggage or have decided they can’t live without RIGHT NOW), or they will be remembering the last lodge they were at, with its gift shop full of things they loved but for reasons unknown decided to pass up and are now blessed with a second chance, or they will have spent the last several hours on a bus chatting with their fellow cruisers and admiring/coveting the totally adorable things they picked up at their last stop and wondering if they can outdo the Joneses in bling and/or snagged bargains. And sometimes they will be wishing that everyone they know and love from their parents to their offspring to their next door neighbor and his adorable toddler granddaughter could be with them but since they can’t, let’s take some tiny part of Alaska home to ALL of them!

The kids' section makes me wish my kids were still little so I could bring them all the awesome books!

The kids’ section makes me wish my kids were still little so I could bring them all the awesome books!

*

In a way, the next few months are going to be an interesting experience in Wildlife Viewing. Already I have met Impatientus Husbandus, the surprisingly sneaky specimen who smiles tiredly at the perky, stalking sales girl and then snaps the head off his wife who just henpecked him for going ahead and paying for his water and pocket knife with his credit card instead of waiting ten seconds for her to pick out one more postcard.  I have met Rowdyus British Bratus who bounces the moose ball high enough to ricochet off the ceiling, and gets into a scuffling match with his younger brother for the last cast replica, made in China, $1.25 authentically painted bear claw. I have glimpsed the Bling-Fingered, Big-Butted Boobie Hatch, who tries on every ring in the jewelry case and bemoans the fact that they are all prettier than the one she already got on the ship and she just has a suspicion she was tricked somehow. Also spotted were the English and Australian Sugar Slopper, super sweet and polite specimens who (in their accents that just make you want to take them home and listen to them talk all day) just can’t say enough good things about your darling shop and your precious merchandise and your lovely helpful counter girls; the Plain American Weird Bird who wants to know if we carry belts and lighters (?); and finally the Asian Artfinder who wants to buy a print of every painting in the entire lodge.

Shot glasses, key chains, and magnets, Oh My!

Shot glasses, key chains, and magnets, Oh My!

*

i jest, of course. Almost every guest we have met has been perfectly lovely. We have not even been open for a week and we will experience variations on these themes for the next four months. We will patiently point out the water cooler and the Tylenol and the key chains and magnets over and over and over again. And sometimes we will come away changed. Like when we meet the lady who enthusiastically shares with us that this vacation is her and her husband’s 50th state to visit and their 50th year together and that with their health declining the way it is, she is sure they won’t live to return. And the man we chat with for a few minutes before we notice his Navy cap and ask the obvious question and when we get the affirmative answer we expect and thank him for his service, his reply, “It was my honor. Thank you for your support.” makes us want to go hide in the storeroom and weep for an hour or two. And the somewhat older lady who is buying children’s books for grandchildren she doesn’t have and doesn’t know when she will, and the lady who, when we share with her that our mother is watching out for our kids for us while we are here, shares the tale of her opposite experience wherein she had to take her 90 year old mother to her 20-something daughter’s house at the last possible minute to be cared for while the lady is on her vacation, and how the old matriarch was suspicious and then sad when she found out she didn’t get to go to Alaska too.

The Christmas tree right inside the side entrance. I love the flat gold cutout ornaments.

The Christmas tree right inside the side entrance. I love the flat gold cutout ornaments.

*

And there are rock star co-workers who, thanks to their mission service in Taiwan, can speak fluent Chinese to our Asian guests when the rest of us feel like complete clods not being able to understand what they need. And managers with the patience of Job when we ask for the millionth time which key we press to do this or that function. And ornery, sassy, older co-workers who make us feel less lonely because they remind us of our moms and their sisters.

*

I was going to talk about the postcards I have sent to friends, family, and theater people, and the postcards I have yet to receive from anyone, but I think this is one of those moments when what has been said is all that is needed.  Basically, working at a cruise line resort lodge gift shop is nothing like I expected. It is busy and it is slow. It is funny and it is sad. It is challenging and it is easy. And it is going to make me a better person in ways I could never have imagined.

Until next time,

D.

 

2 Responses to “Scenes From A Gift Shop and Postcards From Nowhere”

  1. brandi edmonds Says:

    I am very much enjoying your blog and your adventures!! I love the updates…just know i am vicariously living thru you lol… as i sit in my home office planning another fun filled day of sales calls and listening to play doh videos going on your tube and looking at mounds of laundry and cleaning that needs to be done.. i just want to wake up tomorrow in my own little work-cation in Alaska…

    • Hi! Thanks so much for reading! I am really glad you are enjoying my posts. I was trying to strike a balance between keeping people updated and driving them crazy. 🙂 I hope it’s working.

      Keep the faith! Maybe someday the stars will line up and you can do something like this. Apparently it is EVERYWHERE. All the young college kids talk about where they have worked in other seasons, whether they are coming back here are going somewhere else, what they have heard about work in places like Vail, Deer Valley, the Hamptons. Seasonal summer work is clearly a much bigger thing than I ever knew. Thanks again for reading! More later…


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