Friday, August 28, 2015
People are in such a hurry sometimes. I am more of a laid back type. You can be first if you want to.
I do not like being late. But what I do is leave a little early. That way I know I will be on time.
Then there are the people who are driving and want to be the front car. Okay. Do it. I do not mind if someone passes me. I often drive slightly over the speed limit so I am not holding up traffic. A person can go around me and drive much faster than the speed limit. I just do not care.
I really hate when someone drives up behind me and drives too close to the back of my car trying to make me go faster. I will not do it. As a matter of fact I might go slower. It depends on my mood.
And forget about honking your horn at me. It only irritates me and makes me more stubborn. Even if you are in a hurry I am not. Wait your turn and go around.
When I was working the midnight shift I went home at the same time that morning rush hour traffic was in full swing. My drive was about 20 miles with all those other cars.
In Detroit the major highways are called expressways rather than freeways. No matter what they are called during rush hour they are packed with cars. Sometimes the cars move along at a steady pace. Sometimes there are problems somewhere and traffic slows. And sometimes there are bigger problems and traffic stops making the expressway a giant parking lot.
One morning I left work and was more than ready to go home. I entered the ramp to the expressway. Suddenly around me zoomed another car! The ramp is only one lane. I was in that one lane. This guy just went around me anyway.
I merged into the traffic. And there was the guy who whished past me right in front of me.
I watched in amusement as he switched lanes right in front of another car. He waited for an opening no matter how slight and jumped into another lane.
I watched him change lanes that way for my whole drive home. He kept jockeying for a new position in front of yet another car. I saw him as a danger to all other drivers on the road because of his recklessness.
Finally I reached the place I needed to exit the expressway. I entered the off-ramp. No one whooshed past me.
As I got to the top of the ramp I saw the red traffic light and prepared to stop.
Guess who was stopped at the same light directly in front of me. You already know it was the guy in such a rush to be first.
And he was... first I mean. He was the first one to stop at the red light. I was second. All that "skillful" maneuvering put him exactly one car ahead... of the car he so carelessly passed on the on-ramp in the first place.
And the lesson is?
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
I often find my mind wandering to people I care about who have died. I have such fond memories of them so it is enjoyable to just bask in the love we shared. There is a picture of my father directly across from where I sit. When I look up at him smiling down at me I smile and think of things we did together. It is comforting.
My family has a lot of birthdays this time of year. On birthdays I remember the person and memories flood into me. In the case of the people who have died I silently wish them a happy birthday.
Those memories I bring to myself. But occasionally there will be something that forces me to think of someone.
When I look in the mirror I often see a bit of my mother. As a child I looked like both my parents; at different times of course. But as I have gotten older I look more like Mom. It makes me feel good. My mother was a beautiful woman.
Once at work we were having a training session. I started to ask a question and abruptly stopped; I was totally stunned. My mother's voice was coming from my mouth! When I was finally able to explain the shocked look on my face I think everyone thought I had lost my mind.
In both cases I was forced to remember Mom. It happens more and more and it pleases me.
Daddy is sometimes a forced memory too. When we still had the house my parents lived in when he died all of us were forced to remember him.
My father was punctual. Every day after work he came home and opened the front door at almost exactly 4:00 in the afternoon. Anyone who was there would look up to greet him. So after he died if someone came in the door at that time we automatically looked up expectantly thinking we would see him.
Several times I could smell my father. I do not know that he had a particularly distinctive odor but I knew it was his smell. I was forced to remember him.
When my granddaughter was little I told her when she found a feather that it was a reminder that someone who had died was thinking of her. We had lost my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law within a short time. My granddaughter adored all of them.
My granddaughter found feathers everywhere. One day she found three lying together. She knew who they were from. She is 16 now and still finding feathers. She is being forced to remember her great-grandma and her great-aunts. She will always have them in her heart.
Recently my son had a dream that he found strange. He was smoking a cigarette and putting the ashes in a pop bottle and eventually put the cigarette into the bottle to put it out. My son has never smoked. But his father smoked and often used a pop bottle as an ashtray.
My son was also looking through his electronic reader for books to purchase. Based on books he had previously bought the reader had some suggestions. One of them was titled The Gift and the author had the same first and last name as his father. He bought it simply for that reason. He was being forced to remember his father. By the way it was the type of story he really enjoys and he liked the book.
Recently I was walking to my car. As I crossed the yard I noticed something on the ground.When I picked it up it was a flat piece of rubber about 2 inches in diameter. It was a tire patch.
