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.

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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.

Welcome To The Jungle (I’ve got your fun and games right here)

June 18, 2011 at 9:56 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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[Spring 1997]

And so, I left Steak n Shake, and came back to Domino’s Pizza again.
Except I never really left; I had continued my employment there as a part time driver for Romona in Hazelwood. It was easy for me to jump right in again as an assistant manager and pick up the hours I needed between two stores: Hazelwood and Cross Keys, the store I most recently managed before being sentenced to the fourth level of Hell that was Blackjack.  (I don’t want to over-exaggerate; everyone always says “seventh level.”  However, with the experiences I’ve had, I had some perspective.)
Bunny was managing Cross Keys and she was my friend. Romona was my friend also, and gave me more hours. I was in the middle of an estrogen duel, two women vying to have me all to themselves. I wanted to say, “Ladies, please! There’s enough of me to go around!”
But it wasn’t about me. It was about power. Bunny was an aggressive upstart, and Romona was a battle-weary warhorse. Who would win this battle of wills?
Ultimately Romona did; she was promoted to supervisor.
Now that she was the new North County supervisor, she had–
Well, it depends on how you look at it. If I were an optimist, I would say she had pull. If I were a pessimist, I would say she had problems.
Since I’m a realist, I have to say she had…problems.
One of those problems was Store #1539, Berkeley. It was a problem store in a problem area. It was ghetto. It was hood. It was bad. How bad?
Unless you know the St Louis area, it’s hard to summarize. Part of Berkeley was a small village called Kinloch. Kinloch doesn’t exist anymore because there was a buyout by the airport for a politically-motivated expansion that was never necessary but proceeded anyway, despite the fact that Lambert lost a couple of major hubs and air traffic decreased significantly and an airport was also built in the Metro-East that stands basically deserted.
Kinloch became a synonym for crime,
The major economic factor in Berkeley is drugs. The local government is part nightmare and part comedy. Businesses shut down left and right. McDonald’s a few other chains closed their doors and tucked their tails between their legs, cutting their losses.
Just look up the Wikipedia article for Kinloch, Missouri. Kinloch is attached to Berkeley like a tumor.
Domino’s was desperate to have success at 1539, although the definition of success varies. They made a deal with a manager: she would take over the store, be given free reign, “support” from marketing, and half the profit of the store, instead of the usual 15-20%.
Again, class: What is 50% of zero?
Correct.
This project was touted as a bold initiative, a new direction to create a brighter future and be model for future–
Blah-blah-blah. She lasted less than two months.
It probably wasn’t fair to put a (more or less) innocent suburban white chick in a situation like that. Luckily she didn’t get killed or raped, she just locked the doors in the middle of the day and walked out.
I don’t know if I was necessarily in the right place at the right time, but here’s what happened:
Changes were made, as always. Note the passive voice, to release upper management of responsibility. Jay was the farm-boy supervisor for the area, living in Illinois. He was returned to the cornfields from whence he came.
Does that sound harsh? Jay was a good guy, a quiet, by-the-book, no-nonsense sort of bloke. Yeah, humorless as well–those types usually are. Here’s a story about him:
As a supervisor, he came by Berkeley during dinner rush to do whatever the Hell it is supervisors do. You know, watch other people work. Make suggestions based on hindsight, unrealistic expectations, and fairy tales.
It was dark, so the mag-lock was on. Don’t make explain a mag-lock again. Most stores didn’t turn it on until after 10pm. Berkeley did it as soon as it got dark. Drivers come up, we buzz them in. Customers of a superficially non-threatening nature would approach, and we would buzz them in.
So it’s about 6pm in the winter, and it’s dark. A Friday night, so there is some business going on. A customer approaches, and instinctively Jay reaches toward the button to buzz them in–
A driver slaps his hand away from the button.
The “customer” was a large black male with a ski mask over his face and a shotgun in his hand. He bounced off the door, shook the handle a few times, and disappeared.
It was for the best that Jay returned to the green, green grass of home.
Romona was made supervisor, and now it was her problem.
I can’t believe that I was actually allowed to interview for 1575. Hazelwood was a cherry, and everybody wanted it. I was the only MIT that interviewed; the others were seasoned managers. However, I was a seasoned manager also, who happened to be an assistant at the moment.
Well, of course I didn’t get Hazelwood. I forget which numbnut they gave it to, and it doesn’t matter. Fine, I’ll continue as an assistant–whatev.
Over the course of several days, Romona hounded me. Berkeley was still open, and she was getting desperate. The store needed a manager. Actually it needed a SWAT team. She made offers, she pleaded, she made promises–
I swear to God, if I had held out longer I would have gotten a blowjob. I still remember the day I walked in when she was a manager, and she was sitting at the desk taking a break. And eating a corn dog.
You don’t forget shit like that. She owes me.
However, it was my completely misguided sense of duty that won over, and I accepted the position. I would take Berkeley.  I never did get that blowjob.

