That’s Gratitude For Ya

November 24, 2011 at 11:13 AM | Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment
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Yeah, I wrote another poem.  It’s holiday-themed.  Enjoy, or piss off.  Whatev.

I have so much to be thankful for
As I reflect upon my life
I’m thankful for the challenges
That come with all this strife

I’m grateful I don’t live
In 3rd world poverty
According to Sally Struthers
It would suck monumentally

I’m glad I have a job
Even though it’s not enough
My misplaced sense of purpose
Won’t buy food and stuff

I’m blissfully aware
Of the growling in my tummy
It’s easier to diet
When I don’t have any money

I’m happy for my home
And the roof over my head
And the fear of losing everything
Is what gets me out of bed

I’m grateful for the mortgage
That I can no longer afford
And I’m blissful that utilities
Cannot be ignored

If I don’t pay my phone bill–
(And Im glad I figured out)
Then collectors cannot call me
And rain down upon my drought

I’m grateful for the government
Watching over me
I’m glad they regulate everything
Including how I pee

But at least they won’t forget me
As the end approaches nigh
For them I have a purpose,
Until they’ve bled me dry

I’m happy about my vices
They get me through the day
And if they shorten up my life
It’s less I have to pay

I’m grateful for my options,
If retirement I seek
I can die on Tuesday, and retire
Later on that week

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Frog Day Afternoon

November 20, 2011 at 2:20 PM | Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment
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Chuck had another challenge.  I’m supposed to be doing something else, I’m sure of it.  But what the hell, it’s only a hundred words.  What can happen in a hundred words?  This week, he gave us five words, pick one and use it.  One of the words was “powder.”  I didn’t use that one.  I used “frog.”  To find out more, go check out his site.

 

I’m not going to kiss that frog.  I don’t care how many promises he makes.  Wishes he can grant.  Dreams he can fulfill.

His moist eyes beckon to me, with an amphibious come-hither.  A smile played upon his lips.  “Come on,” he croaked casually.  “What have you got to lose?”

“Besides my self-respect?  How about hygiene?”

The frog re-adjusted his footing on the log.  Frogs were fidgety creatures.  Have you noticed that?

“How many times have you met a magical talking frog?  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

I sighed.  I kissed him.

The man walked away.  Now I’m the frog.

 

Clerks II (With a Donkey Show)

November 16, 2011 at 8:29 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Well, I wasn’t ready to look for another job just yet.  I wanted to take some time off–maybe a week–and then start looking.  Besides, my cousin Greg was having a party at his house on Saturday, and I *was* going to miss it–
Until the liquor store was sold and I was out of a PTJ.  So we’re going.
I forgot how this went exactly, but I think Detroit called me because she was home.  She was home because right before Labor Day she had a dispute with her boss and was fired after the fact.  It was kind of shitty how that went down, and she is in the process of an appeal so she can at least collect unemployment.
So Detroit was home, and so was my phone, because I’m less than thrilled with the prospect of communication.  She called me at work, and told me that Bob from the liquor store had called me.
Well, that was interesting.  As part of the agreement in the sale, Bob or Marsha was going to work about two hours a day for two weeks with the new owner, showing him how things worked.  They were about two days into the new ownership running things when I got the call.
Bob said that the new owner, Henry, could probably use some help after all.  No coincidence, I imagine, that this was Friday, after the big A-B delivery.  “Why don’t you come in and talk to him?  I can’t understand him too well, but you can work something out with him.”
Okay, then.  After I left the bank, I went back to the liquor store.
Henry is the new owner.  I have no idea how short he is, but man, this fucker is small.  I would guess he is just under five feet tall.  Maybe that’s normal for a Vietnamese dude.  Bob was still there too, which helped.  After the odd introductions, Henry beckoned me to the back of the store, and we stepped outside the back door.  He was hard to understand at first–
Hell, after a month he was still hard to understand, but it did get somewhat easier.
He explained that he would like me to work for him, a few nights a week.  He asked how much I would like to work–about three or four nights, really.
I was facing the store, and Henry was facing me, with his back to the store, so I saw what Henry didn’t see:
Bob casually walked by toward the cooler, showing me a piece of paper.  He had written in large letter “8.50.”
Good thinking, Bob.  I was never much for negotiation.  They had paid me eight bucks an hour.  Not great, but considering I didn’t have to work very hard, I was down with it.
Henry said, “I go pay you nine dollar a hour, okay?  Cash.”
I nodded.  “Okay.  We can do that.”
Eight bucks an hour on a paycheck, you don’t get all of it.  Most, but not all.  It came out to about 6.75 an hour net.  So nine would have been a little more.  But nine in cash?  Unless my math is whacked out, to net 9 an hour my gross would have had to be close to 12 bucks an hour on a check, maybe more.  That ain’t bad at all for a PTJ.
I would work that very night–I was ready–have Saturday off because I already had plans, and work Sunday night.  The rest would come later.  Okay.

