4.15.2008

Everybody's Working for the Weekend, Part 1

The minute I turned 16, my father told me I had to get a job or I would be cut off. I loved when he said cut off; it was like he tried to slow down his voice to really emphasize the weight of it. He would say it in the same way someone would tell you that your parents are dead and that you were going to have to start living with a Pimp. He made it seem like if I didn’t start pulling my weight around the house, I would come home from school one day and find all my clothing in a box marked “for dump”. This was funny to me because I hadn’t gotten an allowance since my 4th birthday, and had essentially been the poorest well-off kid I knew. While my friends would be collecting dollars for doing the dishes or setting the table, I was going from door-to-door trying to sell day-old newspapers to my neighbors. I rooted through the garbage for the better-looking ones; I knew I would have a hard time selling a newspaper that had been sitting under diapers and buffalo wings. I was only 4, so I wasn’t too sure how much a newspaper cost, but I assumed that it was about a quarter. You can’t be too greedy when you are selling things that you pulled from the trash. A quarter would be nice; a dollar would be fantastic. But when it came down to it, I would accept a Popsicle or a cookie. I had discovered the perfect moneymaker; who would say no to a na├»ve little girl selling old newspapers?
My bitches of neighbors, that’s who.
The first house I went to said no, but let me have my dignity. “No thank you, I already bought a paper today”. Fine, but can you give me a dollar anyways? The next house I went to was a lady I knew, so it would be an easy sale. “Does your Mom know you are out selling old newspapers?” Of course she does, now which one do you want, May 12th or April 30th? It was a simple question, and yet I found myself walking away holding newspapers, no money, and the eerie feeling that I was being watched. I made it only a few houses down before I heard my mom shout out at me from the front porch of our house.
“Are you selling people our trash?!?”
Yes, I am. I wouldn’t have to if I got an allowance.
“Jesus Christ, I better not find you digging through the garbage again. You can’t sell newspapers that have been in our garage. If you need money, just ask me.”
Can I have some money?
“You are 4 years old, what do you need with money?”

Cut to 12 handout-free years later. When my Father told me I needed to get a part-time job, I knew he was serious about it. He would make it his top priority to nag me day-in, day-out until I got one. I knew it was inevitable that I would have to start working; if I didn’t, living with my Father would become like living with the bum who lives down at the train station. It wouldn’t matter how many times I told him I believed he was Jesus Christ, he will always respond with “no, I don’t think you do!” and keep at me until I give him a dollar. I didn’t put up much of a fight against getting a job. I liked money and knew I couldn’t sponge off my parents; their idea of spoiling me was inflating my Pogo-Ball every spring.

Living in a small town meant limited options. There was one restaurant in town that was owned by a Korean couple, and I would have loved to work there if it wasn’t shrouded in rumors. There was the rumor that they didn’t wash the dishes, that they made all-day breakfasts with spoiled meat and eggs. There was also the rumor that their on-the-job training involved systematically berating you until you became a hardened work robot, although this rumor was busted when one of the toughest girls I knew worked there for 3 hours before breaking down and crying in the middle of the diner.
So with the diner out of the question, my options were the grocery store, Canadian Tire, and Tim Horton’s. All the popular girls worked at Tim Horton’s; I had to deal with Heathers at school because I had to, but I don’t think you could have paid me to hang out with them. The grocery store was the jewel in the crown that was part-time jobs, and you had to know someone to get an interview (like Studio 54), so that left me with Canadian Tire. I hated everything in it; nothing about that store was appealing. I hated camping, I hated toasters, and I hated wrenches and hammers, I couldn’t drive, so I hated everything about the automotive department. I was a young, fairly pretty girl with no knowledge of cars, sports, tools, or cleaning supplies, so I was put with the other young, fairly pretty girls at the front-end cashier’s station. Working a cash register was maybe the most mundane thing I have ever done. The orientation was supposed to be 2 hours long, and I had learned how to process cheques over $50 and how many nickels were in a roll in the first 12 minutes. There really was no training needed. All you had to do was say hello, ring in their purchases, bag it, take the money, give the Canadian Tire dollars, and wish them a nice day. For many girls, it was a very difficult 8 hours. These were the same girls who referred to a lunch break as a fuckin’ lunch break, a uniform as a fuckin’ uniform, and toilet paper as ass-rag.
“Ass rag is down aisle 46. Yeah, right past them fuckin’ air fresheners.”
I wasn’t a result of poor parenting skills, so I couldn’t pass the time with as much raw hatred of the job. I liked to work through my shift by pretending I had a gambling addiction. I was just your average white-trash slot-jockey. Darlannah, or maybe Shanda. I went into the casino with nothing but my dignity, and left at the end of the night with $50 and a dirty uniform. For some bizarre reason, the front of my shirt was always very dirty after an 8-hour shift. I wasn’t picking up bags of manure like the Seasonal Department boys or mixing paint like the Hardware boys. I was just picking up dollars and credit cards, bags and receipt rolls. And yet I would look at my red polo shirt and see a murky brown mark on my stomach. It took about 2 weeks before I realize why I was coming home looking like Dirt McGirt after working a pleasant redneck girl named Nicole who caught me sleeping with my eyes open.
“If'ya got time to lean, ya got time to clean.”
Fair enough, so I got out the Windex and started wiping down the grimy machines. Each machine is coated in about 30 years worth of dirt, spread like a thick beige paste over the till. The phones were worse, looking as though some drifter had shoved all the receivers up his ass. Every time I cleaned the machines I would pretend I the star of my own Mr. Clean commercial. I would messily wipe the cash tray and think “no matter how hard I try, it never gets clean!” and then swoop-in with a Windex-ed sheet of paper towel and wipe the cash dividers to a sparkling sheen. “It’s like magic!” I would think, and smugly judge the other cashier’s dirty stations, all the while playing a side-by-side bacteria comparison in my mind. My side would have one or two amoebas, but theirs would be like a commuter train full of aggressive, animated growling bacteria. Real troublemakers.

