While my first job at the weird grocery store was certainly a monumental era of my life, it was also 20 years ago. With that said, I do remember a lot about it but the names sort of start to fade.
I know Dave worked in the meat department (you’ll hear more about him in a day or two), there was a super-cute cashier named Danielle, another cashier I remembered from 6th grade named Dana, a manager named Gillespie and the aforementioned manger named Berry. Most other people I don’t remember.
But then there was Steve. Steve was probably the best friend I made at that weird grocery store. He was probably 10 years older than me, had the kind of mustache that boys grow during puberty, made it through high school but had no direction for the remainder of his life and had a major crush on Danielle.
I frequently broke the “limit talking” rule with Steve and was often called out for missing opportunities to help other cashiers bag groceries because Steve and I were usually talking about any number of things — the girls we weren’t dating, the cars we weren’t driving, the bands we weren’t in … we were also obsessed with the Master P song Ooohhhwee.
We once had an in-depth conversation with two customers about one particular rock’n’roll singer. Two women came through the line together, reeking of cigarette smoke and both had their hair teased so hardcore one would think Poison was playing an acoustic set in the deli that day. Steve and I had been talking about music and had somehow gotten on the topic of Guns’n’Roses and when they heard the name, the girls lit up with excitement. “Goddddd he is SO SEXY!” they exclaimed.
They were referring to Axl Rose.
Steve and I couldn’t believe what we were hearing and it only got worse as they continued explaining that the way he moved and the way he wrote lyrics and … his voice … it was all so sexy. Meanwhile, Steve and I were dateless. Hopeless, even.
Steve once tried to impress a country girl with his knowledge of cattle and expressed how he knew that a cow shouldn’t give milk unless it was pregnant — something to do with the quality of the product, blah blah blah. Whether or not that’s true I don’t know and I don’t care enough to research it even for the sake of this blog post, but what was amazing about Steve’s refined knowledge of bovine milk production is that he misspoke and said a cow shouldn’t give birth unless she was pregnant.
On one of our last days together, I overheard Steve say under his breath, “…finally.” He got my attention and got me to come over to his lane. He said he was patiently waiting for the managers to leave because he wanted to see if “this really works.” He reached under his register and pulled out a can of wasp and hornet spray that someone had brought to his register and decided they didn’t want. Usually those products ended up in a special cart for me to deal with later in my shift, but Steve had other plans.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a Zippo, held it aloft at arm’s length, took aim and fired a straight shot of bee killer into the flame. This sort of activity wouldn’t cross most people’s minds and those who would think about it would have the decency to go outside. But not Steve. Steve was an animal.
We stood at register five looking at the sky as a fireball no less than three-feet in diameter spun a full 360-degrees and vanished just before it scorched a banner hanging from the ceiling.
We stood with our mouths agape for a moment before we both let out an amazed “…woahhhhh.”
“I’d better not do that again,” he said before putting the bug spray into the returns cart.
Good idea, Steve. Miss you, dude, wherever you are now.
Ever onward, see y’all tomorrow.