When my husband and I moved to Twentynine Palms in August, I won’t pretend I wasn’t nervous. Like, very nervous. I’m a relatively new military spouse, and here I was, all alone in the middle of the Mojave desert, in an area where unemployment was rife and I knew precisely no-one (well, aside from my cats.)
After weighing up our financial options, we decided to live off-base, with a roommate. It was a great decision, and one I’m still pleased with, save for one nagging feeling at the back of my mind: How the heck was I supposed to make friends?!
Fast forward a month, and I found a job — slinking in a far, deep corner of an obscure job website — at a health store on base. While I never imagined myself working in retail again, and I was pitifully unqualified for the job, I went for it, got it, and there I was! Hey, at least it was a paycheck, right?
A few months later, my on-base job has become much more than a paycheck. Like any 9-5 worker bee, there are days I find myself having to preen myself into some semblance of a human being for a day’s work. But most days, most days, I love working on-base.
So, in the immortal words of Mr. Shakespeare, let me count the ways!
1. I learned never to forget my ID.
Okay, so maybe this is just me here. But seriously: I have a real problem. I always forget my ID. Always. And always at the most unfortunate moments. Trying to buy alcohol for a much-needed Friday beverage? Trying to get into a fancy bar with husband for our anniversary? Paying for groceries at the commissary? Yup, of course I find myself ID-free.
Well, in an environment where I literally cannot go to work without my ID, I’ve learned to check. Yes, okay, it took a note on the fridge for the first couple of weeks… but here I am, a capable adult, who has actually begun to function like one. Cheers to that!
2. I learned so much more about the military.
Now, since my husband has only been active duty for a year, I am still very much in the learning process when it comes to, well, just about everything “military.” I still struggle with ranks, terminology, and — okay, just about everything.
Over time, working around military personnel five days a week, I began to understand the basics, from the ebb and flow of customers depending on how close we are to payday, to the ranks on their collars, to the basic structures of each battalion on our base. For someone who has never lived on base — and who will happily do anything but talk about military “stuff” with my partner — it’s been invaluable to interact with military men and women, and their families, so often.
3. I interact with kinder customers.
Hands up if you’ve ever worked in customer service in the civilian world! Most of us? Okay!
Compared to this line of work outside the military setting, I can honestly say that military folks are, more often than not, more respectful and kind towards the people serving them in a retail environment. While customer exchanges can be awkward, the typical military family will address a customer rep in a more considerate, courteous manner. Why? I could hypothesize, but it’s a definite trend. Keep it up with the “ma’am!” It’s awesome.