Well, the way it worked with Henry was not the way it worked with the Beckers.  I told myself it was because it was new to him and it was his store and he wanted to immerse himself in it, but there was never the thing where I came in and he would leave.  No, he stayed.  All the time he stayed.  God.  ALL THE TIME.
When he first hired me, he said, “I not your boss, okay?  I friend.  You, me, friend.  Okay.  You help me, okay, I help you.”
Okay.
I helped him with the register, and with things on the computer.  I helped him communicate with customers, too.  Often I would be in the cooler, and he would come and get me.  “Y-an–you help dem, okay.”  That’s how he said my name.  No B, and definitely no r.  My name started with a Y.  Y-an.
The next week, I worked Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Off Sunday.  Thursday, I noticed that the cooler was not as cool as it should be.  “It okay.  Bob take care.”
Friday, the cooler was room temperature.  “Bob take care?”
“Aye-yi-yi,” Henry said.  As part of the sale, Bob was having some work done to the cooler.  I never got the straight scoop from Bob and I couldn’t understand Henry, but it sounded like while Bob’s guy was here fixing one thing, another thing broke.  The compressor up on the roof.
Well, when I was working there with the Beckers, we always did have a couple of buckets and trash cans collecting water in the cooler.  We had to move them around once in a while, depending on where it was dripping more.
When I came in on Friday, Henry said it was fix, but it no fix.  He said, “Man say it take while to cool.  It fix, though.”
It no fix.
Henry…didn’t believe me.  Here’s the thing about Henry.  He seems to be a pretty smart guy.  The language barrier is more than I would be able to get past, for one thing.  And despite that he picked up on things pretty well, and learned quickly.
But he didn’t believe that I was smart enough to know anything.  Never mind that I’ve been a restaurant manager for twenty years and have always had to deal with equipment like this, and never mind that I am actually a smart motherfucker.  I couldn’t convey my knowledge or experience to him because he was too stubborn to listen, and despite his pledge that “we friend, okay?” I was just a grunt to him.
I called Bob and explained it, in English.  “Dammit.  Okay, I’ll call my guy, and I’ll call you back.”
Bob called me back and said that the guy would be out early tomorrow.  Make sure Henry understands that he has to be there early.  Before 8am.
I did, but but later, when I tried to convince Henry that he could go home, I would take care of things, he needed to be up early, he wouldn’t budge.  He wouldn’t say why he wouldn’t go home, but he definitely wouldn’t say that he didn’t trust this gringo with his money and his store.  Whatever.
We had to tell people there was no cold beer.  Sales, of course, skyrocketed, because there is nothing people in America like better than warm beer, except maybe flat-chested strippers.
I came in Saturday night, and it was all still warm.  Fuck.  What the fuck?  Henry at least had had the foresight (or hindsight, considering the fact that it had been two days already) to clear out the bottom of the wine cooler and put some beer in there.  Plus, he had two display ice coolers filled with ice and tallboys and single sodas in the middle of the aisle.
The deal was, the compressor on the roof was indeed out.  There is no getting one on a Saturday, apparently.  It was going to be like this through Monday.
To make things better, there was no internet service.  The name and ownership was switched over, and AT&T couldn’t (or wouldn’t) switch it over until Monday.  So it was cash only and warm beer.  Add a horse and wagon and we’re back in the dark ages.
Sales were really, really slow now.  First someone would come in for some beer.  Sorry, no cold beer.  That’s okay, they’ll take a warm 30 pack and chill it.  Great.  Then they get to the counter.  Sorry, no cledit card.
I spent most of my time putting away the stuff that people left out on the counter.
In between that, I re-arranged the wine cooler where he had beer.  I took out some of the crap he had in there, because he has no idea what sells and what doesn’t, and I put in the popular stuff, stacked it neater, and got more in there.  Every time somebody took some, I waited to see if they were actually going to buy it, then I would replace it, to always have some cold and some chilling down.
After that, I went in the cooler and worked up a sweat.  It was warm in there, and stuffy and stale smelling.  But damn me and my ADD medication, I needed something to do.  I pulled all the shelves away from the cooler doors, one by one, swept, deck scrubbed, and mopped. Some of that crusty shit had been there for 20 years.
At some point, some crusty old guy came in through the back door–he had been up on the roof.  Henry wasn’t willing to believe the verdict of the guy who serviced the equipment and called someone else in.  Old Crusty looked like a pirate in Mr Greenjean’s clothes.  He started to explain what was going on to Henry, but when it was obvious there was no receiving of understanding, he turned to me and continued to rattle on.
And on and on and on.  He told me about shit for which I had no frame of reference, and even more shit that I cared not one bit about.  At the very beginning I got all I needed from the conversation:  Yes, Virginia, the compressor is out.  It’s a cast-iron sonovabitch (literally), built in 1978.  Those old compressors last a long time, but this one is shot for sure.  Back in my day–
Blah, blah, blah.
I had to pretend that I had other stuff to take care of so that he would leave.
Maybe it’s not Vietnamese people or maybe it is, and maybe this is an admirable trait.  But I had to talk to Henry’s friend Tim on the phone.  He’s Henry’s mentor in the business world, more or less.  Henry had told him there’s no internet, so no credit card.  Unacceptible.  There has to be a way around it.
He tries to explain to me his idea and he wants me to try it.  Of course, I have a degree in computer networking, and when I finally understand his ridiculous premise, I know it won’t work.  “Try it.”
“It won’t work.”  Luckily, after several minutes, I guess he believed that I was actually trying it while I was talking to him.  But no, I wasn’t.  If there is no internet connection through the modem, he wanted me to take the cord straight from the phone and hook it into the computer’s built in modem.
I doubt it had it one, and I wasn’t going to pull it out to see.  Even if it did, there is STILL NO SERVICE.  There’s nothing to dial into.  Being a dumbass about technology is universal, I guess.
Finally the night was over.  I saw something that was a sobering thing for me, that brought it home that it really was Henry’s store, and not Becker’s anymore.
Whenever I would close, I would count the till, make a deposit, and put the deposit in an envelope and put it in the safe.  Henry counted the money–slowly–while I waited.  He calculated my pay, gave me cash–
And he put the rest of the money in his pocket.  It’s his.  He’s taking it with him.

