I used to make 6.6% above minimum wage, now I make 1.5%.

I have undergone the yearly job review ceremony, also known as a foregone conclusion. The vast majority of the review is the store’s total results, so everyone basically starts out with a failure. It’s not even worth getting upset about it. I might as well stick my tongue out at my boss’s back, as I often do, for all the good it will do me.

I won’t bore you with what exactly was said at my review. On paper it was decent, “meh.” A minor backstab was involved but it’s okay. Most of the feedback my boss gave me was “off the record” abuse—implications and judgements I didn’t quite appreciate, and which I know not a soul in the store (except the solitary stoolie) would agree with.

I sat at a table across from her desk, properly distanced. I had her just where I wanted her—she was cornered and I had nothing to fear because I just had covid and she is deathly afraid of it, giving me the upper hand. I sat to the side leaning on my forearm, legs crossed, hands folded, my mouth twisting into a smirk behind the blue medical mask she hates because it’s not the company regulation one. I wanted to look as comfy as possible in order to stick it to her. She likes to see fear and I wasn’t in the mood to indulge her. I was in the mood to laugh.

I’ve been on a Smiths kick recently, and a song played in my head for a soundtrack.

“I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now.”

Our discussion was a dance of accuse, laugh, defend, and parry. No, she never expects the parry.

“In my life, why do I give valuable time to people who don’t care if I… live or die?

You know, I did get the highest raise available. Forty cents. I say to her that everyone gets the same raise.

“I can tell you unequivocally that some people did not get forty cents!”

Alright, whatever.

“Aren’t you happy you get more money?”

I point out to her that it’s a little absurd that I make barely above minimum wage when my job carries a lot more responsibilities than other positions and I’ve been there nearly ten years.

She looks down at her papers and phone and moves them back and forth like a shell game and says, “Well, you have the chance to earn a bonus! That’s a way to make more money!”

Yeah, do you mean the one where you have to sell $750,000 in a year to qualify for? That bonus?

I probably don’t sell more than $1,500 in a year.

“In my life, why do I smile at people who I’d much rather… kick in the eye?”

The minimum wage rises again in a couple of months, and after struggling with the calculations for a while, I figured out that I will make 1.5% above the minimum. Right now it’s 6.6% above.

Every day, little by little, I level up in the RPG of life because the amount of shit I am able to take with a smile on my face increases. I used to be unable to tolerate anything I (rightly or wrongly) perceived to be unfair and I’d make quite a fuss about it, but I don’t get hysterical anymore. Not that I never break down–I am by no means superhuman–but it takes more now to send me over the edge. I just laugh. “Not today!” someone just yelled at me for laughing. “Not today!”

Every night before I go to sleep, I write down things I am grateful for that day, however tiny. But really, at some point doesn’t it become ridiculous to be grateful for an insult? It’s such a pittance that it’s hard to say, “I am grateful I make forty more cents now.” Should I thank you because you kicked me in the ass, and when I complain, you say “A good kick is very slimming for the rear end”?

What can I do but laugh and hope that it will strengthen me for the future?

When I got up to leave her office, she was still doing her shell game, shaking her Karen bob. “We can talk about money later…” she said.

But she won’t bring it up, and I’m still a coward, so I will await the minimum wage hike for next year.

I’d like to take her stupid orchid and dance on her desk…

30 thoughts on “I used to make 6.6% above minimum wage, now I make 1.5%.

  1. Glad that you’re well enough to have sat through that review. I want to say keep the faith but I think at this point, you’re going to need a bowl of manna that you can use to purchase the store. You will figure it out, Hetty.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, the sexually androgenous 80’s crooners. What happened to post Punk when the suits figured out how to package angst. I’m a Slits fan. The problem with Punk and Post Punk, aside from some of them being lousy musicians (the point, eh?) was no one knew how to capture the sound of their rebellion. Live, it was pure energy. By the time it made it to vinyl it became borderline bubble gum. Then the 80s and comfortable anger and pretty, socially distanced media sex (since real sex could kill you). Get uncomfortable with your angst. Check out a semi recent Viv Albertine interview.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I realized not long ago that I am too old now for angst. Now I find it humorous.

      I am not familiar with Viv Albertine but google can introduce us.

      This probably is anathema to you but I don’t like live music. I like listening to overproduced studio recordings with my headphones so I can hear the sounds moving around inside my head from different directions. I have never been ashamed to admit my poor taste. I had an odd upbringing.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. That sort of vanishing point ping pong delay. I don’t judge anyone’s musical taste. I can listen to torch songs, standards, the great 60s and70s songwriters from psychedelia to ballad slop. I’m not a fan of the recent round of whiny Americana but I get the target market attraction. “That rap crap” and EDM are responsible for numerous advances in production. But like you in some ways nothing beats that 80s drenched in diffused reverb side stick. Now if they’d mixed drums then like they do now, oh my. Live shows these days, some of them, are stellar. Went to see Herb Alpert and he’s lost a step and the old stuff is goofy dated, but it was no shit the best live drum mix I’ve ever heard. And I’ve been inside concerts for a living since dinosaurs were gasping their last. So listen to what makes you feel good.
          Dostoevsky? WTF?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’d probably die from the stimulus of a concert. Do you have much hearing left at this point?

