truck and lasso

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Archive for the category “Poor Mom”

Dent Remover

I used to work at Winn Dixie as a bag boy.  I started when I was 15, so I was a pretty senior bag boy by the time I graduated high school.  And the perks that came with that seniority were amazing.

I got to make up the overhead announcement code for a pretty girl in the store, I didn’t have to do cart roundups in the rain, I could eat out of the candy bins and was entitled to deli fried chicken at 50% off 30 minutes before these markdowns were made public.

It was difficult not to let all of this power go to my head.  I mean, I’m 17 years old and can get fried chicken at 50% off before the public even knows about it?  What would you do?  There were three of us that ruled the backroom and we made rookie bag boys miserable.  We used to play pranks on them.  I can’t believe they fell for most of the shit we piled on them.  But they did.  Here are a few of my favorites:

“Customers won’t buy the salad dressings if they’re separated.  Please make sure to shake them every hour, at least two minutes per bottle.  If the manager walks by and sees them separated, you’ll lose your job.”

“Our sell-by date on meat is contingent on a regiment of vigorous patting once a day.  Before you leave, take each parcel of meat out of the cooler and pat it down, a hard steady pat moving from left to right.  Don’t over-pat the middle or it will turn and we’ll have to throw it away.  And it will come out of your check.”

“You see all of these dents made by carts on the metal trim around the perimeter of the store?  Great.  I need you to find the dent remover and spray all of them.  The dent remover was in the produce department, last I checked.”

“Mop the freezer.”

“A customer just complained about the taste of the water in the water fountain.  I need you to grab three of the five gallon buckets, unplug it and empty it.  The guy just came in and filled it, so it may take a while.  Just keep at it.”

I pray Roscoe has his mom’s common sense.


Late Night Altruist

My wife is amazing.  She gets up several times at all hours of the night to feed our baby, as a lot of moms do.  However, she definitely goes above and beyond.  Not only is the coffee set for the next morning, but I see this:

I am so grateful.


When I was 15, I began working at the Winn Dixie near my house.  I was only allowed to work weekends at that age, 8am-5pm.  I would bag groceries and get carts from the lot.

One Sunday a month, we’d meet early, 6am early, before the store opened.  Everyone with a pickup truck and a few bag boys would come dressed in street clothes and we’d drive a mile down the road to pick up our carts from the projects.

These projects were one of the most feared in my hometown because Lawrence was from there.

Lawrence wasn’t real.  He was a ghost story.  You told your kids about Lawrence to get them home before dark and keep them there.  We heard he had killed people.  Not a person.  People.  Indicating more than one.  He was 6’6″ and had been thrown off of his high school football team for cracking another player’s skull.  While the player was wearing a helmet.  There was an incident where Lawrence refused to fight a drunk sailor unless his Navy buddies agreed to participate.  All 14 of them.  Lawrence was the last man standing and smiled all the way through his sentence as a result of the altercation.  He was folklore, nothing more.

Everyone knew these stories, or everyone had their own, grittier, versions.  Add to that crime statistics regarding this row of buildings and you get a very somber ride down that stretch of road to pick up the carts, the line of raised pickups like a hillbilly funeral procession.

A majestic stretch of road

We’d roll through the turnabout and situate the trucks facing the street, in case we had to get out of there fast.  We’d quietly, but quickly, gather all of our carts and load them.

One resident of the projects, Ms. Eve, was a sixty-something woman who would come in on Sundays, straight from church.  She wore the same dress every week and rolled her stockings down to her shins for relief from the heat.  She was feeble, even for her age, and could flip her top dentures in her mouth.  She was my favorite customer in the store.

After helping her out here and there, it got to the point where I would walk with her, push her cart and collect all of the items off the shelves that weren’t immediately in her reach.  On particularly hot days, I’d clock out and take my break walking her to the projects.  I could do the mile there and mile back in an hour, easy.

After a few months, she stopped coming in.  I feared the worse and would always look towards her building when we went to collect carts those Sunday mornings.

A 15-year-old surrounded by bad influences is bound to listen to a few of them, even if it’s fleeting, a phase.  I had many friends and fewer enemies.  In my neighborhood, that was a victory.  You never though idle threats out of 15-year-old mouths would come back to haunt you.

One morning, I was bagging a woman’s groceries and this large, angry man busted through the doors like a thunderstorm, his broad shoulders and sheer momentum throwing them off track.  He could manhandle you with his voice alone, and he used that voice to repeatedly call my name.  I took flight.  As fast and inconspicuous as possible.  Fast won and inconspicuous lost.

I felt him breathing down my neck and booked it into the stock room, climbed a double-decker hand cart onto a row of pallets stacked six feet high and three deep.  I found a place and nestled, sitting on loose toilet paper.  Not dignified, but in one piece.

I heard the doors open and slap the walls of the stock room and that voice called out for me.  Angrier than before.  I knew that my fellow bag boys slacking off in the back would cover for me.  It was code.

“He’s back there.  Climbed over that pallet.  Thrifty Maid cans.”

Refusing the indignity of being pulled out, I was resolved to cower in a ball in front of this psychopath like a real man.

I climbed up and out of hiding.  The bag boys scattered, leaving the flapping, plastic doors swinging on their hinges.

I counted the perforated holes on my sneakers.  Protected my face and offered the top of my skull and shoulders and waited.  Nothing except a deep breath like a mustang’s strong enough to part my hair.

“Why you gotta make me chase you?  All through the store?”

