Working hard at being incompetent
|Image: All Rights Reserved,|
|Philadelphia: Quirk Books|
I spent the last afternoon of Before constructing a 1/10,000-scale replica of the Empire State Building from boxes of adult diapers. It was a thing of beauty, really, spanning five feet at its base and towering above the cosmetics aisle, with jumbos for the foundation, lites for the observation deck, and meticulously stacked trial sizes for its iconic spire. It was almost perfect, minus one crucial detail.
“You used Neverleak,” Shelley said, eyeing my craftsmanship with a skeptical frown. “The sale’s on Stay-Tite.” Shelley was the store manager, and her slumped shoulders and dour expression were as much a part of her uniform as the blue polo shirts we all had to wear.
“I thought you said Neverleak,” I said, because she had.
“Stay-Tite,” she insisted, shaking her head regretfully, as if my tower were a crippled racehorse and she was the bearer of the pearl-handled pistol. There was a brief but awkward silence in which she continued to shake her head and shift her eyes from me to the tower and back to me again. I stared at her, as if completely failing to grasp what she was passive-aggressively implying.
“Ohhhhhh,” I said finally. “You mean you want me to do it over?”
“It’s just that you used Neverleak,” she repeated.
“No problem. I’ll get started right away.” With the toe of my regulation black sneaker I nudged a single box from the tower’s foundation. In an instant the whole magnificent structure was cascading down around us, sending a tidal wave of diapers crashing across the floor, boxes caroming off the legs of startled customers, skidding as far as the automatic door, which slid open, letting in a rush of August heat.
Shelley’s face turned the color of ripe pomegranate. She should’ve fired me on the spot, but I knew I’d never be so lucky. I’d been trying to get fired from Smart Aid all summer, and it had proved next to impossible. I came in late, repeatedly and with the flimsiest of excuses; made shockingly incorrect change; even misshelved things on purpose, stocking lotions among laxatives and birth control with baby shampoo. Rarely had I worked so hard at anything, and yet no matter how incompetent I pretended to be, Shelley stubbornly kept me on the payroll.
Let me qualify my previous statement: It was next to impossible for me to get fired from Smart Aid. Any other employee would’ve been out the door a dozen minor infractions ago. It was my first lesson in politics. There are three Smart Aids in Englewood, the small, somnolent beach town where I live. There are twenty-seven in Sarasota County, and one hundred and fifteen in all of Florida, spreading across the state like some untreatable rash. The reason I couldn’t be fired was that my uncles owned every single one of them. The reason I couldn’t quit was that working at Smart Aid as your first job had long been a hallowed family tradition. All my campaign of self-sabotage had earned me was an unwinnable feud with Shelley and the deep and abiding resentment of my co-workers—who, let’s face it, were going to resent me anyway, because no matter how many displays I knocked over or customers I short-changed, one day I was going to inherit a sizable chunk of the company, and they were not.
Extract from the book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
By Ransom Riggs
All Rights Reserved.
Philadelphia: Quirk Books, c 2011.
Call No.: Y English RIG
Extract contributed by January Yeo, Associate Librarian
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If you were stuck doing a temp job that you couldn’t leave, what tactics would you employ to get you through the stint? Would you suck it up and do your best or commit self-sabotage?