I found myself today shrink wrapping and considering my position in a love triangle.

What’s to be said about living on an island for two months.  A lot.  But there is so little time for writing.  Or maybe I’m terrible at making the time.  That’s it.  I’m terrible at making time.  I like to use it though.  For movie watching lately.  And working as well.  And this last weekend a friend, a sister, and I made Christmas cards.  So, when can I write?

Now, I suppose, sitting here at the fire, stockings actually hung, feet propped up next to my little sister’s, her reading a book, and me, slightly altering the cliche winter night with my blog writing.
I lived on an island.  I think about it most in the bathroom, measuring lessening degrees of difference around my tan lined waist.  It is cold here, and windy, and just a couple of weeks ago I was laying on a beach in the sun, slightly sweating, and reading and reading.
I found myself today shrink wrapping and considering my position in a love triangle.
I am living at home and working in a community college bookstore.  Oddly, after working a ‘career’ job, and then laying on the beach for a couple of months, I couldn’t be happier than at my current workplace.  I am a temporary stock room clerk.  On a team of other temps that make my people-watching instincts wiggle with association.
The whole place is full of characters.  The newly hired manager who is still finding her authority.  The panda-like gentle giant who is accepting her fate as an assistant manager in a small college bookstore.  The tiny blonde nymph who is typically young looking and whose tiny frame was only highlighted by her complaints that she was turning into a “fat lard” with slowly pinching pants.  The tall easy going black guy from D.C., who is admittedly too cool to be working here and plays small jokes to entertain himself.  The black girl in the back with the new weave who has no motivation, who sits for hours scraping at terribly used “used” stickers, spraying them with lighter fluid from slick yellow bottles.
They are all certainly notable but my favorites are by far my team, the temps.  I honestly wake up everyday glad to be spending another day among them.  They are as follows:
-The mom, Californian, black, dreads and two kids.  She ogles the college boys, referring to one regular passer-by as “Eagle” in regard to his apparel.  When she is flustered by one of them you know it; she is self-incriminating and overeager.  Her harmless, “I knew I recognized you from somewhere,” turns sour when she follows it directly with, “I’m not a stalker, though. I am SO not a stalker.”  Nearing our lunch break last week I revealed my craving, “I really want some pad thai.” In reciprocation she offered her revelation, “All I want is a man to love me for who I am.”  Poorly timed, but sincere.  She is more helpful than anyone else in the store, constantly looking for her own usefulness. She sometimes helps (stocking books) and sometimes missteps (stocking expired sodas).
-The post-pimples, pre-Navy SR, tall, white, long-faced, typically wearing a zippered hoodie.  He has not yet refined his customer services skills (“I gotcha ova here”, “Fill in the stuff there”), but most often he smiles which is worth more than proper manners.  Especially in temporary work.  After one week however, his zeal is wearing thin, and he has pendulum-swung into aimless wandering.  Last Thursday, after much of his open-mouthed, sleepy-eyed waddling through the isles, I found him in some kind of combination fetal-position/kneel, sleeping in between racks of books, hand wrapped over his head.  I suppose he thought if he was caught, his hand could protect him from the initial disciplining blow.  I walked on.
-And finally, my favorite, with early ’80’s rock hair, he looks something like Ichabod Crane with a beer belly.  He is farther along in years than the rest of us, so in the first few days he kept his distance, standing at the edge, watching customers, then walking around the isles looking for some way to pass the time.  If I was a customer, I would not want him to help me find my textbooks.  He is a foreboding presence.  However, on day three I was assigned to work “the back” with the guy, and he is not surprisingly much cooler than initially perceived.  He is a drummer for three local bands and filled me in on his musical history, from the time he got kicked out of marching band at 15 for not showing up for the Christmas parade (he was the only drummer, but didn’t want to wear the “3 foot hat” on his already tall person) to his current inner-band political initiatives to get the bass player to leave without having to ask him.  He talked to me about upcoming gigs, the night he recently spent with his ex-wife, and the job which he held as a sub-contracted bank courier before the ‘financial downturn’.  Lately he walks down book racks and stops to read textbooks.  We have an understanding.  If I see a manager leave the office I walk by him and say, “The big lady’s out.”  He then slips off his reading glasses, tucks the book back on the shelf, and does some look-of-productivity walking.
They are my team, and I am happy to be among them (myself likely to be perceived as well-meaning or as judgmental as any of my coworkers).  At times I am the only one working at a consistent pace, and I think that, should the manager get the wiser, she would see that I am doing work for at least five people, while the SR is napping, the drummer is reading, the nymph is chatting and the lighter fluid girl is staring at a pile of books waiting for motivation’s whim.  And knowing myself as I do, I would usually complain about the inequality of workload.  But I don’t mind doing their tasks because without them, I would be reading or chatting or staring.  I can’t pass eight hours that way, and I want them to have a job.  Plus there is so little work in the first place that we all spend at least half our days wandering the small store, and I take whatever chance I can get to break up the monotony.
For instance today, the gentle giant gave me a “special project”: shrink-wrapping class packets.  I jumped on it.
I had never before shrink-wrapped and after a two-minute training, the nymph and I got to work.  The plastic sheets sucking their sides in closer was fun to watch.  It reminded me of two things: microwaving snack-size potato chip bags for 10 seconds to see them spark and shrivel (in high school I poked keyrings through the concentrated trash) and watching a slug wriggle under salt.  The process is fairly simple, cutting the sheets with a hot clamp and zapping them with a heat gun; it is also time consuming and fairly satisfying.
While I zapped and the nymph cut, Too-Cool came to the back to tell me that one of the regular workers, a young girl, 19-going-on-15, brunette, moderately cute, thinks I’m hot.  A complement I took and sat in for a moment.  Of course, in my current station in life, there’s no hope for an inter-bookstore romance, but the flattery is nice.
Then, waving the heat gun, I remember that the SR thinks she’s hot.  Ah, drama.  He likes her.  She likes me.  I find them both pimply but smiling.  A triangle in amongst the most interesting characters I’ve been around in a while.
While working my career job a few months ago, I spent some moments sitting at my desk, processing clients and wishing I could just work at Domino’s with regular unassuming people.  Here I am now, working as a temporary store room clerk on a team of misfits.  A dream come true.

2 Comments

  1. Stephen Fleischer

    brilliant. sounds fun, actually, compared to much of my life, and I’m glad you can get the best out of most of it.

  2. Too bad you never hooked up with the Nymph! That would have been some good stories!

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