Reflections on the past 14 years of employment

Yesterday at 10:15pm I emptied my locker, handed in my first aid room key and other items that I no longer needed, hugged folks goodbye, and left Save-On-Foods. It was my last shift as an employee of this wonderful store where I worked for 14 years. I am fortunate to say that I worked with some amazing folks — not all of whom I was fortunate enough to say proper goodbyes to on my very last day of work. This was a week of many goodbyes at work — spring is often a time of transition, but this year more folks were moving on to other things than usual because of a clause in the last union contract we voted on in August. Essentially I took an early retirement package (which I know is unusual for someone of my age and stage in my working life) but it was time to move on.

I am fortunate that in the next few weeks/months I'll have the financial wherewithal to make some long procrastinated purchases, do some long procrastinated things, relax and read, and truly begin the job hunt properly in earnest. Given the stress I've been dealing with over the past few years (both self-imposed and because of external events of course) I think I need the break, but I also need the time to invest in myself and set some goals and priorities for the future. I also hope to blog more often.

But this doesn't mean I don't value the many years I spent working at Save-On-Foods. This job taught me many things over the years and I'd like to take this time to write a bit more in detail about some of them. Online is not the best forum for exceedingly detailed postings about employment, but there are things I can and will say, because I'm darn thankful that I chose to apply at Save-On so many years ago.

I appreciate the flexibility that Save-On offered me. Even in the first months on the job, I was given the opportunity to travel on short notice when I needed the time off. This was something I appreciate incredibly to this day and I always tried to give appropriate notice for any requested time off thereafter partly to give back but partly because I realized just how difficult it is to plan schedules for employees who all have such different lives outside of work. Save-On let me work as many hours or as few hours as I needed depending on school, other jobs, travel, and other responsibilities that I had throughout the years. Eventually, my job allowed me the financial freedom to choose to live alone without a roommate, and to afford to travel when the opportunity presented itself. Sometimes I worked as few as one shift a week and at others I worked nearly full-time hours. And when this job gave me the luxuries of benefits or paid time off I felt truly fortunate because not all part-time jobs provide such benefits. Indeed I feel fortunate even now that my job has given me this opportunity to become unemployed temporarily with the financial means to do some of the things that I've long procrastinated.

My job gave me perspective. Everyday I interacted with folks of all walks of life. I met local celebrities, current and former politicians, people who worked in media, firefighters, policemen and women, EMS personnel, business people, Olympic calibre athletes, students, parents, children, people hard on their luck, travelers, people living with disabilities, and many many more. I learned to interact with people who spoke little or no English, to serve people in French and occasionally words in other languages, to try to predict the level of service that some folks would need and to answer and deal with people's questions and problems. Sometimes I encountered inappropriate attention, comments, racism, sexism, and other tensions between one world-perspective and my own, but working in customer service allowed me to better navigate the potholes of certain conversation topics and step away from some of the more challenging interactions with better perspective.

I also learned a lot more about dealing with technical support (on phone and in person), with troubleshooting issues (be they with printers, fax machines, self-scan checkouts, regular cash registers, or computers in general), using office equipment and tools, legislation and documentation, and much much more besides. The years I spent in the health and safety role and in the first aid attendant role were invaluable to me as a person developing and learning skills.

I'm glad that this job leaves me with such positive impressions in general and has allowed me to grow in so many ways as a person. While I'm going to miss the job itself, I'm especially going to miss all the people. Even in an industry with such high employee turnover as the grocery industry, there are many really important connections that can be made, with customers, co-workers and management. I feel very fortunate that I've been able to make these connections to the folks in my community and beyond. Fourteen years is not an insignificant amount of time, and I feel very happy to have spent my time here.

Sure I'll still shop at Save-On — it's still my favourite supermarket in my area. But I certainly won't be spending nearly so many hours under that particular roof.

