Saturday, January 22, 2005

You will not like me, but the more you hate me, the more you will learn.

F&D requested, among other things, that I talk about my best and/or worst job. Since things have been kinda heavy around here lately, what with all this talk about first kisses and hopeless romanticism, I thought best and worst job stories might be just the thing to lighten the mood a bit.

The best job I ever had, ever, in my whole life, was working at Baskin Robbins. I have liked other jobs I've had, but working at BR was awesome. I basically got to make cakes (I can still make pretty decent frosting roses), give happy people happy ice cream, hook all my friends up with shitloads of ice cream and cake, and get hit on by dirty old men who would try to look down my pink polo shirt every time I bent over to make scoops. That being said, I think the reason I have such fond memories of my ice cream scooping days is that I had a good friend that worked there with me, M. pretty much lived there, always eating her favorite, peanut butter and chocolate ice cream with strawberries (M., I love you but that still grosses me out), a boy that I had a HUGE crush on would often come in with the soccer team after practice and I would give them ice cream and they would just hang around and socialize (one of my favorite activities to this if you didn't know). It was just a fun, happy, no-worries place to work. I started at $3.15 an hour, and after my "probationary" period was over, I got a fab raise to $3.45 an hour. Minimum wage was (I think) about $4.00 but they didn't have to comply for some reason, because they were a tiny franchise or something, and so, in search of greener pastures, I ended up at The Worst Job EVER.

M. and a really hot guy, who would later become Ex Mr. Spatula #1, both worked at a dry cleaning place in a strip mall about a mile down the road from our high school. M. and I had become super best friends forever, and so she got me a job at this place, and off I went to the land of minimum wage and carcinogenic chemicals.

If you've never worked at a dry cleaners, let me paint the picture for you. At the front of the store is a counter where customers drop off their filthy, nasty, disgusting clothes. Behind that is usually a place where all the clothes hang for pickup, and where you bag the clean clothes after they are pressed. Behind the hanging and bagging area is all the presses. There are shirt presses, pant presses, and big square presses for other types of things. At the back of the store is usually the big machines where the actual dry cleaning is done, and big washers and dryers for shirts and other laundry.

The place we worked at had no air conditioning. In South Florida. So, the back door was always propped open, usually with a bottle of some unlabeled chemical that I'm sure will one day cause me to have three-headed babies. But, the temperature at the front of the store when the machines and presses were on hovered around 710 degrees farenheit. The people who ran the presses we called "The Trolls." They were mainly women with little to no education, supporting their 19 babies and usually an ex-husband who beat them up but got to stay at home all day in the trailer with his feet up, drinking Bud Light and watching ESPN 8 "The Ocho", because he was "looking for work" but "hadn't found anything he wasn't overqualified for." The Troll ladies would get to work at like 5am and start pressing clothes. The presses are SUPER hot, and once you set the top part down on say, a pair of pants, it locks in place while the steam and heat set the crease. Let me just tell you that aside from maybe stevedores or those guys that work in the big holes in the New York City subways, I have *never* seen anyone, let alone women, with so many awful injuries. One lady even got her entire arm stuck in a pant press, and let me repeat, you CANNOT open it once it locks down. I mean, there's probably an emergency release or something, but when an emergency would happen they would all start freaking out while some poor lady would burn her finger or hand or arm off.

Anyway, the rest of the people that worked at the dry cleaner were pretty interesting too. There was the owner, Vivian. She would stand next to the dry cleaning machine, shoving in clothes and chemicals, the whole time with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth with an ash on it about three inches long. Jenny, M. and I were all counter people. Jenny had to "take a break" from college because she "couldn't handle the pressure" and spent most of her time attending jai alai matches in downtown Tampa with her abusive, much older boyfriend. Then there was Roxie. Roxie's dad was in the military and worked with my dad. She was kind of a dingbat and ended up getting pregnant (she was in 10th grade) after using a form of birth control that could be generously described as the "jumping up and down method." As a reward for failing out of high school and getting knocked up, her mom and dad bought her a brand new Miata which she would park in the lot next to my 1989 Hyundai Excel hatchback. There were a whole host of miscreants, ex-cons, and petty criminals of all varieties working at this place, but the real freaks were the customers.

