Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Convenience Store Jerk

Chapter 4

Day 30

Wendy was not a manager, but she played one every day by talking down to us; which quickly put her at number one.

It didn’t matter how big earrings she wore, they never made her head appear smaller and the tight black pants made her ass look even bigger; so I wasn’t sure what the point was for repeatedly wearing those either. She actually seemed like at one time she was a nice gal, but I’m guessing after working at convenience stores and truck stops for over 6 years as she bragged; had had a negative effect on her …given I was already suicidal after only four weeks.

Her ‘notes’ she would put in the ledger next to the registers every night though were “unacceptable” and “just plain rude” I complained and others soon agreed. I was shocked to hear she’d been doing this for almost a year and no one had busted her on it yet; so when I began openly calling her notes “absurd and a slap in the proverbial face”; my attitude toward her was contagious. Soon Tim had developed a serious dislike for her, Layne already had hated her, but he was gone and so too had Jackara who once even hit her, I heard.

Joanne became an ally in hating Wendy and before long even laid back Eric and Shawn were sick of her too. But when I egged Tim on to write:”You’re not a manager” in the book under her last note, he took it one further and added the word ‘bitch’ at the end in black permanent marker which bled thru several pages deeper, and as luck would have it sent her into the next hemisphere when she read it causing her to quit several minutes after doing so.

“Oh shit”! I said when Joanne told me what happened.

Thankfully Tim in all his juvenile wisdom was at least bright enough to destroy the ledger so no one could know exactly why she quit, but she did and all was rather quiet for a few days following it; so no real complaints from ‘the crew’; especially me as I’d now seen more people lose their jobs in a month than any I’d ever been on before…and began thinking I was a bad influence perhaps.


What eventually managed to push me closer to the edge wasn’t so much what others did or said, but that I was standing behind a convenience store counter of my own fruition to begin with. I mean shit, I’ve lived in NY, Miami, and LA, I’ve worked in Texas, Chicago, and Georgia; and now I stand before total dipshits selling them tobacco and beer and potato chips and gum.

“ %#@*”

I could have saved myself a world of misery to get to this place had I just settled for what was inevitable in my life anyway and walked the six blocks from my parents’ old house and taken a job at the frickin 7-11 I visited first when I about 8 years old.

Yes my mind began saying things to me and none of them were good.


While I’ve always been a fan of classic rock, thanks to this damned job an its’ incessant MUSAK I’ll no longer turn up Hendrix, Heart, or the Beatles songs ever again as long as I live, and when that $#@* Santana song comes on it’d be best not to be within gun range if I happened to be holding one.

Wayne to his credit changed it without permission for about a full week to a more hard alternative station, but the profanity drove a few older customers to complain. Though when they changed it back and that damned Santana song played again for the fifth time in a single shift, I made up for it ten-fold by some cursing of my own from across the counter...

“I hate this Mother %#@*& song”!


Until working there I’d only had limited exposure to the majority of folks who lived and worked in Bozeman, given I either slept all day or went hunting or fishing; and never really worked since I arrived. Now though I was front and center and began to realize there are all sorts here too; and its uniqueness quickly faded.

While I’d had this misconception it was all wealthy homeowners and college kids, my exposure to the dredges of the city left me thinking nowhere was immune.

There are just as many filthy red necks here as in the south. There’s crack heads, and dope fiends, and the infamous hippy “caregivers” who provide the necessary juicy buds to the thousands of local “patients”; whose only ailment is they like to smoke a lot of pot.

There’s as much a tattoo fad here as anywhere I’ve ever seen and young kids come in daily covered in the things beyond anything tasteful or even an extreme biker or gang banging convict might adorn themselves with.

They all smoke cigarettes and any assumption the countries’ population is slowing down or quitting tobacco is way off the mark as I sell thousands of dollars worth of it every shift and if we didn’t provide it I’m certain our customer base would drop by 90%. Young and old folks are hooked. A pack a day is standard and some get two, while others get a carton at about $50.00 a pop. The usual though is a pack of Camel Lights (or Blues as we now call them, since they’re not lighter of anything deadly), a case of Budweiser, and a can of Cope.

