GAME Over

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British summer time has finally arrived; the weather took a turn for the better at the start of the weekend, but rather than being able to enjoy it, I came down with a painful throat virus and spent three days in bed just trying to swallow without feeling like a fire-breathing tick gone wrong. You know you’re ill when you can’t eat anything, and in a desperate attempt to get something down you, a Buddhist nun brings you chicken soup with the consistency of water, and gives you permission to eat it. Being sick does strange things to the body and mind; for one thing it makes for a change in the passage of time. I lost so many weekly markers, including going to work, and slept intermittently day and night, whenever the exhaustion overwhelmed the pain. Admittedly, when it comes to throat pain I’m a bit of a whuss. One of the strange things about emerging from an illness, is the weird need to get back to a healthy normality, unfortunately, such things weren’t destined this time around.

Redundancy; that’s a word the UK workforce has heard too much of in the last few years. It’s one of those words you hear on the news a lot, “thousands of employees made redundant”, and you sigh, shake your head, and go on like such things are unable to touch you for some unexplained reason. Unfortunately, no one is immune to anything in this world, and such as the earth turns, redundancy went from being a fictional sadness that affects others, to something very real indeed to me yesterday. After months of speculation, media attention, and gossip, the video-game retailer GAME has been forced into administration; already the majority of it’s stores have been closed, including mine. Redundancy, it’s one of those words that tends to just happen while you’re not looking. In this case however, we pretty much saw it coming despite being kept in semi-darkness by those at the top who wanted to maintain the status quo.

So, I’m out of work again. I can’t say I’m very happy about it, but at the same time, I’m not devastated either. Like I said, we saw it coming I think even before the head-honchos were willing to admit it to themselves, but it does leave me in that awkward non-employed state.  Me and the thousands of work colleagues in the same boat, paddling the same river, including all of the staff I worked with at my store. It sucks to see them now having to struggle; they’re all good people, and I’m sure they’ll all find better uses for their talents. I’ll miss them terribly. I always felt very lucky working with a team of people who got along so well, and who supported each other; sometimes it was so much fun, it didn’t actually feel like working at all. We had in-jokes, and playful interludes when the store was empty, and even had to climb shelves to reach stock.  We became almost like family, supporting one another, always aware of the signals which might mean distress, and sharing laughter. I’m really going to miss them. However, there are some things I won’t miss…

…Like GAME live, the in store radio station which played six month old pop and club music, often repeating the same song three times in an hour, between horrendous adverts for in store deals. One particularly annoying bit had a woman asking what ‘present-tense’ means, only to then add that ‘present-tense’ is ‘when you want to buy someone a present but you don’t know what’. Excuse me while I facepalm; GAME the youth of today are already lacking in good English enough without you making such matters worse. At least they can’t do that anymore. Also on the list of ‘stuff I’m happy to be without’ is ARS. For those of you lucky enough never to have come across this initialism, it stands for Age Related Sales, and consists of the company you work for scaring the crap out of you so you don’t sell 18 rated items to cute little kiddies. This was drilled into us about ten times a year, reminding us that if we got this wrong, hell hath no fury like Trading Standards scorned. The six killer questions I had to ask EVERY customer, at EVERY transaction, which can now happily leave my brain. They already know, GAME! That guy I served yesterday, who is back again today already knows this stuff!  Speaking of which, raging customers, and the words “the customer is always right”. I would like to assure everyone that the customer is right far less than s/he would care to be told. No receipt, no return! It’s the same everywhere, and I won’t wake up wishing I still had to tell people that.

Saying that, I will miss being around people. There are some wonderful human beings out there who I had the pleasure of serving, people who would engage with you, and offer patience and understanding when issues held their time. I loved meeting different people, and interacting with individuals who I would otherwise never have had the opportunity to converse with. Crazy types, funny types, stylish types, family types, and passionate types, retail always offers a diverse range of people. Some part of me is afraid without that continual renewal of people around me, I will grow stale. As a writer, I spend a lot of my time in quiet solitude either at home or at the library, and I enjoyed the contrast in both noise and socialisation when I worked at GAME; it balanced.

When unfavourable circumstances interrupt our paths it can feel like an endless stretch for which we have no contingency. I’ve learned recently you can’t plan life; the world has no obligation to go the way we want it to, but I think that makes the ride a little more of an adventure, and I do love a good adventure. Part of me is worried I’ll be stuck unemployed for such a long time, I’ll lose a sense of meaning; I know this happens to a lot of people in the same situation. Even though we never actually lose our purpose in the world, the idea that we can’t find it can be dreadful. In those days I was ill, and in so much pain, I pondered the depressing thought that I would simply never get better. What if the virus just never went away? It’s easy to think like this when everything seems low, but change is inevitable. Impermanence is our only security. Bad times get better by the simple design of living, and good times fade into more difficult experiences. As long as your alive, your body will fight the virus, and as long as you keep living, your soul will fight for happiness.

Redundancy will force me to think more about the career in writing I’ve been striving for, and also to challenge myself to do new things, force myself to go out and meet new people. An opportunity has arisen. GAME over indeed; click NEW GAME.

That day, the day the doors closed and the call was made, the world sounded like this….

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