I was spoiled by the experience of working for Barnes & Noble. I've mentioned before that I made a lot of friends there who are still a big part of my life. It was amazing to me that a store that at times employed 55-70 people could make the machine run with so little drama or gossip. I've worked at 9-employee outfits where managing the personnel was a bigger issue. My friend Nessa, who is the longest-running BN employee I'm friends with and I have 62 friends in common, according to Facebook. Now, this does include siblings and good friends of employees who were brought into the folds, but that makes it all that much better. It really was--and in certain ways continues to be--one big, happy family.
It stands to reason that employment opportunities like that don't come along all the time. And I certainly wouldn't advise working any kind of retail long term if you're looking to become wealthy or like the idea of having your weekends free. The perks associated with working at the bookstore were more intrinsic than tangible, but there was a lot to be said for them.
First of all, people who work in bookstores like to read. Duh. The thing is, after so long working in the bookstore, it's easy to begin assuming that most people like to read. But 5 minutes working elsewhere are enough to disabuse a former-employee of that notion.
Secondly, working at a place with so many employees (especially employees who are generally curious and informed) ensures a lot of interesting conversation. And since there is such a wide variety of interests, which often get shared and adopted by others, the whole crew is somewhat well-rounded. I know I sound like I'm waxing a bit nostalgic (and for certain I am), but I can honestly say that the difference between working at Barnes & Noble and working anywhere else I've worked has been stark. I miss those days well and truly.
Since joining my new company, I haven't made any new friends. In the beginning, I wasn't even interested in making new friends. I was very sad about going back to work after having Monkey in the first place, and I was also stress-out about what was going on at home at the time. I didn't even think about socializing with my co-workers, but I suspect that even if I had, I wouldn't have found much opportunity. I'd yet to connect on any substantial level with any of my fellow employees save one, who was also going through a difficult marital situation. But even that was a pretty surface-level connection. I simply hadn't found anybody at work with similar interests or overlapping senses of humor. Apparently the common denominator among people who work at banks--if any--is merely the necessity of having need and found a job.
When I transferred to my new branch (going on 3 months ago now) I breathed half a sigh of relief. My managers were much more approachable and relaxed than any of those at my former branch, and the whole vibe in the branch was more friendly and customer service-oriented. Already things were looking better. We laugh a lot throughout the day, and I didn't find the level kind of stress and looking-over-of-shoulders that was so prevalent before.
Still, I'd yet to make a significant connection or have much of a desire to hang out with any coworkers outside of work.
Today's New Activity: One Step Closer to Friendship at Work
Two days ago we found out my Assistant Manager had been transferred to another branch, effective next week. So we quick threw together a goodbye dinner for tonight to take place at BJ's right after work. It was nice to see that everyone cared enough to show up, even the banker who was off for the day. We had a nice time and sent my manager off fondly and with appreciation.
And the extra nice part was that the hangout extended beyond dinner. It was just a beer and about 1 1/2 of talking, but it was a refreshing break from the corporate banking environment that typically casts its looming shadow over any interesting conversation that could be happening at work. It was nice to laugh freely without worrying about stopping when the next customer appeared. And it was also nice to be able to finally know a little something more about my coworkers' (real) lives.
Or maybe, it was just nice to be emotionally ready to care.
It's difficult to work day-by-day alongside people in whom you have invested very little time or emotional energy. It's taxing to make small talk and keep up a work-appropriate front. And though I know all that will continue during working hours, I liked getting a peek into my coworkers' interests and even just to know how they dress when they're not in the standard-issue work duds.
And while I don't think it's likely I'll make the kinds of friends at my current job that I made at the bookstore, I could definitely get used to tonight's new level of familiarity.