The Belly Of The Beast

February 18, 2010 at 2:52 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Mardis Gras did indeed suck, as foretold in the prophecy.  However, it sucked in ways I had not foreseen–life is full of surprises.
On a side note–and something I’ll explore in more detail later–the radio show has yet to materialize.  Saturday I should have gone to the studio to work on the show, but my laptop stopped.  Stopped what, you ask?  Stopped everything.  No power to the machine at all.  It is now a large, unergonomic paperweight.
I need the laptop to access the deep fried gold that is my material for the show.  Without it, I’m shooting from the hip, unedited and unprepared.  No one wants that.  So we postponed the show for the week.  We’re still waiting on a theme song anyway.  More–much more on all this–later. 

I had been looking for a way to get out of going in to The Three Jakes on Saturday, the night of the Mardis Gras celebration.  Mardis Gras is a BFD here in St Louis.  But, since I had telegraphed these moves earlier in the week, I couldn’t legitimately beg off work without attention being called.  So, I went in.
On the drive in, several things weighed on my mind, the most pressing of which was my lapsed car insurance.  This is supposed to be crowded as Hell, with drunks all over the place, and I really did not want to be driving around in this.  I just know I’m going to hit some pedestrians, and I simply don’t have *time* to dispose of all those bodies.
As soon as I got off the highway, right at the edge of the neighborhood, there were crowds of people in the street.  The parade started about one pm I guess, and it was over about 3 or 4.  Now it was five, and people were beginning to leave.  It was a nice day for February in St Louis–clear and cool, almost 40 degrees.
Many of the streets were blocked off.  The main drag, Broadway, was one of  them.  The Three Jakes sits right on Broadway, in the middle of the closed off section.  Other side streets in the neighborhood had concrete barriers in place.  The streets were lined with large industrial dumpsters and portable toilets.
I had hoped to get out of delivering in this mess, and I got my wish.  I followed the re-directed traffic around the block and back behind the street the store sits on.  I couldn’t get in the parking lot–but not because it was full.  We had cars of employees parked strategically to block all entrances.  I called the store from where I sat in the street, and Brian came out and moved so I could get in.  Thereafter, I blocked the way, and whenever someone wanted to leave or get in, they came and got me.  This was better than the manager moving every time–he needed to be in there.
Inside the store was much like outside, except louder.  The Three Jakes always has music playing, and today it was loud, and we had a store full of people.  We were having our own fucking after-party here.  Once in, I saw we had several people from other stores there, but not all of our people there.  What the hell?
We had both lines going, which is something I don’t see at night but is common during the day.  We had a person on each register, and each one covered a make line.  Then there was two and sometimes three people on each line.  There’s really no room for any more than that, and all the third person can do is make unhelpful comments and wrap sammiches.  Then there is a runner–the person between the register and the line who calls out to the line what they need, and gives it to the valued drunken-ass customer.
All positions are taken.  Brian had put me on a register, but then I had to go back and forth and move my car, so he gave it to someone else.  I hope there’s no cash shortage that comes back on me–
I told Steve and Jared–and Will–to go ahead and deliver around me.  Those guys were all on bikes.  Jared also had his SUV for longer runs that he could get to by driving.  I stayed inside.  I grabbed a position as a runner, but Matt–the fucking district manager or supervisor, or whatever the fuck you want to call him–kept coming in, doing my job, then walking away and taking care of something else.  Then he would come back, and jump in my way again.  What the fuck, mother-fucker?
But they needed someone like me, who can back and fill and anticipate what’s going to happen.  I could roll into place, and back out quickly and go do something else.  When a driver hit the road, I grabbed that spot on the line, and then moved back to running when they came back.
Brian sent me up to the downtown store for bread.  We bake our own, fresh daily–and we had bread proofing in racks all over the place.  Someone moves into my spot to block it as I leave.  When I get there, I see that the store is closed.  The downtown store only opened during the week, and it closes early–before 8 pm I think.  The director of operations for the franchise is there, alone, baking bread and slicing meat for us.  I load up what he has and head back.
The lobby–the customer area–is just constantly full of drunk people.  Lots of hot chicks, too, so that’s nice.  I leaned over to Cameron, a young black dude on the line, and said, “What would it take to get one of these chicks to lift her shirt?  If we got one to do it, it would be like a wave, and they all would.”  He agreed–but we never got it started.
When I first got there, various employees were “guarding” the hallway to the bathrooms–no entry.  I thought it was just because of all the drunken ass-clowns, but we actually had a plumbing problem.  In a little while, a hired security guard showed up, and his only job was to keep people away from the plumbing.  All manner of drunks tried various drunken logic to gain access to the bathrooms.  They wanted to complain to the manager.  They wanted to call the police.  They thought we were being unfair.  Can’t you just make an exception for my girlfriend?