My sister-in-law made tire patches where she worked. When she would come to visit us on vacation she always had a bag of tire patches and glue for the kids for their bikes. I smiled and placed it in the cup holder in my car. It fit perfectly. I think of her whenever I put a cup in it.
I am happy when I am forced to remember these people. They were all so special to me. And when I think of them I smile.
Friday, August 21, 2015
I love mulberries. I have been eating them all my life. And now I find out they are good for me too.
Besides being low in calories for a berry mulberries help the body fight against cancer, aging, neurological disease, diabetes, inflammation, and bacterial infections. They help keep the arteries from constricting and causing high blood pressure. There is some indication that eating mulberries will protect the retina from UV rays. And they have a high amount of iron to build red blood cells.
Mulberries spoil quickly so you will not find them in the store. The best way to eat them is right from the tree.
While there are about a hundred kinds of mulberry tree there are only three basic kinds of mulberry. They are known by color. The dark purple mulberries are the sweetest. Red mulberries are slightly tart and tend to be smallest of the three. White mulberries have a little less flavor but they are much larger than the other two.
One of my favorite ways to eat mulberries is with whipped cream. If we either lived on a farm or were close to my grandparent's farm we had plenty of cream available for whipping. But otherwise whipping cream was too expensive.
My mom showed me an alternative. A can of evaporated milk placed into the freezer until very cold but not frozen will whip nicely. Just add a bit of sugar and vanilla and turn on the mixer. I was so used to making it that way that we thought it tasted just fine.
I liked the white mulberries with whipped cream the best. I think it may have been because the berries are larger. The milder taste of white mulberries supported the taste of the whipped cream. And it might have been easier to get enough of the larger white ones to feed everyone.
Mulberries grow everywhere in this part of the country. One reason is that birds also like them. They eat the berries then deposit seeds in waste all over the place. And you know birds. They are not fussy where or when they deposit that waste.
When we used to hang all our laundry on the line outside we all cursed the birds for leaving droppings on the clean clothes. They seem to be overly fond of bed sheets for some reason.
Vehicles are another favorite target. Cleaning windshields and the rest of the windows before going somewhere is a common occurrence in mulberry season.
As a child I made it a point to know where the trees were located. In one town where we lived we had a white mulberry tree right beside the road at our house. We moved to another house about a block away but the tree was still mine.
My grandparent's farm had all three kinds of mulberries in many different locations. At one corner of the pen holding the geese was a white mulberry tree. All I had to do was climb the fence and pick them to my heart's content.
At the dogleg corner to the pasture was a purple mulberry tree. There was another by the corn crib. For that one we could climb the fence of the pig pen to get into the tree easily. Besides eating the berries we used to pump fresh cold water and squeeze mulberry juice into it. We had "wine" to drink with our berries.
At one corner of the farm house grew a red mulberry tree. My grandfather thought they were all nothing but a nuisance. He hated cleaning the bird droppings off the tractor seats and all the other places they were found. So he decided to cut down the tree in the yard.
After he cut it down he noticed shoots of new trees sprouting the next year. He cut them out and took an axe to the stump of the old tree. When he was through there were only shards of tree trunk remaining.
But even that did not satisfy Grandpa. He poured lye into the remains. That should kill any life it had left.
The following year we saw nothing but the year after that a little bush began to spring up. Eventually there was a bush about eight feet high. It was basically a group of small tree trunks that grew in the same place. They were more limber than a regular tree trunk though. And they provided us with those nice red mulberries that we did not have to climb to get.
All of us kids (cousins included) spent a lot of time picking and eating mulberries from the mulberry bush. And Grandpa just mumbled under his breath about mulberries.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
My husband's brother married an Indian girl. She is now considered to be Native American but in this area we still say Indian.
They were very young when they married. My mother-in-law was terribly upset about it. I was not around then but my mother-in-law is the one who told me so I believe it to be true.
She said she just could not picture herself walking down the street holding the hand of a little Indian child and introducing it as her grandchild. In the ironic way that the world works their first child was her favorite of all the grandchildren.
My mother-in-law also came to care very much for my sister-in-law. Tolerance for differences can be learned.
She will beMy sister-in-law died yesterday. She was only a couple of years older than me.
She had been fighting cancer for several years.
My sister-in-law did not like going to the doctor. She tried to treat discomfort and pain herself. She waited to long to get medical help.
She had surgery to remove as much as they could but a large part was too near the spine to get it all.
