We weren’t supposed to talk about this. I told Rodriquez I wasn’t writing about this place anymore.  But there’s so much great material!  And I’m thinking, if you can do 300 you can do 400. And the world is starved for material.  I mean good material.  It’s not that great a number.  400.  400 shifts.  It’s still embarrassing but you made it, right?  You’re still here.  You’re hitting 400.  And that’s too bad.

Right now I’m in the “Break Room”.  It’s that tiny room the size of a shower stall, or maybe a little bigger, but not much, where all the excess product, the broken cases and pierced cans and half-filled returns and stale dated stuff is dumped down the drain, and it’s amazing not only how much product gets written off, but how all of it is just dumped.  Bye bye.  It’s a messy, sloppy job and you wonder, you really wonder about all this stuff going down the drain.  There are worse things going down the drain, but is there something worse than going down the drain?  It’s dark down there, but if you’re anywhere around this drain you’d be drunk as a sewer rat, hombre.  Swimming in it and sinking.  Blub blub.

I had a strange experience.  Somebody kept putting the “Closed” sign in front of my till.  It happened twice and I put it away twice and then there it is again.  I saw Sebastian and realized he was doing it.

“Why do you keep putting the closed sign up?”
“Because I want to see you in the office.”

So that’s it.  Wants to see me in the office.  Could mean anything.  I have a good working relationship with Sebastian.  He’s a lifer manager.  He bears a striking resemblance to the “Milhouse” character from the Simpsons cartoon TV show.  You remember the Simpsons?  Striking, uncanny resemblance.  It’s all right.  Being called to the office could mean anything and usually does.  I follow Sebastian in at a distance.  The “office” is also a small, cramped space, but bigger than the break room.

“What’s the latest outrage?”  I ask, as I step into the office where Sebastian is standing waiting.

“You’re not selling enough chocolates.”  This is a booze store, not a chocolate shop, I think of saying, but think, correctly, that this might sound a bit flippant, and I don’t really want to irritate any of these lifer managers unless I’m really, really provoked, in which case I just wouldn’t care.  “We’re tracking it and you only sold six yesterday.”

For every dollar a customer donates they receive a chocolate treat in a little pink package.

Of course they’re “tracking” it.  They track everything around this place.  Everybody but the non-com part-time sweats like me track everything.  They’re all narcs.  There must be 60 surveillance cameras watching everyone’s every move.

“I won the gold star last year.  I’m just getting started,” I say.  And it’s true.  They laid a $25 Starbucks gift card on me last year at the conclusion of the “Adopt a School” program for selling the most donations.  And now, after one shift, when I haven’t been here for a week, the order has come down to hassle me because I only sold six yesterday.  Which right there is a snapshot of the organization.

I don’t blame Sebastian.  He’s not a bad oaf.  I know the directive came from none other than the senior manager, an insanely ambitious individual in his little world, who also takes his directives from the area manager, himself a piece of work.  It’s all about money, you see, as in any other organization, despite all the bumpf.  And image.  You can lead a customer to donate but you can’t make them donate, but that doesn’t matter.  Employees are held in such low regard it’s just good corporate management to hassle them every chance there is.  Maybe that’s not quite it.

I might have known something was afoot when I saw the senior manager just earlier in the office at the “shift starter” meeting and he was just leaving for the day and didn’t look at me, just kind of stared past me as he was going out.  I detected something in his non-acknowledgement, but at the time didn’t know what it was.  The senior manager knows I’m a writer and has seen some of my stuff.  His comment on one of my pieces as reported to me by the security guard was, “How does he stand working here with all these stupid people?”

So I knew who and what had put Sebastian up to it.  And later, when transferred to the break room, where you can’t importune customers to donate to “Adopt a School” because you’re not dealing with customers, I was wondering if anyone had marked it down that I was in here or if the stage was set for another chat in the office about how I’m not selling enough donations.

It’s a nothing.  It’s bagels and cheese.  I’ve hit 400.  That’s a rare distinction.  I can’t help but feel the season is winding down for me here.  No one hits 500.  Have a flower.

Spring Is Coming
Spring Is Coming

Author: Steven Brown


2 thoughts on “400”

  1. Oh man, Shades of the Bay all over that one! I love the use of the word “donation” and Sell in the same situation. One can ask for a donation but they can’t sell a donation. It’s donate or give (generously), but not Buy. But if you work for a corporation somehow they change the rules. I feel that essay man, been there. So brutal, but so glad you wrote it, this needs to be read by the retail masses. Great job! ( no pun, int.)
    Cheers, Tami


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