January 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm (Cussed Dumbers)

Boss Whitney is on indefinite medical leave, which means a major managerial position needs some ongoing attention. Dr T has been drafted to take over the Waterfront Store in Whitney’s absence, which means someone has to man the reins at *my* store, the Nightclub Store.

Uncle Cliffy now works days at my store. He’s been chomping at the bit to be called manager since I trained him a couple years back. We’ve had ongoing personality clashes, sparked by everything from him refusing to give me bathroom breaks to him throwing my jacket and backpack across the room in a frantic search for an obscure brand of cigarettes. (I now keep my stuff where I can watch it.) The most recent offense? I cut up an apple and had the pieces stashed on a shelf under the register, as I do every day. (Diabeetus.) He came up next to me, took a glove from a drawer and said, “This belongs to a regular customer, a hot little Italian thing that works around here. I’m going to give it back to her.”

He tossed the glove right on top of my freshly cut apple.

I plucked it up with thumb and forefinger and deposited it back in the drawer. I hope the dirty look made its point. My tongue was about to bleed.

I had a bad feeling when I heard we’d be working together again, but remained hopeful. The first week went smoothly; we did our jobs and left it at that. I questioned my opinion of him. Had I been too harsh in my assessment? At the beginning of the week I decided to make the best of the situation. We don’t have to be best friends to work together. A simple change of the guard and a see-ya-tomorrow would be just fine with me. However, Uncle Cliffy fancies himself a general in the army of men, and is becoming drunk with power.

The squirming began when he asked me, “So… Can I be part of this team?”

“I thought that’s what we were doing.” I cast a sideways glance and prayed for a customer. Please god?

Uncle Cliffy began, “I love Whitney, and I don’t want his job, but god forbid if he can’t come back and I become manager here? Some things are going to have to change, and I’m putting people on notice.”

Though I know what I *wanted* to say, I kept quiet and let him talk.

“I am a think-out-of-the-box kinda guy, and I’m always experimenting. We need to blah blah blah.-”

This is why I have the radio on. I can drift off to my happy place while people yak at me. I nod sympathetically every few minutes to let them know I haven’t tuned them out completely. (Someday I am going to make a “Psychiatry 5 cents” sign…) I let him yammer on, maintaining eye contact. As he switched from motivation to criticism, I felt my hackles rising.

“Honestly, I am appalled at how you people live around here. Did you see the mess in the back room? There are empty bank bags on the floor, where people have just tossed them aside. I swept a bunch of garbage out from under the desk. How hard is it to hit a trash can next to your leg?”

“I use the back room long enough to count the safe. I store my stuff on a shelf out of the way. I clean up after myself.” I felt cheap defending myself even that much.

“Well, I’m not going to be everybody’s fucking nursemaid. Everyone needs to clean every day. There’s no excuse for being a pig. Blah bla-”

I tuned out, getting angrier by the second as he proceeded to insult each of my co-workers by name, listing their faults. My ears perked and hackles went to full-boner status when he got to *my* employee evaluation. He said, “I like to read. I’m as lazy as the next guy. I enjoy staring stupidly off into space, pondering the universe, but you can do that while you’re moving around, stocking things. We need to do more than just sit around, staring at the wall!”

I remained calm. “Well, I see you’ve been busy remodeling my work space. I had to move these boxes of jerky out of the way, because where you put them? Every time someone leaves with a bag of groceries it knocks them onto the floor. Not appetizing if you like beef jerky. And these little tools I have stashed around here? I’ve had a lottery scratcher hanging from this spot for years, and the last three times I’ve replaced it it has gone missing overnight. Do you know anything about that?”

He looked me right in the eye, his inner turmoil showing. “I didn’t touch it. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Well, it hung there for three years until this last week. Guess I’ll ask Rumpole what he knows.”

He proceeded to list by rote every tiny chore we all do out of habit, making it sound like he was the Martha Stewart of Kwik-E-Marts. As Dr T says, “He’s gonna break an arm if he pats himself on the back any harder.” We’ve all gotten used to Uncle Cliffy working for five minutes and then spending twenty-five minutes telling you what he just did. Once again I got to revel in the glory and genius of the Sexual Intellectual.

The universe righted itself, a customer came in. I gave her my FULL attention, and Uncle Cliffy’s monologue trickled down to a drip. It must have occurred to him that no one was listening. He left quietly. I, on the other hand, had lasers for eyes and smoke coming out my ears.

