Episode 105: Story about Being a Cashier

I recently read that one tactic for dissertation writing that many people recommend is to go four one hour blocks of no wifi with minimal breaks every day. Here is the original source https://chroniclevitae.com/news/370-the-no-fail-secret-to-writing-a-dissertation?cid=VTKT1

. Tomorrow I will try it out and keep going at it until I collapse physically and/or emotionally. But that is tomorrow; tonight I want to get my hands back into typing mode with something that has been rummaging in my head for a couple of days, a story. There is an upcoming short story completion on my campus and I want to try a stab at it, chances of success are minimal but I want to give it a shot and see if anyone likes it. The original idea from it, I must admit, comes from an old mentor of mine who wrote a collection of stories and one of them was about a young man who wanted to learn as much as possible about the people whom he only shared a glimpse with and whose curiosity would ultimately make the old adage of the deadliness of possessing such a quality (whether in felines, humans or cat people) strikes true. Still hammering out the details but I want to keep this inquisitive nature based on momentary observations just maybe without the fatal consequences of needing to find answers to questions that should never be asked. Consider this a draft for peaching purposes as they say on other parts of the Internet.

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You had to have done something pretty terrible in a past life to end up being the guy who has the morning shift at a small CVS close to a college campus. I curse this previous incarnation and whatever wrong doing he/she did because I have been at this job almost five years. I went to that college a few blocks away from my place of employment and my degree in philosophy showed me one universal truth. People ask questions for which there are no actual answers, but they get some decent guesstimations until someone calls them BS and proceeds to ask something else or in a different manner to get the actual solution. Part of me wants to be an inquisitor of existence while another wants to know why the manager having to drive her kids to school gives you an automatic excuse to come in later and gives me the meaningless promotion of having to open the store. And trust me, even the intrinsic beauty of a sunrise gets diminished to banality once you see it off the wide mirror’s reflection because the window behind your register is facing East.

Respect is something you don’t easily witness when your clientele is based almost entirely of college students who look insulted when you ask that they disregard their phones momentarily to pay for their purchases. Those who actually look at the task at hand only see my unremarkable face and a nametag that just says “Ivan.” I take it that having a last name there would have the possibility of having someone call me “Mr. Rivers” might provide a slippery slope toward something at least resembling general esteem for my person. Then again, people might ask if I was related to Prof. Rivers the literature professor and not telling them that I am her son just seems wrong. She’s ok, just that she loves books and characters more than people. That explains why she had to get mystery sperm to have me or why she named me after one of the Brothers Karamazov. Empathy is not exactly one of her strong suits so most students have a hard time with her. The last thing I want is for over confident teenagers to ask for my help with their classes, or for a reason to speak with my mother for more than just pleasantries. So Ivan works well, even if a couple of “bros” call me Drago because of Rocky IV in a moment of cinematographic genius that they assume no one has conceived of beforehand.

The only thing that makes the job worthwhile is the people that are there with such an overwhelming emotion that even a blind person can read on their faces. There are only a handful of things that college students need at six in the morning and I get to sell it to them and ask if they want to also donate a dollar to the charity of the month. With over ten thousand students a few minutes away on foot, you don’t really recognize faces but you do get to see emotion and not just a desire for whatever they are buying. For some kids, it’s a craving like the wannabe tough guys who miscalculated their nicotine needs and want a pack to start smoking immediately. I particularly enjoy the smugness that comes from someone who thinks they have outsmarted the system by buying whatever they needed in bulk and how they can barely carry the jumbo pack of ten rolls of paper towels out the door. Little do they know that no matter what, the company still makes a profit. Shame that workplace rules specifically state I can’t converse with customers about their purchases or question them about their emotions.

That policy stops me from being rude but it also inhibits my curiosity toward some of the most emotionally filled people that I get to share a moment with. There are grown up kids who just went through something life altering and I am the person they first come in contact with afterwards. You have never seen dread until you see a girl with a stain riddled fancy dress come to buy Plan B. The energy filled panic of a young man that gets a greeting card and a bouquet of whatever flowers we have will make you reconsider keeping an up to date day planner. Shame oozes in a very predominant manner from both the girls and the guys who buy pregnancy tests. The complete look of defeat that comes from a dude trying to return an unopened value pack of condoms almost me want to tell him about suicide prevention hotlines. Maybe it’s the empathy from my unknown father or the literary acumen from my mother that urges me to try and make a connection with these people if only to confirm the stories my imagination has already conceived. A hug, a concerned shoulder pat, even a simple “it’s going to be okay” is something I want but I can tell that they go at sunrise to get these objects for two reasons: urgency and anonymity. They need it fast and don’t want anyone else to know about this. If there was dark room with a vending machine with said items there would probably be a line of people hiding their faces at almost all moments.

The biggest temptation comes from those damn little store cards to get personalized coupons. Even at their worst, most people still want a deal. For an instance, their entire information comes on screen and my little nametag pales in comparison to what our interaction has let me learn. I get their full name and want to call out to them with some form of solace as they are about to leave. I obtain a phone number that entices me to call later to try and fill out the dotted lines of the narrative that my subconscious has drawn out that needs a conclusion. And yet I am left sympathetically silent and inquisitively impotent as they rush out with receipt barely in their grasps. Most days I don’t get to be the momentary apothecary for these Romeos and Juliets whose stories advance to the next scene after obtaining their required times. Regardless, I feel like I have continued life’s quest for questions and answers for those poor young unfortunate souls. Shame that even if they did enlightenment or peace of mind they probably wouldn’t come back and share their discoveries with me.


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