Saturday, December 31, 2011
Review: The Second Most Dangerous Job in America
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Steve Himmer sends me down memory lane with his upcoming "Atticus Shorts" eBook exclusive The Second Most Dangerous Job in America.
An ambitionally challenged college kid takes a job working the graveyard shift at a local convenience store. Idling passing the hours, he befriends a homeless coffee addict, pretends to not notice the pseudo celebrities who pass through the doors, and deals with all manner of porn-lovin', cigarette-smokin' riffraff.
The store's patrons tease him, berate him, throw change across the counter at him, and try to convince him to go out and party with them after his shift ends. He thinks up nicknames for the regulars - "Mayo Shirt", "Santa Claus", "Mr. Mâché" - reads books off the rack, listens to the Dead Kennedy's, and secretly despises his boss. It's a pretty realistic look at a dead end kid killing time at a dead end job, getting away with a bunch of nothing for as long as he can....
Himmer's story was so similar to my own convenience store days that it threw me headlong into remembering some of the most humiliating moments of my life.
Though the convenience store that I worked for during my freshman year of college didn't stay open all night long, I was oh-so-lucky to be scheduled for the weekday late shift - 7 to 11pm - forced to deal with all those last minute assholes begging to be let in at 11:01pm for a pack of cigarettes or a quick five bucks worth of gas. Shouting through the glass doors at them that we were already closed out for the evening, I'd have to put up with their hissy fits and death threats, keeping a finger on the phone incase they refused to leave the property. Usually there were two of us working, so there was some comfort in that.
I was never robbed and I don't believe anything was ever stolen - though I used to make late night sandwiches at the deli counter when things got slow and I got hungry... does that count? Oh, there was that one night when I was alone and the damn store alarm wouldn't set. After an attempt to call one of my co-workers for help ended with her husband yelling at me for calling so late and refusing to put her on the line, I said "fuck it" and left the store unarmed. Man, did I hear about that one the next day.
Then there was that time when one of our regulars came in and bought his lottery tickets, like he always did, and I punched up the numbers, like I always did, except this time I flip-flopped a number and he didn't catch it. Wouldn't you know his fucking numbers came out straight that night, and if it weren't for my screw up, he'd have won a couple hundred bucks? He was fuming the next day, demanding to get the money out of my paycheck, spitting his words over the counter at me. It took everything I had in me not to close the distance between us with my fist.
And there was this sad old woman who stopped in every Friday on her way home from work and bought ten dollars worth of scratch off tickets, and there she'd stand, with a quarter in hand, scratching away at those things, turning in every winner to buy more, until she scratched off the final loser. Sometimes she'd be there 5 minutes, other times she'd be there for an hour, waiting for her luck to run out. I never quite understood why she would do it, and she never seemed to hit anything big.
I nearly forgot about the creepy guy, as regular as they get I guess, who used to smile when he'd see me, and call me "Wonder Woman". He thought I bared a striking resemblance to Lynda Carter and would constantly try to convince me to come to work on my next shift dressed in an american bikini. I always wondered if he was married and what his wife would think of him, hitting on such a young convenience store clerk.
The worst was when my ex-boyfriend at the time (the man I would eventually marry) came running into the store to pay for the gas he had just pumped into his car. Still feeling sick over the break-up, I was making a sandwich for myself at the deli counter when I noticed him come in. As I braced myself to make small talk, a short hispanic girl walked through the door behind him, wrapping her arms around him and nestling her head against his back. I nearly threw up, right there at the counter, and threw my sad, uneaten sandwich straight into the garbage. Wanting nothing more than to go home and feel sorry for myself, my ass was stuck at work, worrying and fretting over where they had just come from and where they were heading to instead of counting out our drawer and stocking the shelves.
Just like the dude in Himmer's story, there comes a moment of clarity, a sort of epiphany, where you realize that tonight is going to be the last night that you're gonna put up with anymore of that shit. That you just don't get paid enough to deal with everyone's bad breath and bad attitude. That you're beginning to turn into someone you no longer recognize; someone with no energy, no enthusiasm, ; someone who's gone numb to the world.
Hmmm... I think my review of The Second Most Dangerous Job in America somehow devolved into a Lifetime Mini-Movie of my life. I digress.....