She has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for all these years. These treatments are so hard on the body. But she had hope that they would help.
And they did a little. But the masses never went away. So another round of therapy would be scheduled.
She has been telling me for a long time that she had made her peace and was ready to go. But she still hoped for another year or two.
The last time I called her she sounded so weak and tired. My brother-in-law told me that day that it didn't look good for her.
She leaves her husband, five children, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My children all cared for her very much. She always treated them as well as she treated her own children.
My sister-in-law will be missed by all of us. And I remind all to make sure to get those physicals. They could allow you those extra couple of years.
Friday, August 14, 2015
I was in junior high that year. We lived in a nice big house on Main Street. About a mile down the road was a main highway. To get to our town you had to turn onto what became Main Street and drive past our house to get to our block long business area. And I am being generous about that block.
We had a little grocery store, a post office, a cafe, and a couple of other small businesses there. There was even a feed store that sold feed for livestock, seeds for planting, and farm equipment. It was a nice little town.
My brothers and I spent a lot of time in the cafe. They had a pinball machine. We spent a good deal of our earnings from our paper route playing pinball.
Our house had hot and cold running water. Yay! I spent a lot of time shampooing my hair in that luxury. But alas we had an outhouse.
I have often spoken of my hatred of the outhouse. Besides the indignity of everyone in the world knowing where you are going and what you will be doing there an outhouse is the smelliest place to be. In the winter it is so cold. In the summer it is so hot (and full of flies). I can live with primitive conditions but I really want my indoor toilet!
There was an old root cellar near the corner of the house. It was damp and dark in there and not particularly safe. It could be used as a shelter in case of tornado but thankfully we never had to use it. We did not store canned goods or roots in the cellar because it was too damp and it was not really a safe place.
Toads loved that root cellar. There were other cellars in the neighborhood that were probably just as popular with toads. In the evening we could catch the toads that came out into the cooler air.
But when it rained was when the real sight came. Thousands of toads emerged from root cellars filling with water. The yards would be dark with toads covering the grass. Even the road (Main Street) would be covered and dark with toads.
But that is where the carnage happened. Cars driving into or out of town used that same road that was covered with toads. Sitting inside our nice dry house we could hear the pop pop pop pop pop of toads being run over by cars. It was like listening to bubble wrap.
We also had a telephone. That was not something we always had. It depended on where we lived. Sometimes telephone service was not available.
Our telephone was on a party line. A party line meant that we shared the connection with other people. Some party lines had as many as 8 different parties on them. We only had one this time. We shared with the drugstore.
That affected a lot of things. Of course I could not sit on the phone and gossip with my friends because we had to also make the line available for the other party. If we picked up the phone to make a call we had to listen first to see if the other party was using it. If they were we had to gently hang up and wait a reasonable amount of time to allow them to finish their conversation. And abolutely NO rubbering in.
Rubbering comes from the term rubber-necking. Rubber-necking means that you are eavesdropping on the conversation of another party on your party line. It is strictly against party line etiquette. It is also where the name of the song by Elvis came from.
In the corner of our front yard right near where the driveway met the street stood a huge pine tree. It was several feet higher than our two story house. Someone had cut the very top off and placed two boards across the top. It made a good place to sit.
Oh how I loved that tree. I spent a lot of time at the top of the tree. My teenage angst was at its height. It was good to have a place so seclude and yet so in the middle of everything.
I knew what was happening in our yard as well as the yards around the neighborhood if I was interested. I watched as cars went into town and out of town. I could even watch the activity in our "business district".
But most of all I could be alone. That was not an easy thing in a family of six (my last brother was not yet born) children and two parents. I could take a book up there with me and read all afternoon if that was what I decided to do. That tree was the best sanctuary I ever had.
Our school was at the other corner of town, as usual. We walked to school, as usual.
The school had grades Kindergarten through 12 just like most schools in Nebraska at that time. We still had recess so there was not a regular gym class. But we had sports teams.
I was on the volleyball team. We were a very good team and had been for years. Even after my family moved away they were still winning. We were undefeated even in tournaments while I was there.
When a team had away games in another town school buses transported all the students who were going. Those who did not go still had to be at school for the remainder of the school day. But there were not enough students for regular classes so we found other things to do.
One of our favorites was to play soccer. We did like all other kids and chose up sides. There were boys and girls on each team. We played our hearts out.