Why I Make the Big Bucks

April 26, 2011 at 10:09 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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November 1986

Jonathan’s wife is hot.  Too hot for him.  He’s a short, chubby, slightly Mexican-looking dude.  She looks like a model.  I’m a tall, chubby, basically Caucasian-looking dude.  What gives?
Ah, well.  I already have a girlfriend.  She’s not young and hot, though.  She’s old but still pretty.  The lesson I’m sure that I need to learn in life is to not always let my dick do the driving.  But there’s still time—I’m young.
I’m finally able to put some names to the faces, and remember the faces.  I thought two of them were the same guy, but it turns out they are brothers, Ricky and…the other one.  Ironically, they have a Latina last name but don’t look it, while Jonathan doesn’t, but does look it.  There’s also Marty and his brother as well–didn’t catch his name.  There are others, like this cocky football player-looking dude, some tall guy I hear people calling “Mabes,” and a random assortment of others.
Oh, and Thomas just rolled onto the scene.  He’s new here but he’s done this before, he said.  After a fashion he kind of latched onto me, so I guess I have a friend.  Thomas is a good guy, a little insecure, and a loud talker.  Don’t tell him I said that.
During one conversation with him, he said that from some source (I wasn’t really paying attention) he learned that the secret to making more money—getting a raise or what-have-you—was to act like you were already earning that money, and worth it.  “If I want to make 3.60 an hour,” he said while we were both sweeping the floor, “I need to work like I’m already making 3.60 an hour.”
Minimum is 3.35 an hour.  I couldn’t see much difference in the effort for 3.35 and 3.60.
Besides, that was a quarter.  Nobody got a quarter raise.  He might get a dime or fifteen cents.  Not a quarter.  I kept quiet; my personal belief was that with delivery, you made your own raise by getting better and more efficient at it, taking more runs and kissing the customers’ ass more.
I had no idea how to do that.  Man, I wish I did.  That jackoff football player-looking dude—Jeff—always made out really good in tips, or at least he claimed to.  If so, he was much nicer to the customers than he was to anyone here in the store.  I had to make up for what I lacked in social skills by driving fast, and running hard.
We all run.  We run to the car.  We run to the door.  We run back to the car.  We run back into the store.  When the phone rings, we run to it.  Two rings, max.  Always.
So I run.  I’m not built for running, so much, but I do it.  Plus I like to get high while I deliver.  I didn’t do that so much at first because I wanted to get used to the job and learn the area.  But after a few months of driving up and down these streets all over the place, I rarely look at the map, except to figure out the right hundred-block.
Getting high kind of slows you down, but I have a solution.  I take some mini-thins.  For those of you not hip to the drug lingo, that’s speed.  Actually, they’re just caffeine pills.  But three minis will get me through a close, and I can still get high.
I was having a pretty good Saturday night—I was closing.  It was just after dinner rush and a few drivers were cut.  It would start to open up for me.  I came back from a run, and Tom grabbed me and said, “Hey, come in here a minute.”  The office.  He closed the door.  Hell, I didn’t even think this broom closet-sized office had a door.
We had a quick meeting.  “Bubba, I just wanted to tell you, that you’ve been doing a really good job, and I’m impressed.  I really didn’t think you were going to make it—“
Which is always nice to hear.  Did I suck that bad when I started?  I guess so.
“—but you’ve proven yourself, and you have integrity.”
“Aw, well, hey—thanks.  I appreciate that—“
“Starting Monday you get a raise.  Three-fifty.”  He raised his furry eyebrow, letting it sink in, because 15 cents is the highest increment raises came in.  I had only been there a few months.
“Awesome!  Thanks, Tom!”
“And Bubba—listen:  don’t tell anyone about it, okay?  Not everyone is getting a raise right now.  Just keep it to yourself.”
I nodded.  But I had a question.  “Why you calling me ‘Bubba’?”
He was taken aback.  “I thought—“  He grabbed a clipboard and flipped back a couple of pages.  “Every time you sign the daily—see there?  You’re signing ‘Bubba.’  I thought it was your nickname.”
“That’s just my initials.  BB.  I didn’t really want a nickname.”
Tom looked down sheepishly.  “Yeah…it might be too late for that.”
Fuck me.  But I got a raise, so what the hell.  We exited the office.  Joel caught my eye.  “Bubba, you’re up.”  That fast?  It happened that fast?  Christ in a—

So I continued to have a good night, and I was happy about my raise.  It wasn’t the money, really.  Fifteen cents over thirty hours, or sixty, on a biweekly paycheck—was going to be…a couple of bucks.  The difference between a couple of decent tips and a couple of good tips.  But it was a marker, like proof that I got a pat on the back.  Recognition for a job well done and all my hard work.
In the course of having a good night I may have celebrated a bit, like taking a few hits from my bat—my one-hitter.  The mistake, of course, was that this was some serious skunk weed, and had an odor to it.  An odor that lingered, and clung to me.  Imagine my surprise when later, about 930, Tom caught me and had me come into his office again.  He had a somber expression on his face.
“What’s up?”
“Bubba, I need to ask you to not get high anymore while you’re working.”
Fuu…
You know pot makes you paranoid, right?  Getting busted doesn’t make it better.  I was shaking on the inside, so I froze, held completely still.  I may have held my breath.  Tom continued.  “We can smell it on you, and a customer called—“
“Oh…”
“Yeah.  So don’t—don’t do that anymore on the clock.  When you’re off I don’t care what you do.  But I don’t want to catch you high on the clock anymore.”
I nodded.  “Okay.  No more.  I promise.”
And I meant it, too.  He would never catch me.

