Cuteness Overload.

I saw this in the Wireless catalog the other day and thought it was so cute:

No, actually I'm lying. In fact, it chilled my soul and continues to haunt my dreams.  I'm hoping that by sharing this with you, I can somehow dilute the horror evenly among my readers so I don't have to bear it alone.  That said, I have a few observations I'd like to talk to you about.

Let's start with this one. Super-realistic?  If you are sculpting a DEMON SQUIRREL PRINCE then yes, yes it is.  And damn right I would have killed it if I could.  I would have unloaded a full mag right into its head the minute I laid eyes on that fucking thing, even though it probably wouldn't have done any good.  

Maybe it's just me, but "perfectly cute and kitschy" is not how I would describe this.  I would go so far as to say it is evil and horrifying.  I picture it walking up to my sliding glass door and knocking slowly with its bony claw until it hypnotizes me into letting it come in.  

Also, I am pretty sure acorns are not what this unholy abomination is hoarding.  I would bet money that it hoards nothing but tasty, tasty souls.  Last but not least -- A customer favorite?  Really?  WTF kind of depraved customers does Wireless have, anyway?  Dear god, just look at this face:

Is that not the exact opposite of cute and kitschy?  It knows things about you.  It knows about that bag of birdseed you keep under your mattress.  It knows what you like to do with those walnuts late at night when nobody is watching.  

It comes down off the wall at night, claws its way up the skirt of your bed, sits on your chest and watches you sleep.  So sleep tight. 

Come.  Take my hand. 

[edit - Hey, just to take your mind off the horror and get into the holiday spirit, let me tell you about this sale my wife has going on.  If you go to her etsy shop and buy a hat, scarf, fingerless gloves or headband, and put "All Hail the Demon Squirrel Prince" in your order, she'll take off $5.00 per item and give you free shipping to boot.  No, she doesn't know about this yet. But when she gets her first order that says, "All Hail the Demon Squirrel Prince," I think she'll know where to go for answers.]


Lawyers don't surf.

After Star Market, I moved on to something cleaner and less demanding.   I traded sour milk and rat feces for gasoline, oil, and washer fluid, which was a definite step up.  I worked for a full-service gas station, back when those still existed in New York, and even though it was hell on earth in the summer and 20 below zero in the winter, and we had to wear white uniforms with green pinstripes on the pants, it wasn't all bad.  I was 16 years old, I had a new driver's license, an old Impala that sucked down gas like Lindsay Lohan sucks down -- wait for it -- booze, and no plan other than filling up that 36 gallon gas tank as many times as I could that summer. The Impala got about eight miles per gallon, so sticking to that plan was a pretty easy thing to do.  

On the nice days, it was a cake walk, but toward the middle of July you really had to work for your money.  When it's 102 degrees outside and you are standing on black, sun-blasted pavement breathing hot exhaust fumes from a half-dozen cars and trucks, and your boss insists that you keep your top shirt button buttoned at all times, it's hard to not take the easy way out and just die standing up.

Let me tell you what sucks the most about working in a full-serve station.  It makes sense when you think about it, but when you're filling out that application on a beautiful afternoon in late May, it's the farthest thing from your mind.  It's simply this:

The worse the weather is, the busier you are.

At the time, most gas stations had pumps that were in the open with no covered roofing.  And trust me -- nobody wants to save three cents a gallon by getting out of their car in the pouring rain, sleet, snow, high winds or hail to pump their own gas.  In an indirect way, that's what almost got me fired.  To express it in a completely incorrect mathematical manner because I really, really suck at math, the equation in my mind looks something like this:

(bad weather + recurring asshole) x (short straw/had-it-up-to-here) = potential bad decision

Mike and I were in the hut wishing away customers.  The hut was nothing more than a glass door and a plate glass window tacked onto the front of a 16x16 foot white cinderblock building.  The building was just big enough to hold a front room with a desk and a couple of chairs, a tiny break room behind that, a footlocker-sized concrete safe with a money slit on top,  and a bathroom accessible through another door in the back.