59, 60, 61, 62, 63 holes on the toe of my right shoe.

“Look at me!”

I look up and he’s standing in front of me with his hand extended.  Out of breath, but his hand extended.

“I just wanted to come in here and thank the man’s been taking care of my grandma while I was away.”

Even this sounded angry.  I put my hand out.  It was like holding cooked spaghetti. I told him my name.

“I know who you are.  She won’t shut up about you.  I take her down to the Food Lion, but she wants to come here.  Food Lion’s cheaper.  And if you ever need anything, I mean anything, you look me up through her.  You know where she lives?”

I nodded.

“Good.  I stay there sometimes.  Sometimes I stay in Starke.”

Thinking, Raiford Prison is in Starke.

“Name’s Lawrence.  People know me, you just say Lawrence.  And I’m going to do something for you right now.”

And he whispered in my ear.

He left the stockroom and the store as fast as he came in.  I followed him at a trot.  As soon as we got into the parking lot, I screamed obscenities and threats after him.  He kept moving, faster now, down the street towards the projects.  I followed him to the end of the parking lot, screaming at the top of my lungs until he was out of sight.

I walked back into the Winn Dixie and my manager asked if he should call the police.  I told him no.

“Next time you’re out there, son, don’t come back in without a handful of carts.”

The other bag boys and onlookers in the parking were far more impressed.  I had chased after Lawrence and said things to him that left others horizontal.

Which is exactly what he told me to do when he whispered in my ear.  To paraphrase:

“Perception,” he said, “is stronger than 10 men.”

I only did what he told me because he was stronger than 14.

Death Stare

About two weeks before Roscoe was born, my wife’s parents visited.  On our way to breakfast, they sat in the backseat bickering and poking each other in jest, noting this is what we had to look forward to with Roscoe on the way.

My wife playfully said, “I will turn this car around!”

The three of them laughed.  My wife’s mom said it many times for many years.  It was the exact sentiment she was soliciting.

And my mom said the same to my sister and I twice as many times.  Here’s the skinny:  It doesn’t work. My sister and I hated each other, but we hated going certain places more:  Church, Dress Barn, French Novelty, Revco, Restaurants.

We’d act up and mom would say, “I will turn this car around!”

“Go ahead,” I’d taunt.

“How much do we have to act up to get you to actually do it?” my sister would ask.

Unless it’s Disney World, the punishment is the reward.  Looking at my wife’s parents in the rearview, I offered this:

“Have fun back there guys.  Yell and scream all you want.  But whatever you do, do not stare at each other in silence for five minutes.  It will physically burn the person you’re staring at.  Ten minutes is even more serious.  Maybe a visit to the hospital.  And if you stare at each other in silence, I mean really concentrating, for an hour?  Forget it, you’ll kill her.  Whatever you do, don’t do that.”

Night Light


She's right behind the door...


We have several night lights in the house, mostly so my wife and I can move around with Roscoe, or without him, to the same end:  do not wake the baby.

I remember asking my mom for a nightlight, as our rooms were on separate sides of the house.

“There’s no such thing as monsters,” she assured me.  “You’ll be fine.”

“I know there’s no monsters, mom, but my sister’s in the next room, and she’s real!”

You’ve Got Mail

My mom used to go through my mail.  I had terrible credit and she didn’t want me living with her forever, she insisted, thus she went through my mail to make sure bills were not going from due to past due.

My mom’s eyesight, it seems, was selective.  She found a pack of cigarettes in my glove box because she ‘saw’ them.  X-Ray vision, I guess.  She knew I had a party one weekend when she was away because she ‘didn’t see’ beer.  Just a big hole in the freezer where two twelve packs would nestle nicely.  I just couldn’t win.

Back to the mail.  In general, mom thinks plundering is a hanging offense.  However, when it came to my mail, it was justified.  She claimed to only look at bills, but always seemed to mistake personal letters for Visa.  Lisa and Visa.  Maybe.

“It’s not my fault,” she said.  “My eyesight isn’t as good as it once was!”

How’d she ‘see’ those cigarettes through two inches of black plastic in the glove compartment then?

One day I called every nursing home in Florida.  It’s Florida, they’re on every corner.  Now mom was, and still in her 60s is, a vibrant, active and healthy woman.  But I didn’t tell that to the homes.  I told them that, while difficult, it was time to start looking for arrangements for my ailing mother.

Her eyesight wasn’t as good as it once was, for instance.

I asked if they would please send me information regarding their facilities.  I left my full name and address.

I never received a single brochure.  Maybe they didn’t take me seriously and never sent them.  But mom was never more generous with her money and with bending the rules than she was that summer.

Canned Goods

Nine years old, in a Winn-Dixie with my mother.  There are heroes and there’s my mother.

She didn’t have a lot of time to cook.  She was also wary of TV dinners, so we usually met in the middle:  the canned good aisle.  In a Machiavellian attempt to get me involved in eating food that was good for me, she would turn selecting vegetables into a game.

“Pick whatever you want.  Any six cans,” she’d say.  Six cans of the store brand for a half-dollar.  “You can do half green and half yellow!”

I was two steps ahead of her.  I’d start wailing.  Top of my lungs.

“What’s wrong, son?”

I’d make sure there were a lot of people around and reply, through tears,

“I don’t want ’em in a can, mamma!  I want ’em in a bag, cause they don’t hurt as bad when you throw them at me!”

Most heroes would’ve held me under water until I drowned.  My mother just held me.

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