Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Paper Hearts And A Red Haired Tart
The sign read 'The Paper Shredder Shreds Prices Every Day!'. Beneath it was a cartoon of a dollar sign going into a paper shredder. Paper Shredder was a new chain of stores that was expanding out from its original location in Albany's Westside plaza. These stores were a mixed bag selling office supplies, books and party supplies; none of the selections was ever large enough to hold more than the basics but the stores were in good locations and did brisk business.
I had been hired to work at a brand new location and thankfully the sheer number of jobs I had just up and quit was not held against me. There were three managers, six full time employees and another six part timers. I was technically one of the part timers but between weekends and evenings I was putting in around 35 hours.
We were all dressed in our causal street clothes and sat in folding chairs helping ourselves to the bagels and doughnuts that had been bought on the company dime. The manager Mr. Palmer was explaining to us what was expected in the next few weeks, his voice echoed off the empty shelves and bare walls but I had a hard time looking at him as he spoke; the man had the largest gums I had ever seen. They were positively horse-like.
“First of all I want to welcome you to the Paper Shredder family, you might be interested to learn that we are owned by the Nice Shopper Corporation so you will have access to some surprisingly good benefits.”
“What?” I said.
“I'm sorry?” Mr. Palmer said. “You have a question?”
“What company owns Paper Shredder?”
“The Nice Shopper Corporation. Now moving on, it will be your job to get the store ready for our grand opening on September 30th. Of course we plan to open a little early to get the bugs out and make sure we are all on the same page.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
Mr. Palmer paused in mid-speech again and smiled at me, his gums glistened, “Sure of what?”
“That Nice Shopper owns this chain,” I said. “I mean are you sure it isn't some kind of a typo or something?”
“I don't understand why this-”
“Dude,” the guy that suddenly yelled at me was barrel chested with thick arms and scrawny legs. He looked like he should be moving furniture, not selling graph paper, Precious Moments greeting cards and Sci Fi Novels. “What is wrong with you? You have barely shut up once since we got in here?”
Sadly the neckless wonder was right, when confronted with a crowd of strangers I either keep to myself or start playing the fool. Since I had just downed 4 jelly doughnuts and a caffeinated beverage the choice was not my own.
Sometimes it made me the life of the party; most times it made me insufferable. I had been clowning around and making puns for almost an hour. The older staff members had been entertained but the three other people my age rolled their eyes more than an epileptic at a strobe light convention.
I raised my hands in surrender and let Mr. Palmer continue, I couldn't believe I was working for the Nice Shopper Company again. Talk about being stuck in a rut!
There were plastic bins called totes stacked everywhere and cardboard boxes filled with books. Mr. Palmer let the assistant managers Mr. Horne and Ms. Cooper hand out assignments. The two retirees that had been hired for the morning shift were sent to go put away greeting cards. The two guys my age- the neckless wonder and his pal, the kid with 18th century sideburns, were sent to the back to set up school supplies. I was sent to the side of the store where there was an entire wall of bookshelves waiting to be filled.
Tallulah was sent to work with me.
As I've said before redheads have always been a particular weakness of mine, my high school sweetheart was a strawberry blonde and my wife has lovely auburn hair that started going gray on our Honeymoon. didn't have that shade of hair. Actually my first real almost girlfriend way, way back in the sixth grade had been a redhead. She had been adorable and I had been quite the mac-daddy for a kid wearing Tuffskins. We had never really gotten past the hand holding stage mostly because I had no idea what to do past the hand holding stage.
Tallulah had hazel eyes, skin that was dappled with freckles and a smile that was equal parts sadness and mischief. Unfortunately she had no smiles for me. All the while we worked I could see her stealing glances at the neckless wonder.
“Your name is Tallulah right?” I asked.
“Yep,” she began arranging the books on the appropriate shelves, alphabetization would come later.
“I see you're wearing a Salnei University sweatshirt,” I said. “Are you taking classes there?”
“You’re the prettiest person here? Do you know that?”
Other men might have taken their time to build up to a statement like that but there hasn’t been a car built yet that can go for zero to sixty as fast as me.
“I know we just met,” I said in my most charming tone, “and it might be inappropriate but I have to ask- Are you going to say anything more than one syllable words to me for the next eight hours?”