Monday, June 7, 2010

Throw It Away?

I've found that enlightenment can come through my work, in a sort of roundabout way.

Sweeping up the parking lot is one of those things that we have to do every day, so it should be pretty routine stuff, right? It should just be like, go outside and sweep up some trash and shit. Not literal shit. I use that in a general way.

Anyway, it's really not as routine as it should be. Every work day, I go out there, and I'm just in absolute awe at how many cigarette butts and discarded fast food items are out there. I'm convinced that every single cigarette butt and wood-tipped cigar ends up right in front of the Quick Stop. So, I'd like the smokers reading this to keep that in mind next time you think about flicking that butt out of your car window or dropping it in front of the movie theater before you catch the 3 o'clock showing of some shit Ashton Kutcher movie. Somebody has to clean that up, ya know.

And that person is me two days a week. So fucking quit it.

It during this task the other day that I was pondering on a discarded Camel and had the most amazing revelation:

Of course we can't eradicate famine and war. We live in a society where people can't even be trusted to throw their scratch-off lottery tickets and cigarette butts in a trash can. Honestly, why would you throw your entire McDonalds meal on the ground when there's a proper receptacle not even seven damn feet away from where you parked your car? Maybe I just don't believe in the good in people, but I have a hard time convincing myself that you threw your half-eaten double cheeseburger on the asphalt in order to let it biodegrade. It's not like there are any recycling bins. You don't have to sort paper or plastic, just one place where everything goes. And that place is not the goddamn ground. It just confounds me that we've been able to work together to form semi-functional communities, seeing our utter lack of ability to complete small tasks.

Yes, I'd love, love, love to see the human race beat HIV/AIDS, end ethnic genocide AND sort out this whole distribution of natural resources business that 6.5 billion people are so worried about. But I'm also a big 'little things' guy. Baby steps, people.

There's a lot of problems in the world that we're not going to fix in our lifetime. There's some problems that won't ever be fixed, That's because, deep down, we're just animals fighting for land and a better standard of living. But if you ever feel like you might want to break away from being an animal, from competing with everyone else for living space, just do a little thing.

Pick up a piece of trash in the street. Let someone merge in front of you in traffic. Remember to smile at people you don't know. These are little, tiny, miniscule things. But, despite being so insignificant, they'll eventually add up. I believe that.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Boss Waved a Gun at Me; in Three Parts

My boss waved a gun at me.

Yes, you read the above statement correctly. My boss waved a gun at me. I'll give you some time to digest that.

Ok, time over. You probably didn't do a very good job of digesting it, considering that all you know is that my boss waved a gun at me. You don't know how he waved a gun at me. Why he waved a gun at me. What kind of gun he waved at me. Silly details like that. So, I have decided to lay out the story, plus some background, in three parts. Cheers.

My boss, Mr. D, we'll call him, is quite a guy. I mean, anybody that's a five foot three, second-generation French/Vietnamese American whose father is a CIA agent, who started drinking at the age of 8 and who, despite said drinking since the age of 8, almost completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of California- Irvine before leaving school to take care of his children (just to name a few things I know about this man's colorful past) can only be described as quite a guy. On a slow day. And, dammit, can he talk. It isn't that horrible, annoying kind of talking that people do to you in a small-town grocery store. You know, the kind that's all like "how's the family how's the dog how's the kids I heard your mom was sick" while you're just trying to check out and leave the store with your damn paper towels. Ugh. No, this man's talk is INSANE. Sure, he'll ask about you and yours, but generally he's inquiring so he can find a way to say something that will get a rise out of you. The man thrives on telling parents of male teenagers he knows that he caught their sons kissing each other behind his store. Every single day he has a new story about something totally out of left field. Like, oh, say, words of wisdom from his French grandfather. The latest:

Don't have sex with your wife if you're tired from work. It'll kill you. Would you rather not have sex when you're tired and have a long life with her or have sex when you're tired and die?

I'll take those to heart, Mr. D's French Grandfather. I'll keep them close. Promise.

I'd say that about 50% of my work day consists of hanging out with Mr D behind the counter and listening to his crazy stories and life lessons while customers judge me for not working enough. Hence the the title Adventures in Semi-Employment. God, I hate customers. But that's probably a topic for another post. So, I hear plenty of wild shit. And plenty of useful shit, too. And then..there was that time he waved a gun at me..

There it was. A new, shining, blackened alloy Ruger SR9c 9mm centerfire compact handgun. Weighing in at a mere 23.4 oz., the SR9c is the smaller version of Ruger's popular SR9 pistol. This particular SR9c was bought at a discounted price and came complete with a handy-dandy carrying case, a normal 10 round magazine and a special 17 round magazine.

And it was being waved around in front of me by a Vietnamese man with a drinking problem.

Now, let's take a quick timeout. I understand that this might be an alarming situation to most people. As it should be in normal life. But this..this was not normal life. This was inside the Quick Stop. After 6 0'clock. And, while I wouldn't say that anything really bad happens after 6 o'clock, I think I'd have to say very few safe things happen at the Quick Stop after 6 o'clock. And it was Mr. D just trying to make a friendly attempt to show off his brand new hand gun.

Goddammit, did he scare the living hell out of me doing it. There he was, just waving it around after all the customers had left and telling me some long, convoluted story about how he bought it $100 off from a friend. I can't remember the story, the details escape me. I was too busy FOCUSING ON THE FUCKING GUN that was being pointed at me in 5 second intervals as he waved it along with the story's hand motions. So, I hope my lack of memory is excusable. What I DO remember is asking him to hand it over to me so I could "check out this awesome thing", which really meant, "Hand me that fucking gun so I can check to see if there are goddamn bullets in it, you crazy bastard."

But it gets better. As Mr. D is handing me the gun, he drops it. HE FUCKING DROPS IT. He fucking dropped that gun about a foot and a half (we were sitting) onto the ground. I'm sure it wasn't intentional. I guess. I don't know! I was freaking out for what seemed like one of those incredibly dramatic, slow motion movie sequences as a possibly (probably!) loaded Ruger SR9c plummeted towards the ground. My heart skipped a beat as it hit the ground inches away from me, barrel pointed towards my right foot.

At least I'm left footed, I thought as I squeezed my eyes shut and waited for some hot lead from an accidental discharge to tear off my non-dominant foot.

Well, I was being kind of dramatic. Thank god. It didn't discharge, but it definitely scared me half to death. I stared at it for about a second before he cackled and picked it up to hand it to me. And, after inspection, I learned that it wasn't loaded. Turns out he didn't even have any ammunition in the store. So all my worry was for naught.. I guess?

In retrospect, a few things came out of the day my boss waved a gun at me. One: I learned to ask Mr. D if a gun is loaded. I don't think he would have a reason to lie about that. Two: I think that in that moment, a very special trust was formed between this small, energetic man and myself. He became more than just an employer. He became a man that's allowed to wave a gun at me if he so pleases. At this point, I have complete faith that if he comes at me with any kind of a weapon, it's probably for my own damn good. In some way. You see, for some really, really strange reason this whole incident made things a bit more comfortable. Since then, I've had conversations with this man about my college goals, I've seen his stock portfolio, I've heard his reasons for doing things a certain way and I've learned that he's just generally a great guy. He cares about his family and his few teenage employees, and he works hard.

And he's pretty damned generous with the pay.