I'm heading back to college in a couple of days. My break was, for the most part, uneventful. Some people use the breaks between semesters to unwind and recharge their batteries. Some, though, end up working in order to save up for the next semester. I was the latter. For the duration of my winter break, I worked at my local grocery store as a cashier, scanning and bagging items and charging customers for their orders. In hindsight, this job is one of the easiest jobs you can get. All you have to do is stand there and do your job, only leaving your register to run an errand or to go on your break. But as an expert on the cashier profession, I have to say that this job can be really tough.
The problem lies in the fact that this is a standing job. You may believe that you are a young and energetic being that can persevere through any obstacle, but standing for a couple of hours at a time is going to wear you out. Your feet will ache endlessly after your shift has ended and your eyes will be drooping from staring at the register screen for too long. Your arm and shoulder muscles may ache as well; scanning and bagging can get tiresome after performing the same movements over and over again. When I get home from a particularly long shift, I just want to drop dead on the floor and never move again.
But the biggest toll is on the mind. Obviously, it can get pretty boring being on register for hours. You aren't really doing much beyond swiping items on the scanner and putting items in a bag, so your mind will wander and slip away. But even if you're focused on the job, it can get tough. Cashiering is a job that requires the bare minimum in terms of physical activity, and the maximum in terms of customer service. You may just be standing there, but you are also interacting with a customer. You are expected to be a smiling drone, acting as courteous and respectful as possible, while solving any dilemmas a customer may have. Even on your bad days, you have to be a happy cashier, and that can drain you mentally. You may be bubbly and cheerful for the first hour or two, but eventually you can't go on like this anymore. You have a harder time being cheerful when you're repeating the same greetings and questions. Some people relish in customer interactions, but I am one of those people that can only be social for so long before I lose all of my energy. By the time my shift is over, I am wishing for sweet release from this torment. And I haven't even said anything about bad customer experiences! Those moments will ruin your mood and make you want to rip your hair out. A mean or angry customer can be irritating at best and terrifying at worst. After the fact, you'll be thinking back to how you could have handled the situation better, and kick yourself for not being more courageous or sassy. It can be demoralizing. I sympathize with those who quit the job early on. All the factors that go into being a cashier can be too much, especially when most cashiers are new to the workforce.
Still, I am very lucky. The store I work at has some amazing employees that have made the job easier. We complain to each other about nasty customers and chat about our lives and what we're up to. We are all baring the same pain, so it's easier to empathize with each other. And though I've had a few bad customers, I have plenty of good customers. People want to get out of the store as much as a cashier does, but they will appreciate a cheery face and a good bagging job. They may even cheer you up in your darkest of moments. It's these times that make the job bearable, even worth it.
So being a cashier can be kind of rough. There are more difficult and dangerous jobs out there, but not many as mind-numbing. Still, if you look in the right places, you'll find the bright spots that make things look better. After all, at least your savings account is a little bigger, right?