In case you're wondering, that's a.m., as in the morning. A surprising twist: Iíve already been to bed. I had a dream about my shitty retail job, and it was so bad that it woke me up. Thatís how you know youíve picked winner employmentówhen you donít give a damn about the well-being of the company, but itís still so miserable that itíll wake you up at three in the morning.
In all fairness to my shitty retail job, there were coyotes in my dream, and even back during my Circuit City days (the worst of all shitty retail jobs), I never had to deal with coyotes. Wolves, vultures, pigs, and cocks (in a metaphorical sense, of course), but never coyotes.
I tried going back to sleep, but after about half an hour, I knew it wasnít going to happen. To keep things fair, I should also mention that I went to bed pretty early last night, and getting more than four hours of sleep probably scared my body or something. Like, ďHoly smokes, he hasnít opened his eyes in six hoursóhe must be dying! Wake Ďim up! Wake Ďim up!Ē
I donít remember much about the dream, and what I do remember isnít coherent enough to write about. But I figured that since Iím up anyway, and since itís because of my shitty retail job, I should do a little writing about it. Not much, because it really isnít that interesting, but I figured I could give you a taste of what I deal with on a day to day basis.
I tend to work mornings. Stupid shifts, where you go in before the sunís up, and the only car in the entire strip mall parking lot is the poor bastard at the bakery a few spots down who has to come in to accept the food delivery each morning.
The reason I have to go in so early is to stock the shelves. This is a long, tedious process that I wonít get into. The point is, I have to make many trips from the floor to the stockroom and back. Which means passing the bathroom.
Now hereís the thing: a huge percentage of our customers have kids. And they bring them into the store. And then the kids need to piss. Always.
If youíre like me, you donít know much about kids, and you prefer it that way. But hereís something I know both because of my sisterís stories (she has three kids, all of them boys) and from my experience working lousy jobs over the years: little boys canít aim for shit.
Or piss, as it were.
And hereís something you might not know even if you do have kids: kid piss is cumulative. You ever been in a day care center? They almost always smell like piss. This is because no matter how much you scrub, kid pee doesnít ever really go away. Little boys go in there, pee all over the place, and you can clean and clean, thereís going to be residue. And then the next little boy goes in and does the same thing. And the next little boy. And the next. And the next.
You get the idea.
The restroom smells awful, is my point. When I stock, I have to walk by that restroom over and over, and each time, I hold my breath. As I think we all know, I drink a lot. I donít generally drink enough to get hangovers, but if you have even a hint of a hangover and you get a whiff of concentrated kid piss, itís all over.
So Iím walking by the other day, holding my breath, and once I get into the stock room, I begin breathing again. And I catch a whiff of somethingÖwell, itís not exactly pleasant, but itís not terrible, and itís enough to cover the smell of urine.
Hey, they must have finally smartened up and got some air freshener for the bathroom, I thought. Like I said, it wasnít pleasant, but compared to piss, it wasnít too bad.
I continued to work.
What I have failed to mention is that thereís a little desk in the stockroom where the managers sit and do whatever the hell it is they do in the mornings. As I stocked the shelves, one of my several bosses sat at the desk doing her thing.
And then she came to talk to me.
As she approached, the bathroom air freshener smell got stronger. And stronger. And stronger. Until it was so overpowering that I thought I might gag (this was sans hangover, I should mention).
It was her perfume.
Because my brain is always looking for new ways to get me in trouble, it instantly came up with the nickname Urinal Cakes. And then it did a find/replace kind of thing in my memory. I should mention that Iíve had a hard time remembering this womanís name since I started working at this place. Any chance I had of ever getting it right went up in smokeóalong with a few of my nose hairsóas she stood there beside me talking about who knows what.
I had to stock babies the other day. Like dolls, you know? ďMulti-cultural,Ē is how they describe the dolls, I think. They have little white babies, they have black babies, they have Asian babies, and they have Hispanic babies.
