As soon as we put up the store closing signs, the vultures began circling. I had only worked at Golf Galaxy in the New Hope Commons shopping center for six months before corporate shot the deadly silver bullet.
I was somewhat sad to lose a workplace where I’d grown comfortable with my co-workers and my duties, but I mostly just felt annoyed at having to face the hassle of job-hunting all over again.
However, part of me began looking forward to my unemployment as I kept having the same conversation with customer after customer, for seven hours straight, five days a week.
“I see you’re closing! What a shame!”
My response dwindled from consolatory explanations to an impatient nod.
“Why are you closing? I come to this store so often!”
At first I answered at length about another store they had invested so much in it and how the business had never caught on there, and how our lease was up and we were the chosen sacrifice for the greater good of Dicks Sporting Goods LLC, but that soon became “just not enough business,” with a slightly accusatory tone.
“So…” they would then say, with an awkward pause serving as a period of mourning, “having any big sales?”
At this, I could only smile and offer the appropriate company line: “No, we’re shipping all our merchandise to other stores. You can check out the clearance section though. Seventy-five percent off.”
Their sympathy and interest vanished as fast as they could stuff their credit cards back into their wallets.
In the final week of our existence, people I’d never seen before came in to “say goodbye” to the store. They told the stories of buying their first golf clubs, buying their grandkids’ Christmas presents, particularly hilarious bits of small talk with the employees. I lacked a storied history with the place; I just worked there because my mom knew the manager of another store in the chain, and he made a call on my behalf. I don’t even play golf.
I did feel bad for the regulars though, guys who came to the store every day on their lunch break, to check out if we’d gotten any new used clubs in, chat with the managers about their golf games, and kill their idle hour immersed in their favorite hobby. I sympathized with their sense of loss.
“We’re just transferring over to Dick’s,” said my managers. “We’re going to fix up the golf section over there. You can still come see us.”
But I don’t think it was really about the people in particular. They were grieving a loss in routine.
That’s the same way I felt as I walked around UNC’s campus before I graduated.
The people, I could still talk to. A plethora of social media outlets connect us beyond our mutual college experience. What I really mourned was my particular relationship with that geography, something I would never be able to get back. I’d never enter the dining hall and complain about the food as a student again. I’d never walk to class among the throngs of my compatriots again. I would never quite belong there in the same way as I did just then.
Throughout my last week, I’d find myself counting the lasts and making myself remember them. The last time I sat in class, I closed my eyes and thought, “remember what’s like to be a student here, right now.”
Graduating college is not the same as losing a cashier job, but I felt that same impulse as the hours ticked down on my final shift. I tried to stamp in my mind the dusty cash register keyboard, the pen-stained spots on the counter, the mosaic of ball boxes stacked neatly in rows. My annoyance at the vultures melted away. I tried to give them the piece of ceremony they’d come there searching for and indulged their attempts to reminisce the best I could.
“Where are you going, after this?” they’d ask.
“I’m just looking for another job,” I’d explain. “I’m going back to school in June.”
“Well, good luck!”
Though I knew their words were only platitudes, I hoped the collective force of all the good luck I’d received in the last month would carry me through my job hunt.
They’d look around for a minute, wait a beat. I imagined they were pausing to remember the store as it was, and their relationship to the changing nature of the world.
“So, got any big sales going on?”
Samantha McCormick is a new resident to Durham, recently graduated from UNC, and still trying to figure out what to do with her life. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.