Things That Go Bump In the Night

April 26, 2011 at 9:10 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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The 80s…

Uhm…
Maybe if I wait long enough to tell this, the statute of limitations on any alleged crime might have expired.
I hope.
It was just another typical night in the spring, and I was working.  I may have gotten high, too.  But it was a nice night, I was having a good night, I was in the groove, and things were clicking for me.
Maybe I like to take a hit or two off the one-hitter during a long Saturday night close.  But I also took a couple of mini-thins—caffeine pills—to get me through the night as well.  A nice buzz and a loud stereo—now what could be better?
I don’t know.  Maybe a mirror.  I have a mirror.  Maybe I just need to use it once in a while.
I’m on this run…I’m not going to say where.  It’s pretty late.  It’s past 10 pm.  I park on the street.  My e-brake is a little weak and there isn’t much of a curb, so I shut the car off.  I had parked right in front of another car.  It looked like a classic, like an early 60s Rambler or something like that.  It wasn’t mint, but it looked pretty good.  Okay.
I get up to the door before I see that this is not the house.  Fives and sixes look similar in some typefaces.  This was actually an eight.  At least I didn’t bang on their door and wake someone up like I did last week.
Well I’m not going to get back in the car to go down three houses.  I walk.  I deliver the pies and walk back to my car.
When you do what I do—take a lot of deliveries in the course of a night—that’s a lot of times in and out of the car.  You get into a routine, and much of it is automatic.  Of course, sometimes you unknowingly take shortcuts in your routine.
I got in, toss the bag over, and write the tip down on my pad.  I had turned the key and stepped on the clutch first, however.
And I had ever so slowly rolled backward.
I heard as well as felt the dull thud.  I looked up, and behind my panicked face in the rear view mirror I saw the Rambler, right behind me.  Oh, fuck.
Oh, and panic I did.  I looked around quickly, I unplugged my cartop from my lighter, I started the car and took off.  And I did not turn on the lights until I was two blocks away.
I kept looking behind me.  Yeah, I chose that time to start using my mirrors.  In it, all I saw was me.  Man, did I look guilty.
I never heard anything about it; I never got in trouble for it.  I got away clean, except for my conscious.  Luckily I have a short attention span and a bad memory.
But it feels good to confess, as long as I don’t have to make up for it.

Scream

April 26, 2011 at 9:01 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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October, 1986

I’ve been here at Domino’s about a month now.  I really feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it all.  I must be doing a good enough job because I’m working more hours.  Not quite forty—maybe thirty—but the money is good.
I get cash every night, my tips and mileage.  I was so used to just that—
Imagine my surprise when I got a paycheck also.  Hell yeah.
And I was now getting to close two nights per week.  I come in sometimes at 430 and sometimes at five.  You never know when you are going to get off unless you are scheduled to close.  It could be two hours, it could be four hours.  Whenever we slowed down, people were off.
If I closed, I stayed until we were done.  We closed at 1am during the week, and 2 on Friday and Saturday.  We want to get out as soon as we can after close.  The manager deals with the money and paperwork, and the last two drivers do the cleaning.  Usually one does the dishes and one does the front, and they both sweep and mop.
This is my first experience with time management, I guess.  In between runs and when we are slow, we try to do what we can without interrupting the flow of business.  Maybe this is obvious to all of you, but I’m new to this.
The first couple of times, closing seemed…hard.  Now, after a couple of weeks, I’m a real pro.  Okay, not a real pro.  But I am getting the hang of it.  I’ve learned all kinds of important tricks, like what I learned the other night.  I learned that you can’t pull the mop bucket along by the mop, because the wheels don’t roll well and you’ll tip the mop bucket over.
And spend an extra fifteen minutes mopping up the water while the manager and the other driver bitch about it.
And after close, one driver follows the manager to the bank while me makes a deposit in the night drop.  The first time, Joel just said, “Follow me to the bank, okay, Guy?”
Sure, okay.  I follow him, pull up along side of him while he makes the drop, and I just sit there.  Now what?  I feel silly now, because he had to get out of the car and come over to me and explain that it was procedure, for security, and I’m supposed to hang back in the parking lot to keep an eye out, not stick to close to him, and now that he made the drop, he would just wave me off as he was done and we would go our separate ways.
Ya know, I’m from the country.  Security is as alien a concept to me as paved roads.  But he only had to tell me once, and I got it.
The same went for most things:  the first time, I am out of my element and struggling to understand it while I follow along blindly trying to grasp the situation.  After I go through it once and I get it and see the purpose, I have no problem.

