The other day Zoe came home from her last day of school, ran up to my office, whipped out her work permit that she had obtained that morning and set about the business of googling her brains out, trying to find local businesses to hire her for the summer. She also tied up the phone line for approximately three hours by calling all the businesses she had googled. This would have been fine if I hadn’t been engrossed in my work three inches away from her as it was a bit irritating to be constantly interrupted every couple of seconds by “how about this one?” and “I’ll try this place” and “can I do some roofing?” only to be privy to her disappointment as she very loudly bemoaned the fact that “no one will hire me, it sucks being fourteen, and HOW AM I EVER GOING TO GET A VERIZON PHONE NOW?” Because the reason Zoe wants to get a job so badly is not to obtain a skill or save money for college or a car, it’s so that she can afford to text her friend two feet away from her to determine whether they should watch National Treasure I or II and whether her shirt is simply amazing or the pits.
This got me to thinking about my own work history so I thought I’d regale you with another episode from Andrea’s Employment Records and seeing as how I already told you about my days working at Cavages Record Store and shaking the vitamins off GNC’s wall, I thought I’d pick up where I left off.
It was time to move on to bigger and better things so when the opportunity to become Assistant Manager at Shed House came my way, I was all over it. Shed House was directly across from Cavages so I could still wave to and yell at my friends, it paid $0.15 more an hour, and they only sold mens’ jeans which meant the likelihood of coming into contact with members of the opposite sex was pretty high.
I was excited as all get out to be hired as Assistant Manager right off the bat and because I had no idea that the only qualifications for the job were to be vertical and be breathing, I thought pretty highly of myself for jumping up the corporate ladder so quickly. Who remembers Shed House? The thick heavy barn doors that opened up to red and blue carpet with hundreds of cubbies lining the walls from floor to ceiling, filled with every type of jean known to man, including basic, bootcut, Levi 501 button fly, acid washed and stone washed? Guess who filled all those cubbies? Me. To the tune of $3.85 per hour, a half hour lunch, 10% discount, no health benefits and a set of keys to the barn doors because I was Assistant Manager. I was almost drunk on the power.
The cardinal rule at Shed House was that nobody except a Shed House employee could take jeans from a cubby. Even if the cubby was at eye level or near the floor and easily accessible to the average person, that average person better not touch the jeans because his hand would be cut off and whisked away to Moe at the deli down the mall to spice up their daily meatloaf special. So no matter how convenient it would have been to just grab your size and go, you had to ask an employee, specifically me, to grab them and hand them over to you. And if you asked nicely, I’d get them for you with no problem, and if you were cute, I’d get them even faster and if you were single, I’d get you three more pair at the same time and if you were all of the above, I’d throw myself at you and tattoo my phone number on your forehead. But if you were in any way, shape or form rude or dismissive with your request, I’d take the scenic route from the register to the cubby and get your jeans when I damn well felt like it and if you even thought of being cocky and making a grab for them yourself because you didn’t have an extra hour or two to wait for me, I’d call Moe on speed dial and just stare hard at your hand.
Because I was short, I had to place a small ladder on the counter and climb it so that I could stretch my 5’2″ body to reach the tippy top cubby that housed the smallest sizes of jeans meant for guys who, because of genetics or God’s warped sense of humor, were slightly height challenged. It only took me 1,647 times climbing that ladder before I realized that it simply wasn’t possible that every guy who entered the store thought he had a 27″ waist with a 30″ inseam when you only had to glance at them to see that they would never sit atop a horse and race the Preakness and instead, would have easily made first round draft pick for football or basketball or heavy weight boxing and yes, I know heavy weight boxing doesn’t have first round draft picks … I’m just being facetious. I bet you didn’t think I knew big words like that, did you? Actually, I don’t and that is why I am a walking testimonial to the merits of thesaurus.com.
Anyway, I got a clue. I smartened up. I knew the only reason guys were asking me for a size they hadn’t worn since their voices changed and they sprouted hair down there was so that I would climb up the ladder and stretch and provide them with some PG entertainment that didn’t cost $3.50 a ticket at the local Cine 8. And the fact that I can remember a movie ticket costing $3.50 is just sad.
So the next time a guy weighing in at 180 and large enough to eclipse the sun asked me to grab him a pair of jeans small enough to fit an oompa loompa, I climbed up on that stool and reached up into the cubby and grabbed the entire pile of jeans, as well as a couple of metal packaging tape dispensers I had tucked away in there for such an occasion and “accidentally” let it all drop fifteen feet onto the top of his head, crushing his frontal lobe and ego in one fell swoop. Word got around and hardly anyone asked me to get on top of a ladder again except for those of the short, slight build pursuasion who really needed the smaller sizes and whom I felt sorry for because it took all of their courage to ask me for the size and then squeeze their eyes shut and duck for cover. It just sucks when a few bad apples spoil it for everyone, doesn’t it?
