For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.
WHAT DAY IS IT? WHERE AM I? Oh, I can’t believe I am still doing this. Another story? EVERY DAY? Sorry, other stuff I have to do. You’re gonna have to wait FOR-EV-ER…
So, I think it goes without saying that as soon as I get a time machine (or TIME CAT!) I am going to tell “October 31 Darci” that this write-and-finish-a-whole-story-every-single-day may seem like a fine idea, but that there will be certain days (or weeks) in which writing anything, of any kind, anywhere is like THE WORST. And then I’ll tell her not to walk near Avenue B and 12th Street last Tuesday because there will be more than one dead rat’s carcass in the intersection and experience has shown us we can only handle one at a time.
Today’s story is about something that happened at the second truck stop to employ me. (Remember what happened at the first one? Scary!)
You Are a Stupid Henway
The second time I worked at a truck stop it was one of those 24-hour places with a sandwich counter and a gift store attached. In the two years I did my time there, five different managers came and went. Plus, there was a six month period with no manager at all, and a month we closed for remodeling in which I was basically in charge.
With very few exceptions, the job sucked.
- Minimum wage!
- Graveyard shifts!
- Brown apron and matching brown scarf thing!
- Interacting with people! (As a rule, people are stupid and mean!)
- One of the gross old managers quit in the middle of the night and tried to kiss me on his way out the door! Then he wrote “For a great BJ call Darci” and my phone number in the men’s bathroom (a fact for which he had collected zero evidence, but a fact, nonetheless).
- The store was a quarter-mile from my house.
Even though we went through store managers like Charlie Sheen goes through “rough patches,” the upper management personnel stayed the same. I guess if you could make it to the District or Division level at this company, it somehow became bearable. Our Division manager was named Rod and he was super tall and slim and he dressed like a rich old cowboy and his voice was low and husky all the time. All the time! Like, on the phone, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to hear him ask, “So… what are you wearing?” Except that he was also super serious all the time, and wouldn’t have asked such an inappropriate question.
One night during a rainstorm, we lost power in the store for about 10 minutes, which was kind of a big deal. It’s not like at home, where a power outage means you miss 10 minutes of TV and have to stand around making awkward chit chat with your roommates. It’s serious. You have to secure the store and make sure people don’t steal shit (like your ass-virginity) and keep everyone calm and engaged while you all wait for the power to come back. And then you have to run around resetting alarms and lights and gas pumps and emergency locks. You have to check all of the hundred machines that are used to charge fuel purchases and print lottery tickets and make root beer.
It’s a lot. Especially for a twenty-year-old who was left in charge overnight.
After all the running around and checking and resetting I headed into the office to complete the “shift change” process, which meant counting all the money in the registers and balancing the books from the previous shift. More importantly, it meant sitting around doing math instead of dealing with customers, and it was my favorite part of the job for both of those reasons. But on this particular night, Division Manager Rod called the office to speak to me in his husky sex-voice about the power outage.
He asked if I had reset the fuel pumps. I had.
He asked if I had checked the back doors to see if they were still locked. I had.
He asked if any customers had caused any problems. I assured him they hadn’t.
He asked if the refrigerators were running. I hadn’t checked.
“Oh! I knew I forgot something. Hang on,” I said, as I jumped up from the desk and ran out of the office. I went into the back where we stored all the food –the burger patties, the cheese slices, the buckets of pre-made tuna salad–all of it. I opened and closed each refrigerator door to look for the light, feel for the cold and listen for the hum of the big industrial machine. Check. Check. Check. All of them seemed to be in working order.
I then ran back into the office and picked up the phone receiver. “Yep. All of them are running fine.”
“Well, then you better go catch ‘em!”
I had just been totally and completely 100% duped by the oldest phone prank in history.
Rod laughed for about ten minutes while I hung my head in shame and said nothing. In the history of that joke, no one has ever so fully committed to being as fooled by it as I had.
No one ever falls for that joke! Rod was probably expecting a half-laugh/half-snort out of me when he asked. But instead, I literally checked to see if the refrigerators were running.
I repaid him on his next visit with a prank of my own. In my training, I had learned the importance of the suggestive sell–the idea that if a customer asks for something you don’t have, you should suggest an alternative, instead of giving him a flat out, “No.” The company was pushing this as part of a massive customer service initiative, and Rod was in store making sure employees like me were taking it to heart and really using it.
So when a college kid came in looking for rolling papers, which we did not sell, I gave Rod a nod (rhymes!) as if to say, “Watch this.”
“We don’t have rolling papers, sir, but if you want to buy a 12oz can of Coke, I can show you how to make a bong.”
Rod choked up the coffee in his mouth and looked at me , wide-eyed. The kid just laughed and said, “That’s cool, thanks anyway” and left.
It’s a good thing he didn’t call my bluff. I don’t know how to make a bong out of anything.