One self-important asshole–after he had talked to Brian and lodged his complaint, talked to me because Brian walked away.  He said, “I’m an architect with the city planning office in Chicago.  Just tell your manager that I called the zoning commission and lodged a complaint because you’re supposed to have working restrooms.”
I shrugged.  At this point, I had been dealing with drunks for about 3 hours non-stop.  “Whatever, Paco.  This is St Louis.”
“Well I have friends and connections here.”
“Go use their bathroom, then.”  I turned and walked away from him.
Whenever I went out to move my car for an employee (or a couple of times, for random people that had somehow gotten past the barricades and into our lot) I would pull my car out of half of the driveway, and the other half was blocked by a big red pickup that was backed sideways into the spot, backed almost against the building in the lot next to us.  Every time I went out there, there was always several people squeezed between the truck and the building.  Peeing.
Terrific.  I’m glad I didn’t have my car there.  It looked like no one peed on my Mercedes–yet another reason I didn’t want to take any deliveries.  We did let employees go to the bathroom, which was nice.  About 9 or so I finally went.  The place was trashed.  The mirror was missing–a preemptive measure to keep it from being broken.  One of our cutesy little signs in the bathroom was broken off and stolen.
Long about 1030, I decided it would be safe to hit the road.  The streets were starting to clear.  City ordinance states that–on this day–all businesses that serve alcohol must close by 8 or 9 pm, or something like that.  Most restaurants would as well.  We were the last hold out, it seemed.  But we were getting delivery orders, and the boys on bikes were doing them.  Really, we were just blocks away from most of them.  I started taking deliveries, and the ones I took were far from the party zone.  I had to go way down and around, or way up and through and around to get through the closed off streets.
The streets.  Have you ever lived in a two-bedroom apartment and had a small dinner party, and then 150 people showed up?  Imagine that multiplied by several square miles.  The streets looked like the apocalypse, and as proof you could still see the occasional walking dead.  Work crews were busy moving barricades and stacking fence pieces in the aftermath.   The street cleaners were out in force, dodging the drunks.  Cabs prowled the streets looking for blood, and showed me places that I didn’t realize I could go yet.  More than once, I had to turn around and backtrack, finding the way at the end of a maze blocked by porta-potties and barricades.
Originally, was scheduled until midnight, like most of us.  I think it was because they thought we were going to have to close early, like everyone else.  As it turned out, we didn’t have to, so we could stay open till 4 am.  Yay.  But wait–“Bryan with your nose so bright, won’t you stay and close tonight?”
Well, fuck me.  Both Brian and Matt asked me to close–“we don’t have anyone else.”  What about Steve, who always does?  Or Jared?  Where was Darnell, the fucker?  But this was my chance.  I said, “Listen, on my day job this is a three-day weekend, and you have me scheduled ALL THREE DAYS.  If you can get me off either Sunday or Monday, I’m in.  I’ll close.”
Matt the supervisor, showing supervisorial-take-charge initiative, said, “Done!”  Okay.  We had a deal.
Except, we really didn’t have a deal.
I accepted the deal with good faith, thinking that I can still make some money tonight and then have one day off.  I had started driving about 1030.  About 1130 I came back from a run and noticed some water on the floor by the ice machine.  I said, “Hey, what’s up with the water?”  No answer.  I leave on another run and come back, and there is more water there.  I’m not asking again.  The Three Jakes has a shown me a track record of lapsed communication: It’s just not important to them.  Whatever.  I take another run.
By the time I come back, it’s 1230.  The doors are locked, the customers are gone from the lobby.  One more delivery–but no drive-thru.  The delivery is a time order for 130 am.  Now, they are forced to communicate with me, and explain what the fuck.  What, exactly, *is* the fuck?
“Bryan, can you call these people and ask them if we can deliver that now instead of 130?  Thanks.”
“Okay.  What should I tell them?”  No answer.  Fuck this is frustrating.  Am I supposed to assume something?  Under normal circumstances I suppose I could, but since nobody does anything here in a reasonable, logical manner, there is nothing upon which to base a supposition.  Finally, out of someone–not a manager–I find out that because of the plumbing issue–the sewer is backing up and coming up through the drain in the floor–we are closing early.  Well, thank you very much.  Would it kill you to explain yourself for fucking once?
I delivered the one last sammich, and whoever was left worked on closing.  I’ve never closed here, and even though I am a veteran of thousands of closes at other places, I had no idea where to start or what to expect.  I asked Brian, “Well, what should I start on first?”
