Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas job at Toys R Us

December 4, 1980

A missed a day here, a snap of a twig, a beat of the heart, a call from the wilderness.
I missed a day in a long, long series of thoughts. And here I am repeating myself, beginning again where I last left off, starting from scratch.
Yesterday, I worked on my term papers – although really I worked on just one when I had planned to write three.
Getting just one done was struggle enough before I had to head off for my seasonal job at Toys R Us, where the other employees give me the same odd look that my summer job did when they saw me writing.
Inevitably, they always ask the same question: “Are you writing a book?”
But there is one exception, a very loud lady who talks for the sake of talking and could give two shits about what I’m writing as long as it doesn’t interrupt her talk.
There’s a guy I like who is both funny and lazy at the same time. He started the same day as I did and for some reason, this has become a bond between us, as he deliberately tries to crack me up when ever possible, and most often succeeds – at the most inopportune times. So often as not, our wandering boss catches me in mid laugh I struggle to stifle.
Bob – my bonded friend – often wanders around the wide aisles carrying merchandise. I suppose this is a cover so that he looks busy when caught doing nothing.
Sometimes, he tosses a football to me down the crowded aisles, over the heads of the customers, leaving me to catch it or else let it hit some unsuspecting patron in the head.
When he’s not wandering around, he stands in some remote corner eying pretty women and grinning.
He tells me he just got off a ship last month and hadn’t gotten used to the ordinary world and its way of life.
“I’m a seismographer,” he tells me, boasting about his year-long trip on a geographic survey ship. He tells me he wants to go into computers. “That’s where the real money is.”
A lot of times, he falls in and out of songs, perhaps some odd habit he got during those lonely days at sea. These days, he sings the lyrics to the Christmas carols the store constantly plays the Musak versions of.
Last night, we helped the day shift stock the shelves in the company of a guy named Jim.
“That man is seriously crazy,” Bob whispered to me as Jim climbed monkey-like up the pallet racks in back to the top, from which he tossed down to us cartons of games and toys.
Then from down the aisle the boss yelled, “How many times have I told you not to do that?”
It was like the voice of God, making me and Bob jump a little. Jim only shrugged.
“Sorry about that, boss,” he said.
The boss glared at us. “One of you get him a ladder so he doesn’t fall.”
I moved, when Bob didn’t.
The boss settled in front of him and stared at his face, “Who are you?”
“Bob,” Bob said, giving a last name I never caught.
“You new here?”
“Na, I’ve been here a week.”
“How come I’ve never seen you before?”
“Guess because we’re both lucky,” Bob said.
The boss shook his head as he strolled away mumbling.
“Nothing like being anonymous,” Bob said to me with a wink.
Jim tossed more cartons down, but ignored the ladder when it was time for him to come back to the floor.
Later, I found Bob in a corner of the store with a broom. He wasn’t sweeping. He was just leaning on it, grinning, and told me somebody told him he should sweep.
But he wasn’t. This is a standard ploy to look busy only when someone like the boss is looking.
I told him the boss may not know who he is, but that won’t stop the boss from firing him.
Bob shrugged
“No one cares,” he said. “They never do.”
Bob drives Darcy crazy.
She’s Garrick’s cousin who lives in the same apartment building where I live in Passaic. She started just after Thanksgiving and has some kind of seniority, walking around more or less as the boss’ assistant. Neither of us listen to her. Me because I know her too well. Bob because he could give a shit.
She’s always catching the two of us at some grief, goofing off or being in aisles we aren’t assigned to.
Bob likes the back aisle, the one that makes up one whole side of the store and extends from the front window to the warehouse door in the back. This is his favorite place for playing catch, and where we spend most of our time when we can get there, the football rising and falling in endless Hail Mary passes. Each time Darcy catches us at it, she yells, and it has become a ritual of hers to sneak up on us – sneaking down the aisle nearest the warehouse door behind me or Bob.
This time, she got behind Bob just as he threw a very low pass just over the heads of the customers – something he did from time to time to see if they noticed the ball whizzing over their heads.
Darcy stepped out just as he released the ball aimed at me, and just as the boss – who is a foot taller than most people -- stepped out between me and the ball. He wasn’t looking at Bob or Darcy, he was looking at me, wondering why I was standing there doing nothing with my mouth wide open and my hands in the air.
I was looking at the horrified expression on Darcy’s face as her gaze followed the flight of the ball – which inevitably was aimed straight at the back of the boss’ head.
I woke up this morning thinking how much I’m going to miss Bob, and whether he will ever get into computers like he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment