Work is rough on my hands. I’ve learned that I’m not allowed to paint my nails because it will chip within the first two minutes of my shift. I don’t even know what does it. I’m constantly lifting boxes, pulling carts and rollbars, hanging clothes from different fingers, and many other things. It could be a combination of all the things I am required to do.

I also find little cuts and scrapes across the tops of my hands and fingers. Sometimes they’re not so little either. Sometimes it hurts and stings if any pressure is applied to it. And in my job, that’s unacceptable. So I raid the first aid kit at the fitting room to put some ointment and a band-aid on it.

There as also a good number of cuts on my wrists at all times. I never grab just a few hangers with clothes to go put them away. I load them up across my hand and down my wrist so that I can carry the maximum amount of clothes and therefore take less trips back to grab more. (What can I say? My own husband thinks it’s hilarious to watch me try to bring all of our groceries inside in one trip. I refuse to go back outside to get three more bags! I’ll cut off the circulation in my arm for sixty seconds if it means I don’t have to go back out to the car to grab the remaining items.)

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not complaining about the callouses on the palms of my hands and the scrapes on top. I wear it as a reminder that I work hard. I want to succeed and will do whatever it takes to do so, even if it means some personal discomfort on my end. And I would much rather wear my callouses on the outside, on my hands, than on the inside.

One of my coworkers is at that point. She’s in her later 70s and looks like the sweet grandma type, but when I first started working, I even heard customers complain and how rude she was. I quickly learned how abrasive she was, and she intimidated me for the longest time! She wasn’t afraid to point out my flaws and make me feel stupid for them. She doesn’t take any lip from anyone, and she works SO hard. She does so much. I didn’t understand why she was so grumpy all the time.

The longer I’ve worked at this store, the more I’ve learned about this sweet lady. And she really is sweet. She just doesn’t show everyone that side of her. I told her one day how much I enjoyed working with her because of her dedicated work ethic, and she gave me this little old lady smile that I’d never before witnessed. She brings me goodies to snack on throughout the day, and when she talks to me about her husband- my goodness! She just lights up.

Once, I covered her lunch break and finished the task she was working on beforehand. When she came back, she gasped, and before I could realized what had happened, she had her arms around me, squeezing me tight. I slowly touched her back, her curved, slouched, elderly back that had carried so many burdens, and could only laugh as she exclaimed, “Thank you, sweetie!”

I think she really is the sweet old lady I originally saw her as. It was the constant harassment of customers and thoughtlessness of other employees that caused her to harden her softer layers to become impenetrable to the outside world.

Except when someone took the time to be nice and care about her.



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