I spent just over a year working at Hallmark inside a large mall. My boss’ name was Rex, and he wore a thick handlebar mustache, bright purple shirt, red bow tie, and thick dark glasses – all of it was worn without a hint of irony. As a faithful employee, I also wore the hideous purple shirt and bow tie. After all, who was I to deny the world of seeing me dressed up in my best work clothes. I had started to gain a good deal of weight by then, and the clothes didn’t exactly fit me, and they weren’t really able to accommodate a size bigger, so I smushed into the outfit to the best of my ability, smiled, and clocked in for every evening shift.
I started working there at the height of the Beanie Baby craze, and the lines of the Beanie Baby fan club would stretch out for the length of the mall, waiting for us to open-open-open, so they could gain access to the best little fuzzy animal that might someday make them rich.
Unfortunately Hallmark also ruined birthdays for me. Having to re-stock the thousands of Birthday cards made it almost impossible for me to want to celebrate my own birthday. The overuse of clichés contained in those cards made me ill, and it never failed that for my own birthday, I would end up with several cards that I had stocked. Not only that, but since my friends received discounts from me, they thought it was funny to come in and buy the card from me, fill it out at the counter, and simply hand it to me, as I gave back their change. Awesome, right? Here’s your change, thanks for my card, Asshole.
I guess I never truly understood the appeal of birthdays. It was great when I was a little kid, and we did big parties that parents forced my “friends” to go to at Oaks Park, or a clay shop, or laser tag, or whatever was the big hit of the summer. I had a lot more friends when I was younger, so at least there was the idea that my social anxiety issues hadn’t come into play yet, and I was still able to enjoy the people around me.
As I got older, I suppose there just wasn’t the excitement of the big birthday anymore. I’d lost a ton of friends over the years – as most of us do – and I really wasn’t super interested in making new ones. I got the typical cards, letters, text messages, emails, and now Facebook posts.
I sometimes think that I should have stolen my Hallmark uniform; that way I could have put it on each birthday, and accepted all cards and gifts and wall posts with the same amount of enthusiasm that I did when people “YIPPED” with excitement upon finding an error on their Beanie Baby tag.
Well, I’m going to go and eat some chocolate chips.