How Convenient

During college, I landed a student job on campus that fit perfectly with my schedule.   My major was Computer Science, and I worked in the computer labs, so it basically was professional training.  Okay, I did homework while taking breaks to fix printer jams and remind people that they can't look up porn on campus computers.

Come summer, I didn't have any classes and had maxed out my schedule with the hours students were allowed to work.  The obvious solution was to find a second job.  I applied at a convenience store in town and was hired easily.  I told the boss what size polo shirt I'd need, and I was on my way to starting.

I showed up on my first day and put on my polo shirt that was at least two sizes too big.  This was my fault though, as I had purposely asked for a bigger one because I was afraid they'd run small, and I'd look awful.  In my mind, wearing a polo poncho was the opposite of looking awful. Sue was training me, and the first thing she said to me was, "Wow.  I love your eyebrows."  I immediately questioned Sue's taste, as I had a plucking tragedy the other day that resulted in losing a nice area of the inside of one eyebrow.  The best solution I had was to massacre the other eyebrow so that at least my horror was symmetrical.  

Sue was friendly though, and my first day went well.  At the end of the day, my boss told me that I would be working the rest of my shifts at the other location on the west side of town.  After he walked away, Sue turned to me.  "Oh, man...did you know that?" she asked, sounding concerned.  I answered no, I hadn't even realized there was another location.

It turns out that our boss owned three convenience stores, and I was a victim of bait and switch.  I was hired and trained at the nicest location and then sent to the location that Sue said the employees nicknamed "The Outhouse."  I bid farewell to Sue and the soon-to-be a lot nicer than I realized store.

The Outhouse was located on a busy corner with a mix of residential and commercial, including two bars.  I was scheduled to work second shift by myself.  That was another drawback of The Outhouse: you almost always worked alone.  Juanita worked first shift, and she stayed with me a little while to show me the ropes of this location.  I wasn't sure how much of Juanita's training to go by.  She was proper in showing me how to put on gloves before reaching into the gigantic bag of tortilla chips to fill the individual nacho trays to be sold.  However, I think that licking the salt off your gloved fingers before plunging your hand back into the chips negates the effort.

I often crossed paths with Juanita, since she'd be leaving first shift as I came in for second shift.  I could tell she didn't like me, though I didn't know why.  At one point, she furrowed her brow and asked me why the hell I was working here.  I couldn't decide whether to say the whopping $5.15 an hour, the free polo tents, or the unlimited slushies.  

The other employee I saw regularly was Dave, one of the third shift guys.  He seemed creepy but harmless, which is as much as a girl can hope for in a guy sometimes.  When I told him I was going to school for Computer Science, he told me about a week later about this sweet computer he was bringing home from Rent-A-Center and suggested I swing by to help him set it up.  I nodded non-noncommittally and continued to restock the cooler.

It wasn't hard work, but it was tedious and thankless.  I was often treated like crap by customers, which breaks your spirit after awhile.  A man once yelled at me until I cried because I couldn't break a $100 bill.  It was 4th of July, and he was a veteran, which angered him even more.  The last thing he spat at me before storming out of the store was, "I FOUGHT IN VIETNAM FOR YOUR INDEPENDENCE!"  

I tried to stop the tears while moving on to the next person in a long line of customers, hoping that the next interaction would be better.

Customer: "There are no bags of ice in the ice chest."

Me: "I'm sorry, we are sold out of ice."

Customer: "You are SOLD OUT of ICE?  How is that possible?  You take WATER and you FREEZE it!  It's not hard!"

So much for my day improving.

Another day, I actually had a lit cigarette thrown at me in the parking lot.  I thought of that moment from Clerks:


Dante: I don't have enough indignities in my life!  People starting throwing cigarettes at me!

Veronica: At least they weren't lit.


You know your convenience store job is rough when you have a moment worse than Dante.

Oh, but my day would come.  I had one bit of power up my sleeve: the bathroom.  The only bathroom in the store was not technically for the public.  However, employees were able to grant access at their discretion, which was probably the most power I'd ever been given in my life.  Everyone has had times in their life where you absolutely NEEDED a bathroom...NOW.  And here I was, the literal key-holder to potentially save someone's day.  It was a little bit of info that soothed me in the face of confrontation.

Customer: "The fountain pop tastes watery.  Is it watered down?  Are you watering it down???  It was NOT like this last time!!"

Me: *thinking* If you had to poop right now, you'd be at my mercy.

Then it happened.  I was the only person in the store when Keith burst in the door frantically.  Keith was a regular, but he was always rude to me.  You'd think you would want to at least have a somewhat pleasant relationship with someone you encounter on a regular basis, but Keith obviously had more important things in his life than to worry about me.  Until now.

Keith looked at me,  "Hey, can I use the bathroom?  I've really gotta go!"

I had a choice.  I could be the bigger person and graciously give Keith access to the bathroom.  Perhaps he would take something from this and appreciate me from now on.  He would always remember that night when I became his bathroom savior, when I was there for him in the exact way that he needed at the exact time.  Or I could be a petty 19-year-old who was bitter about being subjected to abuse for minimum wage.

I went with petty.

"Nope, sorry.  It's not open to the public."

Keith looked stunned.  "I KNOW you can let people use it.  Come on, I really need to go!"

I stood strong.  "Nope, sorry."  

Keith stared at me, shocked at me denying him.  He said two words that are probably easy to guess and then left.

I watched him leave and felt proud.  I had stood up for myself.  I made it known that you can't treat me like garbage and then expect me to be there for you.  I had taught Keith a lesson, and I hoped he learned something.

While I was basking in pride though, Keith was probably just outside peeing on the building.