            And please forgive Alien Resort for his dumb comment. He has arrived to make fun of me but that’s okay because I forgive 70×7. Sure.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I have most of the low end. Conversation in a loud ambient situation can be challenging. For some reason I have always had a hole in my hearing at 17khz. The draft guys made me take the hearing test like 7 times to see if I was bullshitting them. That frequency is unfortunately where ll the early digital alarm clocks, watches and other reminders went off. I’d be standing around oblivious and someone would ask me “Is that your suitcase/briefcase beeping?” So yes I hve some hearing left. The real issue is that I can’t stand the way hearing aids “fix” hearing loss by cranking everything from 1k to 4k like that should fix the whole problem. What I want is someone to put a BBE exciter or a Peavey Kosmos in a hearing aid. Sorry – caffeine response.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Are you a fan of Kafka? Given your education, I guess you’ve read his stuff. Nothing much ever changes when it comes to money and low-paid labor. Of course, this is not overt slavery, so there is that. But the concept of the “company store” is well ingrained in America. Wages just enough to pay loans, just enough to barely survive; stoke the fear of losing jobs to keep everyone in line. Every owner and manager understands the new slavery. Did you notice the Amazon in Alabama “voted down” the union? “Hey, we’re making it, why provoke management? They may shut the whole thing down and we will lose everything.” Here is a little story: a ship from England filled with indentured servants landed off the coast of Massachusetts. It had been a tough crossing and due to onboard illness, the passengers were quarantined. After a few days they sent word to the owner of the factory where they were to work to please send out some bread. He complied, but after the bread distribution, the passengers sent another note asking for butter. The owner responded, “I never should have sent you the bread. Gruel is good enough for you.” So it goes. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have read some Kafka, as you rightly suggested. Was there something specific you had in mind?

      My store is probably one of the premier “company stores” in the country… And it’s not only that they keep you in line with fear, but they’ve perfected some sort of cultural mind meld in which you know very well it’s time to go to greener pastures but you just refuse to until they finally use you up and throw you out.

      The modern version of your story of the indentured servants: My boss promoted someone not long before Thanksgiving, who lost a relative in another country and had to go home to another country as the executor of the estate. My boss said “If I knew this was going to happen, I never would have promoted her.”


    1. Oh Bella, what a long story… It’s only a small portion. When I get certain things in my life sorted out, I’ll be able to look. Until then, I must suffer because at least I have some seniority and benefits. Other than that….,

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a good friend who has been in the same underpaid position for years, and it has had an effect I believe on their professional confidence, if not their self-esteem. They are talented and intelligent and the best worker this company has ever had – if they left, the company might survive but they’d also struggle more than they know to find a suitable replacement, and regret not having treated my friend as the asset they are.

    Uninspired business types (not that they all are uninspired, but the career middle-management of your boss’s sort certainly are) seem to thrive on taking advantage of inspired creatives that have no head for business-as-usual. You are somebody who would rather be working in a world that’s gotten its act together, but here we all are – not there yet.

    I agree with thoughtsinlifeblog that you owe that company *exactly nothing* at this point, but I understand times are tough (and they’re always presented as tough, which is a great convenience to those who live off of defeatist exploitation). It’s scary to think about making a change, without a guarantee of things improving, and landing on one’s feet right away (though you’d be surprised!). I am often reminded of the slow-boiling of the frog, when I think about this sort of stifling of creative potential by the status quo.

    Then again, your creativity is also being honed by your experience, every day. Personally I see somebody who is intended (and intending!) to turn all of this into some kind of gold, someday soon.

    Agreed with the above commenters (though I haven’t read the things you are all talking about) that your writing is rock solid, and I think the system on some level is simply intimidated by people it can tell are capable of thinking well beyond it. Your manager can continue to shuffle her papers, in search for a response to your potential. I can hear the sheets…

    Keep writing that story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow thank you so much for your comment, Mike. You really understand what I’m going through and put into words the sort of thing I’ve wanted to hear. The situation is soul-sucking and self-esteem-destroying and while I make a big joke out of it, in reality it’s not funny, at least not to me. I either laugh or die. But sometimes I don’t want to joke about it, I want people to Get It, and I’m so appreciative that you Get It. Your friend is very lucky to have you around. And thank you so much for your encouragement, I have been needing a little bit of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome, Hetty. You’ve been kindly supporting my writing efforts and I haven’t thanked you properly for it. And I don’t like seeing good people twisted up in the gears of the present day. Our society’s on some evolutionary path but it’s nowhere near done. Getting up in the morning in 2021 is frankly ballsy of all of us. We’re all superheroes for just being here.

        I hope some awesome opportunity presents itself to you soon. You’ve put up with enough, and deserve it. If it does come knocking, I hope you consider taking that step. That workplace sounds like a bad sitcom.

        Although, maybe that’s where a good script might come from…. hmmmm 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks so much again. Your words mean a lot and buoy me up. And don’t worry about thanking me. Your positive comments and encouragement are thanks enough. I will be around your blog soon as I see you have a new post. (I’m behind right now.) I too pray an opportunity presents itself soon, hopefully I have suffered in this purgatory long enough 🙂.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I actually had not heard that song before, but damn, it fits this story perfectly as a soundtrack, even the weird hula he’s doing with the tree in the back of his pants part. Sorry your workplace sucks. At least your writing is great!

    Liked by 1 person

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