Working with Henry was different, and I didn’t know where the line was between cultural differences and him just being an odd piece of Peking Duck.
One night I was hungry, I got some food from the Chinese place.  I stood at the little side table and ate, because Henry was not going to give up his throne–the swivel office chair that sat at the desk near the counter.
He waits until after I eat, then tells me that we should no eat up front where customer see.  Eat only in back, okay?  Because there’s nothing to sit on.  I figured that for a cultural thing–everyplace has different customs for eating.  I couldn’t tell him that this is how we do it in America, even though it is.  And when the Beckers owned it, we did it all the time–because we did.  His place, his rules.
But he no want me to smoke in front, okay?  It look bad, okay?  You go out back doo and smoke.  He patted me on the back in a dismissive way.
Of course we shouldn’t smoke out front.  It’s not like this is a liquor store where people come in primarily for alcohol and cigarettes.  I seldom smoked at work anyway.  Now when I did, I would go out the van so I could sit down for a few minutes.  Because, yeah, if I went out the back door, there is no sitting down.
Eventually, Henry got to where he would trust me jus a riddle bit, and he go to store to buy some tings.  He would tell me like it was a big deal.  “I go now store.  You take care here.  You run ting, okay?  You be okay here, okay?”
Just fucking leave already.
The chance to work with the freedom of not being constantly watched was soothing to my jagged, ate-up soul.  Then he would come back.  We worked together putting the tings away, on shelf, and also entering the inventory into the computer–which I had to figure out how to do and then explain and show to him.
After I showed him, he no trust me to do no mo.
About three weeks in, he finally decides that I can close by myself.  Either that or he is drunk or tired.  He would disappear for a few hours and I would have no idea where he was, but I learned later he was spending time at the bar.  God, I hope he wasn’t singing karaoke.
I closed by myself on Thursday and Friday no problem, and then he stay all night Saturday.  Whatever, it was the night I get paid.
The following week I closed by myself on Thursday, and the money was short about 40 bucks.  He didn’t come right out and accuse me, but he did say that I no have to do that.  If I need hep, he hep me, no ploblem.  He hep lif me up.  Jus ask, okay?  Don’t take.
I didn’t take your fucking money, dude.  But I figured that would be the end of me closing by  myself.
Because here’s the thing:  We never did a drawer change-out.  We operated from one drawer all day.  I never knew what he did all day, but it was perfectly legitimate for him to accuse me of stealing from him.
But that night I did close.  Because he disappeared again, for several hours.  About 1030 I get a call from Henry.  He say I close for him, okay?  I take care tings.  Awright?
Terrific.
That night the money was within a quarter.
Saturday night he’s feeling better about it and so am I.  The money had never been off like that with Becker’s (without a reason).  Saturday night he leaves about 9pm.
He calls right before midnight, wanting to know what the sales were.  I tell him.  Okay, tank you, okay?
Fifteen minutes later I have counted the money three times.  I’m 286 fucking dollars short.  I call Henry.
No one wants to be screamed at my a Vietnamese dude with a less that adequate command of the English language.  Some of the phrases I picked up from the conversation were:
“Aye-yi-yi.”
“Y-an, you kirring me.”
“No!  Where my mon-AYE!”
I had a reasonable guess as to what happened.  He said, “You stay.  You wait fo me.  I come up dere, I come now.”
“Henry, I’m going home.”
“No!  My MOn-AY!  You wait.”
“Henry, it’s late, I’m tired, I’m going home.”
“Why you leave!  You wait for me dere!”
Yeah.  It’s after midnight.  It’ll take him over half an hour to get there.  And then we’ll spend a few hours of neither one of us being sharp, with him accusing me and me not being able to back up my defense.
“No, Henry.  You can come up here if you want.  I’m going home.  I am tired.  I will come up here tomorrow morning and we will work it out.”
“Oh, you kirring me, Y-an.”
“Good night, Henry.”

