It was a full moon, but we have those every month. It was the third day of the month, goofy check payday. Again, we have one every month. But it’s Rose Festival, and it’s the beginning of Summer. Stir it all together and whatdaya get?
I won’t share all the stupid shit that led to the first moment of my work day, but I was sorta-suffering from pulling my own tooth on the MAX the day before. (More on that later.) I had drank the last of my medicated vitamin water and popped a couple of Vicodin right before walking into work. I had Natasha as a co-worker until 6 PM, and Southie was getting ready to leave for the day. He was rattling off his laundry list of duties to be performed over the course of the evening.
I was organizing my cash register area when he walked in. Long gray hair pulled straight back into a ponytail, long Santa beard, maybe three front teeth, looked like he belonged on a bottle of vintage Mountain Dew. He carried a black garbage bag, talking and singing to himself.
I’d had problems with this guy numerous times. One night as I’d returned from lunch he fell in behind me and began cussing, talking shit. It was a rainy night, and as he diatribed, he hit a slick piece of sidewalk and landed with a crash. I turned and with a straight face said, “That’ll learn ya!” and kept walking. He hopped up in a hissing, spitting rage and cussed me all the way to the corner. Finally fed up, I locked eyes with him and began walking straight for him, like Jason does. He stopped talking and started walking. Cool. I took a right, and walked a block. Two blocks further, we crossed paths again. He startled, cussed me some more and began running. All the while cussing about Sarah Ferguson. I assumed he meant the royal one.
That was a couple years ago. I see him around, but we don’t hang in the same neighborhoods much. When he came into the store, I could have kicked him out, but I deferred to Southie. It probably won’t take this guy long to start acting up…
Hill-Billy addressed some nonsense toward Southie, who was giving instructions to Natasha. “He’s the clerk on duty,” Southie said, pointing at me. Goody. Southie went back to Natasha. Hill-Billy said something else nonsensical to Southie. Southie replied, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening.”
“You ‘saw my penis glistening?’WHAT KIND OF DISRESPECTFUL COCKSUCKER ARE YOU?” Hill-Billy was in a stomping rage.
“You need to leave,” said Natasha.
“SHUT UP, PUSSY!” said Hill-Billy.
“Clean up your act, asshole,” said Natasha, and threw a cup of water at him.
“Time to go,” I said, and began moving around the counter. Normally Southie would have taken the guy by the lapels and expelled him into the street, especially with a lady present. I guess he wanted to see me bounce the guy. Okay. I was visualizing Southie admiring Hill-Billy’s glistening golden penis and trying not to lawl. Straight face, straight face…
I saw why Southie didn’t want to touch him. A greenish white glob of snot covered most of his lower lip, and he was projecting spit three feet with every ‘p’. He stomped and ranted and raved, entering and leaving three times. “And another thing…” He got far enough outside that I pulled the door closed and locked him outside.
“Bye…” I said. Waved my fingers at him and pulled out my phone. He flipped me off and walked away. Then jaywalked across the street to the block’s other convenience store.
“Well done,” said Southie. Natasha was giddy at the chance to help a homeless guy take a bath.
It was the beginning of a long and irritating day, but I was no longer irritated by a loose tooth. That was yesterday. Yesterday’s medications were what was keeping everyone alive today…
“You’d think they would have stayed in school long enough to be able to read the instructions on their clothing labels. Hat placement befuddles, and he just can’t figure out WHERE THE PANTS ARE SUPPOSED TO GO!”
I was referring to the group of ne’er-do-wells rolling past the front of the Waterfront Store. My trainee giggled.”Aah, they must be The Biebers.”
“Can I have a cup of water?” She was 22. I would find out later when looking up her mugshot.
“No,” said Festus. He was the lunch person, and had been having a rough couple hours.
“I’ll show you my boobs for a cup of ice water.” She smiled at me.
“Go get a cup of water.” I shot a look at Festus that said, “I’ll handle this one…”
“Thank you!” She went to the soda fountain, asked which cup, etc… Festus went over in an attempt to be civil and pointed to the cups and water dispenser. She took the cup and went over by the door, talking to herself. She danced around, talking colorful nonsense. Customers came and went, giving her wary glances.
Festus left, and she smiled at me. “Can I have a muffin? I’ll show you my muffin for a muffin?” She leaned back against the Dasani cooler and lifted her shirt, pulled her sweats out, exposing a neatly trimmed bush. She pulled her vulva to and fro, covering up when a young woman entered the store.
There was a bag of Little Debbie’s donuts, expired by a month. I popped it open and bit into one. It was as fresh as brand new. (How do they do that?) “Would you like a donut?” I handed her the bag. She accepted, and it was gone in five minutes.
She made eyes with me, smiling, flirting. She explained how she arrived from California a few days ago, and her friends had ditched her in Gresham, and somehow she had ended up in downtown Portland without shoes. “Do you sell shoes? Socks?”
She removed the wet socks. Her sweatpants were wet to the knees, so she took those off as well, leaving a skirt-like garment that resembled the loincloth worn by Ron Ely’s Tarzan. She flitted and danced some more. I was drawing a crowd of homeless guys standing outside the store, watching through the window.