It was Wednesday night, and it had been pouring rain for five hours and it didn't look like it was going to let up any time soon.  Mike and I were sitting on hard plastic chairs, our ankle-length yellow slickers unbuttoned, water dripping into pools beneath our seats.  Mike got up for the third time in as many minutes and ran a squeegee across the window to wipe away the condensation so we could see what was going on.  We knew we'd hear the bell if anyone pulled up and ran over the air hose, but it was nice to see ahead of time whether you're up against an 18-wheeler with a 100 gallon diesel tank on either side, or a Volkswagen bug driven by a guy sticking two dollar bills out of his window.  This was also important because if it turned out to be a single car, you alternated, but if two or more pulled up, you both had to go out.

Like every other job working with the public, we learned pretty quickly who the pain-in-the-ass customers were.  There are the ones that won't pay $10.03 if they told you to pump ten bucks, or the ones who changed their minds and decided to pay with a credit card after you'd already given them the cash price discount. And of course, there were the drive-offs, and while generally not recurring, those came out of your pay.

And then there was the guy we called Peener O'Tool.  The peener in the beemer.  Or simply, Peener.  He was all of these things and more.  Because not only did he show up every time the weather sucked,  but he got off on making you wait on him hand and foot.  So he would sit there in his BMW with his window rolled down half way and he'd basically mock you to your face and there wasn't anything you could do about it.  He was one of those guys who, if you told him he had a nice car, would say "I know" instead of "Thanks."

He showed up every Wednesday, like clockwork, rain or shine. He didn't abuse you as much when it was nice out -- I guess there wasn't as much fun in that.  Even so, he wasn't going to pump his own gas no matter what the weather was like.  He might get his suit dirty, or wrinkle his silk tie.  The other thing that pissed me off about this guy is that he would always drive in the exit and end up on the wrong side of the pumps, so his car was facing in the opposite direction from the other 99% of people who weren't obnoxious idiots.  I assume he did this because the gas cap was on the passenger side, and he was too lazy to loop around and come in from the entrance.

The week before, he had pulled up in a rainstorm, and I got the short straw since it was my turn.  I walked out to the pumps and he rolled down his window and said, "Super unleaded. Fill it." and rolled up the window again.  Of course he pulled up a little too far just to make it more difficult for me.  I tapped on the window and asked him if he could move back a little, but he ignored me.  I sighed, stretched the hose to its limits, and started the pump.  He always used his credit card, so I ran back to the hut to get the credit card machine and the little 4x6 clipboard and pen.  There was no swiping a card at the pump during the late 70's.  This was a metal slider thing and a hunk of carbon paper that you slipped the card under to take an imprint.  Stone knives and bearskins.  You couldn't get any of it wet, so you had to hold it under your slicker.  By the time I got back, his tank was full, so I put the credit card machine on top of the pump while I put the hose away.  It was really coming down hard now.  The water was splashing underneath my slicker and the lower half of my uniform was soaked to my knees.  He rolled down the window and I handed him the credit slip on the little clipboard, along with a pen.  He signed it, took his card and returned the clipboard without a word.  I turned and was about to jog back to the hut when he called me through the slitted window.  I looked back and he smirked at me.  "Check the oil," he said.

We weren't allowed to say no, so I had to do it.  The Hess motto was "The customer is always right, especially when they're obnoxious idiots," and we had to follow that motto just as closely as we had to follow the button-up-and-die dress code from hell.  I think he was hoping I'd walk to the front of the car and fumble around a bit looking for the hood release, but I had been working there long enough to know the hood release on those cars was inside.  I nodded, and said, "Can you pop the hood for me, sir?" God, even now, the fact that I called him sir pisses me off.

He waited until I was leaning under the hood then he gave the horn a tap, for the sole purpose of scaring the shit out of me.  I'm sure he thought it was hilarious.  I checked the oil, which was fine, as we both knew it would be, and brought over the dip stick for him to inspect.  He made a show of looking it over, then nodded.  I ran back around to the front of the car and replaced the dip stick, then slammed the hood.  I walked back and said, "Anything else I can help you with?"  Of course there was.  He said, "Sucks to be you today.  Check my tire pressure, will you?"  I gritted my teeth, and ran back to the hut to get the pressure gauge.