I came up Sunday, but not in the morning.  We open at 11, I got there about 1230.  Why am I in a hurry?  Is my insolence showing?
Henry did his due diligence, and had dug all of the register receipts out of the trash and sorted them.  And one pile he made was everything with a lottery payout.
Bingo!  It’s exactly what I thought.  Being born and raised in this country I could easily see what was perhaps a little to subtle for his suspicious eyes to see:  When you do a cash payout properly, the number has parentheses around it, to indicate a negative number–a payout.
He said, “No, see, it say payout right here.  It payout!”
“It only says payout because it is programmed to say payout.  YOU–” I pointed at him  “Still have to make it a negative number.”
“No–!”
The receipts that had a payout that did not have a negative number added up to 285 dollars.  Now, if you were good at math, you would know that that is twice the amount we need, and the money is still probably off for some other reason.  But it was enough to clear my name, if I could get him to listen.
I had a bright idea.  “Where you go?”
I went next door and got the young Vietnamese dude that ran the nail salon.  He spoke better English.  “Hey, can you help me out here a minute?”
“What’s up?”
“You do your own accounting, right?  You get numbers?”  He nodded.  “You see here–”
I explained it briefly, and he got it.  “Can you explain it to Henry for me?  He doesn’t get.  He just made a mistake, but he’s blaming me for cash missing.”
He talks to Henry in their native tongue for several minutes, looking at papers and receipts and things like that.  In the end, I think Henry was willing to concede that I didn’t steal from him, but he was sore about the missing money because to him the money should be there, even though it never existed except as an accounting error.
He never did apologize.

