Saturday, July 27, 2013

One Man's Junk is Another Woman's Job, Part 4, THE END

Yes. I promise. This is the end of the Junk Store Chronicles.

None of the big muckety-mucks wanted to work weekends. Even if you've made your career as a junk store supervisor, you desire Monday-Friday, 9:00-5:00 hours. Still, such a booming business could not be entrusted to mere minimum-wage workers. Emmett was our designated guy in charge. Only 17, he WAS the son of Joy, the floor supervisor. We had an uneasy truce. We wouldn't divulge his shenanigans, and he was lax on break times.

We cashier girls soon learned Emmett's idiosyncrasies. He liked working the cash register, to a point. After a while he grew bored, and preferred to ride a stick-horse around the store waving a cowboy hat, or talk to the boot girls. During the slow morning hours, Emmett assigned us to straighten various departments. As customers grew more numerous, he would use one of us to open the second register. But beware the call, "Val to the front, Val to the front." That meant Emmett was going to ask for a break, never to return, and you were stuck at the register until closing. Once elderly Harriet and I caught on, he had to get trickier. "Val to the front for returns. Val to the front!" Harriet had more backbone than I. "Screw him. I'm going to sit back here in the rubber boots. He can't come find me."

Emmett loved cutting up credit cards. We used a VeriCheck box to slide cards through. When it was declined, we had to call an 800 number. Often, we were told to destroy the card. Emmett did this with a flourish. He held it shoulder high, grabbed a heavy pair of black-handled scissors from the shelf below the register, and snipped. "Sorry! Your credit card company says it's no good." Usually folks pulled out another card to try.

He also loved to play Big Man in Store. For instance, a woman wearing a fur stole might wheel up a cart with two lamps. "I want THIS lamp, marked $10, but I want it for the $5 marked on this identical lamp. See?" During the week, Charlene would handle the situation like this: "Oh, honey. That lamp is marked $5 because it doesn't work. If you want the working lamp, sweetie, you'll have to pay $10." Emmett used this tactic: "Those pricers! They can't do anything right! Both of those lamps should be marked $10. I'll have a talk with those pricers." Then he would put the $5 lamp in the return basket. And put it back on the shelf as soon as the customer left.

This job gave me my first and only opportunity to take a polygraph test. And by opportunity, I mean I had no choice. The polygraph dude came in and set up in the Old Man's office in the basement. I don't think he took a crap while he was down there. By the time I got to work, polygraph talk was rampant. Every employee had to take it. Even those who were off were called in. Charlene and Joy and Flora and Boot Boss and all the upstairs and downstairs workers were polygraphed, whether they had access to the cash register or not. Seems that money had come up missing more than once. A hundred or so per week.

Have you ever had a polygraph? It's quite interesting. Maybe you saw Jerry Seinfeld hooked up to determine if he watched Melrose Place. The process might have changed by now, but I was asked to sit in a chair with a stretchy rubber tubing kind of band around my chest and stomach area, a blood pressure cuff on my arm, and a thingy on my fingertip kind of like a pulse-ox machine, then asked a series of baseline questions. I could watch the needle on the graph recorder thingy the whole time. The dude started with questions about my name and age, easily verifiable stuff. I was told to tell a lie on ONE answer. Then he proceeded with the actual questioning. Most of it was basic info about store operations. The kicker was the question: "Do you think you know who took the money?" I answered "yes." At no point was I asked if I took the money. Or who the person was. Maybe they got all of that from somebody else, or maybe somebody confessed later, because I was never questioned further.

I really enjoyed this job. All the employees got along. We went to Silver Dollar City, we had a barbecue, we went out dancing. Good times. They welcomed me with open arms, because I did my job. I don't mean to brag, but after only two months, I GOT A TEN-CENT RAISE! Flora was wriggling like a tickled pup when she told me. "I talked to Mr. Old Man about how well you're doing, and I'm giving you a TEN-CENT RAISE! Uh huh." I later learned that raises were quite unusual for my kind of job. Flora went on to tell me that she was so happy she hired me. "That first day, I told Mr. Old Man, 'She looks clean. I'm going to hire her.' Uh huh. I hope you stay with us as long as you can. Uh huh."

Yep. I stayed a whole year, until my Master's was complete, and I landed another teaching job. All those people who say they can't get a job because they are overqualified? They are either too choosy. Or they're lacking in the personal hygiene department.


  1. So Emmett was the thief right?

  2. Is that place still in business? Because if it is, hordes of people are going to abandon their houses and their careers and move to Springfield.

    That was a dream job...and to think you're teaching now instead of still there. (You could have gotten another 10 cent raise by now.)

  3. I've worked in some colorful places and have even been required to take a polygraph, but I don't think I've ever worked in a place as colorful as the one you describe. Very interesting.

  4. Makes me want to put on my rubber boots and hide sometimes.

  5. So they didn't fire you for having unclean thoughts about Emmett, did they? (Or I guess I should say, "thoughts about Emmett's uncleanliness," because clearly you weren't jealous of that stick horse.) And can "clean" go on a resume?

  6. joeh,
    I'll never tell! No matter how many shots of dirty water you ply me with.

    I'm sure it's still in business. The Old Man even had a branch store in my neck of the woods a while back, but under a different name. It was run by the old hardware manager. Imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw him. Though I will stop shy of saying that I was so excited I could have crapped.

    Life's rich tapestry also has a rich palette.

    Sometimes? We all need a regularly-designated rubber-boot interlude.

    This is one job from which I was never fired. I did not begrudge the stick horse his rider.

    I think "clean" would fit perfectly on a resume. The last line. That single word. Clean.