At that time fashion dictates were that girls wore little flat shoes. Not much protection but certainly stylish. Boys wore what we called engineer boots. They were heavy boots that went halfway up the calf. The toes were built to withstand nuclear explosions (my assessment, not an advertising claim).
On the day of one away game we were involved in a heavily contested soccer game. The ball was rolling and I intended to kick it. So did one of the boys. Unfortunately we were both successful.
We kicked the ball with all our might at exactly the same time. Me in my little flats and him with his engineer boots. Both with all our strength.
I do not remember the outcome of the game. All I remember is the broken toe I had. And I had to walk home from school with a broken toe. Inside that little flat shoe.
We had a pop machine and a candy dispenser at school. That was the only school I went to that had them.
The pop machine was one of those old chest types. You would select your bottle of pop and slide it along until it was right at the place where it could be pulled out. Then you would deposit your coins. The machine would then release the bottle of pop and you pulled it out. There were no screw off caps. There was a bottle opener on the side of the machine with a cup to catch the tops so they could be thrown away later.
Royal Crown Cola was what we drank then. We called it RC. But before drinking it you must buy peanuts from the candy machine and pour them into the RC. It was not always easy to get the peanuts in without the RC foaming over. At least we got a little protein from the peanuts along with the sugar from the RC.
My teacher lived in the rooming house right directly across from my house. He was a heavy old man who did not see too well. He probably should have quit teaching years before.
We were an unruly lot. We placed thumbtacks on each others' chairs as well as the teacher's. We used rubber bands to shoot sand burrs at each other. I still have a keloid on my left cheek from the one that stuck there.
The boys liked to used their feet to push the desks in front of them forward. Once we were too far forward in the room we pushed back.
One day the boy who sat at the back of the row I was in was walking up to see the teacher. As he went by I stuck out my foot and tripped him. He stumbled but did not fall.
Later when I went up to see the teacher the same boy pushed the row forward. The girl who sat behind me pushed the row back. At least the row starting with her.
As I was going back to my seat here came the boy from the back. I decided that it was a good idea to get to my seat before he could repay me for tripping him. I quickly backed into my desk seat. And promptly sat on the floor! My desk had been pushed forward.
In the middle of the school year our teacher made the decision to retire. He had enough of us. Our new teacher was a nice young woman who brought discipline back into the classroom.
The only class we left our classroom for was music. Our music teacher was a large woman. She looked like she could have played a Valkyrie in an opera.
Like many large women she was very well endowed. I was amazed at the torpedo looking protrusions from her chest. She must have invested a fortune in her bra. I am afraid we learned little in her class either.
I loved that town. I especially loved that tree. A few years ago I drove through there. The school was being torn down. The cafe was not there any more. Our house was gone. But saddest of all my pine tree was gone.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
This post will be about some bodily functions and indelicate treatments of them. If you are offended by them you should probably not read further.
As I began to get older I knew there would be changes in my body and hopefully not as many in my mind. It happens to everybody and is the natural way.
For instance I read once that as a person nears the age of 40 he/she is more likely to need bifocal eyeglasses. Wouldn't you know it... the year I turned 40 I had to get bifocals.
For women and some men mammograms become a routine test. This is one of those necessary evils to try to catch any abnormalities in the breast that may indicate cancer. If cancer is found soon enough it is easier to treat and easier to beat.
During a mammogram the technician places the breast onto a flat shelf. The patient turns herself into a pretzel to pose in the proper position. Then another flat piece comes down onto the top of the breast and presses it flat. Apparently that enables the x-ray to see as much tissue as possible. Then the procedure is repeated with the other side.
If your technician is good there is little pain. Mostly it is uncomfortable and quite humiliating. And most of the time the results will show nothing of concern. Then you wonder why you even had to bother with it at all.
After a certain age men must begin having a prostate exam periodically. I know little about the prostate so I only mention it because I want you to know I understand that men have their own set of problems. I will let someone else write about the indignities of this type of examination.
When women become of child bearing age they also become of age for that most pleasant exam of all... the pelvic exam. We are placed on an extremely uncomfortable hard table and asked to lie down and scoot to the lower end of the table so our bottom is right at the edge.
Our feet are placed into stirrups to lift them out of the way. Those parts of our bodies that we have been taught to keep to ourselves are splayed wide open for anyone to see.
Then the doctor puts on plastic gloves with a bit of lubricant on them. He/she proceeds to delve into all places that are available for delving. While delving the doctor will palpate the abdomen to make sure all the parts are in place and that there are no extras.
