Monday, January 07, 2008

Humanity and a Side Order of Cheese

About a month ago, I decided to get another job. Because it seemed like a lunatic idea at the time, I knew right away, it was just the tonic I needed. I was spending 10 hours a day at a thankless job for much less money than I'm worth. And it wasn't so much the the pay that had me down, it was not being appreciated and feeling invisible to co-workers and the people I was trying to help. Sooooooo, the only sensible thing to do was to get another job; one that doesn't pay very much but allows me to work in an environment I like. I'm now the face behind the counter. It's not bad because I get to see another side of humanity that ordinarily I would not get a chance to see close up.

The people I work with are much younger than me. I won't tell them my age or that I have another job. I'm sure they'd treat me differently if they knew.

There's R, who one evening announced loudly that she could spot a crack head a mile away because she used to be one. My baby saved my life she says. When I found out I was pregnant, my momma sold my car and put me in rehab. She's short and round like a Humpty Dumpty with a pageboy haircut and granny glasses. Several times during the night shift, she breaks into a little dance for no reason at all and every so often, pastries from the bakery case find their way into her pudgy palm. I call her the Russian because she lifts heavy bags of garbage with ease.

The only male member of our crew is S who was fired from his last job after being accused of stealing. He's also still living at home with parents and attending tech school but working mainly to pay off his Camaro. Despite text messaging all night and frequently disappearing from our work area, he has managed to hang on to the job for over a year without getting fired. Life would be sweeter according to S he only meets girls who want him for nothing more than a friendly shoulder to cry on when their 'real' boyfriends act up. He winces when recalling the time he fell in love and the girl used him to buy her a cell phone, then charged hundreds of dollars calling her fiance in Korea. I don't have the heart to tell him, wearing deodorant and getting his teeth fixed would considerably improve his chances for romance. Those two are the fun part of our little cadre of consumer helpmates.

While they all have 'issues,' K I'm afraid is on a downhill spiral that may have been inevitable before she was even born. At seventeen, she already has a baby, no car, a high school dropout, K has been in and out of youth detention facilities and psychiatric wards since she was three years old. When I first met her, my first impression was that she was tough and street smart. The attitude was just a front. In reality she is nobody's baby, but a baby just the same. She's smart enough to know she needs help but she doesn't have a clue about how to get it. Last night she complained about having to buy baby diapers. She earns $95 a week working part time. Her mother, who refuses to work, takes $80 a week for allowing her to live at 'home.' A month ago after having her boyfriend arrested, K moved back home but not before the boyfriend was paroled and destroyed all of her meager belongings. Her eyes are lifeless pools of desolation and hopelessness. She's stopped wearing make-up and barely combs her hair. She steals food while we work. I suspect, it's the only meal she gets. If management catches her, she'll be fired but she says , "I don't care. I want them to fire me." I believe her. I bought her a Christmas present and she barely looked at it, then left it on a counter at work for days. I finally gave it to R. I guess when you've given up, when you don't believe you have any self worth gifts are irrelevant.