For instance, what is the deal with this “borrowing drivers from another store” thing?  What gives?
Well, Snidely, I’ll tell you what gives.  We have the thirty-minute guarantee, right?
Right—30-or-free.
And we want to avoid giving away free shit, because we aren’t a charity.  We schedule to anticipate business, but sometimes shit happens, and who ya gonna call?
Not Ghostbusters.  But you can call another store in the franchise.  I was unclear on this at first, but the company I work for is Domino’s Pizza, yes—but it is not a corporate store.  There are no corporate stores in the whole metropolitan area.  They are all franchises, and the franchise I work for—A&M Pizza—owns about seven or eight stores, something like that.  Who owns the rest?  Other franchises.
A&M also owns the stores in the Springfield, Missouri region.  Art, the A in A&M, is here in St Louis over these stores, and Marty, the M, is in Springfield.  I have yet to meet Art.  I don’t understand the hierarchy…I guess there are managers, and then there is a supervisor, Scott Wilson, whom I have seen.  And then there is Art.  Okay, I guess I do get the hierarchy.
Anywho, what with this being an urban-suburban area, the stores are fairly close, and if one gets busy they can call another one for help that is usually only ten or fifteen minutes away.  If you look at the map here, you see our area outlined in marker.  To the north is written the phone number to the store that covers that area.  To the west and south, the same thing.  To the east is the Mississippi River, and generally we don’t deliver there.
So it’s not mandatory…but we are strongly encouraged.  I’m always up for some excitement, so I have gone to both Spanish Lake, to the north, and Ferguson, which has a monstrously large area to the west.  To the south is Baden (technically the City of St Louis) and that store is owned by another company, so we don’t have to go there.  Thank God; Baden is a shithole.  North St Louis?  You don’t want to be there, brother.  Not as a white boy after dark with a brightly lit sign on the roof of your car that says “I have money and food, come and get it.”
There are details and protocol to the whole idea of lending and borrowing drivers.  A store gets busy, they assess the situation and realize they need help, even for a brief period of time.  They make a call or two.  If a store has someone, they’ll send them.  Or they will ask:  “Want to go to Ferguson and take a few runs?”
Sure.  What the hell.  I wasn’t sophisticated enough to know there was much of a difference between these neighborhoods.  I would clock out here, at my home store, and drive to the other store.  I would take some runs, or sometimes one run, and then go back.  Then I would clock back in.  The stores would communicate—that’s what we have all these five-line phones for—and the borrowing store would pay my labor for the travel time as well.
And the time clock is weird, but it makes it easy to do the math.  If you leave your store at 606 and come back at 654, the time clock says 6.1 and 6.9.  You were gone for .8 of an hour, and the math is easy.  Is this metric time?
There isn’t someone available all the time to make the trek.  Sometimes everyone is busy—and sometimes no one wants to go, especially if it’s to a shithole like Normandy.  In that case, sometimes the drivers are coerced, bribed, blackmailed, or just forced to go, and take one for the team.
I think I just learned my first adult lesson about working in the corporate world:  Being a team player means taking turns getting fucked in the ass.  Coming up next—it’s mine turn to bend over.

Nice, Round Numbers

April 4, 2011 at 7:59 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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After last night, I needed to do the math to see if what I felt intuitively (meaning I didn’t pay attention) was real.  It feels like I’m not making any money at the Hut.  Worse than that, it seems like it is costing me money to go to work.  Unless I get a job at a strip club, I’m not really interested in paying for the privilege.
But how much is it costing, and how much am I making, really?  Get the calculator out, kids.

Let’s use nice round numbers to make this easy:
Let’s call it 20 miles to Pizza Hut, one way.  So that is a 40 mile round trip.
Let’s say the van gets 16 miles per gallon.
Let’s call gas 3.50 per gallon.  As I sit here, it’s about 3.549 per gallon.
I’ve gone back and forth on this other number, trying to determine how far I drive per delivery, on average.  Some are longer than others, and if you get a double you cut the distance in half.  But as an educated guess, I’m going to say the average round trip for a delivery is 6 miles.
Pizza Hut gives drivers 1.10 per run.  Yeah, they bumped it up when gas went up.  When gas was around 3.50, they gave us…a dollar.  There’s a 2.50 delivery charge, and the driver gets a dollar of it.  From my understanding of the corporate mentality, I’m surprised that they didn’t raise the delivery charge to 3 bucks.  And then give us 1.10.
Another “experiment” they tried is fucking with our hourly pay.  We should be getting tips, so logically, they shouldn’t have to pay us as much when we are driving.  So they cut our pay when we’re delivering from 7.25 to 5.25.  It’s a complicated scale, so when we come back from a run and cash in, we are at the higher 7.25 rate.  That’s minimum, by the way.  Let’s say, if we’re lucky, we spend our time 2/3 to 1/3 driving to in-store.
In that time, we’re going to take 8 deliveries.
Call the average tip 3 bucks.
SO:
Salary is going to be 7.25*1 for our time in the store, plus 5.25*2 for our time driving, for a three-hour shift.  That’s 17.75.
Then, with tips, we’re going to make 24 bucks.  Add our 1.10 per run.  Fifty dollars and 55 cents.  Rock on!
50.55.  That is 16.85 an hour.  That’s purty good.  Two shifts like that is the 100 bucks extra I need every week.  Sometimes I make more.  Sometimes I make WAY less.  Oh, and I forgot about taxes and so forth.
Lately they schedule more drivers than we need, so we end up tripping over ourselves and waiting for deliveries.  In a perfect world, in that same three hours I would take 12 to 16 deliveries and never be in the store for more than a minute at a time.  More runs equals more tips, but also more miles and more gas used.  Pizza Hut operates under the erroneous suggestion that customers want their pizza incredibly fast.  This is, of course, a completely inaccurate and miscalculated parameter, but they have to have something measurable for which they can dock managers’ bonuses.  The truth is that they don’t necessarily want it fast, they just want an accurate estimate of the time it will take.  This is not an imaginary numeric.  This is based on my 25+ years in food deliver, so I know what the hell I’m talking about.
But wait.  How much does it cost to go to work—and then drive once I get there?
Okay, first, the round trip is 40 miles.  Then for the deliveries, six times 8 runs is 48 miles.  Forty and forty-eight is eighty-eight miles.  Eighty-eight divided by sixteen per gallon is 5.5 gallons.  Five-fifty times three-fifty is 19.25 for gas.
That seems about right because I throw a twenty dollar bill in the tank every time I drive, just enough to keep it off empty.
Now that 50 bucks per shift doesn’t seem so impressive.  Minus gas, and that leaves me with a crumpled up 30 dollar bill.  Divided by 3, and that’s 10 bucks an hour.
More importantly, it’s 30 bucks for four hours out of my life, including travel time.  And after taxes, it’s going to be less.  They don’t take out much, but it isn’t much to begin with.  I can make more money by sitting still and not spending any money.  I can break even by taking a nap instead of going in to work.