Once while in this extremely flattering position the doctor asked me, "How old did you say you are?" I told him. "Funny... you don't look that old."????????????????
Another test they do is a Pap smear. While you are "in the stirrups" they use a combination of tools that look like medieval torture devices. The final outcome is that they snip a bit of tissue from your cervix. It is sent to a lab to test for cancerous cells.
As the test is performed the doctor will invariably say, "Okay, now you will feel a little pinch." That little pinch can feel like a little pinch or a full-blown cramp or something in between. Any way it feels you do feel it. But again it is better to know whether there is something there to treat.
I hate to even talk about a colonoscopy. It is by far the worst of these tests. You must not eat anything other than broth or jello (no red or grape) and drink only water the day before the test.
In the evening you must drink the most vile concoction ever introduced to mankind. Several doses of it. Then a little more. This stuff is a severe laxative designed to clean every last trace of anything ever present in your intestine. It works!
The following morning bright and early you report to the hospital for the procedure itself. You are given a sedative to relax you and taken to the room where the procedure is performed.
When the doctor comes in you are placed into what they call a twilight sleep. In actuality you are asleep. It just is not as strong as an anesthetic for a major operation.
Then the doctor uses a camera that is on a long tube and inserts it into the proper orifice. This tube also shoots air into the intestine to puff it up like a balloon.
So the doctor looks all around in a place that no one should have to see. If he sees anything interesting he takes a picture. If it is really interesting he takes a sample to biopsy. If there are polyps (which most often will become cancerous) he will remove them and send them for biopsy too.
Probably the most embarrassing part of this invasion comes afterward when you are recovering from the anesthesia. Because the intestine was filled with air that air must be expelled. The nurse must witness this expulsion or it does not count. And all this time you hear your mother telling you not to do it because it is not a nice thing to do. Mom makes it take longer.
Perhaps the final indignity for women is menopause. It is the cessation of menses. Women have a monthly cycle during the years they are able to have children. Menopause is the end of that cycle.
I was not particularly concerned about that time of my life. I had made certain that I would bear no more children years before, many years before. My mother had been through it with no ill effects. Both my sisters had surgeries that forced them into early menopause. Neither had any problems.
I expected an easy time of it. I was right. Genetics perhaps. I do not know but it was not as hard for me as I saw it was for other women.
At any rate my doctor began way before time to try to get me to take estrogen replacement. Now I know that estrogen is a hormone found in the body. I also know that too much of some hormones can cause cancer. I kept refusing that treatment. I felt I did not need it.
Once the doctor asked me why I did not want to take the nice little pills. I told him that I knew that tall large-boned females had fewer problems. I did not want it.
Finally he said, "Can you guarantee me that you are not going to have a heart attack?" I answered, "Can you guarantee that I will not get cancer?" I never needed the estrogen.
I guess the best thing I can say about all this gunk that I have subjected you to is know your own body. Get the necessary tests to make sure that if there are potential problems they can be treated before treatment will not help. I drink to your health!
Friday, August 7, 2015
I have written before about my love for baseball and especially my favorite team the Detroit Tigers. It has been a most discouraging season. I had high hopes.
Victor Martinez is our designated hitter. He does not play in the field. All he does is take his turn at bat. He is a good batter even if he is old for a baseball player. He has had some problems with injuries but seemed healthy this year. He just has not produced hits like we hoped.
Justin Verlander was our top pitcher for years. He was thought of as the best pitcher in baseball. Last year he was off a bit and I kept saying there was something wrong with him. Turns out he had some abdominal muscles that needed to be repaired.
Verlander had surgery in the off-season and all looked good this spring. Then suddenly there was a problem with his arm. For the first time ever he was placed on the disabled list until he was able to pitch again.
When he came back it took him a few games to get adjusted again. Whispers said that he had lost "his stuff". He is now pitching better.
Miguel Cabrera is our first baseman. He is recognized as the best hitter today and maybe ever.
Cabrera had a rough time last year. He was obviously hurting but the team needed him so much that he continued to play. There was no one who could reasonably take his place. He did not know it but he was playing with bone spurs and broken bones in his foot. He had surgery in the off-season.
When he came back to play this season you could see that he was better. For one thing he could run without wincing in pain with each step. He was beginning to have a normal year for "Miggy" which is so much better than anyone else.
One day while running the bases during the game he pulled up in pain. If "Miggy" stops for pain most of the rest of us would be writhing on the ground screaming for morphine. He had some tears in his calf muscle. He has been on the disabled list ever since. He should be back in a couple of weeks but we have missed him.