It was another week before I would close without being babysat again, and only once.  Even though we worked things out, there was a strain, and he was different after this.  He did buy be some Chinese food; perhaps that was his way of apologizing.  We sat in the back of the store, which is a very small room, and managed to not look at each other while we ate.
After two weeks of this crap, I was getting a little tired of it.  I made the mistake of showing him how the video camera system worked, so he could rewind and see what happened when he wasn’t there.
Well, when he’s not there, after everything is done, I sit the fuck down.  I don’t have to run around looking for things to do constantly.  It’s a tiny hole in the wall fucking liquor store, not a nuclear submarine.  Henry see that we no work all time.  I found out he had a girl that worked with him during the day, when I showed him the camera set up.  When it was slow, she would sit down as well.
So what is the point of this?  He has us working even when it is slow and he stays and watches us to make sure we work all the time.  It soon becomes obvious that is what he is doing, especially when he sits in the chair and closes his eyes because he is tired, because he is there all the time, but he won’t leave because he thinks we might not work our asses off if he isn’t there.  And that part is true, but my feeling is that we don’t have to work our asses off, we just have to work.  Am I wrong?
Am I wrong?
Well, maybe I am.  On a very slow Thursday, it was obvious he wasn’t going to leave.  If he isn’t, I am.  But I asked him, when he was sitting down in the back on some boxes, obviously trying to get some rest.  “Henry, it’s pretty slow tonight.  You don’t have to stay.  You can go home.”
“Are you fire me?  You send me home?  You boss now?”  He think he funny.
“There’s no reason to be here when it’s slow.”
He was paranoid and suspicious in his response.  “Why do you want me to leave?”
“Fuck it.”  I turned and walked back to the front of the store.  It is his store and he is the boss and the owner.  But he is also a suspicious little turd.  I’m not going to keep working like this.  I had already decided that I was not going to come in the next night.  Friday, a busy night and we also get our delivery.  Let him deal with it.  Let him call me.  I was already struggling with the whole thing–dammit, I need this job, but a shitty little job like this shouldn’t be so stressful.
Later, Henry put up some little signs around the cash register, because passive aggressive communication is standard in retail.
One said, “Hello, customer.  how ma I help yuo?”  That’s his spelling.  Below the monitor it said, “Thank you, customer sir.”
Along the edge of the counter on our side were three or four little ones.  “No facebook.”  “No texting.”  “Always be work.”  “Pay attention.”
Henry showed them to me.  I said, “what the hell is this?”
He said, “Not jus you, the girl in daytime too.”  He doesn’t really understand the internet, but he knows there is something called Facebook that all the cool kids are doing.
“This is stupid.”
I’ve argued with him before about other things, so this was no different.  Whatever.  I went out to have a smoke, but I didn’t have a car here, so I went out front.  But I didn’t sit in front of the liquor store, I went down by the bar and sat in front of the Subway, which was closed for the night.  I think he saw it as an outright violation, if not at least a spiritual one.  But he didn’t say anything about it.  Still, I need to leave.  I really need to leave.  I didn’t have my phone, so I picked up the store phone to call Detroit.  If she can get here early, I’m out.
No answer.  I tried several times.  Fuck.
Sarah, the girl that used to work there, came in about 11 and got some wine, and we chatted in American.  I explained my problem with Henry.  She totally got it, especially about someone being around all the time.  To what purpose?  In fact, shortly after I took the job with him, we had talked.  Of course Bob had offered her the job first–they had known her longer.  She declined, seeing that it would be a fucked up work day in the rice patties for her.  So they called an offered it to me.  Yay, me.
I finished cleaning everything up.  I took the rugs out, swept and mopped, took out the trash, put the rugs back in, cleaned the glass.  That’s it, that’s all there is to do.  Then I just stand there, behind the counter.  Just stand.
Around 1130, I called Detroit again.  “I hope you are on your way.”  She was.  “I tried to call you earlier, to come right after class.”
She said she got out early, like 9, instead of ten.
“That would have been fine, too.  I’ll explain when you get here.”
About a quarter till, Henry says to me, “Y-an, you give me you key, okay?  Doo key.”  He motioned with his finger.  I guess I’m not closing any more.  Fine.  Bitch.  I gave it back to him.
He starts doing the money, and I’m just waiting for Detroit to arrive.  When she pulls up, he sees it.  He pulls some money out of his pocket and hands it to me.
He usually pays me at the end of the week.  Saturday.  Well, this must be the end of the week for me.  I displayed no emotion.  He didn’t say anything, and I didn’t either.  I just walked out.

Clerks

November 16, 2011 at 8:00 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I used to be so good at writing in my journal and keeping up with it.  However, I looked back at the last several months’ worth of folders and they are empty.  Have I given up on writing?
Actually, no.  I’ve been writing more.  I’ve been writing with focus and with a purpose.  Just not journal-type things.  But that doesn’t mean that nothing as happened to me.  Actually, quite the contrary.
It looks like the last current thing I wrote was in April.  After that I wrote about some memories from Domino’s Pizza, and then I started writing some fiction.  I found a writer’s group online, and they have a weekly flash fiction challenge, which I have been getting into.
And I’ve also been getting a response to, as well.  A lot of readers, and a few fans.  I told them all that it tickles me pink to have actual published writers read my shit and like it, or at least say kind words about it.
Little do they realize, of course, is that the last thing anyone should do is encourage me.

