Drugs and Sex: My Time in a Pharmacy (Part 1)

DrugsSo there is a good chance that the pharmacist I worked for while in high school had a drug problem. Whenever he felt he needed to change “something” he would disappear down one of the drug aisles behind the counter, and a few pills later everything would be right as rain.

The pharmacy was located in a chain of grocery stores, so he had to be careful with his personal dealings. The more “monitored” drugs were located in a locked drawer at the front of the pharmacy, and one day when I was counting some off for a customer, he made a point of noting to me that if there was one pill missing in any of the bottles everyone would hear about it. It was a warning to me, but I also knew it was a reminder to himself to keep his hands off.

I never would have considered touching any of the drugs in the pharmacy, interest in that kind of recreational activity was never in my hardwire. I think at least the HR person recognized that from my interview and my reviews from my previous position. Mr. Goody Two-shoes. I was just not that kind of kid, probably making me one of the few teenagers who would be a perfect candidate to work at a pharmacy counter… unsupervised.

For two years before the pharmacy I was a bagboy at a different grocery store in the same chain, which meant bagging the groceries for the customer and then helping get them to the car. They were very personal and friendly stores. We were even given a list of possible conversational starters: sports, weather, local news (that isn’t too controversial). Definitely not politics or religion! Also, it was considered oddly rude to talk about a customer’s purchase, even if you just watched it rung up by the cashier and you put it in the bag for them. That was crossing the line. I still don’t get why that is true, but it feels right in my gut.

I kind of liked being a bagboy… 40 percent of the time.

Bagging groceries always felt like a challenge, a little game, trying to figure out how to fit everything into one bag without smashing anything or ripping it. The problem for me was with the other 60 percent. Which could include cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the floors and dealing with the empty cans and bottles.

The cans and bottles were the worst. Yes, even worse than the time I had to clean the bathroom walls after someone tried to do art on them with… I’ll let you use your imagination. Continue reading

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Cereal, Milk, and a Bank Loan (Part 1)

Bag of MoneyI own a copy of The Satanic Bible because of my time working at a bank.

Let me begin by pointing out that this was not a normal bank. For some reason, the higher-ups in the banking world (who I always like to imagine as fat pigs in suits with cigars) thought it would be a good idea to have a bank in a grocery store. Really? Okay, sure. This grocery store was also in the heart of a more struggling community, so the idea of a bank being in that store in that area made the entire experience that much odder.  Sometimes it would leave me feeling like we were taunting the more struggling citizens (those shopping with food stamps). Not for you…

No one that knows me would have argued that banking is the best career choice for me. Yes, I enjoy interacting with people and customer service to a certain extent, but numbers are not my thing. The one time I had ever (ever!) needed a tutor was for a beginning college course in Accounting. I remember the tutor having a hard time explaining something to me and so she would talk slower and slower as if it was the speed of her explanation that was the problem. For all I know that tutor is still sitting someplace trying to finish that sentence.

I was in grad school at the time (working towards a master’s in English Literature), and the job worked around my busy classroom schedule, so I couldn’t say no, no matter how off this position was for me.  It almost made me feel like I had a secret identity. At school I was in cool t-shirts and hoodies, talking about Virginia Woolf and William Shakespeare; at work, I was a business professional talking about mortgages. I was the English major’s version of Clark Kent.

Being in a grocery store, the bank looked more like a pharmacy, with one back office and a long counter. But instead of pills we were pushing financial obligations and long-term debt.  We were there to open accounts, sell the services of the bank. We were the front line of a financial war, and the shoppers walking around were the targets. Our weapons were free rulers and pens and other minor office supplies with our logo on them. It was also my job every thirty minutes or so to wander around those grocery aisles, interrupting strangers who were in the middle of shopping.  Honestly, it all felt so very rude and I hated it.

“Hi, I noticed you are buying groceries. Would you like a free notepad for your grocery list? No… Okay… Well, I’m with the bank over there and we are offering a new special on an equity loan… And… I’m sorry for bothering you.”

I said sorry a lot when I was on that job. Continue reading

So-So-So (3 Days to 40)

Birthday CakeSo I was at the grocery store buying my wife a bottle of wine. The cashier (a broad-shouldered, older woman with a haircut reminiscent of something you would see in a lumberjack camp) took my ID. She looked at me, looked at my ID and then looked at me again. Immediately, I was overcome with a feeling of dread at the conversation coming.

“You got a birthday coming up,” she began. She sounded like a smoker, or she had a cold. Either way, her voice was rougher and deeper than mine. When I speak to people that have voices deeper than my own it always makes me feel like a kid and I should use words like “ma’am” and “sir.”

“Yup,” I replied simply. I hoped my short response with a word that wasn’t really even a word would end the discussion…. it didn’t.

“A big one,” she said with an evil smile. The smile was a tad disconcerting.

“Yes,” I  said with a nod. There was then this awkward pause.  Her, holding my license and smiling; me, doing my best not to make eye contact. After what felt like a minute, I added, “I’m trying not to think about it.” Continue reading