January 15, 2013
This was a weird time at the store. It was bound to be weird with both Marvin Ming and Audrey working together, but there were other reasons too. This store had a history of hiring good people. The employees were diverse: male and female, black and white and Hispanic and Asian, but one thing all of us had in common was that we all had good character. We were all good employees and good workers. We could all be trusted. But that changed almost overnight.
A new manager came in named Carolyn. For whatever reason, almost immediately, the new hires changed. You could see it right away. While none of us were rich or high-class, the newer employees looked like they came, at best, from the fabled “wrong side of the tracks.” And while there is no shame in where you come from, they acted like the stereotypical denizens of “the wrong side of the tracks.” One of them was an outright thief who stole straight out of the pockets of coats employees hung in the break room. Another was a thug who always started fights. Others were obvious drug addicts. All were lazy and untrustworthy. I was in charge of the stockroom and flat-out refused to give the keys to some of them, knowing that I would never get them back. (In one case, one worker had no nefarious plans for the keys, she was such a burnout she totally forgot 1- where she left them, 2- what she needed them for in the first place, and 3- if I even gave them to her at all. Long story short- the keys to the stockroom were right where she left them, hanging from a display rack on the sales floor.
And then there was Eddie.
Eddie worked in my department and we were all convinced that he was homeless. He dressed like he was homeless, smelled like he was homeless, and acted like he was homeless. When asked where he lived, Eddie would only say “Coney Island.” Eddie was hired by the same manager who not long before had tried to gently change Audrey’s hygienic ways, but those days were long gone. This new group brought hygiene to a new low. But that was the least of our worries.
There was strong speculation, never confirmed or denied, that these new hires came from some program that placed the homeless, recovering addicts, and criminals into decent jobs and in return the store got some financial consideration. I happen to believe it since at least one of these folks had a social worker who checked on her from time to time.
As this same time the store joined a program in which people with mild mental disorders would come to the store three times a week to do some of the easier tasks, like sweeping or doing basic merchandise stocking. It was occupational therapy and I am happy and oddly proud to say that I worked with them. To a person they were all dedicated and happy workers and I’d happily work with them again. And this group put the thugs, thieves, and Eddies to shame.
I have three Eddie stories to tell. They are all funny and odd but I’ll start with the shortest.
Marc and I were sitting in the break room for lunch. Marc and I had walked across the parking lot to a pizzeria and he bought a chicken sandwich. (Marc has been a vegetarian for so long that Marc eating a chicken sandwich now seems almost apocryphal.) Marc and I were sitting at one table, and the only other person in the room was Eddie, sitting across from us.
Marc was eating is sandwich while Eddie stared at it from across the room in the same exact way the two starving shipwreck survivors looked at each other in the old Bugs bunny cartoon, Wackiki Wabbit. (The one where one sees his friend as a hamburger and then tries to eat his own foot.)
Eddie: “That sure is a good-looking sandwich.”
Eddie: “Where did you get it?”
Marc: “The pizza place.”
Eddie: “Does it taste good?”
Marc: “It does.”
Eddie: “That sure is a good-looking sandwich. Does it taste good?”
Marc and I decided to go over to Marvin’s locker, for some reason. I’m not sure if I was supposed to have it or not, but I had the combination to his lock. At one point, I had filled his locker up with so many old Doctor Who novelizations that not only could he not use his own locker, but the books spilled over into the locker next to his too.
As you can see from my beautiful schematic, Marvin’s locker was right next to the doorway to the break room. In fact, when the two of us stood in front of his locker, one of us would actually be standing in the doorway. We were not ten feet away from the where we were sitting and we were gone not more than a minute.
When we went back to the table, the untouched half of the chicken sandwich Marc had left on his plate now had a single large bite taken out of it.
Eddie had a huge grin and sat licking his lips.
Marc looked at me.
I looked at Marc.
Without saying a word, we got up and left the break room.
The sandwich went into the garbage.
I am not sure it stayed there.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW: EDDIE PART TWO: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOP
Be sure to read the comments for my blog notes.