Pepe stood in Video, barking into the telephone. Sounded like she caught a liar. Probably a customer saying the dog ate the rental tape.
"No, that is not an acceptable excuse. You might try breezing that past one of the managers. John is nearby. Do you want to talk to him?"
I slowed down to listen.
"I didn't think so. You better just march your ass down here as -- "
Couldn't be a customer. Pepe wouldn't talk to a client like that, much as we all wanted to sometimes.
"That's so much better! Your feet hurt. Your precious, dainty feet. Who are you, the Queen of Sheba?"
I knew. It was one of the new hires. Calling in with some cockamamie excuse why they couldn't work. We accepted 50-100 employment applications weekly. If newbie couldn't work because their pups were tired ...
"Oh, a pre-existing medical condition. We didn't know. Play that reason, honey, then you'll have to bring in a doctor's note."
High schoolers told the stupidest lies.
"I am serious. If you made date plans, or you wanna stay home and watch cartoons, fine. Mind you, this is the third time you called in past your clock in time."
New girl everyone already called Wendy Won't Work.
I started leafing through the employee phone list, pulled out the card, then searched for John.
John agreed in two seconds. He wrote another note to The Boss, detailing Wendy's third and final call-in.
Meanwhile, I dialed the phone and called Matt.
Matt was Diana's oldest son. He had been a fixture at the store since she started years earlier.
Matt was never scheduled. In baseball, Matt would be the fireman, the closer. When someone couldn't work their shift, we called Matt straight away. He always showed. Didn't matter that he was 15, or that there was calculus homework, or that Diana would have to drive him. He disliked school, calculus was as pointless as algebra, and his mom ... well ... that's what moms did.
We felt guilty phoning him sometimes, but he was dependable. Matt was more reliable than everyone else. Fortunately, we couldn't phone him during the day or we would have. For night relief, he was Iron Matt.
Larry once was out for weeks because a tooth infection went into his jaw. Only when the agony was searing did he make a dentist appointment. During that period, Matt covered for him, night after night. One girl phoned in one evening from jail. On a sorority dare, she tried to walk out of the mall store wearing shoes she hadn't bought. Yet she meant to! Really. Matt rolled in.
Absences were as constant and varied as the reasons:
Car Accident. Car Won't Run. Waiting For The Plumber. Apartment Burglary. Eviction. It's Raining. It's Snowing. It's Too Hot. Food Poisoning. Our Power Went Out. Concert Tickets! Monday Night Football. Broke My Arm, But I Won't Need A Cast. My Goldfish Looks Sick. The Drive-Thru Spilled Coffee All Over Me. My Cat's Having Kittens! Grandma Died ... No, The Other One. I'm Not Hungover, Honest. I Think I'm In Oklahoma. Jury Duty (One of my personal favorites. For when? Night court?). The Police Sealed The Complex. My Roommate Stole My Shoes. We Broke Up, But He's Waiting Outside. My Best Friend's In Emergency. My Girlfriend Smacked My Face, I Can't See. I Thought It Was Tuesday, So I Just Washed My Hair. I've Got Major Diarrhea. Big Test Tomorrow. I Think I'm Pregnant, But I Can't Pee On The Stick. I Forgot To Register For Classes. Key Broke In The Door And It's Unlocked. I'm Having Female Problems (Ladies, men never question further). The Dog Threw Up On My Clothes - Hello?
Time and again, who got called?
Matt - Matt - Matt.
City fathers modified the employment age after a pair of high profile crimes in which the victims were young, inexperienced teens. One of the robberies occurred three blocks down Camp Bowie. After that time, we informed all youthful applicants they had to be 18 to get robbed in Cowtown. Matt was 16, but he was grandfathered in.
My favorite Matt incident happened during a Promo pull, when he hadn't bothered to create a wish list. On the Stash Room floor, Greg found a previous list of Matt's and added it to the pulls. Matt won half his requests and was thrilled. That never would have happened to anyone else. The crew credited good karma.