“Just go by the bitch list.”  Fine, you want the bitch list?  I’ll give you the fucking bitch list.  There’s water all over the goddamn floor that we have to work around, you’re wandering around in a fucking daze because The Three Jakes thinks sleep is optional for its managers, there’s five or six of us here to close and only two of them have done it.  Some things need to be done a certain way, or in a certain order.  Some things can be done efficiently…or not.  There’s shit that needs to be directed, action that needs to be taken, and orders that need to be given.  Someone needs to MOTHER FUCKING TAKE GODDAMN CHARGE OF THIS RIDICULOUS SHIT AND ACT LIKE A GODDAMN FUCKING SHIT MANAGER FOR FUCK’S SAKE.  *Tell us what to do!*–It’s on the bitch list.
Fuck it.  I grabbed the sink, started doing the dishes.
Finally, we get out of there about a quarter till 2, and we didn’t touch the floor.  Shitto-Rooter is coming, so why bother–they can clean that up in the morning.
We were busy that night.  So busy that of course no one got their mandatory break.  After 4 and half hours, you HAVE to take a break.  And you get a free sammich, chips, and a pop.  Personally, I prefer a soda, but that’s what we have–pop.  I got White Castle on the way home.  Let’s see–home at 230, in bed before 330 after eating and having some wind-down time.
I set my alarm for 11 am, but woke up before that.  But I began to wonder–am I getting off one of these days, or not?  I know we had a deal…but deals were made to be broken.  I didn’t stay till 4, even though I was prepared to.  I wonder who would be in today?  Chances are, not Brian.  Chances are, not Matt.  Chances are, whomever I had a deal with would not answer the phone.
Oh, and today is Valentine’s Day.  Of course.  Luckily, Detroit got her flowers Friday, so I didn’t have to do anything.  She gave me a crappy little variety box of chocolates probably filled with mayonnaise, hot dog water and saur kraut for all I know.  I’m not trying them.  I’m not a hero.  Maybe I’m just having a bad day, and this isn’t helping.  She mentioned something about pizza–and it never happened.  I had to get something to eat on the way to work, otherwise I wouldn’t have eaten all day.  Am I bitching?  Yes I am.
I got ready to leave for work Sunday.  Earlier, I went to the store and bought some mac and cheese to cook for my lunch, since no one else is interested in lunch at all.  Then I took a nap, got up, and got ready.  I opened the door to leave–
It’s snowing.  My shoulders slumped, much like my soul did at that point.  What else?  What else are you gonna do to me?  Fuck.  I drove to work.  The highway was backed up in various places from accidents in this freshly-fallen and soft downey blanket of fluffy white crap.
Behinder and behinder I’m getting, and it looks like I’m going to be late.  I have two conflicting yet related thoughts.  The first was should I have called to see if a miracle happened and my replacement was found?  Should I call to let them know I’m going to be late?  The second thought was a passive-aggressive stubbornness:  The Three Jakes has laid the framework for being poor communicators.  They are teaching me by example.  I’m not calling.  Let them call me.
By now I’m close to 20 minutes late, and still no call.  This makes me wonder if I’m working after all…
No, I’m working.  I almost thought I was going home.  But Jared had been there all day (six hours?) and was mistakenly scheduled to close.  Meanwhile I’m scheduled 5 to 9, and Steve is 9 to close.  Two drivers?  Sure.  It’s Valentine’s Day.  They let Jared go home.  At least Steve showed at 9 instead of 11–it’s going to be one of those two, always.  He gets out of his other job late when he works it.  I remember when I started, Brian asked if I was cool with that, and I am.  First of all, it’s a few more hours and generally more money, but also, as I told him, “I’m good with it, because I’m going to need the same consideration.”  For being late or whatever.
Brian was there, briefly, on Sunday, then he left.  I should have brought it up to him then, but he left quickly.  Monday, I thought to be more proactive.  I called about four pm, and Brian answered.  How about that?  “I just wanted to make sure I was working,” I said.  “I know we had a deal for me to be off either yesterday or today, but I didn’t think you did anything about it.”
He hemmed and backtracked and rationalized for me, telling me that since I didn’t stay until four, he didn’t see the need to do it.  And besides, now, at this point, he’d have to try to find somebody.
“That’s what I figured.”
I just went in to work.  I knew I was working late tonight–Steve was in about 1130.  As long as I don’t do it every night.  Nine pm some nights, and eleven on others.  Oh, crap.  I just remembered that I agreed to work on Wednesday in exchange for getting Saturday off for my birthday.  So I’m on every night this week until Friday.
Brian didn’t say anything when I first got there, but he did say something eventually.  “Can you stay until 10 tomorrow night?  Darnell’s going to be late?”  I agreed without thinking about it.

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