You're closed?

I hear the inconvenience and sarcasm, among other things, in peoples voices as they say to me - after I've told them the shop will be closed on the date they may want some flowers - "oh, well have a nice break" or "have a nice holiday" (which is lovely) alongside "it must be nice to work for yourself and close early whenever you feel like it" (not quite so lovely). The automatic assumption that I'm closing the shop to go off and do something exciting, or just because I fancy not working that afternoon never ceases to astound me (even after all these years).

What these people forget, is that aside from a part-time driver, who arrives first thing, collects the flowers, delivers them and then goes home (or off to his men's shed) I am alone, all day, every day. I'm alone because I'm a small business on the edge of the 'burbs' hidden from view most of the time, who fights daily to survive in a world/town where small businesses are left to fight their battles alone. These people don't realise that I earn less now than I was earning as an 18 year old (just a few years ago!!). Every minute my shop is closed it's not earning any money, yet the bills don't diminish, they keep on rolling along in their own (extortionate) world. For every afternoon I have off, I have to work twice as hard to try and make up those lost earnings. What these people forget is that for the first 8 years the only days I took off were Christmas, Boxing and New Years Day. That was it; for the other 362/363 days I was working, either in the shop, or at home for the shop. Even now, all these years later, I still usually only take off one week each year for myself to step away from the shop (although I do now close between Christmas and New Year, this doesn't mean I am not working in some capacity for the business). 

Not once has it ever occured to any of these people that maybe I'm having the afternoon off because my dentist can't fit me in any other time. Maybe I need to visit my doctor for something; they are open less hours than me so I can't get an appointment when the shop is 'officially' closed. Maybe I've had to close early because I'm having a scan/biopsy, to check whether a lump I might be concerned about is anything more serious that I need to worry about. What if I'm taking that week off because I have to go into hospital for an operation and need to have 'down time' after for recovery. These people never seem to think of that.

Maybe I've been happily pootling along the motorway and had a 40 tonne lorry ram me out of my lane, into the central reservation, and I've found myself having to spend a morning in A&E - even when that did happen and I was told I needed to take at least a month off to allow myself to heal (it's not a pleasant experience) I popped the pain pills they gave me and was back at work the following morning. 

Other reasons I've had time off over the years include when my best friend was dying (and subsequently died) of cancer; if I had a quiet week, or not many orders booked in for an afternoon I would close earlier to spend some time with her, whilst I was still able to. I left work early the day I got the phone call to tell me the man I would most likely have ended up marrying, had suddenly dropped down dead. I pre-warned customers I would be closed on the days of both their funerals (one of which took place on the afternoon of my birthday) and still, still, I heard the inconvenience as I was told "oh well, I guess I'll have to go elsehwere, but you enjoy your day off". 

I closed early for a couple of days when my niece was having life saving surgery, knowing she had only a 30% chance of coming out of it still alive, and she was unable to find anyone to have her little ones for her. I took a day off last year to organise my grandfathers funeral, which I got sorted for as late as possible on the day so that it didn't affect the shop and inconvenience my customers too much. 

I think I have more than proved over the years that my customers are extremely high on my list of priorities. I may have had to close the shop, but I still continued to work whilst dealing with an extreme case of chickenpox a few years ago. My doctor told me to take 2 weeks off. I took off only the hour I sat in the waiting room to be diagnosed. Apparently in a 47 year old woman chicken pox can be extremely dangerous; I was given all manner of different drugs to take, felt so bad I have no idea how I was able to drag myself out of bed, yet drag myself out I did because I didn't want to let any customers down. 

I don't just close my shop because I feel like it. If, IF, I do book myself a holiday (and this year I have a 2 week one booked for October - just to pre-warn you all, on top of the week the shop will be closed next week) I've had to think long and hard about whether to take the time off. I've had to work through a multitude of pros-and-cons to make sure I can cover the bills, don't have any regular orders that will need fulfilling, and will cause the least inconvenience to any potential customers. Whilst anyone who works a 5 day week is legally entitled to 28 days holiday per year, I often work a 7 day week, yet had just 9 days off last year. 

Because I'm a small business and not able to pay myself a huge wage I can't afford to take yearly holidays, spend a day shopping/lunching or visiting a wildlife park somewhere, because I don't earn enough to pay for such things. I have to scrimp and save really hard for a few years to be able to treat myself to a trip away, so next time, if you're one of 'those people' who has given me a hard time (just this very morning someone has said to me "but I wanted some flowers next week, can you not come in just for the day I need you?" and another has said "how dare you have time off" although she was joking (I think!))  maybe, just maybe, you could show me some kindness and have a little re-think about how you are going to respond.


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