My first instinct was to call Master P and ask for an audience, but it was too soon for that. I’d take my aggravations to Dr T. If nothing else he’d be a sympathetic ear, and I needed to vent some steam more than anything. I’d worked with Grinder for years without asking for a transfer; how long could it take for Uncle Cliffy to hang himself?

After stewing way too long, (overnight) I rolled in at the Waterfront Store. Dr T had finished his register duties and was doing office stuff while Dannyboy ran the till and myopic Lucy stocked the shelves. She wandered up to listen in on the gossip, heard a wide range of four, seven, ten and twelve-letter words that are not part of her usual vocabulary. She moved away. Dr T and I stepped outside where he could smoke and I could cuss like a muleskinner.

I loved the way Dr T took a step back and got this funny look on his face when I mentioned the bank bags on the floor. (Had Cliffy been standing there, he’d probably not have been standing there, and missing another tooth…) “Did he really say ‘staring stupidly into space’?”

“Yup, among other things. Said he’s gonna have a long talk with Rumpole and Roscoe as well.”

“He already ‘had a talk’ with Roscoe. He’s lucky Roscoe didn’t knock him out. Roscoe told him, ‘I’m a grown-ass man and you are NOT my superior, work or otherwise. Best stay away from me.’ I’m guessing change-over is a chilly thing to behold on Sunday morning.”

I cussed and vented a bit more, checking my watch. I tend to arrive fifteen minutes to half an hour early; not this day. I’m walking in on-the-dot.

Entering my store, I nodded and gave Uncle Cliffy a non-committal “Whaddup?’ He seemed surprised I wasn’t pouting like a baby. He looked at the clock. One minute til. Poi-fect!

As I counted in, he came up beside me and started talking. I tried to pay no attention, and after I started counting loose dimes for the fourth time it dawned on him that I would be done sooner if he’d just shut the fuck up. He did. I took an extra long time counting the safe. I looked around for something to throw away, but that had been taken care of the previous night. I’d put all of Dr T’s loose possessions in a labeled bag and tossed or hidden everything else. Blame me for being messy, motherfu…

I emerged, Cliffy took his till and a box of empty Coke bottles and attempted a juggling act on his way to the office. A loud crash and a symphony of breaking bottles and coin flying everywhere, followed by Uncle Cliffy muting cuss-words in an attempt to spare the elderly lady lottery player who left anyway. I suppressed a smile and went to help. I picked up quarters and left him the nickels and pennies. Soon he was on his way to the office, now minus the cocky swagger.

I set up my work space, getting things just so. I like to be able to grab things without having to look for them. I catch more shoplifters that way. As Uncle Cliffy returned from the office, Roscoe walked in holding a brown bag with grease spots soaking through.

Roscoe eyed my knife and apple and asked, “Are you hungry? For some damn reason I ordered two of these gyros, and it’s too much for me. I have to go cash my check. Enjoy!”

He plunked it on the counter, I thanked him and he left. Uncle Cliffy stood there blinking with a ‘Where’s mine?’ look on his face.

“Yum!” I said, setting the apple aside and tearing in. It occurred to me later that while Roscoe isn’t above gifting people he likes with nice things, there might have been some office politics involved in the timing. It was a most delicious sandwich!

A little while later, Dr T arrived. “Is it safe to come into this pig-hole, or does one have to pass an IQ test to visit here?”

“If you’re bringing food, I’m gonna sing you some Tina Turner: ‘We don’t need another gyro…‘” I told him about Roscoe’s visit, Dr T grinning ear-to-ear.

“How did it go otherwise?”

“He thanked me for cleaning up the office desk. All I did was throw away all his notes. It felt good…”

I’ve had a few days to cool down. I’ve talked with Master P; not about Cliffy but if everything involving my work performance is up to snuff? He reassured me, so I will be ready for any bossiness from Uncle Blabby’s camp. I told Elmo about our little snit, and now he’s busy renaming Uncle Cliffy Napoleon.

I’d forgotten Elmo has been bucking for management; this could get real interesting!

Alas, I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to benefit from the endless wisdom of Uncle Cliffy. Giggles is working day shift today. Woohoo! I’ll have nine full hours to stare stupidly into space…


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