400

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

MAD JOURNAL

March 14 2013.  A wet day.  A wet day and a wet night.  Rain general and looking more like rain all the time.  And that’s good.  Because when you’re wandering around car lots on Marine Drive and you want to get wet while you’re looking for that fantasy SUV you came down here to see—sheesh ya!  Let it rain!

A nihilist’s dream—standing in the rain on a KIA lot on Marine Drive looking for a white Suburu.  It doesn’t get more arcane, desolate or nugatory than this.  KIA.  KIA.  Who would buy a KIA?  We’re only here because someone told us the damn car was on this lot.  We’re not terribly interested in the thing but we decided to go out and look at a couple of cars and it’s supposed to be here, driven here to be photographed, for ads, we assume.  We were directed here by Richmond Suburu.  Not many people can say that and it is futile, friends.  It’s useless.  It gets so bad I run back to our gamey Buick for our umbrellas.  Killed In Action.  Killed In Action.  All I can ever think of when it comes to KIA.

A fine young car salesman in a spiff silver suit begs us come in out the rain to his showroom and he will look for the errant Suburu.  “I’m Dean,” says the smiling white man, sticking out his hand.

“Steven Brown,” I shake.  This is my accountant, Confederate States.”

“Hi, Ms. States.”  He shakes.  “Yeah, Richmond Suburu.  That’s our sister dealership.  You’re sure it wasn’t Richmond KIA?  That’s usually where we take car pictures.  That’s our sister dealership too.”

The guy at Richmond Suburu definitely said the KIA dealership at Marine and Cambie.  No matter.  Maybe it was the sound of the jets continuously screaming overhead.  We’ve already looked at a couple of Suburus and are losing interest in the brand.  I’m secretly holding out for a decent, not too elderly MDX.

The Killed In Action showroom.  The vacuity and emptiness of a shiny piece of tin for $35,000.  You’re gonna spend 35 grand and this is your new toy, your dream machine?  Not good enough, soldier!  Not near good enough.  Three different people ask us if we want a coffee three different times.  No, but a couple of steaming hot bowls of pho might be nice, even if it’s Killed In Action pho.  The dude behind the counter to our left is speaking Spanish to a gentleman on our side of the counter.  “Fleet sales,” I’m thinking.  “Fleet sales!  The only thing that makes sense is fleet sales!”

“Yeah, it’s definitely not here,” says Dean after spanking around on the phone a few times and finally getting the ‘Lot Manager’.

“No worries.  No way at all.”

Docksteader’s only half a block away and we walk down there.  Across Cambie from KIA is a gigantic hole in the ground, a construction site.  This hole is so deep you can’t see the bottom of it.  “West Side Address!” blasts a big billboard.  Well, dudelettes.  It’s the west side for what it’s worth, but you’ll still be in hell.  “Bring your love of traffic starting at $249,000!”

Docksteader is the same.  We can’t find the car we’re looking for, the Forester.  And we’re car virgins, see.  We only buy a car every ten years.  When that happens you sneak onto the lot, tippy-toe around, hide from the sales people.  There’s a vast inventory of new Foresters but we can’t find the used one we came for and aren’t interested enough in asking.  Madness?  Mebbe.

MAD JOURNAL

March 7, 2013.  Mad journal.  For those that are really mad, by someone who’s really mad. Look out, he’s really mad.  That’s right.  It’s not contagious.  It comes from within, like insanity.  Rise at noon after twelve hours in bed.  Second night in a row.  The plan is to sleep the shingles to death, with the help of an ass-kicking drug cocktail and several Löwenbräus.  And perhaps a sprinkling of Glenmorangie.  And I may be on to something.  The affliction may perhaps have peaked.  I soothe my spirit with some vacuuming around the suite then break for lunch.  Then procrastinate a few hours.

Around four we drive to the booze store.  I’m holding down a part time job there in these mad times and, as there’s been no work for a month, feel a need to show the flag. The security guards, who for some reason love me, want to shake my hand. It could be they have been impressed with my consummate talents as an actor. I pretend I’m not affected by the travesty of me working here, and they enjoy the performance every time out. I’m here to look at the sheet to see if there’s any shifts coming up.  There are none.  Zeros are easy to keep track of and, on second thought, I do exit with a six pack of Löwenbräu for safety. You know how it is when you can’t stand the thought of running out.

You can get away from pretty much anybody you want except maybe yourself, I was thinking, as we come down Cambie Street.  As usual, driving our twenty year old hulk, I’m also preoccupied with all the flash cars in this town.  Next to us for half a minute is an example of the brand new Lexus ES350.  Tail lights reminiscent of some recent Beamers, I’m thinking, craning my neck to see the driver and sole occupant.  Wow. It’s a mature white guy. Why the heck didn’t you get a better colour than this stone gray? I  want to ask him. I wonder if he’s happy with his magnificent piece of tin.  I’ll never know.  Heads off in the right lane.

Black Dog Video and we labour long and hard.  Half the movie titles sound the same and most of them have the same actors and actresses in them.  I think there’s some kind of thing to lose the word “actress” for something else, “actor” like the guys, or something.  It’s just something I’ve noticed.  But “actress” and “actresses” are beautiful words and they’re usually about beautiful people.  Why would you want to get rid of that out of some ape-induced sense of gender equality or whatever is going on there?  They’re actresses, apes.  Actresses.

It’s funny how when someone dies before they’ve even quit work it upsets their retirement plans.  Okay, forget that.  Enjoy your retirement, ape!  It’s maddening all right. R.I.P. G.W.

The Pie Queen is here tonight and we are looking forward to a magnificent hoedown.  It’s been too long.  I head downstairs sure that she has made great progress in the making a pie idea, probably has the flour out of the jar by now, and when I get there see that the pie has not only got itself together but is already in the oven baking.  Sheesh yeah, exclamation point!  Fastest Pie Queen in the west.  Watch yourself around her.

We watch “Skyfall” or “Downfall” or “Upswing” or whatever it’s called. It’s a bad cartoon. Why are you the spic in every damn movie now, Javier? I’m still looking for a copy of “Iron Sky” though. That is a brilliant piece of work.