This realization stings a bit, because it’s like I’m stupid all over again, and had to figure this out.  But—
I’m not going to work there anymore.  Not another shift.  I can’t.  I can’t afford to work there.

Out With The Old

March 30, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I haven’t been writing as much about Pizzarama, where I’ve been working lately.  Maybe I’m jaded?
Twenty-five years, dozens of stores, hundreds of employees, and thousands upon thousands of deliveries is bound to do that to a person.  I remember a time when I was innocent, fresh, and naive…
I don’t think I can relate to that guy anymore.

And I’ll go ahead and say it, because I don’t care anymore:  The place I work at is Pizza Hut.  When I worked at Domino’s, I named it.  When I worked at Scooter’s, I named it.  When I worked at Domino’s again, I named it–
Which caused some problems because I was doing things that weren’t exactly Cricket.  Thusly burned, I called Jimmy John’s “The Three Jakes.”  But Imo’s was Imo’s, and Steak n Shake was Steak n Shake–and they well still be.  I thought I might want an alias to protect me on this internet thing.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so cavalier, but I’m not doing anything wrong.
How about, “I’m not doing anything illegal, and most of what I do that is morally questionable is not a threat to the job”?  Better?
In the meantime, I subconsciously didn’t want to get too attached to anyone here, because Things Always Change.  However, I didn’t have much of a choice–some of them drew me in.
Of course, there’s The Dude, an ever-present fixture in my life and the reason I took the job at this particular location.  Meet our management team:
Tom is a young guy, quiet and stoic.  He seems to be laid back–like a hippie dressed as a businessman.  That’s the vibe I get.
Ryan is the other assistant.  Slightly older than Tom, but still so young.  And yet he has thinning hair.  He cares more about the job than Tom does.  Frequently they are both shocked at the ridiculous things that come out of my mouth.  Then again, that describes most people, I guess.
Rob is the manager.  Whoops.  Rob was the manager.  Rob got fired a couple of weeks ago, a victim of arbitrary grading or his own ineffectiveness, your choice.
I liked Rob–hell, I like all of them–but they way they manage stirs a deep primal desire in me.  A heat, a wrath, a bent to knock everyone over and take charge and show them how it’s supposed to be done.
But then my shift ends and I get over it.
So now we have a new manager, an older woman–older than me, even–named Julie.  I’ve met her exactly once, when I was coming in early (to make a good impression) and she was leaving early (even though it was a Saturday night and snowing in late March.
“Hi.  Who are you?” she says, looking at my chest where my nametag should be.
I put out my hand.  “Hi.  I’m Bryan.  Who are you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.  I looked at her chest, too, to let her know I knew what she was doing.  Not a sexual thing.  Not yet, anyway–but it is a weapon in my arsenal, if need be.
“Do you have a nametag?”  Before I could answer, she said, “And tuck your shirt in.”
I’ve been working there since June of last year, and I’ve never tucked my shirt in.  The cynical among you or those who have met me might think it’s because my belly prohibits it.  But actually, I have a long torso, and the shirts are always too short.  Really.  I could show you–
Never mind.
While I tucked in my shirt, she made me a new nametag with rainbow colored letters.  I guess we are inclusive now.  Then she left.  I untucked my shirt.
It’s what the store needs, and what these people need.  Someone to lead.  Rob–again, a nice guy–would rarely tell or ask someone to do something.  Jesus, you have to take charge.  Don’t be afraid to tell me to do something.
Don’t be afraid to tell the young punks working here to do something, either.  Because if you don’t, they won’t do a damn thing.  Us older folks–the drivers–we know our jobs and we get on it and we are proactive.  The kids need to be directed constantly, at least until they get the idea.
So hopefully Jules will be a good manager for the store and the crew.  It’s what they need.  Because these guys–