Mike had been watching all this through the window and when I walked in, he said, "Sorry, man. He got me a couple weeks ago if it's any consolation."

"It's not," I said. "What an asshole.  Can you believe he wants me to check his tire pressure now?"

"I believe it," Mike said. "He's the only person who's ever made me clean their friggin' windows during a thunderstorm.  I'm about ready to put diesel in his tank next time he comes in."

That didn't seem like such a bad idea to me, either.  I ran back to the car, sneakers squishing, and squatted down next to the first tire as I unscrewed the cap and tested it.  It was fine.  Five minutes later, I had confirmed that they were all fine, as I'm sure he undoubtedly had known. I wasn't giving him any more chances, so I just gave him the "OK" sign and ran for the hut.  It wasn't the sign I wanted to give him, believe me.

He left, and I wished him into a pole.  I'm not entirely sure, but I think he may have been the first person to be listed in my manifesto who didn't actually know my name.  A few hours later, I saw something that gave me an idea.  An evil, horrible, wonderful idea.  Assuming he didn't drive into a pole in the meantime, of course.

The station was small, and only had four pumps on two islands, two spigots on each side of the pump.  Back then, you couldn't pick which type of gas you wanted by pushing a blinking button. If you wanted Super unleaded, you had to pull up to the blue pump, either on the inside, near the hut, or the outside, next to the street.   I shared my plan with Mike and he said he was in.  Now we just had to wait for another rainy Wednesday.

A few weeks later, it happened.  It had rained all day, and it showed no intention of stopping.  It was a Wednesday, and we were both on the schedule.  After the day shift left and it was just me and Mike,  we immediately bagged the inside Super pump.  We had these little yellow bags with "Sorry, Out of Order" printed on them, and if there was a problem, you'd just close the pump until it could be fixed.

We waited, for the first time actually hoping that Peener would show up to make our lives miserable.  He didn't disappoint.  At 6:30 on the button he pulled up to the inside pump,  saw it was out of order,  backed it up and pulled in on the other side.  He didn't even attempt to turn around, which meant his filler cap was on the wrong side.  I think he just wanted something else to bitch about since that meant I had to drape the hose across the trunk of his BMW.  I looked at Mike and he looked at me.  "I'll take this one," I said.  He just grinned as I donned my yellow slicker and pulled my hood up around my face. "Good luck," he said.

I walked up to the BMW's window, and Peener nodded at me.  He brought the window half-way down and said, "Fill it up.  And check the oil and the tires, since it's so nice out today."

I very carefully draped the hose across his trunk, put the nozzle in the tank and locked it while I checked the oil and tires.  I had the pressure gauge and the credit card machine all ready to go, so I didn't have to leave and I could keep watch.  I confess that I didn't really check the tire pressure. I just squatted down next to the car for a while at each corner, all the while scanning on-coming traffic.  Finally, I saw what I needed.  I had hoped for a pickup truck or even a delivery truck, but I hit the mother lode.  An 18 wheeler at the light about a quarter mile away.  I had to time it perfectly.

The outside of the pump was only a few feet from the right lane of Central Avenue, and whenever we had a thunderstorm or simply a downpour, it resulted in a gigantic and very deep puddle directly across from the outside pump.  There was a depression there that would fill up with water and it was at least four inches deep and 20 feet long.  You had to be very aware of passing trucks or you had a good chance of getting soaked.  All of us had learned the hard way and this is what I had been waiting for.  Most cars tended to at least try to avoid the small lake created by the rain, but if there were cars in the inside lane, the bigger trucks had no choice but to barrel through.  

