Thursday, August 18, 2005

I'm Working, But I'm Not Working For You

I've been fired twice. Not laid-off, not "I'm sorry, we're downsizing and there's no room here for you anymore." Straight-up fired. Both times were in high school, which meant that not only was I fired, but at home, I was also totally grounded. And not only was I fired and grounded, but I had no money, so I couldn't run away from home.

The first time was while working at a pet store. It was actually my first job. I don't count my 2-week stint at Burger King because I was put in the mental hospital for a month shortly after starting there, and I didn't want to go back. You can't just disappear for a month and not expect to answer some questions. People talk to you differently after you get out of a mental hospital. I couldn't bear the pitying stares and the kid gloves and questions from people who barely acknowledged my existence before expecting me to spill my guts to them. I could barely communicate to my friends and family about what was going on inside me, and I certainly wasn't going to share my suicidal thoughts with the manager of Burger King.

So I decided to start fresh and since I love dogs and had no idea about where they were actually coming from or how bad these places are, I decided to work in the pet store.

It was actually a really fun job for awhile. My favorite part was being down in the basement listening to music and giving all the little puppies their baths and playing with them. Those dogs were all so damn cute, and I cried every single time one of them got sold. I wanted them all for myself. You're thinking I got fired because I took them all home one night, aren't you? I didn't, but that would be pretty awesome.

Things went south when my friend Christy came in for a visit with her mom one night. Now, when I was hired, I was told that I got a personal and family discount. I think dogs were 40% off and supplies were 20%. Christy had her eyes on an adorable cocker spaniel and begged her mom to let her have it. Her mom was kind of wavering, so I said, "Why don't we just say you're my cousin and you can use my discount?" Hey, that's good salesmanship! Er.

That clinched the deal. We drew up the papers, got supplies, and I rang them up, plugged in the discount when one of the associates, Bunny (her real, honest to god, try not to snicker when you say it name), said, "What's the discount for?" I said, "Oh! Family discount. I'd like you to meet my cousin, Christy."
"You can't give her a discount."
"Why not?"
"She's your cousin."
"Yeah. Family discount."
"No. Immediate family."
"Oh."
But the paperwork had already been drawn up, and it's a long process, and no one wanted to just throw it all in the trash and forget about it. Bunny decided to call my evil, cranky old boss Charlie at home. She put me on the phone with him and he said, "You can sell her the dog with the discount, but you have some explaining to do tomorrow."

The next day, I went in, and Charlie said he wanted me to pay back the money, which was $280. At 15, there isn't much difference between owing that and $20,000. Plus, this is after he authorized the sale when there was still a chance to back out. I didn't think that was right. It wasn't right what I did, either, but he approved it and then started singing a different tune the next day. I should mention that Charlie expressed skepticism that Christy was really even my cousin. Man, he's good.

Anyway, I avoided Charlie whenever possible because I was not going to pay back that money, and he cornered me at every opportunity to find out just when and how I was going to pay him back. I stalled and stalled, until one day, he called me into his office to give me the ax. And that was fine, because it really is exhausting trying to hide from your boss all the time. Plus, they were sticking me in the fish department more and more, and I think fish are kind of gross. And don't even get me started on the people who came in ordering brine shrimp. Barf-o-rama.

But then I had to go home and tell my dad and stepmom why I was home so early. They took away my car and said I had embarrassed the whole family. I said I didn't see what the problem was. "Everyone gets fired at some point!" Which enraged my dad even further and he yelled, "NOT IN THIS FAMILY THEY DON'T!"

The second time I got fired, thus putting the final nail in the coffin in which our family name lies, it's not as exciting a story. It was the job after the pet store job, and I was working as a restaurant hostess. Which is a horrible job, and you should always be nice to your hostess, people. Don't whine about long waits or act like being a regular will get you moved up in line. They get a ton of shit, no tips and really don't feel like hearing you being a big fat crybaby. And you don't want to sit next to the bathroom, do you? I was a very vindictive hostess.

Once, Jerry Rice came in and he was actually pretty nice. Except, the problem was, I didn't recognize him. I mean, I knew who the 49ers were, and I knew his name, but I'm not really into football, so I don't know all the faces. I told him there would be a wait, and he said that was fine.
I asked for his name to put on the list, and he said, "Jerry Rice." I laughed and said, "Funny! What's your name, really?" "Jerry. Rice." "I'm sorry." The rest of the night, customers came up to me asking, "Is that Jerry Rice sitting over there?!" "Oh, sure. That's him, all right!" Like I had any clue. Anyway, if Jerry Rice can wait for his table, so can you. And he's probably hungrier than you are, with all that exercise he gets.

I managed to keep the job for a year or so, until junior year, when William Faulkner made me nearly fail English. I was grounded for that, and not allowed to work during the week so I could focus on reading his shitty books instead. The restaurant let me go since I was essentially useless with my limited availability. At least I didn't get grounded this time, because I was already so grounded, the only option would be to literally put me in the ground.

Since they couldn't legally do that, they instead removed my bedroom door. Ouch.