Strange Confessions: I have never been in a fight, be it wrestling, pushing or fisticuffs with another human of the male persuasion that was not my brother or a best friend and I messing around. That is not to say I haven’t had the opportunity to take someone to the mattresses, I just chose some reason to get out of a mess myself or another has tried to get me into. Why fight, when you can love? Well, my experience in that area was sadly lacking as well. I mean, the Foreigner song, “I Want To Know What Love Is” made me weep in my little fourteen year face as I lay awake at night despairing of my lack of deeply emotional connections with the opposite sex. Teenagery really leaves a mark on you, in ways of thinking that everything else seemed so important. I look at the area of my life as a way to connect with these young rowdys nowadays: Connecting with the remembrances of the past helps us to bond with the future.
Anyways… back to the wars that could have been: The first time someone gave me the go ahead and try it nod, was when my best friend and I were wandering the tough streets of suburban Murray, Utah. Some young and most likely orphan toughs got in our path, challenging us with looks and upturned chin thrusts. I was giddy inside with nervous tension. We had run into these feral mongrels previously, but never equally teamed. Their threats were met swiftly and surely with a head-lock from my taller and more sure of himself best buddy, Greg. They ran off, pants sagging, ears severely boxed, crying for their mommies, who they had forgotten they lost in their moment of humiliation. Greg was the coolest. We were bestest for what seemed a time that would never end. I’m currently friends with Greg on that one site, but he never does anything on it. He has gone on to be one awesome adult: featured in Forbes and Business Weekly, making a mountain of moolah being the Vice President or Chief Financial Officer of one up-and-coming company or another, working his way up the ladder of incredible responsibility that I so sorely missed because I acted slowly. I decided to hide behind this future financial guru when the ruffians attacked, which was probably my loss. Oh well, no regrets. I have my wife, my daughters, and a forever future no one can take away.
Second time I was challenged was when I was a Freshman at Judge Memorial Catholic High School. Ah yes, I see your confusion. There would never be a challenge that would result in a fight at a Catholic High School. But, I am here to set you straight. Conflict and yes, sometimes fights would happen in Catholic schools almost as much as in those, gasp, public schools. Nuns and priests were scary, but they were not omnipresent. They couldn’t slap your hands with rulers and/or pointers when you were getting out of line all the time, and I was challenged with nary a religious authority figure in sight on this ominous day. It was a dude named Tom. Tom was someone I went to St. Vincent’s with and he was okay back in those times although he did have a pasty white complexion, light grey eyes, the lightest, thinnest blonde hair you ever did see on a boy, which had the craziest cow-lick in the class. Now, Tom may have been made fun of a bit in St. Vincent’s but I never did commence the teasing, but I may have stood in the background thinking it was a bit funny, grinning my stupid little grin, being happy it wasn’t me. Tom may have been a bit of a rival for my best friends regards, so I stood with those who took the opportunity to harass him. As a young lad, I never defended the tormented for I was a scrawny one, but my participation in said tormentation of Tom brings me a shame that I wish I could go back and fix. As high school began, I had to show myself as one who could fit in, and humor was my option of choice to promote the coolness that I knew was inside me. On the back steps outside of the Freshman hall I saw Tom as an available point of mockery. Easy, yes, but what a little snit I was. Not recalling my words, which really were hesitant because of the unsurety of myself since hiding behind future financial man, I just tried to show myself as someone clever. Tom challenged me: several times, to a battle of hands and face. I laughed and joked it off. Cowardly little weasel I was, and not even giving it up for love. Good thing I failed out of Judge, just to avoid any further humiliation at the hands of myself. But, as you know I give myself plenty of chances for self-humiliation.
Hiding. Laughing it off. Those were the tools of my avoidance. I used them well.
As I entered into the world of my pre-adultness that was retail, new challenges awaited me. Around this time I had several people tell me that they hated me when they first met me, but then they got to know me, and then they finally saw the real me, and liked it. I believe that may be the case now, only that is something you don’t tell people when you are a real adult. You either avoid or you force yourself to pretend you like. They pretend to like you so long that they forget that they should be trying to know you, and relationships get stagnant. In the retail world I may have run into one of my most famous potential enemies. He was from Brazil. He didn’t speak English goodly. He worked in my same department. We didn’t talk, but the time we did he was very aggressive, angry even. I didn’t understand him, but could read human nature well enough to see I didn’t agree with his vision of what I was supposed to be. Eventually I got out of him that he didn’t like me and wanted to beat me up. I couldn’t understand why and tried to get it out of him. He wouldn’t work it out. He told me there was no chance for us to resolve whatever it was that made me rub him wrong. I said I wasn’t going to fight him. He gave me an angry look and stalked off. I was genuinely frightened. What was wrong with me? How did I spark such anger in our foreign friend? Most of all, how was I going to get out of someone messing up my dapper aspect? I don’t know how I got out of this, but this fine Brazilian gentleman disappeared like mist. Was it all a dream? My face was safe once again.
