Working at TJ’s is far from difficult most days, save for the occasional jar-of-salsa-explosion or Total Refrigerator Melt Down Disaster (sorry cows, looks like your death was in vain). There’s also a lot of idle brain time, as it turns out putting cans on a shelf and carrying on light conversations about the weather doesn’t occupy much brain activity, leaving about a good 97 percent free to window shop down the streets of your inner psyche, dropping change into the cup of homeless pursuits, or to traipse through the garden of imagination, willing new flowers to bloom at each turn.
The unshackled imagination is what helps turn the ordinary, and often quite repetitive, nature of the work into something fanciful, or at least a cartoonishly fascinating version of itself.
I quickly realized the nature of the work at TJ’s has the qualities and cyclical challenges of an 8-bit video game. You know the kind I’m talking about, the ones before cartridge memory was really available so the games forced you to relive the same tasks over and over again to varying degrees of difficulty simply because there wasn’t that much depth or range to the games (e.g.: Spy
Hunter, Donkey Kong, Elevator Action, Wrecking Crew, etc). The challenge becomes not in whether you can complete the tasks at hand — which are often ceaseless and without true terminus — but the efficiency in which you can complete them, the perfection of the process, and the stylized methods through which you can overcome the digital hurdles. There were no hidden bonuses, secret endings or completion percentages back then. It was up to you and your grade-school friends to continue to milk the enjoyment out of that cartridge of Dodgeball, because you knew your parents weren’t buying you another game until at least Christmas, and maybe not even then since you didn’t listen to them and refused to wear a raincoat over your mummy costume at Halloween because you were standing up for the realism of the outfit and they just wouldn’t listen to logic that no mummy, no matter how heavily it was raining in ancient Egypt, would have left the pyramid wearing a raincoat, especially not a Members Only raincoat.