I work in Retail. Which, even in the best of times, is its’ very own circle of hell all by itself. If it isn’t rude customers, difficult managers or workplace gossip, it is only made more ball-breakingly infuriating by…

“Did you vote leave or remain?” and then having them spend the next 20 minutes saying why you shouldn’t have picked the choice that you did because it simply wasn’t theirs while all you’re trying to do is eat your sandwich in the staffroom in the 15 minutes of peace and quiet you get a day.

“Trump or Hillary?” I don’t fucking care, I’m not a Yank is apparently not the appropriate response to the crotchety old lady that is just dying to have her racist rant at you while you scan her Tenna Lady through the bastard till that has just frozen on you so you have to make conversation with the bint a little longer.

Pretend to be incredibly dull. If questioned about your hobbies  

Customer service is all about one thing. Making the customer feel pink and fluffy, and that they’ve had a good shopping experience so that they return to make your corporate demon overlords their massive paycheck at the end of the year, while you slave away on minimum wage trying not to punch the girl you just asked if wants a bag, if they don’t mind the five pence charge to be met with the response “Sure why not, the patriarchy isn’t charging us tax on our tampons anymore!”

Other than wishing and fantasising painful torture methods for your customers and your colleagues in your head, the other option is avoiding the subject altogether.

Avoid at all costs having your colleagues on social media. If any of the people that I work with glimpsed the person who tears feminists to pieces with liberal use of the word “Cunt” and frequently squares up to the big boys if I don’t agree with their opinion, compared to the mild mannered, polite and helpful person that I am at work, they would probably have a heart attack or I would almost certainly be fired. If you use your social media to campaign, rant or talk about anything that could even remotely rustle a few politically correct feathers, it’s best to keep your work life and social life separate.

Keep your interactions with customers brief. Not only could a full on political debate hold up your queue if you’re on tills, irritating other customers, your colleagues dealing with the now irritated customers, and you because you have to actually interact with these people for every minute of every day until you retire or find something better, but I’m also reasonably certain that sharing your political views if they are anything other than “I agree with everyone ever” is contractually frowned upon. Channel your inner Hitler elsewhere.

Ask closed questions. Rather than saying “How are you today?” which could lead to a full on meltdown or their life story, Ask yes and no questions, quickly get through your sales spiel before wishing them sincerely to have a good day. Even if in your head you’re hoping them, their shopping, and the store card they didn’t sign up for getting hit by a bus.

Similarly to not including your work colleagues in your social media, If you are forced to interact with the cretins you work with outside of work, there are two ways you can go with this. Either, do not consume alcohol at all so you can keep control of the conversation you engage in, or get so shitfaced you can’t talk. Evaluate and decide whether you want to make a fool of yourself by professing your undying love for Boris Johnson, or being sick on your manager’s shoes in a shared taxi on the way home.

Pretend to be incredibly dull. If questioned about your hobbies, rather than admit that you spend hours on the internet debating with people that have been indoctrinated by cry bullies into thinking that we still need feminism in the west, say that you catalogue newspaper clippings of obituaries in alphabetical order on the weekends. Try to be as convincing as possible when talking about Zachariah Abley’s untimely death due to a stray bulldozer and you’re golden.

Great excuses for getting out of potentially awkward or heated conversations about the social or political climate with my colleagues that I like to use can include:

  • “I have to go to the stockroom.” Leaving out the wanting to hang myself from the nearest shelf.
  • “Let me just see if I can find that for you.” While I stare blankly at walls in said stock room contemplating who wrote what graffiti.
  • “I’ve never heard of that person.” Yes. I have definitely never heard of Teresa May just please leave me alone.
  • Smiling blankly while backing away is also a good option if you don’t mind being considered the equal opportunities obligatory hire.
  • “I’ve never really been very interested in politics…” Please don’t look at my Twitter or Facebook. Please do not find me.
  • “No that must be another Hannah.” Oh god, they found me. It won’t be long before they find my #BoobsForBrexit hashtag

If all else fails set fire to the staff room. Move to Tahiti. Assume the name Taconisha and work bars until the heat dies down from your inevitable shunning from not sharing the beliefs of your peers.

Always keep in mind that there is a time and a place for everything. While I’m not particularly pleased with serving the general public in a monotonous groundhog day-esque manner of pulling stock forward on shelves and putting it out, I am a big fan of having money. Most of the time, if you are having a conversation with someone that truly shares an opposing opinion to yours, trying to change their mind is a waste of time and not appropriate for the workplace. The only way that you will get them to agree with you is because they want to drop the subject, but deep down you will not have changed their mind. If you are in fact lucky enough to agree with most things with the people you work with, still keep it to yourself, as you never know what the customers will think and they are the reason you get paid.

To any of you that know my pain of the retail worker trying desperately not to have an aneurysm when customers or colleagues start talking about “Problematic” issues or suddenly start turning up to work with their hair dyed blue, you have my deepest sympathies and I hope you keep your sanity like I haven’t.

Hannah Corner
@palindromicness