Speed Bumps in a Happiness Experiment

3:06AM

It has been some time since I last posted this late.

Today I was going to type up a very lengthy blog post about the newest events that have occurred in my life, but something stopped me, because I knew I would be writing the post for the wrong reasons.

Well, I am here, at three in the morning. Because I cannot sleep, I had been halfway drifting off, halfway entirely conscious ever since about ten, but at precisely 2:50AM I heard an alarm go off – downstairs. I did that thing that we all do where I sort of laid here waiting for someone else to take care of it, but at 2:53 I gave up and shut off the alarm on the iPod dock myself. After I bolted back upstairs (yes, I am one of those ninnys that feels like someone is always at my heels if I’m walking up stairs in the dark) I tried once again to go to sleep, but I knew it was a lost cause. And so, here I am.

So, the latest public-private progress report (public because it’s on the internet, private because, as always, it’s personal):

The ‘Trying to be happier’ experiment has been rather interesting (but, I suppose, when one doesn’t truthfully anticipate much of a plan, interesting things are rather inevitable) I find that, trying to give myself ‘permission’ to be happy about life is difficult, but once I’m beyond the initial speed-bump of my hesitance, it can be oddly freeing. This is surprising to me because I’ve noticed a notable change in my personality – I’m more positive, I smile more, and I don’t mind as much when I say something foolish, I simply tell myself that I have plenty of foolish moments to go in life and suddenly worrying about one little moment feels a tad silly, especially when I’m this young and the moment that worries me is always trivial.

Something I didn’t anticipate – the exact opposite of what I feared would happen is happening. I thought if I gave myself a break and didn’t chain myself to a set self-image then I would become irresponsible and not want to be a forensic psychiatrist anymore because I would become so lazy. In fact I’ve been studying twice as much as I did before and enjoying not only my studies in school, but apart from school subjects (I’ve finally gotten around to rereading Rhetoric by one of my favorite human beings: Aristotle.)

Recently, though, several things have been cause for stress that can’t be happy-thoughted away. One of these things is the fact that I’m planning on quitting my current (and first) job at The Gallery as soon as I can. During the interview, Mr. Lewis explained three payment options for my work as a salesperson, straight commission, straight hourly, or a halfway point that he seemed to prefer – $5.00 and hour plus commission. He whipped out a rather large calculator and laid out some examples of how much I could make using this ‘halfway point’. I knew he was being a showman and it was obvious that he wanted me to want to use this option, but at the same time I knew that since he has been open for years, he must be getting at least some business. So, as nonchalantly as I could, I explained that this appeared to be most beneficial, and he assured me of the large amount of money that could be made.

Ha.

I have not sold a single piece of furniture while I have been there, and neither has he, for that matter. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out he had gotten me to work for babysitting money. To hold down the fort and get paid below legal minimum wage.

When I was talking to Heather about the lack of sales a lightbulb flicked on over my head, and I realized what was going on. I felt angry, but I couldn’t very well picture the rather weak-featured Mr. Lewis planning and scheming to rip off a new employee that he told during the interview “I want my people to stay with my business.” I didn’t think he would be capable of it.

“Hannah,” Said Heather Madame, “He may be a nice guy, but first and foremost he is a salesman who loves saving money as much as he loves making it. If he’s getting away with paying you five bucks an hour, don’t expect him to come up with the idea himself that you aren’t getting paid enough.”

And so, last week I spent mustering up the gall to demand $7.50 (Texas’ minimum wage requirement.) He left for an errand I spent two and a half hours getting myself psyched up. I hate money. I hate asking anyone for money.

It’s your right to be paid the legal amount. I told myself, arguing with a pretend Mr. Lewis several times when I vividly imagined him arguing persuasively that I was being absurd about wanting more. In my imaginings it always ended with a threat of quitting from me, or a threat of firing from him. I tried to stay rational but, this was foreign territory for me. Who was I kidding, trying to be a tough guy? I hate asking even my parents for money, always have. I was scared out of my wits to ask something that was rightfully mine. When Mr. Lewis got back I followed him around the store and helped him set up the Texas specialty wall decor, nearly bringing up the invisible elephant in the room when I realized that perhaps it wasn’t wise to demand money from a man holding a hammer eight feet above me. Eventually we were back at his desk talking about the prices of some item or other when I just blurted it out:

“Commission is obviously not working out. I think I’d rather do straight hourly.” my voice sounded significantly weaker than the entitled, authoritative vocalizations in my mental rehearsals earlier.

