- Work and Play
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- 5 Minute Read
Stories about the daily grind of work.
Brian Brehmer is back with another crazy tale from the world of retail. In this episode, a female customer attempts to breach store policy by returning some condoms.
Brian Brehmer tells the inside story of 11 years of selling shoes in that most American of institutions, Kmart. Expect exploitation, pointless management, poor pay and a nod to the death of an American ideal.
He slashed at me a few times – I can’t say for certain how close he got, but when you can feel the air move because of the swipe, the blade is too close – but mostly he stood in place making these hesitant jerking jabs. He kept saying, “Come on, I’ll stab you. Come on”, as if it were somehow my responsibility to move closer to him. Perhaps that’s the way things work, I don’t know, this was my first knife fight, and frankly it was a bit unfair, I didn’t have a knife.
But the metamorphosis deepened, and I became the most frightening apparition of all: the man who really was a dog. All human perspective was gone now. I was a tall dog standing on its hind legs, teetering close to traffic. This was serious. I could bolt into an oncoming car, or nip a passerby in my confusion. I looked around me at the world of people, orderly for them but incomprehensible to me.
The inside of a new 80.000 ton bulk carrier was to put it mildly, a very religious experience. To go from the coffins of Castle Dracula, in driving snow, with a temperature hitting minus 25 Degrees, into a vast silent cathedral-like environment, had a profound effect on me. It was a place of bright bright lights and dark dark places. I suppose, with the scaffolding and the hanging lights it could also have been mistaken for some enormous Egyptian tomb excavation.
I sit up in bed with my hand over my eyes. The shards of sunlight, shining through the open window and the scream of a scooter from the street below make me wince. Through my fingers the black and white poster of the singer Morrissey looks down on me with pity from the bedroom wall. I return the look with remorse and regret.
Folk music, formerly the prerogative of ale-swilling beardies, is now cool, a bit like smashed avocado and Swedish backpacks. What happened to the old scene? Where are the pork scratchings? What happened to ‘Dirty Old Town’ gurgled into a pint glass for single figure audiences?
My old company were the masters of web hosting hyperbole. One of our most famous internet magazine ads listed everything as free, except the price. Free hosting, Free web space, free domain name, free email address, all of which begged the question; if everything was free, just exactly what was the punters paying for?
It’s a typical Saturday night at the Java Jive. The bar is a Tacoma institution, a one-time home to two pet monkeys appropriately named Java and Jive. The monkeys are dead now, and so is your marriage. You’re singing karaoke because you’re trying to forget everything. You’re a lonely 41-year old single mom with two kids and a decaying house on the north end of town, and you know what it feels like to have your thrills vanish. So you’re singing your lungs out, and some guy bites your foot.
Senior year my mother did two months for larceny. That August she tried walking out with two carts full of groceries. I lived noir. I managed a story that became my first published in the school magazine. She was still in prison that October when my birthday rolled around. I woke up at three-thirty in the morning and read James Thompson’s Snow Angels until I left for the bus.
For some reason, my first instinct was to assume that Derick Johnson was a figment of Nick’s imagination or a sort of creative in-joke between some of the players. The name, I observed, sounded like a character from Mad Men. I imagined a dapper fellow in his mid-thirties turning up to play, with a short glass of scotch on the rocks in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Do you remember Fridays? The indescribable feeling of utter joy that signified that thankfully school was over for another two days. The misery of sitting in a classroom against your will was to be alleviated and replaced with the respite of resentment from parents who didn’t know what to do with you. Yes, Friday was a fine time. Friday represented hope a brief, fleeting window in which anything was possible and the misery of school, with its press-gang style education was exposed for what it was, finite.
Mouth open as he presses cold metal against each tooth. Leaning over me, he recites codes I don’t understand to his assistant. When it’s over, he smiles and tells me, to my surprise, that I have good teeth. Good, straight teeth. It means more to me than it should. I tell myself he says that to all his patients. Within reason.
No one ever plans to end up as a dancer on Bourbon Street. It’s an employment choice born of pure desperation. I worked at a unisex joint called Sweet Mama’s. After only two weeks on the job, I despised every minute of my interminable shifts. I lurched around the club in stilettos like an awkward stork, as songs like “Strokin’” and “My Prerogative” pounded in the background.