Stuck working at the store...
While my friends and relatives were out enjoying the summer, playing at the community sprinklers or going out for ice cream I was in the store, selling loosies for a quarter. Loosies (for those of you who don't know) are single cigarettes sold out of a pack.
Working at that store was such an incredible experience because I learned how to communicate with people that were different from me. In fact, I learned how to communicate period. The experience taught me what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.
I discovered that I could turn a really pissed off drunk angry guy into a loyal customer with the right combination of smooth talk and body language. Yes, even grown men swooned over all of this (Motions hands against body suggestively.)
I still remember the first time it happened. It was one chilly evening, darkness had already overtaken the city. I technically shouldn't have even been there but what can you do? My soon to be uncle had been running late, and I had nowhere else to be. A man came in staggering; his jeans were worse for wear.
He looked as though he had been sleeping in the streets but I imagined that he probably worked with his hands and getting his clothing dirty was the least of his concerns. He wanted another can of beer and a loosie. His eyes were glazed over, I knew he had too much to drink, you could smell it radiating off of him as he entered the store.
To say that I felt afraid was a bit of an understatement. I was terrified. His teeth were stained, and the way that he carried himself left little room to the imagination of his temperament. This was to be my first real challenge.
Would I be able to calm this beast? I couldn't sell him the beer he had pulled out of the fridge. My heart began to pick up its pace as I ran through all of the potential scenarios in my mind.
Dread kicked in as he started to make his way to the counter. His strides slow and uneven. Several times he nearly collapsed onto our shelves. 'Should I go help him?' I thought about it for the briefest of moments but my better sense kicked in, and I decided that the longer it took him to make his way over to me the better.
Time froze. He hovered in front of me, a thin wooden counter the only thing separating this towering hulk of a man from me. I felt his overwhelming presence, and the space around me felt even smaller.
I could feel the warmth of his breath on my face. Damn. I needed to find a way to tell him that I couldn't sell him this beer. Panic struck me, and I stood there motionless. He eyed me as his hand slammed down on the wooden counter, shaking it while steadfastly holding onto the beer.
"I'll take this and two loosies," he said curtly.
I smiled up at him, opened my mouth and said: "I can get you the loosies, but I can't sell you the beer."
Of course, you can imagine that this did not go well from here. His face contorted as though he was trying to process the words that I had just spoken.
He looked at the beer in his hand and back at me and said "I'll take this" pointing at the beer, "and 2 loosies." He started to reach into his pocket to pull out a wad of cash. He started counting out the bills that it would take to cover the cost of the beer.
Naturally, not wanting my life to come to an end when I hadn't even made it be a teenager, I opted to try a different approach. "Rough night?" he looked up from counting his cash and met my gaze.
"Hell...it was shit." I contorted my face to show both interest and shock. He broke a small smile and said "This son of a bitch told me that I was going to have to start working the night shift. Can you believe that shit?"
"That's crazy!" I gasped. "Why would he think that was ok?" he proceeded to tell me the rest of the story, the money and beer now sitting on the counter and I pulled out the 2 loosies and set them closer to him.
He takes one and starts to smoke it while he kept speaking. I continued to show interest as I slowly moved the beer closer to me. I thought I was slick but I wasn't, he noticed.
"Hey," he said.
"I'm sorry, I know your day has been crap, but I can't sell this to you. My boss would have my ass. He told me not to sell to anyone who looks like they have had too much to drink. If he were here, he could decide, but I can't take the chance. I need this job. You understand right?" my eyes expressed sorrow in hopes that he would take pity on me.
He stared at me for a long time. To be honest, I didn't have high hopes for how that was going to turn out. "Damn it," he said with a sigh. "Alright, pretty little lady. I hear you. Don't want you to lose your job but if that asshole comes in here, you tell him to allow you to sell beer to his customers. Damn it. So how much?".
I let out the breath that I was holding and put on my best smile. "$.50". He slid two quarters in my direction, grabbed his second loosie, and stumbled out of the store.
That experience taught me a lot about how to steer a lousy situation into my favor. It had been such an educational experience that I spent the remainder of that summer holed up in that store testing my communication skills.
No one knew that I was only 12 years old and no one asked. When they hit on me, I would tell them that my uncle wouldn't allow or that I wasn't dating right now or something that was believable enough to stop their advances.
Advances came, and they came often. I found it surprising that they didn't seem interested in asking me my age but I suppose I was guilty in that I never bothered to reveal it either. In my mind, it was safer this way. The summer was drawing to a close, and I had made enough money to move onto the next phase in my plan.
The Makeover. Yes, it is like in the movies. If you want to change your image you need to make a change. That usually involves a make-over of some kind. I went and got a perm, new clothes, and got my nails and eyebrows done.
Middle school was going to be amazing, and that was all there was to it. I was entering into the 7th grade. I had to make a good first impression.
By the time the first day of school started, I was going to be ready. No one would ever forget to invite me to the playground.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for reading so far. This is a very personal story so I appreciate you taking this journey with me. Send me your thoughts and if you liked this chapter please mark it and as always thanks for reading!
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