Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bottles or Cans?

That was the question I asked instead of, "Do you want fries with that?"  You see, donuts and Wendy's aren't the only glamorous jobs I've had. I also worked part time in a liquor store. This was when The Engineer and I had just gotten married. I was teaching full time, he was going to school full time, and then driving pizzas in the evenings. Yeah, we hardly saw each other, and that was part of the reason I took the job. If he was going to be gone anyway, I might as well be making some extra money. We had our 1925 bungalow to remodel, and always more month left at the end of the money.

Virginia, the manager, rode a purple Harley, smoked like a chimney, and swore like a sailor. It was an interesting interview. She didn't care that I'd coached my own gymnastics team, or was a teacher involved in many committees, had volunteered for a summer as a youth intern at my church, or coached track. She looked at my painstakingly perfected resume. “I see you've worked as a cashier at two different fast food joints. That's good.” “Do you drink?” Yes. “So you know what cuervo is? It's a kind of tequila. Are you OK with math? Um, yeah. Guess she didn't notice the BS in math from CSU. “Alrighty then, I'm going to hire you.” Carol will train you.

Carol was a character. Four foot six at the very most, pushing seventy, big belly, and a bone-rattling cough. She also smoked like a chimney. And what she called iced tea and brought from home in a thermos was actually straight Scotch. We all pretended it was tea. She'd worked for Virginia forever, and was meticulous about everything. Even when completely drunk. We pretended not to notice that either. Her training of me consisted of showing me how to count change, and how to restock the shelves. Restocking was of course extremely difficult. If there was a bottle missing on a shelf, you put another one there. Of the same kind as was missing. Not exactly brain surgery. The counting of change was amusing to me, not just because the register already told you how much to give, but because she was so thorough in this training. “I'm showing you this in case you hit the wrong button on the register. Then you won't have to void it all out and start over.” I'm guessing that maybe Virginia had hired some non-math types in the past. But after completing several of her “test” examples, I was deemed worthy.

The rest of the crew was a mish-mash of folks. There was Bob, the four times divorced accountant-by-day. Steve, the electrical equipment salesman, Ray, a car parts salesman, and Janine, the flirt. All of us were there as a second job. (Never learned what Janine did when she wasn't with us...but we had fun speculating.) There were several others who worked the day shift, but we just passed each other coming and going, and I never learned much about them.

At first, I just worked Friday and Saturday nights until close, which by law was midnight. I tried to get there a bit early to guarantee myself the coveted spot of first at the drive-up. No one wanted to work the other inside register with Carol because she talked NON-STOP. And it wasn't much fun being the drive-up persons runner either, fetching from the front what we didn't stock in the back. It was much more interesting to people watch at the drive-up, and run the register.

We had quite the variety of customers. Soccer moms with a van full of screaming kids. (I think I'd go for the full pint of vodka if I were you. That half pint is probably not enough to chill out thoroughly.) Construction workers flirting like mad, kids trying to buy booze with painfully fake ID's. Business men buying wine, college kids buying kegs. And if they spoke no English and just appeared at the window with a grin, you had a pretty good chance that what they wanted was a six-pack of good ole American Budweiser (in cans) and a pack of Marlboro Reds. That was by far our most popular order. Jim with the semi of Bud had to visit us twice a week to keep us stocked.

But no tale of this adventure is complete without introducing you to $2.06. When I first started working there, I saw a chart on the wall labeled just $2.06, with sets of hash marks grouped together in circles. I was told that we had a special customer with an unusual habit. He'd pull up to our window multiple times daily, each time buying one tall can of Miller Highlife (shudder) and a shooter of Canadian Goose. The total of this purchase is of course $2.06. But in order to make sure we didn't sell him enough to kill someone with his tiny, red Honda, we kept track of how many times he'd visited each day. He was unfailingly polite, even when I'd say, “I'll have to see you tomorrow. You're done for today.” I always wondered what his deal was, and why he didn't just buy a case and a 1.75 liter bottle. He'd have saved a LOT of money. But perhaps he was fooling himself into believing he didn't have a drinking problem if all the ever bought was one serving. We speculated about his family situation. We spun scenarios of what could have led him to this point of sad existence. Regardless, he was a sweet guy. One time he even brought me an ice-cream cone. “Thought you might like a little snack. Sure is hot today.” I worked there a year and a half, and saw him daily, until the last few months. He just stopped coming in. Never found out what happened, but to this day, I hope he's OK, and got some help.

It wasn't a bad job. We worked hard, but there was still time for banter and pranks. When I finally quit, the owner told me that if I ever needed some extra cash, I could come work a couple of shifts. I think he wanted me because I was his fake ID champion. The incentive to card liberally was that he offered us $25 for each fake ID we confiscated. Not only did I make $175 extra dollars, I also saved his a#@ on two occasions. He gave me nice rewards when it was the police sting ID's that I nabbed.  And you can't beat the discount he offered employees.  That I miss the most.

1 comment:

Brian Miller said...

wow. i bet you met all kinds in that job..i hope Mr. 2.6 is ok as well...glad you cut him off when you could...