Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Convenience Store Summer

During my college days, I spent a summer clerking in a convenience store in Allston, at the corner of Harvard and Brighton. I had the eleven to seven shift. Lots of fun. I got the job 'cause my girlfriend was raggin' my ass for being unemployed, and therefore playing the gigolo without actually deserving to be treated like a gigolo. The store got ripped off about twelve times while I was there. Ten was the number of Marlboro packs I stole because I resented the fact that the only surveillance camera in the place was pointed right at me, not at the back of the store, or from behind me looking straight at the customer. In fact, if the camera had been behind me, it would have caught my surreptitious pilfering of the cigarette racks, which were pretty much hidden from that Big Brother machine that was so obnoxiously in my face. Anyway... That leaves two other times, neither of which was my fault.

The first time was when some freakin' college kid bolted out the front door with a two-liter bottle of Coke and a ginormous bag of chips. "Hey!" I shouted, and I jumped out from behind the counter, left the store and starting chasing him. After half a block, I was gaining on him so Chariots-of-Fire-ishly well that I knew I was going to catch him. My "man of action" spontaneity, which I would have been so proud of at any other time, had left me in the lurch. What was I gonna do if I did catch him? I'd have to tackle the dude, which means the two-liter Coke would probably burst and the chips would be crushed. No saving the merchandise there. What would I do to him? Beat him up? For chips and a Coke? After a few nanoseconds invested in this ethical quandary, I realized that the convenience store was wide open, with no one guarding anything. I stopped chasing the guy just as I was about to... Never mind. I doubled back, resumed my post, and saved the day - or, rather, the night.

The second time I was robbed, I barely even knew it was happening. After a busy night, with all sorts of folks in and out, I had closed the place down at 4:00 AM, as usual, to swab down the floor and had gone into the back to get the mop and bucket. I saw this wiry young black dude astraddle the door between the back of the coolers, where we kept the milk and shit, and the back room itself, where we kept the cash. The dude saw me, I saw him, noted where he was, and darted my eyes toward the cash drawer, which still looked closed. Naturally, I assumed I'd caught him in the act or - so I hoped - right before the act. I had no weapon on me, so I wasn't exactly gonna to perform a frickin', ahem...(drum roll here please)... "Citizen's Arrest". So I just said, "Hey, you can't be back here. You got to go." He mumbled something I remember not, and I said, "Come on..." With his electrically guilty little eyes darting all over my twenty-something six-foot-one-ishness, he mumbled some other unintelligible damn thing and pointed at his sock, which seemed to have a lump in it. Maybe he needed some ice, I dumbly thought, but ultimately I didn't give a shit. I just wanted to hustle the guy out the door so I could finish what I started. Three hours later, at the end of my shift, when I went into the back again to replenish the till, I noticed the cash drawer had this tell-tale V-shaped dent where it had been jimmied open just far enough that you could reach down with your hand and... I opened the drawer. The 200 dollars (or whatever the fuck it was) that we kept in the drawer was gone. It was now the lump in that little black dude's sock. I went into the back of the coolers where I'd first seen the dude, and found a tire iron resting on an orange crate. It had been within his reach when I caught him, and if I had made a fuss... I kept a cool head throughout, pretty much amazed that I still had a head intact enough to keep cool at all. I kept such a cool head, in fact, that the fuckin' cops gave ME the fish-eye when I gave them the guided tour of the crime scene. When the store manager finally arrived to relieve me - this petite four-eyed blonde with a demeanor depleted of moxie by excessive "good breeding" - she asked me in the meekest of voices why I had not detained the black dude. I looked at her like she was whack. What did she expect me to do? Wrestle him to the ground? Lock him in the store, leaving him to destroy everything in sight, while I hightailed it to the nearest police cruiser? I quit that day and never worked at any of those fuckin' places ever again. There is just so much you can expect a guy to sacrifice for the minimum wage.

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