Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The lead up to A Love Story (Series Part I)

In the Summer of 2002 I was broke. I was 21 years old. I had spent all of my student loan money and barely had enough money to make it through until September. Luckily, I had pre-paid my rent, and I had a credit card. I had started looking for a job that year before I had even finished my semester, but I just couldn't seem to find one. Then, one week, half way through the summer, I had calls for interviews at two different retail places in the same mall. The first interview was at Value Village, which is a for profit second hand store. The position was going to be full time, Monday to Friday, and the money was more than minimum wage. That all sounded great until they told me what I would be doing. It was going to be my job to sort and price the used shoes... Um, YUCK! Being that I desperately needed a job, and they weren't just popping up all over the place like they had in my past, I tried my best to not act completely disgusted at the thought of handling old shoes. I didn't do such a great job. And, because of that, I didn't get the job.

I did, however get the job from the second interview that week, and I started soon after working till at the pharmacy in the mall. I already had experience working at this particular chain of pharmacy, so I was a shoe in for THIS job. (Get it? Shoe in? 'Cause I wasn't a SHOE in for the other job!! Ha ha? No? Ok, moving on..)

But this job sucked. It wasn't as good as the other pharmacy I had worked in. The store was dirty, and hadn't upgraded to the newer, more stylish layout that the other ones had. They still sold cigarettes, whereas most of this chain had stopped. It was at one of the crumiest malls in a town full of malls, and the customers stunk. Literally. To put it bluntly, the mall is in the middle of welfare district.

Let me tell you about the customers. Most of them came into the store to buy cigarettes and lotto tickets. In BC, we have this one lotto game called KENO, which runs every five minutes. The customer would pick their numbers then have 5-10 minutes to wait to see if their numbers won anything. Which, for most customers meant that they had just enough time to go outside and have a cigarette. Or, they could have a coffee at the doughnut shop across the hall. For others, it meant that they stood in front of the till and stared up at the numbers while we tried to work. And they'd make chit chat with us. Glorious chit chat.

There was this one guy. I have no clue what his name is. Let's just call him.. Billy Bob. Billy Bob was probably in his thirties or forties. He had stringy, shoulder length blonde hair and sometimes sported a scruffy beard. His t-shirts were often stained and ripped, and his blue jeans were often cut off into shorts, sometimes with the pockets hanging out beneath the cuts. Sometimes he wore his teeth when he was at the mall. Other times, he forgot them at home, and had a four tooth gap along the top.

He was a bit of a stalkier fellow, not fat at all, and was probably a strong guy, but by no sense of the word, was he attractive. He was one of the customers who played Keno. And smoked. And sometimes chatted with us. And hung out at the doughnut shop too. His average day was spent hanging out at this mall, often for my full eight hour shift.

I didn't always work the till. Sometimes, at slow times, I would face the shelves and stock. One day, while I was facing, Billy Bob came in to play his Keno. I was sort of close to the front of the store, so while he was standing there, I was pretty close to him and we chatted a bit. He asked me what my name was (at the time I knew his) and I sort of looked at him funny and said "I wear a name tag every day, see?" And I pulled it up and away from my chest so he could get a better look. "Corrine?" He said, after taking a hard look at the tag. "Um, no, it's C3lena." I replied. "Oh," he said. "That's a nice name. I don't read too good, so I couldn't quite make that out."

"Poor guy!" I thought to myself. After he left, I looked up the number for the local literacy group and wrote it down to hand to him when he returned.

When he did return, he sort of surprised me by asking me out. "Would you like to go to dinner and a movie with me some time?"

"Um," I stammered. "I actually have a boyfriend, but, thanks!" I lied. (Sort of, I was at the end of this two year on-off thing with a guy). And I noticed that he had forgotten to put his teeth in that day.

He looked a little embarrassed, but he was polite, and I was polite as well, and we carried on with what we were doing.

Later that day, I handed him the number for the literacy group. The other cashiers thought I was crazy, and thought I was just encouraging him. But I had a mission. Regardless of the fact that he was old, and slimey, and toothless, and had the nerve to ask me out on a day when he FORGOT HIS TEETH, he was a nice guy, and he was missing out on a whole world of great books out there!

He refused to take the number, saying that he didn't need to learn how to read, and I was crushed. For about 10 minutes. I still had a plan. The next day, I went to Value Village and bought a Stephen King book with four Novellas in it, and I gave it to him. "Here, I bought this for you. I really got into reading when I was twelve, and this was the author that got me hooked." He took the book from me and in a week had read 40 pages.

In the meantime, my job sucked. My manager was quite the witch. She had a daughter the same age as me, and seemed to think that she could treat me like a kid. Sure, granted, I was still a kid, but I had been working at various jobs for several years, and had been living on my own and paying my own rent for three years at this point. In my mind, I was a complete equal to everyone else in that place who held the same position.

One day, I was in the stock room and had been sorting stuff or doing something or other, when a message came over the intercom from the front counter. One of the cashiers needed a carton of cigarettes, and fast. My hands were full of garbage, and when Witch asked me to take the carton up to the front, I said "Sure, I just have to empty my hands!" and I walked a few steps away to a trash can.

"YOU don't walk away when I'm speaking to you!" She barked.

"I SAID, I'm emptying my hands!" I repeated louder so that she could hear me over the music playing back there.

I turned back to her and took the cigarettes at which time she yelled at me for turning my back to her and giving her attitude.

I was a bit shocked, and I can't really remember what I did at that exact point, but I took the cigarettes and walked them to the front of the store, then hid in the pet supply aisle while I cooled my jets.

After I cooled down a bit, I walked back up to Witch, and said to her: "You know, you don't have to treat me like a child. I realize that you didn't hear me over the loud music when I told you I had to empty my hands, and you took that as attitude, but I can guarantee that there would have been no way that you would have reacted the same way if Mindy or Barb had done the same thing." I started crying as I said this. Out of anger. Out of frustration. It's one of my weakest points. I will cry when I'm trying to be strong, and it just doesn't come across as very professional, which I knew at that point, which made me cry just that little bit more.

Instead of apologizing, Witch instead assured me that yes, she WOULD have treated the other, older cashiers the same way. Which I took as complete bull $hit. I quit that day. I gave my two week notice and started looking for another job.

Billy Bob probably didn't read any more after I left, but you can only help a person so much before you have to let them help themselves.

More to come...


Sarah said...

I exhort you to continue.

Pink Deysi said...

Yea! I am so excited you are starting with the life stories. I so enjoy reading them!

Erin said...

I cry too when I'm angry - and I hate it! It makes me feel weak. Good for you for standing up for yourself and trying to help Billy Bob discover the wonderful world of books. More, please!

Brian Lavery said...

Very entertaining and funny post. Great work!

CeCe said...

Sarah~Um, of course!


Erin~Glad I'm not the only one who cries! IT's so frustrating!


Hillary said...

You've got me hooked! I'm gonna go and read the rest now! Nice to meet another 'west coast bogger!' Are you in Vancouver?

(I found your blog via Christine at "welcome to my brain", who I jsut re-discovered recently)