The rest of the players have worked hard at picking up without the key players performing well. And they have actually done a decent job.
Our pitcher that we depended on for wins, David Price, was just traded to another team. He probably would have moved on after the end of the season but I hoped he would be here for this whole season. He is a great pitcher. I also hoped the Tigers would find a way to keep him after that.
Yoenis Cespedes is an outfielder. He is also a fantastic batter. He was traded to another team. I still have hopes that he will come back next season.
Our closing pitcher, Joakim Soria, was also traded. The closer is the pitcher who comes in at the final inning or so of the game when the team is leading by a small score. He is supposed to keep the score the way it is so we will win.
While at times our hitting let us down it was our pitching, especially the bullpen that has been a problem. The bullpen is the relief pitchers who are called in to pitch for various reasons after the game has been played for a while. Our bullpen just has not done the job.
The writing on the wall told us that we were probably not going to be in line for the playoffs this year. That is why those players were traded. A team will try to cut back and rebuild after a season like this.
We have had Dave Dombrowski as our general manager for 14 years. He is also recognized as the best. The general manager is the one who makes deals involving players, trying to make up the best possible team. Dombrowski has no equal in that regard.
This year was the final year on Dombrowski's contract. I felt it was a strong possibility that he would move on at the end of the season. Today the Tigers let him go.
I was shocked. I get attached to most of the players and managers and coaches. It actually hurts sometimes when they make a business decision to get rid of one of my people.
I can know that it is a good decision in my mind but that does not lessen the pain of separation. I suppose it seems silly to be like that but there you are. I cannot help it.
So my Tigers will not be contenders this year most likely. I can be okay (sort of) with that. I suffered through many years of 4th place teams. I will just have to adjust my cap and enjoy the rest of the season. Then I will look forward to a better year next year.
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
I promised you more stories from my time working at a retail store. So here they are. And I cannot believe I forgot to tell you the first one.
I worked the midnight shift. Our store was open 24 hours. I was Authorized Cashier this particular night.
An Authorized Cashier or AC is the cashier who assigns which cashiers will work which lanes to check out customers. The AC also assigns cleaning duties and schedules breaks and lunches so there is some sort of order and the work is evenly distributed.
We had a busy evening but things slowed down after midnight as they usually do. Even so there was suddenly a bit of a rush as several customers were ready to pay and leave. I was helping one of the cashiers by bagging the purchases for her in order to move things faster. Her final two customers were two nice looking young men.
They were buying a vacuum cleaner and trash bags. They said they had a party and there was a lot of clean-up needed. They seemed to be in a jovial mood.
A few days later we saw on the news that a young woman's dead body was found in trash bags dumped somewhere. There were other trash bags there with her and in one of them they found the receipt showing where the vacuum cleaner and trash bags had been purchased. Guess where that was.
A cashier's receipt has so many identifiers on it. There is the time, date, store number, as well as lane number and cashier number. Those things told the police that the items were purchased at our store and which cashier checked them out.
The young men had indeed hosted a party. They slipped a drug into the young woman's drink so that they could rape her. Unfortunately she died. They decided to try to clear all evidence of her being there but it did not work.
The cashier was called to testify at their trial. They were found guilty and sent to prison.
One of the cashiers did not feel well. I was working in the cash office that night. The AC called me to tell me that he was vomiting into his waste basket and continuing to wait on customers. I told her to send him home. He did not want to leave.
I went out to talk to him. He was violently ill but refused to go home. I had to get the store manager to go out and send him home. Can you believe that one? But it is true.
A woman who worked in another department was called into her manager's office one morning as she was ready to punch out to go home. Apparently she had been coming to work every night and punching in. Then she would leave with one of the men who worked in another department who was going home for the day. She would stay with him all night until it was time for her to punch out for the day.
As was the practice of the store at a time like this she was given a drug test and tested positive for cannaboids (marijuana). She claimed it was because she was in a car with people who were smoking and must have breathed some of it.
She contacted me in my position as union steward to try to keep her employment. I did my best but of course she was out of a job.
Most of the year there would be two people working in the cash office on the midnight shift. Only during the holidays did we have more.
I was working one night with the absolutely sweetest person who worked in the store. She never wants to be unkind to anyone.
We were experiencing some mild allergy-type symptoms. Our eyes were irritated a bit. As the night went on it got worse. I finally called the night store manager to see if there was something in the air of the store that could be causing it.