In April, if you recall–and I do, just barely–I had quit Pizza Hut.  I had been there almost 10 months.  About February of this year, gas prices started going up and up and up.  I swear to God it was too expensive to drive to work, and then drive the van on the job delivering as well.
The system is rigged–we know that.  But I did the math and realized I would be out a grand total of 30 bucks if I didn’t go to work and have to put that money in the tank for all that driving.
So I quit.
I was out of work, and looking for a new PT job.  It seems a good PTJ has been my life’s pursuit as an adult.  If I could only get paid for doing some creative work, like writing or drawing a comic strip, or streaking with political statements painted on my ass.
Speaking of slogans painted on my ass, I finally did find a PTJ on Craigslist.  A little mom and pop liquor store needed some help.  It was in St Charles, near where the Pizza Hut was.  Like a pair of bruised testicles, I delicately weighed my options.  It was still far, but at least I wasn’t driving once I was there.  Plus, I had to concede, when I worked during the week I was already most of the way there at my day job.
I met the owners, Bob and Marsha, and they liked me.  It seemed like a really good fit.  Marsha was especially impressed with a few lines in my reply letter (because I’m an impressive bullshitter), like the fact that I was looking for a long-term part time job.
And that’s the truth.  I’m going to need to work two jobs for the foreseeable future, unless I win the lottery or civilization is destroyed.  You can take your pick as to which one is more likely at this point.
It’s a small store right off the highway in a little strip mall.  I worked with Marsha my first few nights.  She said it is two thousand square feet, to which I say bullshit.  I would put it at one thousand, straight up.
Marsha and Bob are an older couple–or at least older than me.  They seem to be a pretty spry 60-year-old husband and wife team.  They’ve owned it for about ten years.
The last time I did retail was about twenty-five years ago.  Other than the technology–touch screens and bar codes–things haven’t changed much.  They were happy and so was Sarah (the other employee) that I liked taking care of the cooler.  We would get our big delivery on Friday, and I would work Friday night, so I would put the stuff away that the driver just stacked in the middle of the cooler floor.
I learned all the things that are important in retail.  Let’s see…what did I learn?
Stock the shelves.
Front the shelves–meaning, pull shit up to the front so it looks even.
Yeah, that’s about it.  When I look at places that are hiring that want retail experience, I think about how much they can kiss my ass because it’s not that much to deal with.
In addition to those few things, I also learned the specifics about a liquor store and the more specific things about *their* liquor store.
It was a small, mom and pop shop, and it acted like it, too.  Lots of regulars came through the door.  I learned what they wanted, chatted them up, and tried to get them out the door quickly, if that’s what they wanted.
I also needed to learn about the wine, and the beer, and the hard liquor.  Their philosophy, which makes sense, is that you can go anywhere for liquor.  But getting help–suggestions, knowledge, recommendations–is a rarity.  We offered personal service.  If anyone spends too long in the wine aisle, we go over and talk to them, try to find what they want and help them.
If somebody wants something and we don’t have it, we write it down.  Bob and Marsha would look into ordering it.  Anything special somebody wanted, we would order, no problem.  Not just wine, but also other spirits, and beer.
For a small shop, we had a big selection of wines, and a wider selection of beers than I would have imagined.  People are into the craft beers–
And I have no idea what “craft” means technically, but we used the term generically to mean any beer that isn’t one of the big brewery labels.  Spoiler alert:  Some of the popular “craft” brews are actually made by A-B or Miller-Coors, like Shock Top and Blue Moon.
I wasn’t able to try all the beers–because who has that kind of time?–but I did manage to try a few.  People are into the ales and the IPAs (India Pale Ales), which are too “hoppy” for me.  Hoppy is a pleasant euphemism for “bitter as hell.”
I prefer a lager, or a Boch.  But I listened to what people liked, what they said, processed it all, and could make some recommendations.  And I learned something about being in sales:
If you say it with confidence, people believe you.
I haven’t touched a drop of wine in years, and the last time I did, I didn’t like it.  Maybe I do have an unsophisticated pallet; if so, you can tell me what wine goes best with deez nutz.
But I can tell people to try a wine, and they will.  “Oh, yes, I’ve had that one.  I do like it; however, this cab is more full-bodied.”  “I would thoroughly recommend any of the wines from South America.  This Australian Shiraz is really good, too.”  “I usually have some of that Moscato chilled–I like a Riesling more, Germany makes an excellent sweet wine.”
Say it with confidence, say it like you mean it.  Be helpful.  Just like evangelicals that proselytize their religion, most people just want someone to agree with their decision.  And for the people that are into it, wine is a religion.  It has its fanatics.
With us in the plaza is, from stage right, a tanning salon, a dry cleaner, a Chinese restaurant, us, a Vietnamese nail salon, a Subway, and a bar.  Having the bar there is pretty cool.  For one thing, we are never the last one to close in strip, so I don’t walk out of there in the dark.
For another, there is a never-ending flow of people, and a lot of hot chicks.  The tanning place is too far down for me to see, but I know a few cute girls go in and out.  The Chinese food place has one hot girl and a bunch of overly-protective family members.  The nail salon has some pretty girls that I hardly get to see–they are kept out of sight like a rare commodity.
But summer-time and the bar go together like alcohol and adultery.  Chicks in shorts go in, and eventually they stumble out, come into the liquor store for some smokes, and go home with strangers.