I showed him the dipstick, then stuffed it back in the engine and slammed the hood.  I walked up to his window and took his credit card, keeping my eye on the approaching semi. Halfway. Probably doing about 25 or 30 mph. Shifting. Belting smoke from the twin stacks. The speed limit was 40, but most people did more than that.  I could hear the truck changing gears as it picked up speed.  I ran his card, but instead of clipping the card and the slip to the little clipboard, I just rested the card on top.  Holding the credit card machine under one arm, I reached out to hand him the clipboard and pen.  Because I'm clumsy and clearly no good at my job, I tipped the clipboard and the credit card slid off and fell on the ground next to the car.  "I'm sorry!" I said, making a show of backing away and scanning the ground under the car and not finding his card.  "Jesus Christ!" he said, then opened his door and leaned out of the car a little bit to see if he could spot his errant card.

It was a beautiful thing, and I can still picture it now.  It was like the final scene of Point Break, when Patrick Swayze is on the beach in Australia during the 50-year storm and he heads out into the surf for the final time as Keanu Reeves stands on the beach and gives another oscar-worthy performance.

"Wait, there it is!" I said, pointing directly under his door.  At the same time, I turned my back to the road and braced myself as the 18-wheeler barreled by and a six-foot-tall wall of dirty brown street water rose up and then crashed down on the open car door and unprotected back of Peener and his expensive suit.  When the truck had passed,  I looked past the dripping hood of my slicker and just stared at the destruction.  Peener looked like he had been hit with a fire hose.  Water was dripping from his hair, the steering wheel, his chin, you name it.  He had gravel on his shoulders.  He looked up at me in confusion as if he had no idea what had just happened.  I bent down and scooped up the small rectangle of green and white plastic.

"Here's your card," I said, holding it out between two fingers. "Sorry about that."

He was furious, and even though he wanted to blame me, he really couldn't.  I was just the idiot who dropped his card on the ground.  He's the one who opened the door.  I finally got him to sign the slip, then I went back inside.  Mike was rolling on the floor laughing so hard he could barely breathe.  After Peener drove away, we immediately pulled the bag off the pump and then replayed the event over and over for the rest of our shift.

He complained to the company, of course.  Hess owed him a new suit, they were going to pay for detailing his car if it was the last thing they did, the town was going to hear from him about that pothole, blah, blah, blah.  Typical blowhard stuff, from what I heard.  The thing that almost got us fired was the fact that we had placed the "out of order" bag on the pump when they weren't actually out of order.  That's a big no-no for some reason that has to do with gallon readings per pump or something, and Peener had actually thought to mention the out of order pump.  Steve, our boss, put two and two together.  He knew about the puddle just like the rest of us did.  He was actually pretty cool about it though, and pulled us into the back room and gave us a speech.

"Don't do any shit like that again, or I'll have to fire you.  I know that guy is a dick, and I know you did it on purpose.  He made me check his tires in the rain, too, but dealing with his crap is part of the job. It's what you get paid to do, and if you can't take it, then you're free to find another job.  Are we cool?"

We were cool.  Both Mike and I worked that season until the snow flew, then we put in our notice.  It was probably a good thing too, because everything went self-service the following spring, and the station closed shortly thereafter.  If there's any justice in the world, Peener still has ditch water in his ears to go with the gravel in his douchebag soul.

I only hope he remembers the day he caught his first tube.

p.s. - Locals rule.


Say hello to my little friend.

Things have been a little crazy at work lately and there's been an increase in the FUD factor that's got me a little geared up.  Needless to say, I've been thinking about my job history.  I rarely if ever write about work, because way back when I started blogging, one of the first sites I ever read was Dooce, and the lesson stuck with me.

Long story short, I am going to have to learn an insane amount of tech in a very short amount of time, and even though I'm pretty sure I can do it,  there's always a little voice in the back of my brain saying, "What if you can't learn it fast enough?"  Anyway, this got me thinking about how it felt to get my first "real" job and the fear and exhiliration that goes along with that phone call or letter that says, "Hey, you got the job!  So when can you start?"