He sent security in to see if they could find a problem. Nothing. But it kept getting worse.
I called again because by this time our eyes were red and itching. We were both on the verge of allergic tears. They went up on top of the store to see if there was anything wrong with the air conditioning. Nothing. They checked the air ducts. Nothing.
The other woman and I were taking turns leaving for fresh air every so often just to get some relief from whatever was causing the problems. Finally the night store manager came in and said they could not find any cause for the irritation.
When I asked him what we were supposed to do he got testy with me. He said, "I don't know what you want from me! What do you think I can do?"
So I calmly replied, "As a union steward I could ask you if you were willing to leave your employees in a dangerous situation." The other woman looked at the manager with red teary eyes and said sweetly, "Well I think maybe Emma is more uncomfortable than I am." Grrrrrr.
He finally decided to put us in a more comfortable environment even though it was potentially more dangerous. We propped the doors of the office open and used fans to circulate the air. Now we were vulnerable to robbery.
We never did find the problem and it was not like that the next night.
There were few people who were able to work in the cash office. It was a specialized job. So we were a closely knit group. And we delighted on playing pranks on each other.
For Halloween we were decorating the cash office. The woman working with me and I planned all sorts of fun. We took those plastic worm fishing lures from sporting goods and planted them in drawers all over the office.
We had some ghosts from the holiday department. Some of them would make haunting noises when movement activated. We had some that were rigged to swoop down towards the person opening the door. There were all sorts of fun surprises for the unwary.
As we were gathering supplies the AC came to see what we were doing. He got into the spirit of Halloween and offered to help. Because he occasionally worked in the office we could allow him in.
He went and got a long black robe and a mask with that "Scream" face. Shortly before the day shift came in he would put on his disguise and sit in the walk-in safe to catch the person who counted down the safe in the morning.
The first person in that day was the head of the office. She began her counting of the safe drawer and we all chatted a bit. The AC was sitting silently in the safe. The she began to compliment us on the decorations.
She proceeded then to tell us what a chicken she is. She cannot even go to a haunted house because she is too afraid. I began to frantically find a way to call this whole thing off.
I needed to confer with my co-conspirators and there was no way I could do that. My mind was still racing as she made her way into the safe.
She went in. Nothing happened. No screams, no shrieks, no giggles, nothing. I moved over that way to find out what had happened.
There was an ear-splitting scream as she came running out of the safe. Her clipboard went one way and her pencil went another. She was racing toward me so I braced myself to stop her and calm her down. At the last second she veered to the side and grabbed the coin counting machine for balance.
Once she caught her breath she went on and on about what a good prank it was. Then she threatened to get me good one day. I called Troye and told him he could come out of the safe. He said he would as soon as his legs woke up enough so he could stand. By the way she never was able to return the favor.
My least favorite place to work in the store was the service desk. At the service desk we sold stamps, sent faxes, sold money orders, and in the beginning we accepted utility payments. We sorted items that were left throughout the store to be returned to the proper departments. We also processed the dreaded returns.
Most people are good when returning items for a refund. They bring the item in the original packaging with the receipt of purchase. Their identification is ready so we can take care of them quickly.
We need to know the reason for the return. If the item is damaged we will make certain it is not returned to the floor.
Without a receipt, a certificate for store merchandise can be issued under the right circumstances. If we are unsure or if the cash amount is too large we must have approval from a manager.
A woman came in one night and wanted to return a lotion gift set. It contained a bottle of lotion and a bottle of perfume. Each was only half full. I refused the return.
The woman became irate, insisting that I call a manager. I did. Then she began to call me vile names and trying to insult me in any way she could think of. I tried to stay calm because I knew she wanted me to return her anger. When the manager arrived I was still speaking calmly but I was shaking from anger.
The manager noticed and quietly asked me if I was okay. After I said I was she turned to the customer who told her how very rude I was about refusing her return.
The manager handled the whole thing so well. She told the customer that I was doing my job and that I had done the right thing. Then she turned to me and said, "I am going to allow the return but thank you for following the rules." Managers always approved the returns but at least she acknowledged in front of the customer that I was correct. After that I would have done anything for that manager.
You would not believe some of the returns approved by managers. Once we refunded money for a Christmas tree that was obviously from the previous year. The needles were all completely brown. We refunded money for a bicycle that "was a gift" and not needed. Inside the box was a very old bike, the kind that had those little balance springs under the seat. It was completely rusty.