I suggested we just wrap up this package in some sort of pre-pay deal and start a local delivery service; where we leave it on folk’s doorstep every evening at 6 o’clock sharp; to avoid having to deal with them coming in every single day. I would have loved this service back when I drank a six pack a day...for the past 20 years.

This at least would save me carding 30 year old dudes and women no longer flattered by such things and instead highly insulted especially when they don’t have theirs on them and we can’t sell the items they need; pulling them away from their needy claws and placing them behind the register.

“The Sting”- It’s what we’ve all been lectured on and even had to watch a stupid video about. Apparently there’s a grant of some sort that each town has and is designed to set-up convenience store losers to fall even further when they’re fined for not carding folks who are clearly of legal age. “Under 26” were told; “if the guy or gal looks under 26 we should card them for smokes” Wendy, who thinks she’s a manager says daily to me, even though I blow her off and say “I don’t care”.

This of course infuriates her and she made a note about it (about 48 hours before she quit). Instead I’d developed my own tactic to avoid having to card everyone, by simply verbally threatening young folks across the counter from time to time I thought might be stinging me if they’re “secret shoppers”, as they’re sometimes called. I’d often add:”I don’t need this stupid job”; even though I kinda did. I’m not sure if it worked, but I was never stung while I was there which is remarkable since Eric was stung twice in one weekend and Layne had been stung without carding three times last Spring.

Worse than all of the above though belongs to the handful of folks who come in daily, often times multiple visits per day, and buy their poor malnourished kids ice cream and candy with their EBT food-stamp card and then whip out wads of cash for beer and cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets; which they scratch right in front of me on the counter and hand back when they have ‘a winner’ and make me serve them up another, and another, and…

“You sorry mother #%@*!”

Then there are the old ladies or retirees who I almost hated as much. If I saw a grey hair coming toward the register I quickly threw out my ‘next register’ sign and took my break as I know it’s gonna take 15 minutes to do a simple transaction. The old farts always pay in nickels dimes and pennies, or worse they’ll have coupons and then wanna pay with a check and get back $10.00 cash; which always screwed up my register later as I’m not very bright and ring the shit up wrong every damned time.

Meanwhile the line forming behind them of angry cash carrying dudes who just want their beer and Skoal Pouches, is increasingly eyeballing me while I stand their pointing at the hag in front of me who at the last minute as I’m handing her back her change says:”..Oh wait I have 9 cents, can you give me back..”

“No now beat it”. I tell them, never letting them finish.

Then there’s the tobacco we carry specifically for one or two customers and no one else ever buys, but to provide a good local service to those few addicted to this brand and no other; we have “the Virginia Slims Purple pack” and the stupid bitch has to point me in the right direction every other day when she comes in, or the gal who gets a carton of Salem Lights then writes a check for them and wants 10 bucks back so she can buy four scratch offs.

“mother %$#@*”!

Or the old dude who buys “Camel shorts soft pack” and is the only guy in Montana I’m told by the vendor - who smokes them so we have to carry them; which of course when we’re out he blows a $#@% gasket right there in line and I just stand there mocking him saying:”...Are you suuure you don’t wanna try some of these new Marlboro Smooths, we have on sale” waving them slowly in his old face.

We carry only two flavors of Winston’s and two Parliament, both regular and lights, but Marlboro comes in no less than 30 kinds to kill oneself and not only flavors, but different sizes which I still don’t get but think is more to simply give those addicted the ability to piss off convenience store clerks who eventually quit because they get infuriated when they hand a bitch 72’s instead of 27’s, or American Spirit Blues or Yellows for ‘mediums’;...when every smoker knows “it’s the light green pack”.


By the fourth week on the job I’d finally learned how to cash-out while being within a buck or two of the figure the register said'. This momentous occasion was cause for some celebration on my part; as I was convinced, and I think the rest of the crew was too, that this day might never happen.
On at least one occasion out of the past 30 I even came up with zero; though have no idea how that happened.

