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Gradenfreude: Escaping the Seventh Circle of Retail Hell

It’s completely natural for adults to reach a breaking point. Sometimes, enough is enough. This is true for almost all aspects of adult life that people wish could be changed, including those dealing with addiction, infidelity, and, of course, the headaches that accompany being employed. When and where this point is crossed obviously depends on the individual, but many times, it’ll result in breaking away from what became comfortable and a willingness to do anything for a change.

I personally experienced this myself just before Christmas — that’s when I quit my awful retail job….

You see, for me, it was stupid to continue wasting my time and energy at a job that not only was going nowhere, but was also a real pain in my ass. In addition to the litany of complaints my loyal readers have read about, I also had a terrible for a boss who never belonged in a position of authority. In the end, it wasn’t even his crappy management skills that pushed me to quit. No, instead, it was simply his lack of basic human decency that pushed me over the edge.

Two days before Christmas, I found out about a major family emergency when I had less than three hours left on my shift. So I went to my boss, alerted him to the severity of the situation, and he reacted by saying that he’d like to leave so he could hang out with his family, too. Realizing that my temper may make the situation a lot worse than it needed to be (because ideally, I would’ve liked to punch him in the face), I turned and just walked out the door. The only reason I ever went back was to hand in my uniform and pick up my final paycheck.

But this situation really made me think, how much would I have been willing to take had this been a more prestigious job that even remotely put my education to use? It was really easy to quit a minimum wage job that I really hated, but what can law firms get away with these days? Hell, some places want you to pay for the privilege of being around someone who actually has a job. With the entry-level legal job market at an all time low, how much are people willing to take?

I also began thinking that perhaps this sudden awakening I had should’ve come a few years ago — maybe the first time that I saw someone in a position of authority taking advantage of the system and becoming very wealthy while doing so. Had I simply come to the conclusion that my accredited diploma mill was simply using me, maybe all the horrible experiences I had at my job wouldn’t have been as bad for me. Maybe if I hadn’t just spent my summer being miserable in preparation for passing the bar, it wouldn’t have felt so truly horrendous to settle, even temporarily.

But ultimately, none of this has mattered. That’s because, like most American adults, I didn’t learn anything from these mistakes. After being without a job for a little over a week, I broke down and applied to work in retail again, because let’s face it: I’ve had only one interview for a real job in six months. I now work down the block from my old job. But I did get a nice pay increase, fifty cents, baby!

P.S. To the person who wrote to the ATL editors to inquire about my well-being, don’t worry about me just yet. I may be really depressed over my waste of a law degree, but I’m not suicidal or anything. Thanks anyway.

When not writing about life after law school for Above the Law, Tristan Taylor Thomas (not his real name) works at a retail job stocking shelves — which he admits is slightly better than being a shoeshiner. You can reach him by email at

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