If you've been hanging around here for very long, you probably read the story of my first "non-corporate" jobs, here and here.  As I mention in that second post,  every company I've ever worked for (with the exception of my current place of employment) has gone out of business.  In all cases except one, I managed to jump ship before the torpedo hit.  I think I finally broke that streak though, since I'm 99.99% positive that my current employer has the ability to counteract my company-killing mojo, because I've been with them for an insane number of years.  I presume that means I like them and they like me, but sometimes I find it hard to believe that so much time has passed.

I've worked in a lot of pits over the years, and this post could be amusing or it could be boring as hell. I'm not sure yet.  If it just straight out sucks, I won't push the publish button and you'll never see this.  (Or maybe you will see it, and it will still suck -- only I won't know it until you tell me.  Guess we'll see.)  This will also be a multi-parter, one job per post, just to make it more painful for everyone.


Job One:  When You Wish Upon A Star

My parents were firm believers in teaching us the value of money. When we were kids, we got a small allowance, but we worked for it.  In fact, just yesterday I went over to visit my dad and he had a "to-do" list for me. I laughed and told him it was just like old times, except he wasn't waking me up at 9 am on Saturday morning by pulling the covers off me and hauling me out of bed by my right foot.

My first job was as a stockboy for a rinky-dink corner grocery store called Star Market.  My buddy The Slug worked there, and he thought he might be able to get me in.  I still remember asking my mother if I could fill out an application.  I was 15 years old, and she had to sign a special form so I could apply for the job.  I could only work a limited number of hours a week because of my age.  I never really thought about what a pain in the ass that first job was for my parents. I couldn't drive, which meant they had to drop me off, pick me up, take me to the bank, and keep track of my schedule, all to teach me about this thing called responsibility.  I'm not sure I really understood that lesson at the time, but I did get some extra money out of the deal, and to my parents' credit, they didn't make me save it for college or make me pay rent.

Star Market was a family affair run by three brothers and their father, who was the boss.  The brothers were older than us, probably between 18 and 25, and the younger two used the stockboys as their personal slaves.  Any crappy job they didn't want to do fell to us.  Cleaning the sour, curdled milk that had leaked inside the dairy case? That was us.  Cleaning the bathroom?  Definitely us.  Just to sweeten the pot -- so to speak -- they thought it was funny to make us do it right after one of them had blown out the previous night's chicken wings and beer.  Mopping up spills in the aisles? Also us. You haven't lived until you've tried to clean a busted bottle of olive oil off of a gritty linoleum floor using a 30-year-old mop that smells like cheese.  Two of brothers worked in the deli, and the other one worked stocking the "fresh" produce and doing other things that generally involved finding the best ways to goof off.

For his part, their old man would sit behind the plexiglass walls in the corner office loft that overlooked the cashier lines and chain smoke cigarettes, talk on the phone and pound on his adding machine.  The oldest son was the butcher. He was also a scary-ass Dexter-lookin' mofo who watched you like a hawk and never smiled unless he was chopping meat with a cleaver.  There were a couple of gum-chewing cashiers and an ancient white-haired guy who I think may have been another partner/owner or maybe just the resident dirty old man.  I'm not really sure what he did, but he hung around a lot in the back room drinking stale coffee, getting handsy with the cashiers, and smoking.  I remember one time we were rearranging the stock in the back room and he said to me, "Hand me that box of manhole covers, will ya?" I looked at him in confusion, because I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he pointed to the case of Kotex behind me, exhaled a huge cloud of rancid smoke in my general direction and said, "It's a joke, boy."  Even though I didn't really get it right away, I laughed nervously, then passed him the box.   What can I say? I was slow then, and I'm slow now.

The Slug and I usually worked the closing shift.  We'd get dropped off by the school bus, and then have to go inside and put our stock boy jackets on.  Unfortunately for us, the jackets were communal, and they didn't have enough of them to go around. They always stunk like the worst B.O. you could imagine.  The day-shift guys would wear them when they were outside in the heat unloading the trucks, and then after their shift they'd hang them up soaking with sweat, and we'd come in and have to put those disgusting things on.  The only way you could stand it was by convincing yourself it was a bowl of french onion soup you were smelling instead of your own reeking jacket.  I used to take my own shirt off and wear the jacket with nothing underneath because I couldn't stand the way it made my clothes stink. It was bad enough that people thought you had B.O., but even worse if you brought it home on your own clothes.