We had these things called "priority bags" that customers could put their name on and then fill with clothes and just drop off, so they didn't have to stand in line. One guy, we'll call him Mr. X, used to bring in FIVE priority bags at a time, all filled with men's dress shirts. Probably about 200-250 shirts at a time. He would drop them off and EVERY SINGLE TIME go, "Special attention to the collars and the PITS." It was so gross. Plus, he always brought them in like five minutes before closing and so we would be there for two extra hours tagging all his stupid shirts and putting the treatment solution (which was some kind of foul smelling chemical in an unmarked plastic squeeze bottle that we would spray all over people's clothes) onto the "collars and PITS" which, as he had pointed out, needed "extra attention." YUCK. Priority bags were the bane of our existence. We were a dry cleaner, not a laundry, but these people and their effing priority bags thought they could do whatever they wanted. They would bring in a bag full of dirty underwear, sheets their kid had pissed on, and clothes they had clearly worn 47 times between cleanings, and just drop it off. We were supposed to put anything that wasn't dry cleaning or laundered shirts into a plastic bag and give it to them when they came back to pick up their stuff. That fun task usually ended not only with us having to wear rubber gloves to touch some nasty, funky underthings, but with the customer screaming at us when they came back and realized that we hadn't just "dry cleaned everything." I have NEVER been more verbally abused at any job I've ever had than when I worked at the cleaners.

Also, let me tell you about the shit people leave in their pockets. Used condoms, money (THOUSANDS of dollars sometimes, like checks that were already signed, and TONS of cash, big wads of it), notes from women/men they were having affairs with, pens, pencils, underwear, pantyhose, dirty pictures, knives, bloody handkerchiefs (tourniquets?), wallets, jewelry...the list goes on and on. It's good to know that people can apparently take off a piece of jewelry worth thousands of dollars and have complete confidence that the people working at the dry cleaners, most of whom were either convicted felons, high school students, or illegals working under the table, will return it with no harm done (and by "harm" I mean "pawn it and use the money to buy crack and hookers.")

And people are just so dirty. My God, every day was more disgusting than the last. One time a lady brought in her husband's pants. She told me that he had puked while wearing them and it had splattered all over them and she wanted me to take these little arrow stickers we had that we would put on clothes to point out stains, and mark every little puke spot on these pants. This lady is wearing a diamond ring the size of my head and her husband can't afford new pants? Also, I don't think we had 97,000 arrow stickers with which to mark this guys pants. He must have really been sick. But, of course, that beats the OTHER spots we would find on men's pants. I had no idea so many men were getting it on in their nice suit pants, and I think the really perverted ones actually enjoyed pointing out the spots and making us put the arrow stickers next to them. "Oh, look right here, at the white spot next to my zipper...I must have spilled something while I was eating!" Yeah, whatever you perv, just go away. One lady wanted us to clean her sister's Harley Davidson cutoff, arms cut out, biker-bitch t-shirt that her sister had been wearing when she was in a motorcycle accident where was not only killed, but DECAPITATED! The family wanted her to be buried in it (this was South Florida after all). Oh hell no. Uh-uh. I have to say though, I think our manager ended up doing it for her because she knew her. But not this girl, no way was I getting *near* that thing, I don't care how insensitive that sounds.

But, the incident that is really burned in my mind is the day that I was furiously trying to staple tags to a huge load of shirts someone had brought in, and I accidentally stapled THROUGH my finger. I stapled my finger to the tag and the shirt, with an industrial size stapler. It hurt SO bad. And when I looked at it, I totally lost it. I walked to the little medical clinic in the strip mall, and they had to bend the staple back with some kind of forceps tool thing and pull it out. I swear to God, it was so traumatic. I seriously had to go home and lay down, Southern-belle style, and rest afterwards. Ack.

Anyway, there you go, the worst job ever. My advice is, no matter how desperate you get, shun any job at a dry cleaners. Also, take those nasty things out of your pockets before you go. God.
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