He looked up from the catalog and was silent for an awkward, never ending moment when he finally spoke, “Really?”

“Yes.” I said, “It sounded like a good idea at the interview, but it isn’t working-”

“But,” he said with sudden grin, “The ad hasn’t come out in the paper yet.”

“Mr. Lewis, I just want a sure thing. I’ve tried this out and, honestly, my pay right now isn’t legal, and I need legitimate, certain money.”

“Once the ad comes out I’ll probably clear out the entire showroom-”

“And I don’t want to be paid with cash anymore, I want a bit more of a paper trail.”

He turned his head to the side and narrowed his eyes. This threw me because, in my years of reading people, I’ve only seen that expression when someone thinks they’re being blackmailed. The thought was so completely absurd I could have burst into humorless laughter (which, lets face it, would only make it look worse.) I felt like I did when I was eight years old, and for the first time the teacher of the enrichment program I was in misunderstood something I had said during class to another student and (as she only did to the troublemaking children) she came over and rested a hand on my left shoulder. It was intimidating because, it was so subtle a gesture, that it only magnified the disapproval underneath. The hidden message made massive by subtlety. I felt so utterly admonished, shocked and misunderstood that it was overwhelming.

“So.” He said, “What are you saying?”

“I want to be paid $7.50 an hour by check.” I said simply. He looked relieved, and then hesitant. The more he tried talking me into the original deal again, the more I felt like I was being scammed. No, knew I was being scammed. No one had ever done this to me before, and I felt naive that I fell for it even though I could see the showman in him selling it to me right in front of my face. And I felt betrayed, because he was blatantly taking advantage of my youth and inexperience. As he seems to do quite often, he whipped out the oversized calculator and explained that my pay would only increase by roughly $35 a week. Yes, I thought, thirty-five dollars that I should have had in the first place. Very rarely am I genuinely angry at someone, but – no, actually, I was more hurt and confused than angry. I felt like I had been ripped off by this person I have been talking to three times a week, he has been looking me in the face and knowing what he was doing. Yes, I did feel angry if I thought about that point, enough that, for a moment I even hated him. But I hated myself more for not doing something about it at the interview. But I was so desperate for a job at that point that I probably would have worked for donuts.

“I just want a sure thing.” I said to him for the third time in ten minutes. He suddenly said casually, “That’s fine. Not a problem. It’s just, it has been a while since I had to work any of that out, I used to have a guy that handled paying employees in East Texas when I had a large shop there, so this would also cost me more money from the tax…” He glanced over at me from the corner of his eye, checking my reaction.

This was one of the few times I have wanted to punch someone in the nose.

We had spoken enough that he knew what sort of person I was, and I assumed he had come to respect me for that. Now he was using any type of empathy he had detected as a last shot to save himself $35 a week.

“I need a sure thing, Mr. Lewis.” I said firmly, only a trace of patience was left in my voice.

“Yeah, yeah, I get it. No problem. I’ll talk to my wife tonight and see how I’ll work that out.”

Operation ‘Get A New Job’ was an official go that day.

Wednesday night I had started having pain in my abdomen that I can only describe as the same feeling I had when I drank too much apple cider vinegar one night (during some unhealthy diet phase or other) it felt like my stomach was eating itself from the inside out, and it was a particularly painful experience. I told my mother, and she said it sounded like the stomach flu. I explained that it didn’t feel like the flu at all, but her and my dad suddenly felt sick and said that something must be going around, so I took her word for it.