The closing shift was actually a pretty good deal, because everyone went home except for the father, one cashier and us.  The only bad part was that we didn't get dinner unless we paid for it.  If you ate before six pm, Dexter would make you a sandwich when you were on break, but he'd weigh each slice of meat and cheese and charge you the going rate. He'd wrap your food in paper, tape it up and write the price on with a grease pencil.  We'd have to take it to the front cashier and pay for it before walking back to the stock room to eat it.  When you make $2.65 an hour, you eat a lot of olive loaf.  If you wanted fresh bread, or mustard or mayo, that was extra, too.  Otherwise you got the shelf-expired bread, because that was free, and you ate it dry.

So we learned to um… supplement our diet.  For instance, do you know fast you can stand in the bathroom and suck down a yogurt without using any utensils?  Approximately 4.2 seconds.  About the same amount of time it takes the toilet to flush and cover up your slurping noises.  The best free meals were when you were working the deli, though.  After you were on the meat slicer for a while, you got pretty good at judging weights.  If some old crank ordered a pound of roast beef, you'd estimate a pound and then pop off an extra slice or two.  If they didn't want to pay for the extra ounce, you could set that slice aside, then a few minutes later do the same thing with the American cheese.  Eventually, you had the makings of a nice little snack.  You'd just have to make sure you downed it before the old man saw you, otherwise he'd make you put it back in the cooler and add it to someone else's order.

Yes, technically it was stealing, and yes, stealing is wrong.  But even today, nothing tastes quite as good as a slice of roast beef and a slice of cheese rolled up and eaten while standing in front of the refrigerator.  Besides, that was nothing compared to the larceny going on all around us. The youngest brother used to prop open the back door and hand cases of beer outside to his buddies and then threaten to kill us if we  told anyone.  I think he probably would have done it, too. He looked a little like Charles Manson.

Here's a tip for you.  Never buy ground beef.  Ever.  Unless you make it yourself or watch it being made.  Why?  Because you never know what's in it, that's why.  They used to make us do some things that are probably illegal and also probably the basis of my germophobia.  When the ground beef out on the floor was close to expiring, they'd put it on sale to unload it.  But once the 'sell by' date passed, they made us take the old, greying beef and put it through the grinder again, mixing it in with new ground beef.  Then they'd put the mix on sale.  Tell me that's not disgusting.

They also had a bit of a rodent problem.  There was a vacant lot next door, completely overgrown with weeds, and the dumpsters were out on the loading dock, overlooking the lot.  The entire thing was infested with rats.  If you tossed a rock out into the middle, the weeds would ripple like the water in a pond as the rats ran in every direction.  There was a pellet gun in the back room, and sometimes the brothers would take turns standing out on the loading dock and shooting any rats that tried to get to the dumpsters.

They had some in the store, too, because we'd sometimes see chewed stuff in the produce aisle.  For whatever reason, they couldn't seem to catch them.  Traps didn't work, poison was untouched…I guess when you have an entire produce aisle to snack on, those little hard d-Con peanut-flavored pellets aren't so appetizing.

After you worked there for a few months, you got to know your regular customers, which could be a good thing or a bad thing -- mostly bad.  You had the "head-cheese lady" and "crazy boloney" and any number of other shoppers you learned to avoid if at all possible.  One night when I was working the deli and The Slug was stocking shelves and doing price changes,  I looked up and saw "shaved-ham" shuffling down the produce aisle to the deli counter.  When she finally got to me, she ordered up her usual: three pounds of shaved ham.  If you don't know what that is, let me explain.  It's basically the biggest pain in the ass order you could possibly get.  You had to set the slicer on its thinnest setting, so it just barely touches the ham, and then stand there for a solid 20 minutes moving the damned thing back and forth while microscopic bits of ham dropped on to the paper.  There was no such thing as an automatic slicer at the time, or if there was, we didn't have one.  You could actually break a sweat doing this.