“Being under is of course really bad” I was told and if I continued to do so I was also reminded I’d “be written up or fired”. That I could understand as it meant I clearly was an idiot, or else I was stealing and not bright enough to hide it; as I suspected others were doing.

The first two weeks I tried it I was consistently under by roughly $30.00 and while most of these were simple errors and discrepancies and the money was there, but just recorded wrong; on at least 3 occasions I was clearly off by 20 bucks and it wasn’t in my drawer or safe.


I began to think Tim or Layne might be taking advantage of my stupidity and grabbing a few bucks figuring it would simply be ignored as ‘a new guy in-training’ type error. I only thought this because I would likely do the same if the opportunity presented itself. Unsure whether it was them or me, I began keeping about 20 bucks worth of my own money in ones and fives in my pocket ‘just in case’; and mentally told myself it was job-insurance for being a dumbass all my life when it came to simple math.

Two days after I thought I’d had it mastered, I came up “$82.00 over”...and while I thought that was good, apparently it’s not.


When I get truly depressed I play the Lotto. I know there’s simply no way on earth I’ll ever win Powerball, but purchasing a ticket on several occasions, has been the only thing keeping me from ending it all; …that ‘possibility’ that the ticket in my pocket might be the Jackpot. It’d be my luck I’d die and they find out this afterward of course, so I always wake up and go see if I’m right or not. And of course I’m instead greeted with the words: ‘Not a Winner’; which is a lovely way to start any day.

It really became bad though when I was working the evening shifts as the drawing was near and the deadline was 8PM folks would come in scrambling to play just in time before the machine said ‘no’. It was amazing how much some idiots would spend and while a few played a single ticket or two, the majority played over $20.00 and some even around $60.00 twice a week.

The one thing I was a sucker for was that odd ticket Tim or I had accidentally printed out when someone asked for something different, and we’d place this one right on the machine in the hopes of selling it later to correct our error, but it always bugged me to see it up there and after a few minutes I’d reach over and sell it to myself.

It never worked of course, but gave me hope I’d make it thru the end of each shift without killing Tim or Wendy or Eric or...



Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Convenience Store Jerk

Chapter 3

Day 21

Even though I specifically asked Tim not to call me a nigga he continued to do so daily. Usually it was just a cordial “what’s up nigga?”, but on occasion he’d modify it to “Ah shut the %#@*up my nigga please”.

As white as they come and having likely met neither in his life, except maybe a customer or two; for whatever reason Tim for a few days even called me: “a Jew”.

I’m not sure what prompted that, maybe it was something the young man had seen on TV the night before or in reference to the Mel Gibson tapes, but he was relentless and later while I was on my hands and knees in the cooler - sorting Snapple Ice Tea and restocking Tomato Juice - I heard one of the glass doors open briefly and a quick:”what’s up my Jew?” before he slammed it shut and I just sat back against the PowerAde display and wept.

I’d fallen far. Further than I could last recall in life and wasn’t inclined to get back up until my ass was nearly frozen to the cooler floor, else I’d still be sitting there right now.


Though only 18 Tim had higher hopes than simply working at a convenience store the rest of his life; even though I quickly pegged him as doing just that. Instead he said he intended to be a fly fishing guide someday. While I initially took to him and began talking about the subject much more from then on, I soon realized he had no idea how to fly fish; even less so than me.

And after about two weeks of his’ juvenile nonsense I quickly amended my hit-list and moved him very close to the top.

“At least you got the pot smoking and heavy drinking down pat, but first time you call a client a Jew who is a Jew or a nigga; I think your’ tips gonna be a little short well as your guide career.”

“..Wha’d you just say to me nigga”?

Tim wasn’t the only idiot I still had to work with, here we had “a crew” of them…meet Eric…Who’s language skills, though he claimed to be former Navy and had just “kindof graduated college”; left something to be desired, considering he too was of the medical ‘green card’ carrying kind (pot smoker).