Temelko is our token Old Belgian guy.  He works the most hours of any driver.  He speaks the broken English very brokenly.  I’m starting to be able to make out some words.  We had a five minute conversation about a month ago of which I did not understand a single thing he said.  I sure hope I didn’t agree to something I’ll regret later.
John is a mid-twenties guy with a ponytail.  He’s quiet and good-looking.  I mean, good-looking enough to be gay.  He’s also an artist; we’ve had a few conversations about his interests, and that’s when he wouldn’t shut up.  He does computer animation, something I wish I had the patience for.
Nick is this guy–man, I don’t like him.  I mean, he’s okay.  He tries to be a smart-ass, but he’s not clever enough.  He runs shifts on occasion so he’s technically a member of management, which he uses as an excuse to fuck with people.  You know the kind of guy that’s only average in intelligence, but thinks he’s much smarter?  That’s him.
Don is the old guy.  He’s a carpenter by trade, and in this economy, delivering pizza.  He helped me tear the wall out in my kitchen and put a back door in.  Recently, he and his wife split up and he moved back in with his dad.  Yeah, he’s old.  And his dad is quite a bit older, I imagine.
When I say old, I mean he’s in his mid-fifties.  What the hell does that make me?
Don, The Dude and I are the Three Amigos, complete with pelvic thrust.  Because we are so…hip.
There are some other drivers in and out, part timers that I never quite caught the name of.  We also have Sean–Blond Sean from Scooter’s and Angelina’s fame.  He is also Rob’s ex-brother-in-law, but they are still friends.  (That’s why Rob hired him.)  Sean is an odd duck.  I thought he was a geeky, nerdy guy.  And I think he is.  He’s a nerdy guy trying desperately to hide it and be cool.  Or maybe he just turned over a new leave after he got divorced, which I can relate to.
Amber is our star pizza maker, and the hardest working person in the store.  She is about 20, a tall, gangly, clumsy looking girl.  She is just so quiet–until you engage her.  Then she won’t shut up.  I know way too much about her dysfunctional family.  She’s like the Marilyn in The Munsters, if the Munsters were all white-trash co-dependent addicts with poor decision-making skills.
Jarvis is this teenage slick dude.  He is cool, cocky, and confident.  I’m sure he gets laid way more than a teenage boy should.  He comes from money, and it shows–not just in the car he drives.  He has a sense of entitlement, and it shows in the way that he things the minimum effort he puts forth is a tremendous inconvenience to him and we should all be more appreciative.
[We’re busy.  People hustling everywhere, doing things.  The phone is ringing and ringing.  Again, we’re all busy.  He announces sarcastically to everyone, “Don’t worry about the phone.  I’ll get the phone.  I got it.”  Whatever he had been doing before was not time-critical to the rush.  Maybe he was folding a box or something.  “I’ll get the phone.”  I said, “Thanks for letting us know you’re finally going to do your job.”  That jibe cut him a little deep; he didn;t talk to me for about a week after that.]
And we have this other inside boy named Shane.  I–
Ugh.  I swear, some teen boys should be raised in a pasture with a high fence.  Electrified.  He’s a punk, through and through.  Sense of entitlement?  Check.  Doesn’t understand dick about anything?  Check?  Overly preoccupied with trying to look cool?  Check?  Unable to learn anything because he already knows it?  Double-check.
He has this car–I’m sure it’s a parent’s or something like that.  I hope, anyway.  Any adult who would give this retard a car should be locked up.  He’s always bragging about his car and how fast it is and how he can outrace anyone.  I don’t want to be that young and stupid again, if I ever was.
I’m leaving on a run about the time he got off work one night.  He hops in his car, revs it up, and keeps revving it up.  If it’s a stick, he’s using up the clutch.  If it’s an automatic, he’s even stupider.  I pull out, and I head down the line.  He pulls out real fast in front of me, causing me to brake.  Then he revs it some more and squeals the tires as he takes off.
I get to the light, and then he appears again.  Where did he come from?  Where did he go?  Who gives a shit?  He’s sitting at the light revving the engine.  He’s in the left turn lane, and I’m in the lane to go straight.  His light goes green, and he revs it and takes off, squealing the tires some more.
I know this is the old man in me, but he’s a fucking dumb ass.  Tires costs money.  A clutch costs money.  Gas costs money.  If he was paying for it, he wouldn’t be doing that to “his” car.
Honestly, I don’t even want to get to know him, because I don’t want to feel bad when he rolls his car and wraps it around a pole and dies.  He’ll do it all with a dumb expression on his face, the expression people have when they don’t understand the correlation between their actions and the consequences thereof.
We have Kelli, this girl.  This 20 year-old (“I’ll be 21 in two months!”) chick who started as a server during the day and then started to drive.  She’s short, she’s fat, and she loud and in everybody’s business.  She is so concerned that people are talking about her that she inserts herself into every conversation, and eavesdrops on everyone.  Christ, she bugs me.  Part of it, I can tell, is that if she gets a little attention she craves more.  She desperately wants to get laid.  I told Don that he’s going to end up fucking her.
“Christ!  Say it ain’t so!  Do I have to?”
Then, of course, we have my sweetheart, Courtney.  Courtney just had a birthday.  She just turned…17.  Wow.  She says I remind her of her dad.  So I have a year to turn that daddy complex into something viable.
Juuuuust kidding.  She’s a sweet girl, and one of my favorites there.  We talk, I gave her a ride home once (perfectly innocent!), and we have fun at work.

So that’s the people I work with.  And the people make all the difference.  Pizza is pizza.  Hell, pizza is as pizza does.  Pizza is the same, or different, or both, anywhere you go.  But the people are what make it interesting, and determine whether or not you want to go to work each day.
Although something else may be a determining factor as well:  Gas prices.  I swear to God, lately I feel like I’m losing money going to work.  I’m going to need to find another part time job, just because I can’t afford to work at this one.
Maybe the next job will be something not driving.

Jacob’s Ladder

March 20, 2011 at 11:19 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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April 2009