Reactions to a really really politically important night in Alberta

I don't often talk politics directly online. But I feel like I ought to capture a bit of my reaction to tonight's dramatic shift in the political landscape of Alberta, which I realized only AFTER the end of a very bizarre day (which included working 15% Tuesday, voting, some interesting observations, playing awesome arcade games at Denizen Hall [I will return sometime and play more games — that was fun!], trying some neat snacks [also at Denizen Hall], becoming HANGRY because my food order didn't show up for quite a very long time [even after reminding my server multiple times — still at Denizen Hall — I'll give the place some benefit of the doubt as our group was pretty big and my order was the only one to be THAT forgotten, but really that was ridiculous and will impact my Yelp review substantially unfortunately], finally eating and watching Avengers: Age of Ultron, and then checking the election results immediately).

Gobsmacked is the word that best encompasses the shock I felt upon first glance at those results. I'm cautiously optimistic about the new government but time will tell what impact it will really have. I have friends who hate these results and friends who love them, and a few in between. I'm sad that Laurie Blakeman was not reelected because she is an excellent politician and has done Edmonton-Centre proud over the past several years. Sure I didn't always agree with her, but she did her job well. I hope that David Shepherd will do a good job as well but we'll see. Rachel Notley is the most charismatic of the party leaders and I hope that that serves her and us well, and that her party does an EFFECTIVE job of balancing need for change with other needs. Alberta's NDP is not the same party as the NDP in other provinces or as the Federal NDP and hopefully these differences will serve us well but I'm sure that there will be growing pains no matter how effective or ineffective this new political leadership really is.

I'm happy to see more women elected to office in Alberta. Diversity in age, background, and more might be a positive thing in this legislature. Inexperience can be useful as new perspectives might be welcome, but this NDP majority will be most effective if there is an effective opposition, so I can hope that the Wildrose Party does continue to not make mistakes (they did rather well in the lead up to the election which surprised me among others, when compared to 2012), in order to ensure that we have an effective opposition. I'm also quite pleased that the Alberta Party elected a member to the legislature as it will be nice to have 5 political parties present in the legislature (even if two only have one member each). And we did have (marginally) higher voter turnout this year than during the last few elections. So that's pretty cool. I generally love my province and my city and my country so this election was really quite interesting to me on so many levels.

This province is divided in that party support is very much tied to geography — maps of this election's results really do indicate this. And with Jim Prentice resigning completely and with at least one tied race after all the polls have come in (Calgary-Glenmore) there should still be some interesting things that will need to happen (byelection & recount etc.) in the coming weeks/months etc.

Near the end of the time leading up to the election I was having to get away from social media on occasion just to get away from the deluge of stories of negative election politics. The number of PC scandals was appalling as was the literature of a certain candidate whom I will not name (but who was the ONLY candidate to deliver literature to my building and also the only candidate whom I met in person this election). There was a lot more anti-party politics and mudslinging this election than I would have liked. Sure one person might not like the PCs or not like the NDP but why not tell me (and everyone else) of what you'd prefer rather than just slamming this party? This frustrated me considerably.

It was a more interesting election than most as I knew folks running for seats, folks volunteering for different campaigns and parties, folks watching closely and others struggling with decisions of who to vote for in the end. It caused some pretty interesting political discussions with friends (and with strangers — particularly at work today!). I like to think that I encouraged a few folks to vote and thus contributed positively to the election turnout.

So yeah I'm cautiously optimistic. I think that those who are completely over the moon excited or completely dejected are perhaps having a bit of extreme reactions but this really is a pretty big change all in all. My hopes longterm for this province include a lot of things but only some of them are addressed by any political party in this province so no result will be perfect but that this result reflected the nature of this particular election.

Now since I've been up for a rather lot of hours, dealt with a lot of excitement, and had an overly interesting (on so many levels) day that just happened to include an important Election, Cinco de Mayo, and 15% Tuesday among other things (like the Yelp events I attended!) I probably ought to get some rest eventually. Election results will still be here in the morning.