In May of 2001, Phil and I had an argument about doing what needs to be done and what that entails.

At the end of it, I had called the 7-11 job-line and put in my application.

Three days later I interviewed for the position. I remember the guy asking, “Why should I hire you? What do you have that none of these other applicants have?”

My answer? “Full mastery of the English language.”

So I was hired. Just like that. I would be working at the 7-11 on Amsbury road, right across the street from SMU. I would work the late shift and be paid $8.00 an hour.


But first, there was a three-day training period. This was at the 7-11 walking distance from our place at the time, so at least I was saving on gas.

I was the….minority… in this class. Several people were turned away for not being able to prove they were legal to work in the states. One poor woman had a husband that wouldn’t leave. I don’t know if he was trying to protect her or keep tabs on her or what, but he just wouldn’t leave the classroom.

The most important part of 7-11 training is the TABC certification. This is how 7-11 keeps themselves from getting sued all the time. By giving you the certificate, you are therefore responsible for selling beer to an eighteen-year-old or cigarettes to minors. It’s surprisingly easy to pass the test and I now know all sorts of things about my license that I didn’t know before. I’m sure my certificate is out of date now… not that I’ll ever use the damn thing. The 7-11 on Amsbury drive is dry.

Most of the training for 7-11 is computer based. You work at your own pace and get to wear the same headphones everyone else before you did. It seems the job was Taylor  made for the influx of immigrants in this great country. You don’t have to speak English or really be able to read to do it.

I spent my time in class being a yukster. We would do reviews at the end of the day and so our trainer would point to a height-strip (the thingiee with the numbers on the door) and ask “What’s this for?”  For some reason no one knew so she called on me (because surely I know) to answer the question.

“Well, if you know the square footage of the store, you can actually calculate how many gallons have flooded it.”

I don’t think that was the answer she was looking for.

This is also when I discovered the THREE SINK METHOD.

There are three sinks, wash, rinse, and sanitize:

Each sink is filled with water, and then you add a chemical powder from a Lic-a-Stic looking packet to each sink. Any questions? Why yes, I had one. What if you’re color-blind? Anyone who’s red-green color-blind is going to have a hell of a time testing the rinse and sanitize sinks because the litmus paper used by the 7-11 people has essentially the same tint no matter what hue it is. (I tested this by messing with the monitor on my computer-based training).

“No one has ever asked that question before.”

“Maybe no one’s willing to admit they are color-blind.”

So, because of this, I will never drink 7-11 coffee. I’m terrified of getting a big mouthful of improperly mixed sanitizing solution that was allowed to dry to the interior of the coffee pot and then re-activated by the hot coffee.

It scares me.

So, the first day of work… well. First of all, I was supposed to work the night shift, but I had been scheduled to work 7 AM to 4 PM the first week. I can understand that. You have someone new, you want to show them the ropes, get them to understand how it all works while you’re there….

But the manager wasn’t there and wouldn’t be back until the week after next. And next week I was scheduled to work 6 AM to 3 PM.

And yeah, that is 9 hours, but there’s no lunch hour. Oh no. At 7-11 you eat when you can. You’re a convenience store—the customer’s convenience —not yours.

And there is no scheduled break or anything like that. So if you’re hypoglycemic or diabetic, this is a job that will KILL YOU.

But you can make it to ten o’clock.  You just know you can.

And you are on your feet all day. And the pad behind the counter isn’t doing the trick. And the assistant manager, Werrku, must have been a warrior princess or something back home because that woman has a GRIP. And Werrku can’t ask you to come look at something, she has to grab a hold of you and drag you to whatever it is she wants you to see. And Werrku is only about 4’5” so when she drags you anywhere, you have to stoop a bit.

But you can make it to twelve o’clock. You just know you can. Half a day isn’t that bad. At least you tried. Better than the ten minute guy. “I have to get something from my car…” and gone.

And then that creepy guy keeps asking what time you get off. He may be “mental challenged” but he’s not stupid. And he’s huge. HUGE. He’s got a way of looking at you that says he could snap your neck and by now, he’s come back into the store enough times, you’re sure he has a dead mouse in his pocket. And you know you’re just parked around the corner, in the alley, where no one will see you from the street and you’ll make damn sure this guy is nowhere around when you go out there.

But you can make it to two o’clock. You just know you can.

And the price of ice went up today; why today of all days? And the Highland Park Women are mean and can’t believe that the price of ice went up because you’re new, aren’t you? You’re wearing a button that says, “Patience please, I’m new”.  And trying to convince those women or those SMU kids of anything is impossible. And classes are out and they’re having cheerleading camp right across the street and these little girls are just the darling of someone and could never do wrong a day in their life and Mommy can’t believe the price of ice went up and you just can’t convince her and she throws the dimes at you and they go rolling everywhere (but your secret revenge is pocketing the dimes you find and writing the mommy up for stealing a bag of ice).

But four o’clock will be here so soon and it’s taking forever.

And the nicest people you meet all day are the day laborers who are rebuilding something at the college. They only come in to use the microware and get drinks, but they smile and say “por favor” and “gracias” and you never thought those words could sound so sweet and refreshing and you’re really starting to hate whitey.

But it’s four o’clock and time to go. Is the creepy guy anywhere to be seen? No? Is he hiding in the alley, waiting for you? No? Good. Get in the car, light up a smoke (first all day) and get out of that goddamned smock.

So anyway, that’s what it was like. I came home and showered and Phil gave me a nice rub down and I didn’t go in the next day, or the day after that. I thought I could cut it but I couldn’t. Maybe if I had worked the night like I was supposed to. I dunno. I’ll never get to complete that little sociological experiment again.

Someone asked me what it was like.

“Reducing,” I said.

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