My daughter-in-law refused the return of a vacuum cleaner. It was an older model than was supposed to be in the box not to mention that it was a brand that was no longer being made. Her store manager refunded the money. Then he told her that he was just trying to keep the goodwill of the customer.
At a later meeting the store manager was telling employees that they needed to watch costs. My daughter-in-law, bless her little heart, stood up and said, "One of the ways the costs are so high is the managers giving refunds on merchandise that is either not ours or is no good. As soon as that is stopped then you can talk to us about cutting back on our expenses." Meeting adjourned.
The manager in our toy department was liked by everyone. She was so friendly and had a really nice personality. She treated her employees well. She even made life a little easier for them when she could. For instance, turning in the cash drawer at the end of a shift is time consuming. She often took that task herself.
Imagine our shock when she was fired. It seems that she would help herself to a few dollars from the drawer before it got to the cash office.
Often the security force on duty was all male. If they apprehended a female shoplifter they liked to have a female present to try to prevent any accusations of impropriety. So there were a few of us who they trusted enough to take care of that task.
The suspected shoplifter needed to be searched. Weapons might be concealed and could be a danger to the security people.
Before searching the person we would ask if they had any weapons they wished us to know about. Then we would ask if they had any sharp objects such as needles on their person. Only after negative replies would we then pat them down.
Then we would have to wait until the police arrived. All we had to do was report that we had searched them and found nothing of danger or incriminating on the person. Then we were excused while they readied a trip to jail.
Most of the security personnel were former police officers or officers in training. They knew the laws for surveillance and apprehension. They also had the take down moves if the suspect did not want to be stopped.
Many times there were some very large people who gave a good fight before being subdued. A security person might even end up with a few bruises.
One night there were two huge men who decided to fight. From what I understand there was a lot of rolling around on the sidewalk and a few punches were thrown. I was in the cash office and saw none of it but even employees went out to watch. By the way non-security employees are never allowed to interfere.
Finally one of the men was cuffed. The other was still fighting to get away. Then he bit the security person. And drew blood.
The man was caught. The police took both of them to jail and shoplifting charges as well as various assault charges were filed. The security person went to the hospital. He would have to undergo testing for AIDS for a period of time.
The man who bit him did apologize in court. The security person said, "Apology not accepted."
We often saw the sweet little old lady who came in often on our shift to buy food for her cat. She might have been five feet tall and she was of slight build. Her hair was that fly-away gray that so many of us have as we get older.
Most of us felt that she was probably buying the cat food for herself to eat. We felt so protective of her. When security took her into their office we hoped that she had just passed out from hunger and that she had not had a heart attack.
Imagine our shock to learn that she was the front for a large shoplifting ring! She was the brains of the whole thing.
In large stores like the one I worked in there are more emergency situations than a person might think. And the store has codes and procedures for all of them.
For instance in case of a fire you will hear "Code 100 deli department, Code 100 deli department, Code 100 deli department," over the store speakers. It is repeated exactly three times. That sets things in motion.
All department heads and security personnel grab fire extinguishers and go directly to the deli department. Authorized cashiers go directly to the front doors of the store to facilitate traffic if necessary.
The store manager, the head of security, and the cash office each call the fire department. We report that there is a Code 100 in the deli department. After the third call the fire department dispatches fire trucks and personnel. It is all orderly and calmly done.
So one night I was in the cash office when I heard a frightened voice announce a Code 100 for the grocery backroom. He only said it twice but I recognized the voice of the grocery manager and I head the fear in his voice. I called the fire department and explained what had happened. They sent someone out.
The other woman in the office left to use the bathroom. I knew she just wanted to see what was going on. She asked the greeter why he was not headed to the back room with a fire extinguisher. He was certain there had been no emergency call.
Security had gone to the back to see what was happening before calling the fire department. The night store manager was somewhere...
The fire chief came to the front of the store to ask someone to let them into the back of the store. The greeter was still arguing that there was no fire. The store manager was called. She went into high hysterical mode. She took her keys and fumbled her way to the back of the store.
Once there she could not figure out which key opened the doors. She was screaming at everyone to fix it.
Finally one of the security members took the keys and opened the doors.
The Hi-Lo that the grocery manager was operating had caught fire in the motor directly under where he was sitting. He panicked a bit when he issued the emergency call. He was not hurt. The fire sort of put itself out. The fire department made sure everything was safe before leaving.
The fire chief did come up to the front of the store to thank me for making the call. No one else called but they felt that I explained the situation so well that they needed to check it out.
So here is another taste of life in retail.