Eventually she put her pants on and got on the MAX. As she was leaving, she kissed me on the lips and thanked me for putting up with her, and for the donuts.
I tucked another $2 into her shirt pocket. “You still haven’t shown me your boobs,” I reminded her.
“Oh!” She unbuttoned her shirt, cupped one breast, then the other.
As she lifted her shirt, Little Buddy walked in. “Oh my heavens!” he exclaimed and turned to leave. “I see you’re busy.”
“Not any more,” I said as she ran to board the MAX. She blew kisses and smiles as the train pulled out and turned around the bend.
A $2 bag of Little Debbie’s donuts is one of the store’s best values. Some days more than others.
This week’s mantra: I love my job. I love my job…With the change of seasons and spring in the air, so comes the twists and turmoil of workplace blues. I think I will do a bit of ponderous bitching, so’s I don’t take it out on you, the customer.
Because these turmoils come from within.
Festus got rehired, fired, and rehired, all over the weekend. We did not get to that point without lots of drama and some hurt feelings. I am over being butt-hurt, but I haven’t stopped bitching yet…
I looked to the sky, watching hundreds of crows circle and group on the ledge of the building. (Note to self: Step back from edge of building.) The birds have been congregating near the waterfront, making news when 30-50 were found dead. Toxicology reports claimed pesticide. I think it was avian cirrhosis. Those fuckers find a patch of fermented plums or cherries and the party is on! You can hear them for days. It’s noisier than the smoking area of a Timbers’ bar after a win.
I watch the MAX platform between customers. “I like to see the trouble coming,” said one former co-worker. The problem is, you never see the trouble coming.
Officer Paul rolled up, “Your group of shitbirds was seen by the food carts, giving one of the Middle Eastern guys a hard time. The DA has said to make them a priority, we’re going for dis-con (disorderly conduct) and anything else we can tack on.”
One of the Clean & Safe kids walked up, said hello. “I saw your spotted owl in the park!”
“Which one? The one with wings, or the one with facial tattoos?”
Officer Paul laughed, “He has both…”
The call came five minutes after I’d taken over the register at the Waterfront store. It was Eva Braun, manager of the Mothership, and newly-appointed author of the weekly work schedule. “How you doink, Cholls?” She has the cutest accent, one of the few German women who doesn’t sound like she’s scolding you when she speaks.
Unless, of course, she’s scolding you.
“Fine, assuming the new position.” I’d been spending most of my time at the Nightclub store, my de facto home. A full week on the Waterfront? Someone was being punished, and it wasn’t me. “So, is this schedule an ongoing thing, or am I back to the Nightclub soon?”
“You, sir, are there for the duration, my friend. You can control the idiots…”
Oh, goody. I’m back to clean up the neighborhood.
Lately she has been sleeping in the doorway of the restaurant next to the store. When it opened, and they put out planted trees and faux shrubberies, she walked up and said, “My, I love what they’ve done with my living room!” She laid out her blanket and curled up on the sidewalk amid the cacophony of a busy downtown sidewalk and went to sleep. She’s been doing it for almost a year, and it had been going well. So well, in fact, others decided they wanted to sleep there.
Enter Swamp Thing.
Swamp Thing’s real name is Richard, and he is nice enough, but he belongs in a rest home drunk tank, not on a sidewalk at midnight. He wallows in his own filth, shits wherever he feels like, and doesn’t bother unzipping when all those dollar-coffees kick in. (Festus has his own nickname for Swamp Thing: Piss in Boots.) I never see him drinking alcohol, or I could have him busted, but he is usually inebriated to the point of immobility. He has decided that Carol’s spot is big enough for the both of them.
Carol is not of a like mind.
It’s been a few months since I’ve been a regular here. I’ve missed writing. I still create in my head, while other forms of social media have distracted me and fed the creative brain. I love Twitter, even if it’s turning into a non-stop barrage of ads and nonsense. I love the concept of micro-blogging, and the immediacy of news, if you know who to follow.
But I need to pop the ol’ diary open, and put down more thoughts. It’s been a good if not great year, and I want to remember the happier times…
…And their sons.
This one’s going to the dogs.
People ask how I tolerate the assholes at work? The mouthy tough-guys who run up to you like they’re going to hit you? If they can get you to flinch, they think they can bully you. I stand steely-eyed and ask, “What’s your point?”
See, if you walk a third-of-a-mile in my shoes, you get a lot of practice with sons of bitches giving you a bunch of attitude…
I couldn’t help but flash back to the South Park episode where Cartman pretends to be retarded to win the Special Olympics. Last night’s Petty Criminal of the Day wasn’t that stupid, but there were some fairly hilarious moments.
I was training one of many new people. Fortunately, they get indoctrinated by several folks before me, so I get to observe and refine, making sure procedures are followed, how to problem-solve alone, etc… It also gives me time to roam without having to run a register or pay much attention to shoplifters.
On the other hand, it also gives me plenty of time to watch for shoplifters…