One of the most difficult aspects of reintegrating to normal society, after having spent months wandering through the woods, is finding work. I was hit with the dreaded “so Ryan, what do you do?” question this past weekend, on my way to a backpacking trip. Completely embarrassed (more so as a former Publix employee than anything) to admit that the real answer was “Kroger” I directed the inquisitor towards my previous professions, which I am actually proud of. The reality is that I’ve been working overnight shifts at a grocery store since the second of January.
I’m happy to say that as of 6am this morning, I completed my two-week notice at Kroger, and I will never, ever go back to that company. I probably won’t step foot in one of their stores for several months either. It’s still difficult for me to fathom how completely opposite two such similar companies can be, but whereas Publix is employee owned, Kroger is heavily union influenced, and therein lies the difference. Unions invariably breed a culture of laziness, complacency, and apathy. Anyone who denies this, in my personal experience, is invariably lazy, complacent, and apathetic. Thankfully Georgia is a right to work state, so I didn’t have to join the union. I still had to work within that culture of mediocrity though, and it was draining.
In the past month I managed to acquire my own vehicle. My sister Katie not only loaned me the sum of my tax return in advance, but also tracked down a car and even haggled the owners down $500 for me. Via FaceTime, I walked her through a whole vehicle inspection, and she even got under the car with a flashlight, which I honestly did not expect. Best sister ever? Well. They both are! I took a Greyhound to South Carolina and drove it back on the fifth.
I’ve sat for some eleven job interviews at this point. I’ve already started and quit one warehouse job. When I told my supervisor she could replace me by duct-taping an RF scanner to a fucking Roomba she laughed, and “understood completely.” She had been working in logistics about as long as I have, and shared my disdain of increasing digitization. The staffing company I was working with told me I was being unreasonable, but I decided I valued my life too much to spend another minute doing something that menial. I worked at Kroger for two months, so that is saying something! They immediately terminated their contract with me, giving them more bandwidth to find another poor soul to drain the life out of… Just as with REI’s decision not to hire me, I took this as a blessing in disguise.
I also found it interesting that there was a $97,000 Lexus parked out front, yet two of the five scan guns in the warehouse were actually working. There were a few other imbalances in profit vs. production capital I noticed. Among them having a warehouse well over three times the size of what they actually needed. Not always a bad thing, but still. The general hegemony between the warehouse and office staff was unsettling, and something I never encountered at previous jobs.
At the moment, I am quite wonderfully free of employment. I spent a week trying to make that warehouse job work. I was working there 10am-7pm, then 11pm to 6am at Kroger, while also getting my mom cleaned and changed in the mornings. My sister Kelly said that week was one of the happiest she’s seen me in months, because I was faced with a crazy physical and mental challenge. She’s not far off. There’s a reason I find backpacking “fun.”
For the next two weeks my goal is to not even look at a job listing. I’m giving myself the space to go back to my happy Ryan-monk habits of waking at 5am, meditating, exercising, and eating things that grow in the ground. I’ve consumed a ridiculous, mildly poisonous amount of caffeine in the past two months. Also, the general lack of emotional wellness of my coworkers makes me want to go through some sort of cleansing. There was a lot of merit in working that job though, and I might expand on that later.
This past weekend’s trip wasn’t all inquisition. In fact, I made several new friends. It was a beginner’s backpacking trip, so I had the opportunity to teach, and comfort. Later on at the fire it was I who was taught and comforted! Saturday night comprised some of the best conversation I’ve had in months, and I’m stunned at the amount of wisdom and insight which surfaced there. I met some real humans, a few of which I hope will become long term friends. Those kinds of connections are the real reason I go backpacking. There is no better way to commune than around a fire; and truly difficult trips simply forge sturdier bonds between rare friends.
One of those humans and I are going to dinner tonight, and I am schoolboy giddy about it. I’ve been beaming since Saturday, despite my best efforts to stay measured.
Tomorrow I tour what I hope will be the school where I earn my A&P license. There are few FAA approved schools within the state, and far fewer within reasonable distance. I hope this one is a winner.
I’ll only give myself a week off. I know myself.
Till next time…