"How'd you find out about this job?" Dan asked. After I clocked in, filled out some paperwork, I was given to Dan, the Assistant Manager.
"My wife noticed the classified ad. Told me to apply."
"You always do everything your wife tells you?"
"Dude, I've learned to respond to ALL women with a yes. Makes them happy. Then I do whatever."
"Was this for Classical? Are you one of those obsessive compulsive classical geeks?" Dan needled.
"Ha ha. I'll let you form your own opinion."
Dan handed me over to Trina. She was sticking 3M tape to the side of cassettes. If thieves walked out with a tape, an alarm would ring.
Trina seemed friendly. I helped tape and chatted. Security taping was mindless work, but since mine was a new job, I didn't complain.
"So, have you met Jeri Jo yet?" she smirked.
"Uh oh. No, I haven't met her. Why?"
"She's the other, new Classical person. After a week, everyone realized she's completely insane."
"In what -- Never mind. I don't need to know yet."
"Wise man. You're on first date behavior," Trina smiled.
"Got that right. Until I know who's who, I am Mister Agreeable."
"Most of the people here are nice," she continued. "The Assistants. Dan, Danny, James, John ... mmm ... You might want to avoid Rob."
"Which one's Rob?" I asked immediately.
"Not here yet. Don't worry, he'll completely ignore you. You're not female, twenty, and cute."
I made a mental scorecard. James was a bit of a dreamer, Danny was indifferent, Dan and John middle of the road, Rob difficult.
The rest of the staff were affable drones. Diana, Dave, two Angela's, Greg, two Todd's, Pepe, Mike, Lisa, Linda, Bert, another Todd (who worked in the back), Amster. There were too many people to sort. Plus, most weren't around so I couldn't affix names to faces. In time, I would realize the store was a collection of free agents.
A few days later, I worked quietly with Jeri Jo, Trina's comments fresh in my mind. After two hours, I decided Trina was perceptive. At least as far as her observations about the buffalo brained Classical gal.
Classical types had a murky history. A previous gent punched a hole through a back wall because the drive-thru screwed up his burger order. Sudden rage. The half baked classical soul was gone, the hole remained enshrined.
Throughout the next two days, that brief cheat sheet of Trina's surfaced with each coworker introduction.
Trina overlooked a name, however. And that would sting me.
Friday night. The store was swamped. I worked backup register on and off with Greg. Of all the cashiers in the store, Greg was the fastest. He told me to mind the Floor and listen for two rings of that bellhop bell. Anytime there were more than three customers in line, he would ring.
"What do you know about this group?" Tall woman, mid twenties, brunette. Holding the latest CD by New Order.
"Dance music," I said. "Techno." I barely knew a few songs.
"But ... What about it?"
About what? Hell. I didn't know the group. There was no one nearby to ask. "They ... came from ... Joy Division."
"I didn't like the last album. Is this one any better?"
"Oh. Let me see," I checked the store playstack. Luck smiled. The CD was in the daily assortment. I handed her headphones to the spare CD unit.
Greg rang twice.
"Could you increase the volume?" my customer requested.
Greg rang again. Dan strolled up and ran backup.
"Say," a short man tapped my shoulder. "when you're done with her, can you help me?"
"This New Order is great," my woman smiled. "I'll take it. Good sale."
Greg rang three times for a manager. The Boss answered.
More than once, both managers shot me a look.
My male customer gestured toward the Sound Check headphones. "This one quit playing."
The CD players were locked in cabinets. I didn't possess keys. Dan and The Boss were surrounded. I looked across the Floor, mystified, for another manager.
"I'll be right back," I reassured the customer, then bolted for the Video section.
Marched into Video and went to the nearest coworker. Stunning blonde.
"New guy," she looked me up and down, coolly.
"The Sound Check quit. I don't have keys. Told the customer I'd be back. I'm supposed to run backup. Is there a manager around?"
"Slow down," she paused, "I'm a manager."
Up front, the bell was rung repeatedly. I was getting deeper and deeper into trouble.
"Oh, I didn't know. Anyway, the customer is wait -- "
"Didn't know? Or are you one of those who don't think women can be managers?"
"No, no. I just -- I did not know you were a manager. I don't even know who you are," I confessed.
"I'm Carey. I'm the Video manager." She pushed open the swinging doors to the back. "Robert!"
The manager I had heard to avoid came out.
"Now what? This guy hit on you already? Want me to write him up?"
"No. He has some crisis up front. I'm going to rescue him. Could you watch Video a second?"
"Well, thanks for screwing up my plans, loser," he scowled to me.
Damn. Maybe he was kidding. Maybe they were both kidding. I couldn't tell, I assumed the worst.
I'd made a bad impression with Carey and Rob. Up front, The Boss was annoyed, Dan regarded me as an infant, especially after I returned to register and promptly locked it up. I stayed on register until midnight, closing. My cash drawer totals, which a half dozen employees had used, were accurate.
If the cash was short, I figured I would have been fired.