“AWSUM” ...The UM vanity license plate said it all when I finally saw it, his faded green Subaru parked next to my truck.

Missoula, Montana – the ‘it’s awesome capitol of the world’ second only to ‘pass it over here'...

It was by far the most accurate vanity tag I’d ever seen, as the guy said it at the end of every sentence or phrase without the slightest bit of sarcasms. You could say:”go clean the bathrooms Eric” and he’d say:”awesome”. While it should have entertained me or even pleased me I could pass off the mundane tasks to this idiot; instead I found it annoying and was wondering who would be the first to die.

“Whatever you’re on I want some” I told him about a week after we met, but then changed my mind when I saw how hippy he was. All the “right ons” and “no worries” after everything that’s not right-on, or when someone ‘should worry’; wears on a man after a while.

“Dude, did your fiancĂ©e leave you because you said everything was ‘awesome’ maybe.”

...I can hear it now: ‘I’m having my period.’…”That’s awesome!”...’You %#@* infuriate me and I’m leaving your dumbass..!’…“That’s awesome.”

“It’s no wonder you spent 2 years hating women after she left you playing World of War craft and wanting to kill yourself”.

What started out as a good razzing I'll admit got quickly outa hand. I'm not sure where it came from but might've been from working the same repetitive shift with Tim calling me "nigga" that drove me to do the same.

Making fun of this poor sap became a sport for me, and though it made the afternoon go by faster; it weren't without its risks since he mentioned the word ‘sniper’ as often as how “awesome the 40 oz. straws were compared to the shorter ones’...”

Sadly, in retrospect, Eric was the most normal one of us all, myself included. He was entering post graduate-school, whereas the rest of them had long since decided against such things and I even had to finally ask what that was; …having always wondered.

In fact there are very few jobs in Bozeman where you won’t find college kids willing to work, but convenience-stores are one of them. It probably has to do with some embarrassment along with a heavy dose of your’ coworkers being either juvenile delinquents or 42 year old jerks, or ‘former crack heads’.

...Which brings us to Shawn the Loser who faithfully works the 5AM till 1PM shift, lives in the trailer park not 500 yards from the store itself, and walks to work as he's had 7 DUI's in the past 4 years.

Shawn likes to brag he: “used to be a cracker” in reference to a not too distant past as one of the more popular local meth heads – daily visits from a dozen current users and their’ frequent friendly banter is testament to this fact.

Shawn Hughes is the quintessential convenience store employee; long ponytail, full sleeve tattoos, pierced eye brows (and no manager dares tell him to take them out), his Marlboro cough has likely plagued him since age 11 and can be heard hacking up a loogie within the walk-in freezer and all the way across the store. Where he eventually spits this loogie is anyone’s guess...

Shawn is also a total spastic and is often seen leaping over the counter instead of walking around it, he’ll run full speed from one end of an isle to the other and toss items at you when you’re not looking often connecting with customers’ heads for a “price check” which he doesn’t yell, till the item has already reached his’ intended target.

While his antics would normally drive me insane, he is actually one of the few bright lights of working there at all. The guy had me in tears most days and I laughed and smiled nearly every minute we were on the same shift.

He once explained his unexpected energy burst were aftereffects of his past drug use and he “wasn’t always so hyper”. I’d never before had much dealing with anyone who had past drug use besides myself who tried to explain his faults on a certain substance, but I liked hearing it and wished I’d done more crack when I had the chance as then I could use it as an excuse for the past 20 years of on-the-job misery I’ve experienced; though alcohol is a close second.

Tim on the other hand held no such charm with me past the first few weeks. After that he was just an angry kid. A relentless insulter and pot smoking punk he on several occasions bowed up with fists clenched and yelled “what did you just say mother #@%*?” as if he wanted to take a swing at me.

I have this affect on people I’ll admit so it wasn’t entirely his fault, but the thought of fighting an angry 18 year old high school dropout in front of customers behind the counter was something I really wanted to avoid if at all costs; as the outcome would likely be murder before all was said and done and I wasn’t too sure I’d be the winner.