There was this show my wife watched that I hated: Judging Amy. I would be sitting with her while she viewed the stories. I caught on that the relationships the people in this program were so utterly complicated it hurt to listen. I complained to her about that it wasn’t real. People wouldn’t hold on to something that was almost always so impossible to work through. I understand that these complications were a week to week sort of deal, and it may have kept the viewers hooked. It was tiring slogging through these weekly gorgefests of saturated difficulties among humans. I think I may have wanted to watch an hour of dogs barking at each other than watch this regularly. Thankfully my wife and my relationship is easy… well, not easy, just not full of drama, like the show. One show I do remember, was this one dude’s wife was going to pottery classes, where sexy French-man was the instructor, and he was making the moves on wife. Arguments ensued between husband and wife regarding his banality and lack of passion when it came to fighting for their relationship. Wife soon agreed to sexy French-man’s offer of private pottery perusing to perfection. Husband discovers said encounters and storms Frenchy’s apartment door, pounding furiously, determinedly and surely. Husband’s clenched fist greets sexy French face as door runs agape. Wife’s eyes glitter amorously at husband’s new found ferocity for feeling the force of his love for wife. Ah! Relationship difficulty cured by angry husband’s closed fist. Husband and wife: a thing worth fighting for.
For a while I wondered if my wife wondered about my lack of forcefulness when it came to fist meeting face. But, I hope she knows that I would give it my all in defending what we have; even if it came to me wrestling aggressor to the ground and sitting on threat until “Uncle” was cried.
Strange Confessions: The worst time I remember about going to the breakroom is when they had put a television in there.
I said in my last Strange Confession that these people I worked with in retail had a lot of reasons for working there. I don’t think most of us wanted to be there, our life path just led us there; be it temporary or permanent. I enjoyed the company and genuinely liked all of them in one way or another. Except when a TV was installed in the breakroom.
You think that would be nice to be able to watch a little television while on your break, and sure sometimes it was. But for the most part people would put it on some stupid tabloid talk show. This was at the height of garbage tabloid tv. You had your Oprah, who was probably the least irritating, Maury Povich, Montel Williams, Sally Jessy Raphael, Geraldo Rivera, Jenny Jones, and the worst of the worst Jerry Springer. I grind my teeth just thinking about these shows. Telling the people I work with that this represented the lowering of intelligence in this country, exploitative, disturbing, it made them believe that this was normal behavior in our society, hateful, spiteful, and just plain lazy, didn’t make a bit of difference to them, and they kept sucking it in, and absorbing it’s mindlessness, and sucking it in, and staring vacantly. I called for them to try to do something beneficial to their brain in their viewing. I tried to convince them that just because society may look down on retail workers as losers, doesn’t mean we have to act like the losers they think we are and watch witless swill on our down time.
Why, why, why did they have to choose that offal to consume along with their coke and cookies? Were they really just the people everyone thought they were? Or was it just that it was something easy smooth to turn of their minds to? Or was it that they realized that their lives were heading down paths they never saw coming, always in fear of crumbling around them, and these shows just showed them people’s lives who were a lot worse? Whatever the reason, I despised it, and gave anyone grief the whole time I was up there. I went on and on of the detriments of watching this rubbish. I know I irritated them, and maybe they started hating me for it, but I just couldn’t help myself.
I started leaving the store regularly during breaks and lunches. There wasn’t many other places to go; other stores or fast-food restaurants. You couldn’t visit other stores for very long because when you work retail you give off this aura of Doyouworkhereism, and people were always asking you if this came in blue. Fast-food restaurants took your hard earned money and made you fat and guilty. You could look at the magazines at your store, but inevitably they called you, and you heard it. Sitting down with a coke was the thing to do, and giving in to watching this drivel was tortuous. It got into your brain. In fact I still write like a doofus from these things invading my brain.
I can’t imagine what a breakroom tv today would be broadcasting and my reactions to it. I know I couldn’t take it for a whole 15 minutes. The deterioration of society is evident in television programming. To me there is a program that represents all that was wholesome and since its last broadcast nothing has been like it since. It was The Cosby Show. I have a saying whenever people start talking about television shows they watch and how horrible a lot of them are, I say, “Oh, for the days of The Cosby Show!” That show represented a time, at least for me, of innocence that quickly dwindled. Then, the show that started dragging things through the muck and mire was Friends. Sure, I might have watched it for a year or two, but I quickly realized that this represented the openness of pride in our immorality. Of course, this was also the time that I was becoming a Christian. Although that doesn’t degrade the fact that The Cosby Show was truly the last of its breed: innocent, funny, wholesome. Oh, for the days of The Cosby Show!