They had planned to train me for three weeks.  I would come in about a quarter to six, do the shift change, and the day person would leave and me and the other night person would stay.  But seriously, the place is small, and there is not much to do for one person.  For two people, it is sheer boredom and overkill.  Maybe I was good, but I’m sure they were looking for an excuse to let me go it alone.  After a week and a half–which was five shifts–Marsha said I was ready.
And I guess I was.  The register–no problem.  Lottery?  A little bit of practice was all it took.  Plus, we had a couple of regular players that were patient and took the time to help, and that was more valuable than the normal training, as they talked me through their special ways of running tickets.
I learned how to do kegs.  All it took was a couple of people ordering them.  At the end of the night, run the slip and count the money.  My first night closing with Marsha, she showed me what to do.  The next night I closed with her, I did it and she talked me through it.
“Wow.  I’ve never seen anyone do it that fast.”
She was standing behind me, looking over my shoulder.  I said, “I’m a little out of practice.  I get faster.”
During the week we closed at 11pm.  I was getting us out of there about ten after.
And the last part of the night I sweep and mop, take the rugs outside, clean the glass on the cooler doors, and take out the trash.  Nothing to it.  Once in a while there was something special, like dust off the wine bottles, or sweep in front of the store.  I wasn’t paid a whole lot but it wasn’t hard, either.  Sundays were slow.
“How slow?”
“Bring a book,” Marsha said.
I worked more with Marsha than with Bob.  Bob was your typical gruff old man, and not quite sure how to take me.  But he liked me because I did good work, and word got back to him and Marsha from the customers that I was a good joe.  People liked me.
And why not?  I am one likeable asshole.  Sarah was nice too.  I would place her in her mid-twenties.  She was not beautiful, but she was cute, and very sweet and helpful.  Of course, after I was done training, I saw whomever I was relieving for no more than half an hour while we did the shift change and made some chitchat, and got an update on anything new or different.
We have an apartment complex behind us, and that is a large part of the clientele as well.  I remember delivering to that place from various delivery places I worked at.  Lots of regulars from there.  Lots of regulars–
Jason, Marsha’s son, lives there with his girlfriend.  He is out of work.  Why didn’t they hire him?  Well, he had worked for them, for a couple of years.  He was a young, good-looking jock-type.  Oddly, we hit it off.  The first few times he came in he was drunk, and he gave me an extensive tour of the craft beers and the wines.
I remembered when I worked at Papa John’s in the nineties, we had a large international crew.  One driver was a tall young Chinese dude.  He mentioned that his parents owned a restaurant.  I asked him, “Why don’t you work there?”
He scoffed.  “I tried, man.  I can’t work with my parents.”
So I can see how it might have been for Jason.
There was Don, a man of about 70.  Actually, I bet he was younger than that, but alcohol abused has aged him.  He might be only 60.  I’ve heard that he is super-smart, and he seems to be, when he’s not lit.  He is a slight, skinny fellow with a snow white beard.
I never caught the name of most of the other regulars.  I would see a few people from the bar–people that worked there, I mean.  They had a few cute servers that would come over for smokes, or for some airline bottles of vodka to drink on the job.  Marty owned the bar, and he is a piece of work.  Just really a spastic piece of work.
At least once or twice a week, someone from the bar would come over and buy something like an 18-pack of Miller Lite bottles or a fifth of Jack, ask for a receipt–
And ask to go out the back door.  I don’t know all the rules and laws about alcohol, but I guess the ATF frowns on liquor establishments buying liquor from places other than their approved vendors.  I’m sure this is a big deal.  To me it’s arbitrary and bullshit, and I’m sure the law was enacted more for the protection of the big breweries and their salespeople than whatever reason they claim it was enacted for.
But whatever.  I oblige.
July and August I worked there, it was fun and easy, and no problem.  I had asked for one day of the Labor Day weekend off–and I didn’t care which one, I just didn’t want to work all three.  They obliged.  My first day back was Wednesday.  I was relieving Marsha, and she had some news.  I didn’t notice the sign taped to the door.
“I wanted to tell you before you might hear it from someone else.  We have a buyer, we’re selling the store.”
“oh.”
“This deal has been off and on for about nine months.  It sounds like it might go through this time.”
“Oh–”
“Bob and I are ready to retire.”
I need to be positive.  “Well, that sounds great.  I hope it works out for you then.”  I could sense some guilt in her, like she felt bad for me, which is sweet.  But this is her deal anyway, and I couldn’t stop it.  They had been nice to me, so I didn’t want to add to their burden.
“We don’t know yet if the buyer is going to want to keep one or both of you on yet.”
“Well, that’s the way it goes, I suppose.  When will we know anything?”
She explained what she knew, which wasn’t much.  The buyer was a Vietnamese guy, he didn’t speak much English.  He had a friend, another Vietnamese guy, helping him.  He was only slightly easier to understand.  The deal would happen sometime this month.
“Oh.”
I thought I was going to have until the end of the month. but it turned out that September 11th was my last day.  The deal would be done on that Wednesday.  I thought I was going to work that Wednesday night, but the deal would be done during the day on Wednesday, so that Sunday, close to closing time, Marhsa and Bob came in.  This was my last day.
“Oh.”
We chatted, I cleaned, I closed.  Marsha counted the money, while Bob took me over to the bar and bought me a couple of beers.  They had my check ready, my last check.  With an extra fifty bucks in it, that was nice.
Marsha joined us in the bar and we all talked about random stuff and interacted with the regulars.  But Sunday night at the bar is Karaoke night.  Marty, the bar owner, gets up there to sing first.  He does that a lot–we can hear it from the liquor store.
Marty’s soul-filled and tone-deficient performance was the impetus to leave.  I shook hands with Bob, gave Marsha a hug, and we wished each other luck.
I was out.

