Archives for : retail

The Problem with Being Batman


What I look like when customers try to return outdated products.

Disclaimer: this post is not a response in regards to Ben Affleck being cast as the Caped Crusader. Believe me, I am getting to that soon enough. Boy, am I.

So tonight I had a particularly horrific experience at my day job. I work retail. If you’ve ever worked retail, I know your feels, bro. I work retail because I’m still a self-published indie author and my net gross selling books has only been enough to buy me dinner and a movie. Depressing, but them’s the breaks when you go into this thing on your own. Not my point.

I won’t go into detail, but I ended up spending over half an hour being screamed at by a couple who were returning over a thousand dollars’ worth of technology for undisclosed reasons and my store’s register wouldn’t work properly, and so it ended with them accusing me of stealing and calling the cops. Yeah. Fun times were had.

At some point during their tirade, I caught myself thinking what I’ve thought for a long time while working this job: this is not who I am. As angry as this couple made me—and believe me, I had to walk away from them three times in order to keep my temper in check—I almost got a case of the giggles when I stepped back and looked at my life. I just turned twenty-five. I’ve got one toe in the grave. I haven’t done much worth repeating in my years, sadly, but one thing is that I have a relatively firm grasp of who I am as a person.

For instance, for my birthday, I accomplished yet another thing on my Bucket List—I went out and got a tattoo. No, not a tramp stamp. I got something important to me, inspired by a man who has always meant a great deal to me since I was a kid. Sure, he’s fictional, but what he represents is really what got me thinking tonight after the meltdown at my store.

Close up Batman tattoo

I think being an author is a lot like being Batman.

At least, that’s what it’s been like in my experience. Let me explain. Bruce Wayne is a persona. He’s a rich, snobbish fop. If you’re a big Batman fan, you know that Bruce Wayne is actually the mask and Batman is the man beneath it. He uses Bruce to operate in normal society, to get around, to keep people from suspecting that there’s something more to him than what’s on the surface. He’s the handsome, shallow face on the package of a product. He’s necessary, and useful, but the truth is that he is just a façade.

Batman is the cause. Batman is the answer. Batman is the real man beneath the mask. He does all the things that really mean something—saving lives, seeking justice, putting fear into the hearts of the wicked, and inspiring hope and goodness to those without it.

I could never compare myself to such a great character, but I do think that his duality is something that most writers/authors experience. In our day to day lives, we are often mild-mannered wallflowers. Some of us blend right into the crowd. Some of us are shy and withdrawn. Some of us are fun once you get to know us, but we keep our real selves below the surface. Part of what I realized about myself while this French lady and her husband insisted that I was a thief and a charlatan was that they had no idea who the hell I really was underneath. Maybe it was just my ego, but I almost wanted to snarl at them, “Do you know who I am? I write stories. This job is not who I am. I weave entire tapestries of conflict and horror and wonder. I dig into the ribs of monsters and expose their guts to the world. I am not some retail monkey. I am powerful. I am fearless. I am the one who writes monsters. I am a goddamn writer, you putrescent simpletons.

So many authors are cursed with menial jobs that they don’t enjoy because sadly, this calling of ours isn’t always lucrative or fair in the money department. If you go into the writing business to make money, you’re going to starve. It’s a labor of love, pure and simple. However, nothing’s worse than being stuck doing something that you’re good at, but you don’t enjoy it. Tonight more than ever, I felt the call of the night, the call that I think Batman always feels when he’s trudging around wearing the grinning mask of Bruce Wayne.

Hell, one of my all-time favorite poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar speaks to this exact problem:

“We wear the mask that grins and lies

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes

This debt we pay to human guile

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile

And mouth with myriad subtleties


Why should the world be over-wise

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us while

We wear the mask


We smile, but O great Christ our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise

We smile, but O the clay is vile

Beneath our feet and long the mile

But let the world dream otherwise

We wear the mask!”

As a writer, it’s hard to suppress that raw creativity and stuff it into something suitable for public consumption. I am a die-hard introvert, and so I never once raised my voice or lost my temper with these relentless assholes, but the entire time I felt like donning a cowl and bursting out into the cold night to fight criminals. The average person doesn’t know that I’ve written four novels. The average person doesn’t know that I gobble up stories like Pac-Man. The average person doesn’t know how many hours I spend a week meticulously planning to make my characters suffer. They can’t know, because it’s not the kind of job that everyone understands. Writers do something that’s important, but isn’t always celebrated like it should be. We get a lot of hate—especially those who’ve gone to college and gotten degree in the “useless” English major—and a lot of condescension. (“You write books. I’ve always wanted to do that. Maybe I will someday. Can’t be that hard, right?”)  Our love of literature and poetry and abstract concepts are so often swept under the rug because it’s not important to mass media and to the general public most of the time. It’s sad, but it’s just another fact of life.

I say all that to say this—the Bruce Wayne mask can be stifling sometimes. But when the sun sinks beneath the horizon and the moon calls your name, it’s all worth it. Lace up your boots. Put on your Kevlar. Tie on your cape. Go out there and kick some ass, writers. Who gives a shit if the world only sees Bruce Wayne? Batman makes headlines, dammit.

Don’t want us writers to be famous?

Make us infamous.