Strange Confessions: At Fred Meyer we invented a version of playing UNO that kept us in the breakroom for over an hour, sometimes two, for our 15 minute breaks.
We called it Ruthless UNO. In this version if you don’t have a card you can play you just keep drawing until you find a card you can. You would occasionally find yourself calling “UNO!” and then your next turn came around only to draw 5 or more cards. Sometimes you’d have over 20 cards in your hands. And when you finally find you could play all those Draw 2’s you couldn’t play before, things got a little out of hand (pardon the pun), especially if you were just playing with two people. Some of these games could go on for a very long time. You just couldn’t stop playing when you heard yourself being paged over the loudspeakers. You would call up the person covering you to see if they could get that. “You’ve been on your break forever,” they’d complain. “But I just got up here, I had to help some people on the way here.”
Eventually, people would comprehend what was the gist of all this card playing and get wise in seeing how long we were up there. We’d have to make up excuses for why this was still happening, or find other places to play, or *gasp* put our game on hold. If you know my wife, you know she is as straight-laced as they come, and she would occasionally participate. But, she was under a more knowing thumb than some of us others were.
The usual participants of this were me and some other assorted cast of characters. I remember specifically the White sisters. No, they weren’t white, I mean they were white, I mean more pale than usual, but their last name was White, not that we just went around and called them white. We were the main collaborators and inventors of the Ruthless UNO marathon breaks. One of them was named Mary, the other I can’t remember. Then there was the friend who recently contacted me on that one site. Trevor Anderson was a frequent player, but a little more responsible. Robin something or other, I can’t remember he last name. And a few others, I can’t even remember first names. (I usually don’t use names in my posts, but I am here because if anyone remembers them, it would be fun to see where these people ended up.)
We were good people. We did show up to work on time, kept our areas relatively clean, answered phones when we had to, cashiered when called. It’s just that sometimes you needed more then 15 minutes, you know? Well, maybe you don’t. If you’ve never worked retail you probably don’t understand. “So that is where all those people are,” you say to yourself… maybe. I’ve just learned not to expect much out of these hard-working, down-trodden lower classes. We came into the retail industry for a variety of reasons. I was there because I had just lost my grant at college and felt like there wasn’t much options for me. Others worked through school. Others had been in the military, and they were just comfortable there, not much was expected of them. Others were what we called “lifers”. They had worked there long enough and were satisfied that this was what life was handing them. Sometimes you felt sorry for them. Perhaps, if circumstances had been different for them, they’d be somewhere “better”. Some just didn’t fit well in normal society. They went through school knowing how different they were, and found retail a good fit for them. We were a diverse bunch, and we loved each other, for the most part.
You know, I tried to forget all about my time in retail, I worked in if from 1988-1997, but it was good times sometimes. I have a saying about the 80’s, “I hated living in them, but I sure miss them now.” As these memories come back, I feel the same way. I really didn’t like working there, but I sure miss them now. One thing that bonds people is working to a common purpose, and we sure were working toward a common purpose then.
I got a friend request from someone I haven’t seen in around twenty years. I use to work with this person at the same place I met my wife. It was a retail store called Fred Meyer.
Where I work now, I have to spend 40 hours with the same two people that I don’t particularly enjoy spending time with. But back in retail, we had a lot of fun, sticking to the “man” by hiding out as much as we could and dealing with difficult customers and your typical other stuff you experienced in retail. I really enjoyed working with some of those people, in fact, some of them I’d spend time with outside of work and frequently too.
I have probably told you that my own personal philosophy is that the more people you know, the broader your experience and knowledge. I have written several “Strange Confessions” that prompted me to try and find old friends. Some have brought about great results, others have chosen to ignore me for one reason or another. It sure is nice to think people remember me fondly and want to connect again.
I started thinking of all the fun we had trying to avoid work and the activities we did away from work. I also think that a lot of my writings on here have been very serious lately. Since I am a Christian, I have a lot of Christian friends on that one site, and many of their posts are serious stuff or bible verses or pictures with pithy sayings. I don’t disparage them their style, I appreciate it all. I try to keep it light… for the most part. In the past I was very open about who I was on there and felt that nobody cared and it sometimes hurt. Obviously I worked through all that and now I have this site to tell all my little secrets, and it’s grown beyond that: to what I learned in church or fellowship group, movie reviews, commentary on culture, etc… I can now share the links here on my personal page and they can look at it or not… whatever. It really is for me. But, I have noticed that I have been too serious lately.
So, I will begin a new series of Strange Confessions dealing with my time in the retail industry. You know, it is funny that I don’t remember much of what happened in those years, probably because I spent so much time then doing stuff that would help me forget it. The one thing about when I write about my past is that a lot of it comes back to me. That is another benefit to my writing. So, see you soon with some fun stuff, and of course a pinch of what it all means to me now and how it shaped who I am.