Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I Was A Teenage Criminal Part IV

My first job was at Caldors, which was a slightly upscale competitor to K-Mart. I took the job because one of my friends worked there and told me it was a good place to work. I was hoping to work in Sporting Goods with him, but I was placed in Seasonal instead. My department handled lawnmowers, weedwackers, grass seed, pesticides and patio furniture. It was right next to Sporting Goods, so I got to see my friend working around all the cool stuff, like the BB guns, the snorkeling gear, the tents, sleeping bags and bikes. I’m pretty sure he was jealous of me because unloading a pallet or two of bags of grass seeds is every boys dream.

It is entirely possible that my friends and I were the start of Caldor’s downward spiral into destruction. My crimes were limited to grabbing a tape (which were still the dominant form of music delivery at the time) to take home with me. And, of course, grabbing a can of honey-roasted cashews for us to eat during our shift. One of my friends, however, was a master criminal. Sometimes he would keep a receipt from a customer (who wouldn’t notice), but only if they paid cash. Then he’d take the exact items on the receipt, place them in a bag, staple the receipt to it (which is what he was supposed to have done with the original customer) and place it in a place where his accomplice could pick it up. His accomplice was somebody who didn’t work at the store who would walk by, pick up the bag and walk right out of the store. I was too chicken to participate in this type of organized crime. Plus my department didn’t have a cash register.

Often we would get bored, which was not a good thing. A word of advice to managers of retail stores everywhere. Bored teenage employees are trouble waiting to happen. When we’d get bored our favorite activity would be to go and trash somebody else’s stockroom. My target of choice was Sporting Goods since it was right next to me. Another advantage was that our stockrooms were connected, so we could innocently enter our own stockroom and sneak into theirs and begin the destruction.

The most memorable of these stockroom attacks wasn’t memorable for it’s success, but rather for it’s failure. Myself and another Seasonal employee quietly snuck around the corner. At the other end of the stockroom we saw my Sporting Goods friend facing away from us at the desk. We couldn’t see what he was doing. We decided that we were going to slide in close and pull down a big pile of boxes so that they fell blocking the aisle between him and the door. We’d make our escape out the door as he bellowed in rage.

We were about halfway to him when he suddenly became more alert. His head came up from what he was doing, but he was still facing the wall. He froze otherwise. I’m not sure what alerted him. It could have been a noise we made. Maybe he caught wind of our scent. Perhaps a supernatural sixth sense. We froze, waiting to see what he would do. Would he go back to what he was doing or were we caught red-handed.

Picture this happening in slow motion. He started to turn, but he was not moving quite right. His hands were hidden from view. As he turned, his right hand started to come up. He had something in it. I can’t quite see what it is. The bastard is going to throw something at us. Wait, it’s starting to come into view. What the? It’s a gun! A big gun! A .357!

Imagine how you’d react if in a split second somebody turned around and drew a .357 magnum and pointed it at you. For what seemed like a minute, but was more likely 2.75 seconds I thought I was going to die. Yes, some of you may have guessed it was a BB gun that was designed to look like a .357 magnum. They were allowed to sell them back then, and they didn’t have the orange plastic piece on the end. That didn’t stop us from fleeing, though. And it didn’t stop him from shooting at us as we fled, though he didn’t hit us. Either he was a very bad shot or he missed us on purpose. We didn’t go back to try again.

Many of the fun things we did involved the Receiving area. There was just so many things that were fun to mess with back there. At this Caldors there was a big, square metal door on the wall. It opened into a tunnel that led to the dumpster. You’d put the boxes or whatever you were throwing out into the tunnel and use a long board to push it down the tunnel into the dumpster. The board wasn’t really long enough so boxes would often not get pushed all the way back. It became a tradition to initiate the new employees using this tunnel. One of us would go and hide behind some of the boxes in the tunnel. The other would tell the new employee how to get rid of the trash. We’d tell them that there was a raccoon that lived in the dumpster, and that you had to open the steel door and throw your trash in and get the door closed quickly because the raccoon would attack, defending it’s home. Most people wouldn’t really believe us when we told them, but when presented with a steel door in the wall they began to have their doubts. They’d pull open the door, and bend down to pick up the box. And that’s when Rocky the Raccoon would strike. Whoever was hidden would jump out from behind the boxes and run up the tunnel roaring. Because raccoons roar. Anyway, more than one new hire ran from the trash room in panic. Including me, on my first night there.

The best joke I think I’ve ever played, however, will have to wait for next time.