Right before the shaved-ham lady turned away, I happened to look down the produce aisle and see a giant rat waddle nonchalantly from one side of the aisle to the other, then disappear.  The coolers had doors underneath, and the excess produce was stored down there. Underneath the doors, there were removable kick panels that allowed access to the wiring and refrigeration, and the rat had found an opening between the panels.  I  kept my cool and continued slicing.  Rats in the produce aisle are not generally good for business.  Just then, The Slug came around the corner with the pricing cart.*

"Hey Slug!" I said, "C'mere! Hurry!"  He came around the deli counter. "What's up?" he asked, then saw what I was doing.

"Oh man," he said, "I'm glad you got her this time.  She was just here a couple of days ago.  I seriously  have no idea what the hell she does with all that ham."

"Forget the ham," I told him, continuing to slice. "I just saw the freakin' rat!  He ran from one side of the produce aisle to the other.  I think he's still underneath it."

"No way!" he said. "Where?"

I nodded to the produce aisle where the shaved-ham lady had stopped, her back to the produce as she examined a jar of pickles or something on the opposite side. "Right there,  kind of where shaved-ham is standing." I said.  I looked down to gauge how much ham I had piled up, when The Slug whispered, "Holy shit!" I looked back up and he was pointing down the aisle at the shaved-ham lady.

Directly next to her cart, literally between her feet, a fat brown rat was settled back on his haunches eating a grape, and she had no idea.  She was completely engrossed in her label reading -- and there was a rat between her legs.

"What should we do?" I asked. "If she sees that thing she's gonna flip out. And she'll definitely never shop here again."

The Slug paused for a second, weighing the pros and cons of this.  "On the plus side, we'd never have to shave that fucking ham again," he said.  Since I could barely feel my shoulder at the moment, I didn't argue.  But then he reconsidered and said, "OK, maybe I can distract her.  You keep slicing, and we'll get her the hell out of here.  With any luck, the rat will run before she sees it."

The Slug walked back to his pricing cart and steered it down the produce aisle.  When he was about 20 feet away from the shaved-ham lady, he reached over and knocked a few cans off the pricing cart onto the floor.  Startled, she looked up at him, and the plan worked perfectly.  When the cans hit the floor, the rat spooked and ran down the aisle behind her and back into the kick panel.  The Slug made a show of picking up the cans, and then stayed in the aisle making noise with his cart, hoping that it would keep the rat from popping out again.

A few minutes later, as I was wrapping up the three pounds of pasty meat for her, the boss came over and asked The Slug what the hell he was doing, since he was in the wrong aisle and his price changes weren't done yet.  In a low voice, the Slug explained what happened, and the old man left and came back with a packing tape gun.

After the shaved-ham lady left the store,  the boss had The Slug tape over all the openings in the kick panel, just to get us through the rest of the night rat-free.  Then at the end of the night, he called us over to the office and handed us an extra five bucks. I guess at that point, with the new Price Chopper opening up not too far down the street, he figured every customer was worth their weight in gold and we had saved one of his regulars for him.  It didn't help in the long run, since they went out of business eventually anyway, but by that time both The Slug and I had moved on.

I never got a rat-bonus before or since, but hey, you never know.  The building I work in is kind of old.  It could happen.

*I may not be young.  I say this because at the time, the pricing cart consisted of a shopping cart with a board on top.  You were armed with a clipboard, a rubber stamp with rotating numbers on it, a purple ink pad, a roll of paper towels and an aerosol can of Lysol.  If an item changed price, either because it went up, or was on sale, you'd have to take all the cans off the shelf,  line them up on the board, spray the Lysol on top then quickly wipe the old purple price away with the paper towels. For some reason, Lysol was the solvent of choice.  Then when the cans were clean, you'd re-stamp them with the new price.  It was a real skill to stamp them so the purple price was legible, and do it fast enough to finish everything on time.  I was really good at it, and it's a skill I've used many times since. Oh wait, no, that's a lie. It's come in handy exactly zero times since then.  On the plus side,  you actually knew what stuff cost.