It’s that time of the month…

April 25, 2007 at 11:59 am (Cussed Dumbers)

Yep, it’s the week before government subsidies come out. (Welfare, food stamps, Social Security, etc…) Everyone is broke in my work-neighborhood, and it makes for interesting times.

There’s the empty bottle factor. We get a lot of empties returned, (a nickel per bottle or can, in Oregon) and it’s a stinky, irritating mess. I’m all for the bottle bill in theory; I think we should have redemption centers, though. We have to store our empties in the employee restroom, and the incoming ones sit near the back-up cash register, next to the coffee maker. (That’s an appetizing smell, early in the morning.) The street people scavenge for them, and unload them on us several times a day.

“Change? Spare some change?” If you are one of those misguided souls who still gives the crackheads your loose coin, did you ever wonder where it goes? First stop- into my store, with a baggie about the size of a grapefruit. “Got some change for ya, my man!”

“Sorry, we don’t buy change.”

“What?” Obscenity obscenity etc… “The other guy does it!” Liar. Our bosses discourage this strongly, as it invites riff raff in, and we get bogged down in coin. (I had $30+ dollars in quarters at the end of my shift last night. And I was playing by the rules.) We will let you buy things with coin, of course, but you are not getting a six-dollar pack of smokes with all pennies. Sorry, dude.

The street hustle factor notches up as well. I hear a lot of yelling this time of the month, usually involving one person marching at a furious pace; and another being quiet and walking even faster. With repeated glances over shoulder. Burn!

I interact with street patrols all evening. Know them by first name. They stand around looking official when I have to ‘check on something in the office.’ (Aah, taking a leak can be a true joy in life…) Last evening, Old Town and the waterfront were jam-packed with intoxicated individuals. I had to cut off a few people, but one couple in particular come to mind:

At first, I think they are ‘special’. (We have lots of halfway houses and low income hotels nearby.) He’s scrawny, unshaven, and walking like he’s got some sort of palsy.The gal is a bit more together, but her lower lip is hanging down around her chin, and she’s got murky eyes. They wander to the back of the store, and come around to the beer cooler.

Now I understand…

She has to keep grabbing him by the belt, to keep him from falling into the cooler. They grab a six-pack of tall Pabst, and manage to get to the counter without falling or breaking anything.

The rules are stricter than that, unfortunately for them. I remove the sixer, and say, “Sorry, I can’t sell you any more tonight.”

Mister Scarecrow is indignant. “Why the fuck not?!”

“It looks like you’re had too much already, sir. Be careful going home.” I put the six pack on the floor behind the counter, and make eye contact with the lady. She’s pouting.

Scarecrow gives me stinkeye one more time, and gets a “Have a nice day!” in my best faux-chipper voice.

“What? We don’t get no beer?” Now Lady is getting upset.

“No, ma’am. Haven’t you been listening?”

Pout turns to snarl, and she asks me, “Who the fuck are you? Captain Nemo? C’mon honey.” They stumble out the door, and down the street.

And it only gets worse as the week goes on. Tonight, besides all that fun, I will be babysitting a hip-hop show and a drum circle. I’m cautiously optimistic, but have a feeling it’s gonna be one of those nights.

And if anyone out there knows why calling me Captain Nemo would be an insult, would you clue me in? I’m sure that’s how it was meant.

Then again, I’ll probably be called much worse tonight…

“Have a nice day!”

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