So I wrote down how many of each I needed, and I headed back to the stockroom. It was just an inventory thingóprobably we had sold out of one before the truck order went through, so they ended up on the needed-inventory list, and then sold some other kinds afterwards, so they didnít make it onto the list. Something like that, probably.
I went back to the baby section. One white baby. One black baby. One Asian baby. Eight Hispanic babies.
That might be regional hilarity, I don't know.
They have these rugs for sale. Big-ass rugs with all kinds of stuff on them. Some of them have the alphabet and colors and numbers. Some have shapes. Some have little roads and buildings, so that kids can sit there and drive their toy cars around on them. Stuff like that.
To display these rugs, the company just puts them on the floor. Itís kind of clever, actually, because they have these little play areas, with these rugs, and all these different toys out for kids to play with. So you can come in, and instead of having to fuck around with keeping your child under control, you just say, ďHere, why donít you stay right here and play with the kitchen stuff.Ē
For some reason, this seems perfectly acceptable. You ever want to nab a bunch of children, my job would be the perfect place. I guess the mothers figure that since there are like eight kids there, it kind of constitutes a park or something, I donít know. For some reason, they figure their kids are fine without adult supervision.
Anyway, the rugs.
We have to tape them down. Especially the sides and corners, because if you have even a little bit of it sticking up, you can be damn sure that some idiot kid is going to trip over it and bust ass. As hilarious as this seems, itís apparently not good if a company likes to avoid lawsuits.
So we have this double-sided tape stuff that we use to hold the rugs down. Hooray. But for some reasonóa reason I cannot figure out no matter how much I study on itóthe carpet does this weird squeak thing if you step on a corner that has this tape.
I learned this quickly, and generally dodge the corners if at all possible. Because it sounds like a fart, you see.
The other day, I was rushing around, trying to help a customer or some such bullshit, and I wasnít paying attention to where I stepped. A couple paragraphs up, I said if you step on a corner, it squeaks. Thatís not entirely accurate. Itís more of a ďphootĒ sound. Like a quick fart that escapes when you donít know even know you have to fart. The kind that always seems to pop out when youíre laughing in front of a pretty girl or at a job interview.
Iím walking by this customer, and I step on the rug, and it makes the phoot sound, and out of the corner of my eye, I see her look up, and I think, Dammit, she thinks I farted.
You might not know it, but I have been raised to feel that farting is pretty much the most despicable thing a person can do. Aside from sex. The sex thing, I got over, because, you know...I had it. Like, ďSex is dirty and evil and horrible.Ē And then you put your dick in someoneÖďDirty and evil and horrible is awesome!Ē
But I was programmed to think that farting is awful and humiliating, and as much as I try, thatís some programming I just canít get over.
As soon as I stepped on the carpet and saw the lady look at me, I knew I was going to have to do something to rectify the situation. Because Iím super clever, I thought, Iíll just step on the rug again on my way back, making sure she sees that I stepped on it, and when it makes the exact same sound, sheíll understand what happened, and both of us will be greatly relieved.
But if that plan had worked out, Iíd hardly be writing about it, would I?
I stepped on the rug. It made the awkward phoot sound. But what I hadnít planned on was that my shoe would also squeak. What ended up happening, through some acoustic miracle, is that it sounded exactly like the hugest, nastiest, wettest fart ever. And realistic? Heck, man, if I hadnít been so focused on not farting, I might have thought that I really had let one slip.
I was horrified. Of course.
I turned to see if she had heard. She had. Of course.
And I looked guilty as hell. Of course.
I wanted to tell her that it was the carpet, that it was my shoes. But that would have just made things worse, I think.
Instead, I walked away, ashamed and amused, knowing that this incident would someday show up on The Strangelands.
But then, as I walked away, I heard her sniff. One of those deep sniffs, like when you walk into a house and you realize that someone has just made chocolate chip cookies.
I glanced back, and saw that this time, she was the one looking all guilty and ashamed.