Home Opinion The Journal of a Working Boy, Or, Up from Sloth

The Journal of a Working Boy, Or, Up from Sloth


Written by Jasey Roberts

About a month ago, I wrote an article about how my job as a grocery store clerk gives people free rein to annoy me, or sometimes just hurt my widdle feelings. Bizarre characters came into (and still come in) my store, and over time I’ve learned to watch and document them for further entry. I present a sequel of sorts to the original article. Partially because it was fun to write, partially because I have more anecdotes where that came from, and also partially because I received a compliment. Validation don’t come cheap, friends.

Our first customer is a man who is possibly the scariest pers on I’ve ever met. I do not know his name, but from what I’ve heard from management we’ve supposedly had issues with him in the past. He was somehow both skinny and absolutely jacked. He had a shaved head and tattoos all down his neck and arms. He had these black, serpentine eyes that were both mesmerizing and gutturally terrifying – just like an Ari Aster movie. When he opened his mouth to speak to me, I saw that his teeth appeared to be filed down to look like fangs. As I write this, I realize that someone like this sounds really goofy, but try to imagine having this interaction with him:

“Are you kidding me?” He slams his palm on the register to get my attention. 

“What?” I ask him. 

“Keep your eyes to yourself,” he says, slamming the counter again.

It’s only then that I realize that he has a girlfriend, looking equally as cracked out, lingering at the edge of my counter. Had I been looking in her direction?

“Is there something wrong, sir?” I ask as he jams his card into the reader. 

He only looks at me, shaking his head and licking his teeth. “That’s a big mistake you just made,” he says, leaning over to look at my name badge, “Jasey.” 

Right? Can you blame me for losing the badge after that? For suddenly finding myself in the possession of pepper spray that I now keep in my pocket at all times? For turning my lane’s light off and going to the bathroom every time I see Sharkboy waltz in?

I’ll follow up with a happier one. There was an older lady who came into the store last Sunday, around the time the President was getting discharged from the hospital. She looked at me for a long time while as I rang up her items, and then offered, softly, like it was something she’s been meaning to tell someone she’s known for a long time, “I’m sorry you have to grow up in this world.”

And I’m a jerk, right? So I think: Great. Here’s another penitent boomer. She’s going to blame forest fires, social inequality, and diabetics who can’t get insulin on Trump, actively choosing to believe that it has nothing to do with her generation, nothing to do with the establishment that allowed Trump to get where he is in the first place, the same establishment that made an 87-year-old woman with cancer the only thing between women’s reproductive rights and fascism. It’s always only going to be the big bad Cheeto man, and once we get rid of him, everything will be back to normal. There’s nothing systematic or troubling to worry about here. 

But she doesn’t say any of that stuff. Instead, she just looked at me and said, “We should live our lives as much as we can, in awareness of each other. treat people with kindness as frequently as possible, live and love and, most importantly, try to understand.”

I was kind of caught off guard. I was already in my intellectual fighting stance, ready to rattle off police brutality, environmental, and mental health statistics to make her seem dumb and make me seem smart. 

Then she said, “Living isn’t easy in any time. But things seem to be especially hard now. Any time that you have a scary or upsetting or repulsive thought just look around. Look at where you are. There are, what, like 8 billion people on this planet -” she said, gesturing to the front window of the store to the parked cars, “- and this is where you are.” 

I had, instinctively, turned around to look at whatever she’d been gesturing to. Looking, but not really seeing anything. I was looking for what felt like a long time.  

She leaned over and grabbed the receipt that I was supposed to hand to her, “Have a nice day!”