Fast-forward to Friday, about 5:00PM, the pain had remained for three days straight, and more severe waves had started hitting me before returning to the general discomfort. I called my mom, and she told me to text-message Batwoman (my mother’s genius Russian friend who was trained in medicine by some Tibetan monks in the mountains. She’s also my doctor.) I remembered that the night before blood had appeared in my mouth, and told her. She said to get to a hospital as soon as possible. The pain became so bad that I had started curling into a ball and gripping any nearby surface until it passed.

“I’ll be okay until seven.” I told my mom, not wanting to clock out early and lose money.

“We’re on our way.”

I talked her into waiting until six-thirty. Dragging in the beanbags and carrying the chairs and tables from outside was a miserable experience, the pain peaked every time I exerted the physical effort. They pulled up and we went to a CareNow nearby, I told them my symptoms and they said I needed to go to the ER right away. We drove into Grapevine to Baylor Regional and went to the emergency room, as we walked in everyone in the waiting room turned to stare, probably bored out of their minds and welcoming any new distraction. We signed in and were quickly led to a small room where I was instructed to sit down in front of an older woman with a clipboard as several nurses simultaneously attacked (alright, not attacked, but it felt like an ambush alright) with a blood pressure arm band, finger clip thingy that took my pulse and took a temperature from under my tongue. She wrote up my symptoms and explained it wouldn’t be long before I had a room.

Liar. I thought, feeling a bit amused, and a bit scared.

Long story short, about two hours later I was led to a room where, after I had changed into a gown and had been asked a round of questions I was put onto an IV of a solution that was described as a cocktail of pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Several doctors came in asking different questions. They ran my blood and all was clear (or rather, ah, red). Another doctor came in and had me sit in a wheelchair as he took me into a room for X-rays. He set up the IV on a pole attached to the chair and off we went, mom in tow. We passed by several groups of people sitting in th hallway, probably waiting for loved ones in surgery or outside an examination room. I was horribly tempted to act like a loon as I passed by them, just to see their faces. As soon as the door was closed behind us in the X-ray room, the doctor promptly informed me that I wasn’t pregnant.

Mom burst out laughing.

After the X-rays it was back to the room until the final word from the doctor came in – I had an ulcer in my stomach. Yep. An ulcer, at 17. Apparently, since anxiety disorders and high stress run in my family, so do ulcers, I was probably a time bomb. I would have gotten it eventually. Batwoman told me this was a positive thing, because while I’m this young I can learn to manage stress and be forced to pay attention to what I eat out of necessity.

Everyone agreed I shouldn’t come into work on Saturday, so I had to explain to Heather what had happened because she’s my ride to work on Saturdays. I had been text-messaging her all day, talking about the pumpkin patch that we go to every year opening up and planning our costumes. I didn’t want to tell her what happened because Heather Madame tends to be a large worrier, and why cause her to think of all the wretched possibilities when I was going mad thinking of them myself? She seemed a bit angry at first that I hadn’t told her, but relieved that it wasn’t serious.

When we finally got home, prescriptions in hand at around 1:30AM, I checked my phone and realized I had a missed call from Mr. Lewis, he said he wanted me to call him back. I discovered that he assumed I had skipped out of the job early without telling anyone just to get away with it and get paid the same amount. I came into work Saturday anyway (against the wishes of Heather Madame, mom, Batwoman and Mr. Lewis himself) partially because I wanted any money I could get, partially because I knew that if I didn’t come in then I would end up having to jump through hoops for my paycheck. I ended up closing up the shop so I still don’t have my check. And if I get a job down the street at the local ice cream shop on Monday, Mr. Lewis will no doubt be not-to0-eager to give me my last check.

Good thing I’m the best friend of the girlfriend of the son of his landlord.

And now, here I am, at 5:15AM. Telling it all. I highly doubt anyone would read this entire post – I know for certain I wouldn’t. But still I will publish it.

Goodnight and good-day,

–Classic/Hannah-Elizabeth

P.S. I’m terribly sorry for how bad I am at replying to comments, I will make an honest attempt to be more aware of my comment alert e-mails.

