This is in response to the Daily Prompt: Sink or Swim
Tell us about a time when you were left on your own, to fend for yourself in an overwhelming situation. What was the outcome?
The year was 2008. In May I had driven over 3,000 miles across the country to Ventura, California with my friend in my ’99 Jeep Cherokee. It was one of those experiences that shove you through the threshold into adulthood. I was starting a new life for reasons that were clear to me but could only be shared with a select few. Like most people, I needed money. That is why, 2 days before Independence Day, I found myself on the way to my first job. It was also my 21st birthday.
I was not at all picky when I was searching for jobs; I just needed to pay my bills. For this reason, when I got a call back from Baskin Robbins ice cream shop I felt enthusiastic about the interview. Back in New Hampshire I’d worked in a small mom and pop candy store in our local mall. As far as retail jobs go, I lucked out on this one; I worked with people my own age, got to play my cds in the store, had my fill of candy and got my first cavity, Yankee sarcasm was in high regard. I guess I figured this west coast chain ice cream shop would be just like my east coast independent candy store. Suffice it to say, they were polar opposites.
At the interview, which turned out to be one of the weirdest I’d attend, I wasn’t asked many questions. Instead, I was handed a packet thicker than any midterm I’d ever taken, and told to come back with it memorized in a few days time. The seriousness with which this was stated to me was baffling; it was as if I was taking home the periodic table and not a packet of ice cream sundaes. When they’d penciled me to come back on my birthday my immediate thought was “wow, how adult I’m being, sidestepping narcissism for a minimum wage job.”
When I arrived on my birthday a tiny Latino man identified himself as the boss and then proceeded to misplace every form I needed to sign. Clearly frustrated at his own ineptitude, but taking it out on coworkers, he had me help someone set up for the day. She was about my age and strictly business. She said she’d worked there for a while but she seemed very nervous, especially around “Boss of the Year”.
The boss, who was on his phone for the entire time we were setting up, made a quick appearance to give me an over sized apron that looked like someone had puked ice cream all over the front of. When the customers came in I helped as best I could, naturally taking some time to find out where things were and asking lots of questions. I’d actually wasted an hour of my life trying to memorize the stupid packet; however, I was finding it was out of date and didn’t list half the sundae combinations people were asking for. 31 flavors was more like 31 varieties for every imaginable sundae.
Boss Man gave his phone a breather and told my coworker to go on lunch. There were 3 people in line and I assumed he would step in and do his actual job but he started to walk away. I said “Hey, I need a bit of help here” motioning to the line. He responded with a “tsk, tsk, tsk” while shaking his head. “This is how you’ll learn” he said, as if speaking to a teenager sitting in a jail cell after getting caught stealing. The customer gave me a look and I told her that it was my first day and that “that” was my supposed boss. We both looked over at Boss Man settling his ass into one of the few remaining seats in the tiny shop.
Slowly I got through the customers, as the line kept growing. My coworker peaked in with a startled look and hurried over to give me a hand. She was 10 minutes short of her lunch break. It was hectic for a couple hours but then things died down. We looked at each other and smiled when the last person in line was served. Sensing the majority of the work was over Boss Man reemerged from the back room exclaiming to my coworker that “These tables are FILTHY- wipe them down!” I walked over to him and said “Actually, I haven’t had any breaks so I’d like to take one now while things are slow.” He drew his eyes into his head and pursed his mouth. “This is your training day, no breaks! Help her wipe the tables”
Physically, I knew I could take this lazy sack of potatoes, especially with my pent up rage. I just stared at him for a minute eventually opting out of physical altercation mode; being charged with assault on my 21st birthday would make for one hell of a story, but a real shitty way to celebrate. As he was turning to walk away I erupted “You being in charge is a joke. You spent this entire shift sitting over there talking on your phone or hiding in the back. You treat these employees like absolute crap. I don’t know why anyone puts up with you.” With that I ripped off the apron, balled it up and threw it into his chest. Looking quite exasperated he yelled “Get Out!” “No shit, Sherlock” I said with all the Yankee sarcasm I could muster. I turned calmly to the coworker, whose mouth was agape. I told her I enjoyed working with her and thanked her for showing me the ropes. She said “You’re welcome” with a tiny smile and we shook hands. “You’re too good for this crappy job” I said and then walked out.
My Aunt and Uncle know me as a polite quiet kid, so at my party they had me repeating my theatrical rendition to everyone. I thought they’d be mad at me, quitting my first west coast job, but everyone seemed to get a real kick out of it. A pact was made by everyone in attendance to boycott Baskin Robbins.