Price Breaks and Heartaches
a journal of retail and failed romance
The Fries And The Fury
March came in like a lion, a snowy miserable lion that left everyone feeling grumpy and a little stir crazy. I think I was the most stirred and crazy, especially if I thought about things for too long. I was nineteen, these were supposed to be my prime carousing years- why wasn't I carousing? Why didn't I even know how to carouse? Wasn't this the kind of thing they should have covered in Health Class?
And should I even be using the word 'carousing' in this day and age?
“What did you say?” the new guy Norm glared at me from across the steam chute.
I repeated, “I said we should go and hang out. You know carouse a little.”
“Yeah... kick up our heels.... make merry...”
The new guy Norm paused thoughtfully and then asked, “Are you hitting on me?”
Thankfully the conversation could go no further because my work station was out of the delicious extruded trans-fat byproduct that Empire Burger insisted counted as cheese. I headed into the walk in cooler to get more and found Natalie crying there.
I think I've mentioned before that Empire Burger had a cooler for perishable items and a freezer for things like burgers, fish patties and dead rats no one wanted to take out to the dumpster. As I became more experienced in the ways of my job I quickly learned that the pleasantly brisk cooler was an excellent place to hide out for a little while and snack on produce while the sound proofed freezer was a great place to either issue one howl of frustrated rage after another or have elicit employee on employee sex. Since I didn't have any attraction to any of my co-workers I was the guy doing most of the screaming. Who was screwing back there? Only the dead rats knew for sure and they weren't telling.
But the important thing is that Natalie was crying, her shoulders were heaving with sobs, her thick glasses were prisming with tears. Now while I may have found her advances unwanted and irritating I still considered her a co-worker and a friend, and even more importantly she was a Doctor Who fan- us Whovians had to stick together.
“Hey,” I asked, “what's wrong?”
“Cyril asked Skippy why I got employee of the month and he didn't,” she explained, “he said it was because I gave great head.”
I was horrified. Is that what you had to do to get Employee of the month around this place?
“You're fooling around with Skippy?” I said, then my voice became a scream, “MY EYELID! LET GO OF MY EYELID!!!!”
She sniffled with rage, “I did no such thing! I would never do something like that.”
“OK... OK... I am sorry I insinuated you would ever give anyone head- AUGH! MY OTHER EYELID! PLEASE STOP!!!!”
And now we were both crying, “Then he was a jerk to say that and you don't have to take it. You should report him to the manager.”
“This is humiliating enough...” she released her grip on me.
“Look, I've been where you've been, I've been sexually harassed,” I explained to her, “it happened at my old job and I never reported it because I was worried what people might say. It left me looking over my shoulder all the time- literally.”
“OK,” she wiped her runny nose on the rag she used for cleaning trays, “I'll tell Mr. Prowse.”
She stood up and hugged me, I stood there, uncertain of what to do.
Hugs are not my strong point, yet oddly enough neither are drugs. When someone hugs me in friendship I never know what to do, I never know how to stand or what to do with my arms. I kind of flail and squirm in place. The only exception of course was when I was hugging a girlfriend. I was totally into those, especially because in those days that was the closest I could get my lonely loins next to a fully functional vagina.
But what about Natalie you ask? Well thankfully Mr. Prowse reacted to the news of what had happened with the appropriate level of anger and Skippy was forced to have a private meeting with each employee where he explained he had accidentally made a disparaging remark about an employee and it wasn't true and he apologized. Now these days he just would have been fired for his actions but I think this was the better option because it was infinitely more humiliating for the little bastard.
Then of course we all had to have meetings with a corporate human resources consultant and she reiterated all the rules against sexual harassment that had been outlined in the employee guide that none of us had bothered to read. Once these meetings were over all my female co-workers said they felt empowered and all my male co-workers apologized for any rude remarks they had made in jest. I was vindicated because the Human Resources lady was able to confirm that talking about carousing was not a form of sexual harassment. I was also relieved when my female co-workers assured me I had never made any of them feel uncomfortable or threatened; then I was demoralized when several of them explained that I was so nonthreatening they barely perceived me as a sexual being at all.
It should also be noted that for weeks afterward Cyril, Stuart and the new guy Norm spent hours talking about how hot the lady from human resources had been and the things they would like to do with her alone in the freezer.
But they did it in a very respectful way I assure you.