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21 thoughts on “Speed Bumps in a Happiness Experiment

  1. My dear Mlle. Classic, of *course* I had to read all the way through. You share stories that are both personal and universal, and tell them in such a way that it simply makes good, thought-provoking reading, into the bargain. I hope you’ll quickly find a great way out Mr. Lewis’s door toward something far more fulfilling and in a supportive environment.
    Onward!
    Kathryn

  2. No one would read the whole thing? I couldn’t pull myself away! I’m in the middle of making dinner and when I could get a break I would come back and read more! You have a talent girl!! At 17, you’ve got a perspective and an insight that I wish I had at your age! And congrats on telling Lewis that you wanted that $7.50! I would have NEVER gotten the courage up to say that to my boss. You’re going places! And I love your writing!

    • I’m extremely flattered and honored by your comment 🙂 I am grandly pleased that you think so highly of my writing, and I really appreciate you writing this out to tell me 😀

  3. It seems I must add my name to the list of people who read this post in its entirety. Don’t doubt the significance of what you have to say; write with confidence! Advance boldly! Carpé Diem!

    Sorry. That was my attempt at being a motivational speaker. I think I’ll stick to computers.

    But seriously, I imagine you have a lot of people that are regularly reading your blog (whether they comment or not). Some probably know what you’re going through, and perhaps some still are going through it. Some of us probably keep tuning in so that we can learn what you are learning.

    And don’t worry too much about comment replies. I am terribly lax in that department, as well as reading others’ work without commenting. So this is my attempt at doing better.

    I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

    • It has taken me nearly five days to reply to this comment (perhaps I could blame traffic, it is awful this time of year…)
      I rather like your advice, Sir! It’s fantastic to get interestingly-phrased advice (it’s why most of my friends are WordPress bloggers), and I shall keep it in mind.
      A wise man once said that we spend our entire lives learning the same lessons over and over again, and I can’t help wondering if some ten years from now I’ll pour over my archives and have this younger me teach late-20s me a thing or two.
      Here’s to keeping up with comments – or at least the valiant attempts 🙂

  4. Oh you poor thing. My Dad had an ulcer by the time he was 28, I thought that was bad, but 17? I’m so sorry. Hope you get better soon, and yeah, get the hell out of that job, the guy is a cheapskate…and you deserve better.

    • I am feeling much better, thank you Madame!
      I love Khols! But, I suppose, one cannot properly call themselves ‘female’ unless they are capable of declaring a love for the place 😉

  5. asjhfamfgamvfa hfgamhefawgfhj WAFVAMNHFAM!!
    I apologise for the spasm of letters, and I feel the need to apologise for not keeping up with your posts! You’re writing is just so captivating, I’ve cleared the next few hours to work my way through the last months worth 🙂

    I’ve missed you dear, and I’m sad to hear about the ulcer but glad to read that you’re sticking up for yourself & feeling better 🙂
    Best of luck with the new job (although I had to google what kind of place Khol was, lol – it sounds amazing though, congrats!), and everything else that may require luck 😉

    xoxox

    • MANDII!! Apologies for the capital letters, but you about went incognito for a while. Hello! I’m excited to see you stopping by WordPress again, the blogosphere has not been the same at all without you, madame!

      I’m thrilled you think so highly of my writing – if only I were gifted in writing fiction (I’ve about given up on my novel.)
      Ya’ll don’t have Khols? It’s a wonderful, wonderful store with sales everywhere on everything all the time. 😀
      Best wishes to you, Madame!

  6. Just found this post through your reading of my blog. I hope your ulcer is better–I have also suffered with ulcers and know exactly what you mean with the description of the pain (and thought, I bet she has an ulcer, the second you started describing it). I also just wanted to say (from one creatively minded girl trying to find some peace to another)- hang in there and keep looking and writing. It will lead you places you never thought possible.

    • I am feeling much better, thank you 🙂 The ER doctor suggested we see a specialist so hopefully that appointment will come about soon.
      Thank you grandly for your advice, I will keep it in mind.
      You have a fantastic blog, the WordPress world needs writers like you. Take care 🙂

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