We Gotta Stick Together

August 10, 2009 at 12:33 pm (Cussed Dumbers)

Working at a store downtown has its perks and drawbacks. I write about the drawbacks frequently, but there are a lot of upsides. I interact with a small army of service workers on a daily basis; we are brothers and sisters in arms. (As in “Hook your arm in mine as we walk through this patch of beggars.”) I interact with security officers, police, waitstaff, hotel people. We are the grease that keeps the wheels rolling.

I’ve been bouncing around the stores a bit, in addition to my usual spot. I’m picking up extra hours giving lunches, or stepping in to fill an extra-busy shift so the boss doesn’t have to pay two people. (One second while my feathers unpuff.) I worked the Waterfront last night. It was the last night of The Bite, much more fun to work than 4th of July or the Blues Festival. The Waterfront store is more yuppified than the other two stores. I deal with entitled types who demand I “Put that in a bag!” before they’ve set it down or paid for it. Hey! I’ve been doing this for thirty years. You’ll get your goddamn bag, but first?

“Ahem, price check on ‘CUM-GUZZLING GRANNY SLUTS’ please?” I love watching white-haired guys in Hawaiian shirts squirm.

Last night’s crowd was well-behaved. I only had one batch of shoplifters, that I caught anyway. The waiter at the bar had similar luck. As I stood on the train platform waiting for closing time, I saw the waiter chasing two well-dressed guys babbling inanities. There was a couple minutes of “But I thought you paid…” They coughed up some cash, but no tip. Dine and Dash happens in the upscale world too. I gave a commiserative smile to the waiter; he winked and smirked my way. I feel ya, my brother.

These are the same low-wage folks who cook your food and pour your drinks. Does anyone realize what an insult it is to leave three pennies on the counter, then walk outside and hand some dirtbag with a cardboard sign a ten-dollar bill? Yeah, we’re assholes because we won’t sell him beer or let him sit in front of the store, but at least *we* make an effort to earn a living. His dog is hungry because he spends all that dog food money on heroin. Thanks for making us feel a little more appreciated.

There are exceptions. I sell cigarettes and ice cream to a certain world-renowned musician, and he tips heavy for a C-store. “I remember waiting on the public,” he says. “I’ll share it while I have it!” He’d be a pleasure to wait on even if he didn’t tip. He’s given me all his CDs, expanding my musical horizon as well my coffee budget.

Of course, there’s the Girl Factor. My position exposes me to a bevy of hottie bartenders and waitresses. I memorize their names and what they smoke. During my weekend, I had an opportunity to meet up with one of the gals that works at a nearby department store. There’s a bar in between our respective jobs with a window to the world, and I took a spot with a front row view. She could drink and we could share stories about the neighborhood. She’s the girl that taught me how to beat the clunky plastic theft-protector on clothing using a lubricated condom. (If you find open condoms in a changing room, it’s probably not because people are gettin’ busy. Well, certain exceptions apply.)

The doorman allowed me in, though I told him I wouldn’t be drinking, and even though I’d once given him the bum’s rush at the store when he first started. (Still slowly making that up to him.) The waitress brought me water, refused the dollar tip I offered, so I stuffed it into her apron, a dangerous move if she hadn’t known me. “I’ll just go over to your store and spend it on candy,” she said.

No need. You’re sweet enough.

I passed a glance at another waitress, who smiled and waved. A few days earlier she’d came into the store in a panic. “Has anyone turned in a phone?”

I spied with my red eye an iPhone next to the store phone. Normally I would make the person recite the phone number while I dialed, and if the phone rang they could claim it. I took a chance and held it up. “Is this it?”

“OH THANK GOD!” She did a happy dance and probably would have hugged me if there weren’t ten customers and her jealous boyfriend watching. “Can I bring you something? Dessert? Buy you a drink for after work?”

I politely declined; just being neighborly. I felt slightly guilty for not giving credit to Sipowicz, the graveyard guy. He’s the one who found the phone and saved it. I felt a little more guilty when the waitress returned a few minutes later with a to-go bag/box. “Hope you like roast beef!” I opened it to find a Philly interlaced with pepper-jack and jalapenos, along with a small tub of homemade potato salad. Nobody was around, so diet-be-damned, I tore into it and got all but three bites down before a little old lady came in to cash in thirty lottery tickets. I stared at that last bite or two. Out of thirty tickets she won three dollars. Not even a thank you afterward.

I kept quiet about the sandwich. Getting between Sipowicz and a sandwich is like getting between a strip of bacon and my dog.

My favorite bartender from the Mothership is a tattoo-covered cutie that likes to wear thigh-high gym socks and Catholic girl skirts that go ‘up to there.’ Her presence leaves me in a state of bumbling horniness, and any time I find a pink Bic lighter I make sure it finds its way to her. The boss used to question why we would do an inventory transfer on one Bic lighter. Now he just sighs and says “Oh that boy.”

Anything for my nine o’clock sweetie.

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