Once it had reached a crescendo over something as trivial as ‘who was gonna bag ice versus work the till’ and his calling me a nigga had reached a point if he said it again I was convinced my head would actually explode; I let him have it by saying:”Look Timmy I’m old enough to be your father and I don’t wanna hear another word about it!”

This remark had an effect on him I wasn’t too sure might not require a call to 911. The boy boiled over his face as red and bright as if I’d punched him already; he ran from behind the counter and into the cooler where I heard large boxes of what would later turn out to be about $100.00 worth of Pepsi products, some milk and few crates of eggs around till he eventually came back out exhausted and shivering.

The idiot had his tantrum and it was a bloody mess too so I held zero sympathy for him, though covered his back a bit when things turned up missing in ‘last weeks’ dairy-order?’

It was sad but true and needed to be said; though didn’t make me feel any better. At 42 and he at 18 I could very easily have been his father and even though he was somewhat brighter than me at running a cash register and counting out his till at night, I later reminded him too that:”You just got out of grade-school so this shits fresh in your mind; hell I’ve been out working for 24 #@%* years”?!

Mentioning he’d recently dropped out of high school was not a wise follow-up and he ran into the cooler again.


“If Wayne shows his scar to one more customer I think I might puke?” Joanne said.

Joanne was blessing in disguise. A large Native American with a great pair of tits and scathingly sarcastic; she always brightened my day when I saw she was my coworker for a certain shift. What she was referring to at the time was the nasty two foot black and purple one situated between Wayne’s pierced nipples and ending somewhere below his pant line.

The same nasty thing I alone had seen him display three times, along with slipping off his shoe to show us the stub where he “lost half his foot in a work-related injury last summer in Oregon”.

This left him “1/3 disabled” as he also mentioned in the same breath, and thus forever capable of gaining all the attention in a room (or busy convenience store), by lifting his shirt and showing off his giant purple scar; which inevitably creeped out even many of our creepier customers. Worse still he would often follow this up by relating the ‘gruesome story of how he lost his foot in the first place.’

It also left him loaded with “a hefty settlement”; which he referred to as often as his’ scar and foot - by talking in detail about his’ matching purple Corvette parked cockeyed out front; …customers of course ‘couldn’t help but notice.’

Apparently the surgeons decided to take bone or muscle from his abdomen to replace his lost toes so he could walk again; though I was convinced they’d ‘borrowed muscle from his brain as well’; as it would explain a few things.

Even though I heard the bloody story four times in all, none of it made sense to me but then I was too busy selling convenience store shit to convenience store idiots who actually shop in these overpriced beer and food-traps. The height of laziness is to see folks come in after work and throw down 3 x what each item we sell is over the Albertsons Supermarket down the street.

It’s almost fitting they should then be punished for doing so by being shown Wayne’s 2 foot long nasty scar every other day and hearing either about his new $7,000 car stereo system or in gory detail how the idiot lost half his’ foot in a job-related work injury last summer in Oregon.


Layne had once said: “If I smoked ciggarettes I’d get an hour break per day; one smoke-break every halfhour over the course of 8 hours, plus our usual 20 minutes; But because I don’t and I'm smart, I get 15 at best...!”

He “was right and it’s not fair” I argued, but no one listened since it’s universally understood: ‘if you work at a convenience store or manage one you must smoke’.

I missed Layne. My amateur legal advice to him had apparently not turned out as I’d expected and he was fired for even mentioning he might sue.

I think we made friends initially when I told him I used to live on Crow; then followed it up by asking if “a coup’ could be considered scoring some pussy?”

“You are one crazy mother %$#@*!” he told me a few weeks later, and I began to wonder how that would have sounded in ‘his native language’ some hundred years ago;…whence an Indian on the plains of Montana met his first great white drunk …(an ancestor of my own perhaps).

Now with Layne gone, and Jackara (who was apparently white) also fired for threatening legal-action; my hours had changed and I had little hope of avoiding Wendy ...who was without a doubt the most annoying bitch on planet earth.