It was like some kind of horrible Vietnam flashback—
But I didn’t have to go.  I had immunity.  I had…a day job.
Still, I felt compelled to attend this “mandatory” manager’s meeting, for three reasons.  I’ll start with number two if that’s okay with you.
2.  Curiosity.  It had been a while since I had been to one, and never had I been to one with this company.  I wanted to see if they were everything I remembered.
1.  The bosses knew I had a day job and I was excused—and I was the only assistant with this affliction.  They didn’t like it; they wanted me to have “both feet in or both feet out.”  Logical, from their vantage point:  how can they control me and inflict harm and punishment upon me if I can just bow out, like the second string at a gangbang?  How could they squeeze all of my hopes and dreams and aspirations from me?
Too bad I had none left at this point.  Sucks to be them, doesn’t it?  Still, I didn’t want to throw it in their faces.  Absence may be the better part of valor, but it would actually be easier for me to be invisible if I showed up.  That’s irony right there, I don’t care who you are.
3.  I had loyalty to my team—the management at the specific store I worked at.  It would be a show of solidarity as well as—perversely—a bit of spying on the enemy.  And by enemy I meant upper management.  If you don’t understand that calculating mindset or the skewed reality behind it, you’ve never been in management.
At my day job, I made arrangements to be off for the meeting.  Actually, all I did was take some time out of my day, as for a doctor’s appointment.  The meeting was at 9am, so I went to work at my usual 7, left about 830, and got back around 11 because it was over at 1030—everyone had to get to their stores to open them.
Subdued surprise that I showed up—
Shaved, clean, dressed well, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  For most of them, this was too early in the morning, and on average they had been awake for 43 minutes.  I had been up almost three hours and had had two cups of coffee by this time.
There in the big conference room of the home office, the tables were set at the perimeter and we took seats like it was a UN function.  Coffee and donuts were had, and handouts and booklets were passed out.  In the middle of the room, center stage, Supervisor Tom and Director of Operations John tag-teamed us on the important items.  That is, they read the pamphlet to us.
It wasn’t a meeting in the sense that you might think there is a give-and-take and an even exchange of ideas and balance.  No, this was more of the Moses-hands-down-the-new-commandments-of-pizza-making type of meeting.
I wanted to remain low-key; I am not always the seeker of attention that many of you may believe.  However, once the floor was open, if someone among our ranks spoke and I had something to add, I would.  Overall, I was fairly quiet.
Except for this one time that makes me sound like an arrogant ass.  In other words, I showed my true colors.
Tom was speaking, and talking about product quality and consistency.  I sat with Dina and Stan, my people.  Tom said something about the irregular pie quality he has seen in the stores.  “I should be able to look at a pizza and not be able to tell the difference.  I should not be able to tell who made it.  Everyone should be making pizzas the exact same way.”
I snorted quietly to myself, and whispered something to Stan.  He let out a chuckle.  Tom heard.  “What?  What is it?  Is there something you’d like to share?”  Seriously, what was this, sixth grade?
“Well?”  I guess it was sixth grade.
Stan was still laughing.  “Tell him.”
I said to the whole group, “I’m not going to lower my standards.”
There was a mixed reaction from the crowd.  Some laughed, some oohed and aahed at the perceived challenge.  Who was this guy, anyway?  They didn’t know me.  They had no idea that I had made more pizzas than probably all two dozen of them combined, or that I had been doing this for as long as the average age in the room.
Tom said, “Really?”
I shrugged.  “You’ve seen my pies.  I’m just sayin.”
So much for invisibility.

About A Girl

March 20, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I don’t remember if I posted this or not.  For continuity’s sake I will.  This happened about May of 2008, right before Scooter’s closed.