By far, the most interesting thing to happen while I worked at Shed House was when I caught a shoplifter at Bridal Hall which was located at the opposite end of the mall and which happened to employ my mother at the time. I was going on my dinner break and my mother and I had plans to eat together outside of the mall, because as much as I loved the mall, I was sick of the food because it all tasted the same, it all looked suspiciously similar no matter where you bought it and while I couldn’t prove it, I was convinced they all used one universal kitchen with one community pot of grease to cook their menus. Except for Moe. He was in a class by himself, for which we were all thankful. So it was the Perkins across the street we intended to patronize so that we could eat exactly the same food but because it was served to us on real plates with semi-real silverware while we sat in cloth covered booths, we paid twice as much for it.
The way Bridal Hall was set up, you walked through a display room before you entered the actual store. In the display room were hundreds if not thousands of heavily beaded dresses, the kind that caused mothers of would-be brides everywhere to morph into something from the Exorcist and claw each others eyes out for the chance to be the first and only to wear bright fuchsia silk with rhinestones peppered all over it for the bargain price of $300.
So there I was, walking into the display room to meet my mom when something caught my eye and I glanced to my left. There I saw a very very very, with emphasis on the “very” LARGE woman bend over and straighten back up faster than a prisoner in a shower room. At first I thought maybe she had tripped but then she did it again. And again. And her hands kept making these weird circular motions, as if she was rolling up the cord on her vacuum. By the fourth time, I realized that she was grabbing several dresses at a time, rolling them right off the hangers into a ball and then stuffing them into a large, black garbage bag hidden beneath her long skirt. And let me tell you, she was fast. Her hands were literally a blur and I swear it took her no more than three seconds to get at least a thousand dollars worth of dresses in that bag. And I just stood there in shock, watching her because I could not believe I was actually seeing what I was seeing. And then she looked up and saw me watching her with my mouth just handing wide open and my eyes fit to bust out of my head.
Do you ever wonder how you’ll react in an emergency situation? I always thought I’d be absolutely useless and senseless, the kind of person that would just open her mouth to scream and then just freeze, paralyzed with fear and barely croaking out an “aaarrggh.” But I am happy to report that I did no such thing. Instead, I picked my jaw up from the floor, pointed my finger at her and said in no uncertain terms “ummmm, you can’t do that” and those four and a half words had a powerful impact on that woman, causing her to immediately heave that trash bag over her shoulder and come running at me at full speed and slam me into the wall as she hastily made her exit.
Adrenaline got the better of me and I proceeded to lose my mind. I yelled into the store “SHE’S GOT DRESSES, SHE’S GOT DRESSES” and to this day, I can still see the women at the counter go crazy, throwing pencils in the air and running around in circles and shouting at one another that WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING, SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING.
And because I was insane, I chased that woman down the entire length of the mall. Now, you would think that a 5’2″ petite woman screaming GET HER, GET HER, SHE’S GOT DRESSES and chasing after a 300 pound heifer with a black hefty bag slung over her shoulder would cause a bit of a stir, right? You would be wrong, as not one person followed me or did much of anything except stumble and fall when I ran right over them. I ran right by a mall security officer with his pretend gun and shiny plastic badge and had to back up and scream at him to GET HER, GET HER, SHE’S GOT DRESSES and literally drag him by his skinny tie after me. We chased her into the parking lot where we watched as she hopped into a car that had been waiting for her at the curb with its hood up and a man leaning over the engine. The man jumped into the driver’s seat and locked the doors one second before I threw my body against the door and pounded on the window. They squealed out of there, trying to get away but didn’t get very far because they couldn’t see past the hood that they had forgotten to shut. So there they were driving like maniacs in the parking lot with their hood up and there I was running like a maniac after them. And I continued to chase them all over the parking lot until we all saw the police cruiser pull into the lot at which point they came to a complete stop. Honestly, I think they were actually relieved to see Officer Friendly as they probably felt safer in his custody than at the whim of that crazy lunatic vigilante wannabe waving her hands in the air and screaming at the top of her lungs to GET HER, GET HER, SHE’S GOT DRESSES.
They were arrested on charges of grand larceny as it turned out that the woman had managed to stuff $5,000+ worth of glittery dresses in that garbage bag. I eventually had to go to court and testify against them. My mother and I never did get to Perkins as I spent the remainder of that night in the police station giving a statement, which irked the hell out of my manager who was then forced to work that entire night after working that entire day and who told me in no uncertain terms that I was being paid to sell jeans, not play cops and robbers so I had better get a grip on myself and not let it happen again. As if.
For my trouble, I was rewarded with a one hour color analysis from the owner of Bridal Hall during which I found out that I was a fall person who should wear deep jeweled tones in red, green and blue and if I drank this concoction that smelled like burnt vomit and tasted worse, my skin would glow and my teeth would shine.
I’m not sure if discovering that I should avoid pastels like the plague because they made me look like death on a cracker was really worth all the trouble. Do you?