Sep 29, 2011

Merle Wayne Sneed's History of Employment - Part 2

 When I was 15 or so, my dad got me a gig working half-days on Saturday a the local Air Force base commissary.  Commissary is military-speak for grocery store.  I was a bagger and worked strictly for tips.

The commissary was a highly coveted job because, at least in those days, military people shopped only twice a month and they tended to buy a lot of stuff.  Plus, they tipped really well.

The drill at the commissary was that the 50 or so baggers would line up and wait to be called.  Each register was manned by two guys bagging.  One guy would carry  out the order and get the tip.  The second guy would become the next carryout and a guy in line would move into the second spot.

We worked in four-hour shifts and on a really good day, a bagger could expect to carryout 3 loads in 4 hours, although most times 2 loads was the rule.  Typically, I made about $5 in tips on a Saturday.

The downside to the job was that most days I had to walk 4 or 5 miles to the store and then the same distance home. 

I gave up the commissary job when a guy at our neighborhood 7-11 store asked me if I wanted to work for him.  My job was to do the janitorial work he was supposed to do.  I was paid $1 an hour cash out of his pocket.  In those days 7-11 opened at 7am and closed at 11pm.  Hence the name 7-11.

My 'boss' Chuck was a 22-year-old guy officially titled assistant manager.  His boss, Mac, was the manager and the only other store employee.  7-11 stores had a collection of rovers that filled in on the one day a week, Chuck and Mac each had off.

This job had a lot going for it.  It was about two blocks from my house, I worked in the evening and best of all, Chuck was a hopeless gambler and I was able to supplement my 2 or 3 dollar a night pay, by winning stupid bets with Chuck.  Chuck would bet on anything.

One night we were hanging around and Chuck had the radio going.  The guy on the radio gave the baseball scores and a few minutes later, Chuck offered to bet me on the outcome of those same games.

Chuck:  I'll bet you a quarter each on today' baseball games.
Me:  The radio just gave out the scores.
Chuck: I didn't hear them, let's bet.
Me: OK.

So we each picked our winners and bet on the games where we disagreed. Of course, unbeknownst to Chuck, he was betting on games where I knew the winners.

One time Chuck lost $25 to me pitching nickels and paid me with, and I am not making this up, a spider monkey named Koki.  I kept her for about a year and she was actually a really cool pet.  When I went to Chuck's place to collect the monkey, Chuck had an live bobcat in a cage in the living room of his trailer, an ancient Airstream.

I even made money betting on Chuck to win arm-wrestling matches with customers he challenged.  Although Chuck was a short guy, he was a former gymnast and was very strong.

Eventually, Mac got tired of Chuck's antics and let him go, ending my job as professional gambler and amateur janitor.

I also had a job one summer working for a guy named Eddie, who was a small-time general contractor.  Eddie never actually did any work himself, but he had a crew of illegal Mexicans and me and my friend Bob to do so.  This was in the days when no one paid much attention to who was from where.

We did roofing, no fun in Hooterville in the summer, we seal coated the parking lot of a bank, did some minor remodeling and one time hauled some junk to the dump for a customer.

Eddie would come around first thing to make sure everyone showed up and then he would retire to a bar to pass the morning.  By the time we saw Eddie again, he was well in the bag. 

The Mexicans would only work until one and then they would all just leave for the day.

Eddie had me and Bob on staff to do clean up and whatever other things the Mexicans refused to do. Eddie would insist that Bob and I go to lunch from one to about four in the afternoon, the hottest part of the day according to Eddie, and then come back to do whatever grunt work he thought up.

One day while Bob and I were cleaning up roofing debris from the County Fair Shopping Center, Bob got a bad nose bleed.  We decided to call it quits.  Eddie evidently came back to find us gone and fired our butts or we quit, depending on who you ask.  This left Eddie in a bad spot since he never did actual work and the Mexicans wouldn't do clean up.

On our regular payday, Bob and I went to Eddies house to collect our final pay.  Eddie shouted through the door that we could screw ourselves, he wasn't paying quitters (his characterization).

We waited a day or two and went back with the same result.  So, we hatched a surefire plan to get paid.

Eddie frequented a bar called the Kolb Road Tavern.  Bob and I drove past the bar a couple of evenings until we spied Eddie's truck.  Then we put down the tailgate of this truck, sat on it and waited for him to come out.  About midnight he reeled out the front door to find us waiting for him.

I guess he figured he was not in a position to bargain with two knuckleheads in the parking lot of the bar, especially since he was shitfaced. He grudgingly got out his wallet and paid us what he owed.  But not without a lecture on the kind of people that quitters are.  He hated quitters.

Then we moved to California.

Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky


Kurt said...

It would seem you are over me and my blog. If so, simply continue ignoring me and I will get the message.

Kurt said...

Our stories are riveting.

Barbara said...

I am impressed with the variety of low-paying jobs you willingly took on. I love the gambling episodes.

Steve Reed said...

Great stories! I hope that bobcat escaped and gave Chuck what he deserved for keeping it in a cage.

The Bug said...

I really am curious about Chuck's fate in life - he didn't seem well suited to reality.

I'm loving this series. If I did something similar it would be SO BORING! Except for a couple of jobs - they were sort of interesting (clerk in a convenience store & sheet folder at a laundry).

Anonymous said...

Merle! I haven't been around in forever. I missed you and the lovely Mrs. Sneed :)