Most kids look forward to turning 16. They anticipate the privileges that milestone age brings. You can drive. You can work. You can socialize with people who live outside walking distance. And you can jerk off 5 times in a row and still have enough energy to play a game of basketball afterward, but that's neither here nor there.
I'm not most kids. I dreaded turning 16. I didn't want to drive. Even then, I saw cars for what they are: responsibility and expense. Neither of those appealed to me. My parents and friends reminded me that cars were also freedom. Freedom to do what, exactly? Drive to work? No thanks. I don't need a job unless I have a car! I've got food, lodging and clothing covered; by law, my parents owe me "three hots and a cot" until I'm 18. That means I have two precious years of slackerhood left, and I plan on milking them like a 3-handed dairy farmer. Keep the car. I'll keep my childhood innocence and complete lack of responsibility.
In addition to a driver's license, turning 16 made you eligible for employment -- a real job, not cutting grass or tossing newspapers, a real job with a real boss and real responsibilities. My parents insisted I find a job. I explained to my parents that I already have a job: I go to school. I have to show up daily, be on time, do homework, meet deadlines, etc. They didn't buy that. Admittedly, my argument suffered the fact that my report cards were lackluster, my work ethic sucked, and I didn't do a shred of homework. I had cartoons and What's Happening reruns to watch!
Actually, my parents didn't insist that I get a job, per se. They insisted, rather, that I get a license, drive and maintain an automobile. By extension, this necessitated a job. I gathered my parents were trying to jump-start a sense of responsibility in me by whetting my appetite for driving, a privilege requiring one to work. Parenting 101. They wouldn't stop pushing the car thingy. Bless their hearts, they had an old clunker they wanted to give me. All I had to do was maintain it, insure it and earn the gas money.
With time, I resigned to the reality of working. But I had two rules I would enforce -- to the death, if need be: 1) I don't flip burgers, and 2) I don't wait tables. Entry level work is humiliating enough. I'm not working a grill in a paper hat and I'm not singing cutesy versions of Happy Birthday to little bastards at TGI Friday's. I ruled out the food service industry. That left retailers. I'd be a clerk or a cashier or a stocker or something involving a mechanized floor buffer. Whatever I did, it would be within the walls of a retail shop. We had plenty of shops, grocers, drugstores nearby. One of the closest was Osco Drug. It was perfect. I could walk or bike to it. It was in a safe neighborhood. It wasn't burger-flipping. And they were hiring. So, I applied. They called back. I interviewed. You're hired! Ah, crap!
And so with a handshake and the completion of W-2 and I-9 forms went my last day of freedom. Heretofore I was a working-class schmuck.
I remember my dad driving me to my first day at work. We motored down the street on the most beautiful Saturday morning. I donned slacks, a button-up shirt, dress shoes and a necktie. I felt absurd. What the hell was I, a banker? Why the hell did I need to dress in a fucking tie? Was there a funeral at the end of my shift?
As we drove, I wondered what might be in store for me. I didn't know what my new job would be like. I didn't know what they'd expect of me. I didn't know if it would be more like a concentration camp or summer camp or boot camp. All I knew for certain was, I didn't want to be there. And good Lord, how right I was! My first job, an Osco clerk, was so many things, not the least of which was blog fodder.
I won't belabor the reader with the details of my first day at work. Let me instead enumerate the tasks and responsibilities of an Osco clerk, and then elaborate on each anecdotally:
- Sweeping/trash/custodial duties
- Setting the ad and pulling the ad
- Pricing merchandise
- Organizing the warehouse
- Catering to customers' every whim
- Exchanging personal dignity for peanuts
- Horseplay when lack of supervision allowed
Our orientation instilled two primary directives:
1) Exemplary customer service
2) Don't steal our shit
I have so many Osco anecdotes. Even as I write, old memories wash over me. I don't know how to begin organizing them. Rather than try to wrap them up in neat little essay, I'm going to let them rip, bullet style. I hope you get a taste of the Osco Experience as you read. Stay tuned for installments all next week, each of which featuring Osco anecdotes.