Cyclone Weather

November 6, 2011 at 1:10 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

This is a short story, so I have some space for commentary.  This is something I wrote a while back when a large number of people left my company for another.  At least that was voluntary; just a few months ago we had a large layoff.  Of the 50 people on my floor, only 33 are left.  It was like the rapture, in a way.  I don’t blame the company; they did what they had to do given the circumstances, and they did everything else they could before this happened.
I’m only going to say this once:  I think the OWS movement is wrong, and ultimately misguided and will only lead to more ruin.
I work at a small bank.  Yet, we do more business than the larger ones in terms of mortgage business in this area, and then we sell most of our loans to the larger ones.  We have been fairly solvent and did not need the government bailout.  However–
In order to stay competitive with the ones that did take it, we were forced to take it as a logical business strategy.  Then the fine print was revealed:  now that we have you hooked, you have to do things our way.
The guiding principle behind OWS is that the big banks are evil and corporations are evil.  At the heart of it is a looming communistic ideology (take a long hard look at the organizations backing it) that wants to destroy capitalism.
Capitalism is not “evil,” nor are most corporations.  As a conservative, I am generally against most regulation.  However, I’m actually more of a libertarian, which is just a conservative with loose morals.  I’m trying to be reasonable and logical.  There is a right way to do things.
We can’t have large, powerful companies doing whatever they want with nothing to rein them in–that’s suicide.
And just as ridiculous is the notion that government can do anything constructive and useful.  Riddle me this, Batman–has the government ever actually FIXED something, and made it better?  When laws are put into place that place arbitrary restrictions on some companies, but not on others, it is obvious that there is corruption and favoritism going on.  Any new laws, new rules, or new regulations will do the same.  Is there a logical reason for small companies being restricted from doing certain things, other than the fact that the larger ones don’t want them to, and they have the money to buy Congressmen to make it happen?
If you think the government is the answer, you’re asking the wrong fucking questions.
Occupy Wall Street should really be “Occupy Washington.”  That’s where the goddamn problem is.  Taking money from the rich will only frustrate you, because they will find a new way to make it.  Meanwhile, if it’s taken from them, will it go to the poor?  No–no it won’t, Einstein.  It will go to the House (i.e., the Government), because the House ALWAYS gets their cut.  You are completely delusional if you think it’s going to be any other way.
Go ahead and vote for Bread and Circuses for yourselves, and see what actually happens.  See how much bread you really get, and who is going to be working in the circus–and how much it is really going to cost you.
But this story is about something else entirely.

  The dark and the rain only compounded the confusion.  The giant ship seemed small as it tilted away from the iceberg.  Survivors were running and screaming, scrambling for the sparsely numbered life boats.  A few, a lucky few, had escaped in the skiffs before the storm, which was sometime between the pirate attack and being chased by the sea monster.   
  The captain yelled above the fray, trying to maintain order.  His voice was unheard before the din.  Lightning crackled in the sky, and illuminated the ominous wall of ice that all but supported the ship, the SS Mortgage Division.
  A loud horn sounded, and everyone turned to see another ship, dropping anchor and prepared to help.  Or was it?  The Jolly Roger whipped in the wind from its highest mast, and a voice over a bullhorn called to them, “Join us or die!  We can save you!  Bring your rolodex and your documents!”
  A swarm heeded the call, and the doomed captain tried to call them back.  “Don’t go!  It’s a trap!  The market is too volatile!” he yelled in vain as one after another the passengers and crew jumped in the water and began to swim.  Some made it…and some were eaten by sharks.  Others were scooped out of the water by rabid polar bears.
  In the end, after the storm had died down to a drizzle, the pirate ship had sailed on, and only dozen or so were left.  Bryan numbered among them, and he counted himself lucky.  Here he was, in the captain’s boat.  Safe, secure.  Homefree–
  “Water!  We’re takin water over the side, captain!”  Panic spread through out the small boat quickly.  Thinking quickly, the captain made a decision.
  “We need to lighten the load!”  The captain pointed at Bryan.  “You!  Come here!”
  Anxious to please the captain, Bryan hopped up quickly.  “Yes, Captain?”
  The Captain unceremoniously pushed Bryan over the side.  He then yelled, “Next!”
  Bryan tread water, shivering, as the skiff floated away.  The other passengers on the boat wished him well.  “Good luck!”  “Hang in there!”  and “We really appreciate this!”  They floated off to the mythical land of job security and 401k growth.
  As the boat shrank from his sight, Bryan reflected that he should never have quit his last job delivering pizza.

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