Christ in a fucking sidecar.  That’s the only way to start this.  Let me tell you about my weekend.
I worked Friday night at the restaurant for Scott, the owner, and my usual Saturday night.  He had to work his church’s (actually his wife’s church) parish picnic, working the grill for their food.  The same amount of business that 5 people can’t handle without getting bogged down he or I can do easily–if they would just get the fuck out of the way.
So I agreed to work.  Friday night is a bit much for the new young-fuck Matt to handle by himself.  I get there, and Megan, a cute little 20 year old driver, is trying to convince me I should let her off that night, there is a concert she wanted to go to that she had asked Scott off for but he had never given her an answer.
I thought about it a bit.  That would leave me with three drivers–kinda tight, but it should be manageable; the nice weather should make it a little slower.
I said, “Okay, sure…But I need you to wear those shorts the next time you work.”
She bubbled.  “Okay.  I can do that for you.”  She smiled and sashayed off.
I love college-aged chicks.  Firm, tight bodies, perfectly shaped asses.  Perky tits.  Naivete.  And inexperience in realizing what, exactly, constitutes sexual harassment.
“That’s what I like about high school girls.  I keep getting older, and they stay the same age.  Oh yes, they do.”
Meanwhile, before I even get there, Matt is working, and he’s called me twice already wondering when I’ll be there.  Fuck, shithead.  I get off work at 4:00.  The 24 miles in traffic takes close to an hour.  I’m scheduled at five.  I’ll be there at five.  He wants to leave.  He always has some lame kind of excuse, problems with the car, car got impounded, car on the side of the road, or he has to go do something for his mother.
I’m starting to realize, after these events transpired, that I’m probably being take for a ride; I think his actual excuse is the drugs that he needs to go take.
But when I get there, I don’t let him go.  He wants to skate without doing the two most important and time-consuming pieces of prep:  weighing out the tips, and pounding out the burgers.  This may not mean anything to you, but what it means to me is that on a Friday night, the busiest night of the week, I was going to have to do this shit on the fly.
Nuh-uh.
“Matt, you need to finish this shit.”  He stays an extra hour, at the most, and gets it done while bitching.  The place is still completely trashed, dishes piled high, prep tables piled and covered with crap, trash and boxes piled up, grinders and slicers filthy from use and chunks of meat and cheese and other foodstuffs scattered about wildly.  But I can deal; we’ll have three drivers.
But my third driver, Jody, never shows up.  Matt is a friend of hers, so he goes over to her house.  She calls and says she’s on her way, then calls back about half hour later and says she’s not coming in.
Many of the details I’m a little sketchy on, and most of what I’ve heard I tend not to believe, because it comes from primary sources trying to paint themselves in the bestest light.
The long and short of it is this:
Matt goes over, says he tried to get her up, says she was wasted or hung over or both, and says Jody punched him repeatedly.  He left.
My Friday night was one of the worst ever.  Mota’s wife Becca was working and she was a hero, the champion, of keeping it together for me.
Saturday, Everyone comes in who is supposed to.  Matt worked during the day, and left before Jody showed up.  Then, after they are all working, Matt shows up–with Jody’s…girlfriend.
This has become the fucking OC, or some other retarded modern teen night time soap opera.  Jody likes this girl, Janna.  But she cheated on Janna–with Matt.  To get back at her, Janna cheated on Jody.  With Matt.
Now Matt apparently likes Janna (good head goes a long way), but is friends still (supposedly) with Jody.  Matt continues to recount stories of how Jody–a little firecracker–keeps hitting him and inflicting other violence on him, for no reason.  “Why does she keep hitting me, Bubba?”
I had enough of this.  I had been close to boiling over all night, having this story inflicted on me.  I had heard all sides of it, including the stuff that he didn’t think I knew.
“WHY?  WHY IS SHE HITTING YOU?  WHY?  IT’S ABOUT THE FUCKING GIRL, RETARD!  IT’S ABOUT THE GODDAMN GIRL!  ALL OF THIS IS ABOUT THE GIRL!  YOU LIKE HER, SHE LIKES HER!  IT’S FUCKING JEALOUSY!  ARE YOU COMPLETELY FUCKING STUPID?  IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT THE FUCKING GIRL!  CHRIST!  MORON!”
The kid is completely irrational.  First, he’s in denial about it being about this stupid love trapezoid, or triangle, or octagon.  Pick your favorite polygonal icon.
Then he gets mad, and yells at me about how I don’t understand.  Of course I don’t understand.  I don’t understand how he can be this stupid.  If it’s NOT about this, then what exactly is it about?  Ask yourself that question, shithead.  He had left, by the way, gotten drunk or high or something, and then came back up to the store.  I had to keep the two separated.  Meanwhile, the mousey little Janna acts like an innocent victim in all this.  I’ve actually come to believe that she is a passive-aggressive manipulative cunt:  She knows what is going on.  She wants to have her dick and her pussy too.
I believe Matt may know as well, but if he acts like he doesn’t get it, he can get more sympathy, more ear time.
Lots of ridiculous things happen, and I don’t care to recount all of them.  Matt leaves because I make him, but he takes the girl with him.  He completely misunderstood.  “You told me to get the girls out of here.”
“No, dipshit.  I told YOU to leave.  I will get the rest of them out of here.”  He completely fails to realize that he is part of the problem as well.  But then he comes back–again, like a fucking herpes flair up, and this time he is lamenting his sad life, and talks endlessly of driving his truck very fast into a wall.
At this point I’m willing to point one out for him.  People who talk about suicide like this don’t mean it; it’s a cry for attention.  “Woe is me; I’ve nailed two hot chicks but I can’t seem to get that elusive threesome lined up.  Woe is me!”  Hard for me to muster any sympathy.
Although, his mother kicked him out of the house (again), he gets in trouble with the law repeatedly, having his car impounded once or twice, tickets and so forth, and he needs to pay for a lawyer.  His mother may be an alcoholic, I’m not sure.  He’s 18, his life is in turmoil, he has no one, no place, nothing…
But, he’s fucking moron.  He’s completely stupid.  He’s made bad decisions, and he’s made them poorly, and executed them in the most ridiculous manner possible.  I completely resent the fact that he is trying to cling to me like I am his father figure.  I don’t need this.  I have–

My own shit to deal with.  In addition, I have an 18 year old son of my own that I hardly get to see.  I don’t need this pathetic reject as a surrogate.  My son is smart, drug-free, moral, and a good decision maker.  Artistic and talented.  He has a future.  And he’s not a complete fucking drag to be around.

Plus all of this is happening late at night when I’m trying to get the place cleaned up and get out of there.  Matt’s out of it, drunk and drugged up and binging on self-pity, so he has no recollection of time.  He merely sees a group of people that he can suck the life force out of.
I had to go outside, and get between him and Jody.  The girl in question merely stands by, no expression on her face, not understanding, like Matt, that this is all about her.  Only Jody gets it, and that’s why she has become violent.  I make Matt leave.  I tell Jody to go check out, clock out, and leave.
Finally, it’s over.  Or is it?  After they have all left and we are doing the real closing work, trying to get done and get out, Matt comes back.  He has no place to go, no place to sleep.  He wants to sleep in the store.  No, that will not happen.
Mota makes the mistake of offering him a place to sleep.  Fine, you do that.  Then Mota and his wife ask if we want to come over to their house, party a little–
No.
Are you sure?  We have a pool, and a firepit–
Not a chance.
Is it because Matt is going over?
Bingo.  I’m done with the pity party.  Any conversation is going to be monopolized by his constant woe-is-me desire for attention.  He drains me.  I just want to go home.
Detroit came up to work to see me that night, by the way, and I’m glad she did.  For one, she may not have believed everything if she hadn’t witnessed it herself.  For two, she thanked Megan for wearing the shorts that night–I needed that kind of thing (of course I told her.  She knows me so well.  “You are such a pervert,” she said.  Hey, if they’re over 18, technically, I’m not a pervert.)
For three, she knew and understood exactly the stress that I had had inflicted on me that night, and said, “I will [take care of you] tonight when we get home.”
God, I love this woman.

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