Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tales From The Op-Shop

Last Tuesday, I did my first volunteer shift at a local op-shop. I did mean to write about it earlier but unfortunately I had a crippling case of the Alien Hand Syndrome and I had no control over what I was writing.

There were a couple of reasons why I decided to volunteer. There was an element of testing my injuries to see whether I was ready to start looking for work again, but there was also a large factor of 'this is a really friggin cool op-shop and I want to be a part of it'.

I walked in nervously and introduced myself to the others. I was led out the back to the fabled 'Staff Only' section. I have never seen these sections in other op-shops, but I can only hope they are all like this one. The entrance was through some big, red, old-west saloon style doors. I breathed through onto the other side, trying to feel like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future III (conclusion: not cool enough to be Marty McFly). Seeing behind those doors was like seeing inside the chocolate factory for the first time. And with that remark I am referring to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, not goatse. Let's be very clear on that.

But it was great. There were surplus clothes everywhere. Apparently they are always rotating their stock because they have so much. There were boxes piled up - one was labeled 'ties', another 'scarfs' [sic], another simply 'XMAS' - all literally overflowing with figurative gold. I couldn't wait to dig through it all.

My first task was to wander around, cleaning up the displays and arranging things in order of colour. I did this a lot when I worked in a clothes store, and I had forgotten just how much I love it. Retail fashion is basically a job designed for people who have at least some OCD tendencies. You can go up to your boss saying 'I have arranged every single item in the shop from lightest to darkest, made sure every item is facing north on the hanger and that there is the exact same number of items on every rack' and where in most situations you would receive the response 'Seek help,' in retail you get rewarded for it. I was volunteering, so it wasn't a financial reward, but I have decided that I am being paid in human interaction. That is enough reward for me.

After an hour or so of tidying, the boss approached me to ask me if I would like to spend some time reorganising the retro/costume section. No words have ever made me happier.

I found some of the most amazing things. On the racks, the first things I noticed were the strangely plentiful multi-coloured robes. There was also an amazing dog suit, but unfortunately it looked like it had been designed for a child. I felt a bit disappointed, but then after much consideration realised that it would be so much creepier if it were designed for an adult. And in a second hand store. I would probably find myself filing it under 'Mysterious Stains' and moving on as quickly as possible.

Like most op-shop costume sections, it had its fair share of items I simply didn't know how to explain. Such as the item I named 'Musical Jester Sack', because that was the only possible way I could think of to describe it. Also, being a Catholic run store, if anyone ever wants to go to a costume party as an Amish person, I've got your back.

But it was then that the boxes were pointed out to me. A bunch of crates under the shelves that could only have been labeled as 'Misc.'. I began sorting through them, to see what I could put on the shelves. I have never sorted through more rewarding boxes in my life. Here is a list of things I found:

  • An actual Darth Vadar helmet
  • So many animal ears. First the cat ears, then the bunny ears, then the dalmation ears. Then something I can only describe as 'hand-tennae', a headband that has hands for antennae.
  • Some of the most inexplicably terrifying latex masks I have ever seen.
  • I found a couple of strange half-shirts with superhero logos on them. It was like, the front of a shirt, but with velcro on the back of it. After much consideration I decided they must be batman/superman bibs, for people who have problems.
  • Shoes whose straps were shaped like a male and a female, respectively. Very intriguing.
  • So many wonderful hats! So much fodder for Hat Club**

I had a fantastic time sorting it all out, and the other volunteers were all very friendly. I do worry a bit though, working for the Catholic Church. It's not that I'm worried they are going to flip out* and burn me at the stake for one wrong move, it's just the fact that I have no idea what level of non-Catholicism is acceptable. I thought to mention my Christian up-bringing for brownie points, but then remembered that I was raised Protestant and that this could be a problem. I went to take my daily contraceptive pill but then worried that they might be against that. It's hard. Even though I have a pretty detailed knowledge of religion, I still have no idea what is going to offend religious people because it's all so gosh-darn arbitrary.

Unfortunately, after about 4 or 5 hours my injuries started feeling particularly strained. It hurt for days afterwards, purely from pushing myself too hard. The conclusion I have drawn is that I am not ready to go back to the real workforce, but I could probably continue to do once a week shifts at the op-shop. And I will and it's going to be amazing.

-Smackie Onassis

*sensible fun only oh god
**I think I have only very briefly mentioned Hat Club. Basically, the first rule of Hat Club is wear a hat. That is also all the other rules, in various wordings.

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