Lately, I have been suffering from what I personally call the “summer holiday effect”. No, this doesn`t mean lobster-red-skin and lots of swimming and ice cream. Oh, how I wish it did. But no. It means that I, like I have for a lot of years, have been working too much.
Summer holidays have always been my prime working time. Having worked mostly in retail & tourism, summer has always been the season with the most jobs available for me. I think the last summer I spent without working was 5 years ago when I was travelling through Japan after my time there as an exchange student. Ever since then, I`ve spent every summer working more than usual.
As it turns out, working more than usual makes you kind of, well, tired.
And it`s not just me: I`ve seen colleagues in several jobs go through the same thing. Back when I worked at a cave as a tourguide, even the most passionate and enthusiastic guides would be reduced to cursing beneath their breath and sitting quietly at a table while glaring at tourists.
There`s a strange phenomenon in summer that we used to refer to in Dutch as “het zomervolk”, which can be very loosely translated to “the summer crowds” or “the summer people”. Except that “volk” in Dutch can have a slightly rude meaning, depending on the tone you use when saying it (our tone was definitely rude). The reason we have a specific word for the type of people in summer is because, for some reason, people are different in summer. Summer tourists are different from autumn or spring tourists, and summer shoppers are different from shoppers at any other given time.
Generally speaking, “the summer crowds” (usually tourists) are more messy, more rude, more condescending towards low-pay workers, and expect more service. They also keep asking the same questions without ever reading the signs, and trust me when I say it gets tiresome to answer the same, extremely simple question over and over again. (No, we do not have a toilet for customers in this shop, and no you can`t pay at that cash register, it`s closed, like the sign right there says. Please go to the other side. No, the other other side. I meant to your left – nevermind.)
Obviously I`m not saying all people in summer are like this; I`ve met the sweetest and most polite people during the summer months as well, and some of my fondest memories at jobs are from the summer time. But generally in tourism the summer people are just going to different places in the hopes of having their kids entertained for an hour or two so they can think of something else themselves. In retail? The summer crowds are cranky because of the hot weather (or the unexpected rain torrents “ruining our perfect holiday”), the whining children they`re stuck with 24/7, and probably plenty of other reasons.
Combine that with already spending more time doing mundane tasks over and over, like folding clothes or explaining the same simple story at the register and asking “do you need a bag with that?” and at some point the non-stop “think of all the money” mantra stops working and just turns into “YOU NEED THIS JOB, DON`T SAY ANYTHING FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, JUST SMILE AND WAVE”.
At some point, you constantly have to bite your tongue to keep yourself from makin sarcastic or even rude remarks. You have to focus on breathe in, count to ten, breathe out, relax, stay calm, it`ll be over soon, because otherwise you might snap at the next screaming child running through the store in their underwear.
At some point, you just have to slightly distance yourself from the people you like/love, just to make sure they keep liking/loving you in return.
Thank goodness your colleagues have the same tired, weary look and heave the same heavy sighs as you hear the first “excuse me, how much does this shirt cost” as you look at a shirt, plucked from the €5 stand, with a label that says, very clearly, “€5”. (“But is it really just €5?” JUST SMILE AND WAVE. )
This is the summer-holiday-effect, the weariness of simply working too much with customers who demand too much of you and not enough of themselves. Some people might call it “heading straight for a burn-out”, I call it “just another summer spent indoors working at a minimum wage”.
Summer holidays are almost over. Schools are about to begin, people will go back to work, psychiatrists will work overtime in September to deal with the post-holiday-blues, and people in retail and tourism everywhere will sigh happily.
That is, until the first Christmas songs pop up.
(PS. I would like to thank my colleagues for being amazing. I would like to thank my life for giving me some jobs with truly amazing people. I am, in fact, really happy about actually having a job. I am also really very tired and behind on everything I need to do, but, y`know. Money. I`m also Dutch and therefore complaining is in my DNA. So that`s my excuse.)