I could play Suzy Homemaker all day, but it wouldn’t do a damn bit of good unless we locked all the dirty customers out. It was like all the rednecks and trash in my town got together and decided to create their own currency. Maybe they thought the purple $10 bill and the pink $50 bill were too gay or something, or maybe all the numbers were confusing for people with only a working knowledge of literacy. Who knows why, but my till was constantly filled with what looked like money printed on paper lunch bags. Why I would have to scratch away at the grease on a bill to see how much I was given was beyond me. And once you had a full till of greasy money, wet money would be sure to follow. I would see a normal looking guy approach my cash with a few odd and ends: a new wrench, a pack of light bulbs, a liter of Pennzoil. His total would be about $16, but instead of reaching into his back pocket to retrieve his wallet, he would take off his shoe. He would take a moment to find a $20 in the toe as I stared at him in sheer disgust.
“Here you go, darling’! Thought I was gonna have to use the plastic on that one!”
Are you kidding me? I thought, as he handed me a soggy, wrinkled bill. I stood there looking at him with a look of blatant repulsion on my face, as if he just presented me with a handful of cat shit. I guess he realized I wasn’t going to touch it and he said “sorry…do I owe you more?” I would have loved to tell him I’d rather lick his ass than touch money that had been sitting in his shoes, but I knew that getting fired would bring about a tirade from my Father that would be worse than the Get A Job diatribe. So what could I do? I had to take it. He needed motor oil, and I needed a job, so my hands were tied.
Every shift brought about a new disgusting way to touch money. If it wasn’t wet money from someone’s shoe, then it was money that was dug from the bottom of a cat-hair covered fanny pack. A lot of guys would give me dirty money straight from their own filthy hands, but women liked to have the money start out clean and let it get to me via their child. I would see a Mother take a crisp $50 out of her wallet and just as I would reach out to take it, she would pull her hand back and say “Jeremy! Do you want to give the lady the money?!?” Nine times out of ten Jeremy was sitting in the cart-seat covered in a sweater of Doritos and a beard of crusted yogurt. His hands would be little scrapbooks of the Adventure to Canadian Tire: potting soil, Gatorade, car polish, boogers, air freshener, Timbits.
“Oh Jesus lady, no. Just give me the money.”
But new Mothers are like Autistic children, in their own little world. And in this woman’s world, it would be a really big deal for her son to complete her shopping transaction. Most times I got lucky, and the kid would just swish the bill through his hands without even looking at me, leaving little residue. I would hand the change to the Mom and she would point to her son behind a covered hand and mouth “Him! Give the change to him!”
Does he want the receipt as well? Should I ask if he has thought about getting a Canadian Tire MasterCard? Does he get gas from the Gas Bar? Because right now he can get a coupon for 7x the Canadian Tire money if he gets gas before the end of the week, but you know – it’s non-transferable, so I can only give the coupon to him. And I would really advise he take it, because next week’s coupon is only 2x. So really, if Jeremy spends $30 on gas, that’s like an extra $4 in Canadian Tire money. It may not seem like a lot right now, but that shit adds up.

5 comments:

Jenn L said...

good story, good story indeed!

but a bit long for my short attention span.

dj said...

Your welcome mayor!

Is Jeremy the same little boy who threw the "chippy tantrum" at the checkout?

Someone in the family received an alllowance...employee discount!!

Returns without receipts.....

Store Muzak.

annie said...

ah dawg i remember my dad suggesting i work there after he saw you once. thank god i dogged that bullet.

tylerface said...

This is a great story for someone that's looking for a job. So far Winners is the best option. Old ladies keep their money clean. Fuck, the even iron that shit.

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