|“The Sky Fairy is angered! Hide!”
In between lulls at work the clerks and cashiers, instead of doing prep work or cleaning, often stand around and chat. Eventually, one conversation veered into one of the taboos of workplace interaction: Talking about religion or politics.
Last year a clerk and cashier, who here I will call Cindy and Julie, began trading stories of their brushes with the unseen world. I was kind of half-paying attention while I audited the money of a cash drawer ensuring money coming in and going out balanced.
“I saw a ghost, once, too! It was so weird and scary. Yet somehow, I felt that I was being reassured.” Cindy said.
Julie’s voice became excited. “I know! See, I always forget to clock out for lunch until about a quarter after. Guess when my Grandma died? 15 minutes past two! It’s like she is here telling me something.”
Listening to their exchange caused me to roll my eyes so much I had to recount the cash. Without realizing it I was laughing. It took a few moments but Cindy and Julie realized I was amused by their conversation. They stopped their chat and directed their attentions towards me.
“What’s so funny?” Cindy was sounding defensive. Julie stared angrily.
“You didn’t see any ghosts. There are no such things.” I said, going straight into JREF-mode, still chuckling. Usually when I am exposed to an adult talking about the supernatural as if it were real I’m just kind of sad and disappointed. But today for some reason I found the idea hilarious. I tried to come off as rational and not condescending. I wasn’t very successful at the attempt. When the two repeated that they did see and experience a supernatural event I replied. “No, you didn’t.”
“Are you calling us liars?” Julie demanded. They were both becoming upset. I always have some prepared statements in the mental file. The argument I put forth was perhaps lacking in tact itself. My mistake was in assuming the pair were open for a debate.
“You are either making it up, making connections where none exist or you are deluded.” I said. “Magic and the supernatural absolutely does not exist. If it did the evidence would be overwhelming. It would be everywhere. No one could dispute it. Without exception it’s all someone’s personal opinion. If it was factual, if it was real it could be recorded and measured in a form other than anecdotal.”
Julie leaned forwards toward me as if to emphasize he words even though we were several work stations apart. “Oh.” She said. Her voice was ripe with scorn. “What are you…an Atheist?”
That’s exactly how she said it. I could actually hear the italics. Total emphasis on the disgust. Yet what I took from it is she just wanted an uncomfortable conversation to end. It did, not because of the attempted put down or because she had an epiphany but because customers started walking up with their groceries to check out. For the rest of the day they both acted chilly and would not talk to me unless they had to.
Cindy let it go by the end of the shift, displaying a cool shoulder towards me probably in a show of solidarity with Julie. Cindy is young and has presumably has access to the internet so there is hope for her. I was over it immediately. But from then on Julie remained stand-offish and treated me like I had the plague. In her job as a manager, the same as I but with her possessing slightly less seniority, she would not address me unless she had no choice. Julie would call an adjacent work station and have them relay requests or instructions. She would not directly interact in person and would move people around to make sure she was a far from me in the row of check stands as possible. Sometimes she would swap 4 or 5 people and their duties around so she would not have to herself personally relieve me for breaks or for shift changes. If she was the designated person in charge of the shift that day I was passed over for opportunities or tasks that traditionally would be mine or excluded from the process of decision-making.
For my part I certainly didn’t hold it against Julie that she was a believer in the Unreal. She was competent at her job and that’s where my concerns ended. Julie was one of the few I worked with who did not adhere to the Culture of Half-Assedness that exists in so many work places. But Julie made it clear she had washed her hands of me. Julie employed a somewhat subtle form of marginalization and discrimination but it was there. It was particularly noticeable when comparing our work relationship as it existed prior to my taking on the role of Ghostbuster.
Julie used to ask my advice on how to perform certain tasks and duties. I was glad to help. She was one of those managers who because of tighter economic times was given minimal training and dropped into the job. It wasn’t her personal failing if she hadn’t been exposed to or given the opportunities others in her position had. Whenever she expressed frustration and not knowing as much about the job as other managers I let her know there is nothing wrong with that, just keep asking questions until you know everything. Something she accepted and I would presume appreciated at least as far as the job went.
In hardly any time at all I went from being a co-worker to The Enemy. If Julie had been in a higher position of authority or had more influence with the upper echelons of management it could have presented me with a problem that could have easily affected my employment. Not from our original conversation about ghosts but due to her trying to force me out of a job solely because I was, in her view, not fit to be around her sort of good people. This discriminatory practice against the non-devout and those with religions not in the mainstream is not rare and in some cases can be quite overt and extreme. Employment can and has been negatively affected. When Julie was transferred to a new work site it was a relief only because her behavior was getting hilariously absurd.
To this day I don’t know what her personal religious beliefs are. I could hazard a guess based upon her actions and the way I was treated by her but I don’t want to speculate. I require evidence.