Training Day, and 28 Days Later

May 18, 2007 at 12:29 am (Cussed Dumbers)

Sorry, movie fans. This post is about neither film. But adding Denzel Washington fans and zombie film buffs to my reader base couldn’t hurt, right?

The workplace has been easy physically and tough mentally this week. I have been training a new guy, and I am about talked out. Tonight was the third night, and I hope to god he’s got it by now.

I hear both schools of thought regarding my job. On one end of the spectrum, “Dude, a trained ape could do your job! You take people’s money, and make change. That’s elementary math!”

Then there are the folks who come in when I’m confiscating stolen wine, or shouting down a panhandler, or being called a racist for watching shifty-eyed groups ‘shop’. Their comments? “Man, I don’t know how you can put up with this shit every day.”

It has its pains and rewards. I see a slice of life lots of people are insulated from. People who complain about the police don’t have to call them to save their ass on a regular basis. Many don’t have to learn to communicate, earn the trust of, and eventually befriend mentally ill street people who can’t handle shopping anywhere else. (Hell, big stores during rush hour freak me out.)

My crowd is largely African-American after hours, and I’ve been called most of the white racial slurs. Just last night, a black woman came in, ranting and spitting about the Quik-E-Mart competition across the street, who is of middle-eastern descent. After calling him all the usuals, she looks at me and says, “At least when I shop at The Grand Dragon, I know where I stand!”

Wow. A KKK reference. I smile at her and say, “Ma’am, I haven’t worn a sheet in a very long time.”

She falters, smiles ever so slightly, and says, “At least you have the balls to wear a motherfuckin’ sheet! That prick over there is a greasy lyin’ cheatin’…” She rants on a little more, then purchases her $1 lottery ticket with a $20 bill. Once she has change, she is out the door, to meet ‘the man’. No, not the cops. Well, maybe…

Without intending to, we enable the drug trade. No one ever can get it together enough to buy $20 worth of crack at once, so they break twenties repeatedly throughout the night. It’s a delicate line. We discourage the drug trade, and don’t sell things commonly used: Brillo, sandwich baggies. Grinder McV has been quoted in the media numerous times, when undercover reporters come in trying to buy ‘those little glass roses’. “We don’t sell crack pipes! Get out!” He’s got a mean screech, and it has been heard on Portland radio. (Hi, Marconi!)

At the last place I worked, with Chuckles, we sold roses and brillo. (The glass tube that holds the ‘rose’ is the pipe, and the brillo is a filter.) It was a self-preservation issue. If we didn’t have them, crackheads would snap off car antennas and use those.

In a way, we were providing a community service.

So why would anyone subject themselves to this torture and aggravation? Who knows, but when they are ready to try, Master P sends them to me, to show them what to do.

And that’s what I’ve been doing all week. Showing the new guy the ropes. He’s getting the mechanics down, but we haven’t had a lot of, um, personality conflicts yet. The criminals and mischief-makers know me by sight, and don’t even bother coming in. (Frequently I will see a face peek in the window, scream a disappointed obscenity, and move on. Yes!) Occasionally, I come out from the office and catch a miscreant trespassing. Without freaking out, I just say, “You’ve got to go.” They usually comply. If they don’t, I escalate the yelling and get a little red-faced. I move quickly for a big guy, and when I start charging, they start running.

The new guy is doing well. He’ll be on his own soon, then it’s sink or swim. I hold good thoughts.

Then there are the lifers, like me and Chuckles. Which leads me to…

Twenty-eight Days Later: The practical joke update.

Chuckles called me today, exactly 28 days after I’d loaned him The Crying Game. (See Chips and Evil Snickers, April 20, and The Hook Has Been Set, may 11.) I expected angst, cursing and turmoil. The joke’s on me.

“I’m sorry, I left your movie at home. Can I bring it Monday?” He was apologetic.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” I said. “Did you like it?”

“Hell, yeah, it was great! Kinda sad.”

Hmm. “Nothing weird, huh? You watched it all? What did you think of the black ‘girl’?

“Oh, heh. That was kinda weird.”

I was shocked, for the first time in a very long time. “Wow, dude. I figured you’d SHIT when things started flopping around. I am truly impressed.” A year ago, I would have gotten the silent treatment for at least a week.

We talked business for a while, then I had to get back to my trainee. (Who’s borrowed my copy of Pink Flamingos, but he knows what to expect…) I left the trainee to fend for himself with the graveyard guy, and booked for an early bus.

Unfortunately, a teenage girl in a pink miniskirt threw up all over the back of the bus, so I saved no time. We all had to get off and wait for the next one, in a dark spot in front of a funeral home.

Silly teenage girl. But I think she has the right idea; it’s a three day weekend, and the party is starting early at my house too…

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