SURVIVING SEVEN-ELEVEN

When I was 22 I moved in with a boyfriend who worked full time and I was putting myself through college so I was attending college part time and I worked part time to help pay the bills. Just to give you an idea of how long ago that was and how much things have changed my part time job at a 7-11 paid me $2.15 an hour and rent for our two bedroom duplex was $200.00. It was a handy job to have while going to college because of it being open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week I was able to change my shifts around when my college schedule changed though I only would work the day and swing shifts for safety reasons since there were many times it wasn’t busy enough to have more than one person working, though there was fortunately a take and bake pizza business in the other half of the building that was open every day until 11 at night. Over the 4 years I worked there I had many odd encounters with customers and I learned some valuable life lessons along the way as well. I had several regular customers that as soon as I saw their car pull up outside the store I would get ready for them to come in and try to start some kind of disagreeable exchange because they were always negative and would complain or do something that was highly irritating, like want a fresh pot of coffee made no matter when I told that the one that was already ready had been made. One valuable life lesson I did learn from these unpleasant customers was that if they succeeded in putting me in a bad mood they had won what they came in there to do, because I eventually realized that they most likely never gave me a second thought after they left the store and if they had succeeded in making me unhappy I was probably in that state longer than it took them to start their engine and leave. I learned to smile and totally ignore their assholiness (it should be a word) and not to let them win. Back in those days there was no rule limiting how many bottles a customer could return at one time, which was especially crappy for a small store with only one clerk on duty. Even though I would try to reason with the jerks that would bring their whole garage full of bottles back at once by countering their statement that they had bought them all there with my statement that they hadn’t bought them all at one time most of the people who were jerks enough to not realize it was a rude thing to do didn’t care when that was pointed out to them. Occasionally I would throw a 6 pack of bottles against the concrete wall when taking the bottles back to stack them and it gave me a little frustration relief to break the bottles but unfortunately it gave way to making more work for myself because I had to sweep up the broken glass. I eventually came up with a solution that gave me the pleasure of venting my frustration by breaking a few of the bottles but avoiding the extra work I had created for myself by leaving a few of them in a paper bag so that I got to hear the sound of breaking glass when I threw them against the wall but I only had to pick up the paper bag with the broken bottles in it and throw it in the trash. There were also some interesting experiences, some of which I am glad I had, some I wish I never had and most of the rest fall somewhere in between those two extremes. I met some really cool people, some rich and famous and some real ******** – in other words a fairly average representation of the general population. Two of the people I remember the most were both older men, they were both around 80, and one was a truly sweet and wonderful man who was lonely and came in to visit me because he wanted a friend and I am blessed to have been smart enough at the young age I was to recognize this man’s value as a human being and having known him enriched my life and to this day I still have a gift he gave me, a turtle footstool. He made wooden footstools which the wood was formed into the shape of a turtle and the shell of the turtle’s back was the padded foot rest. I have had many a kitten that has loved to beat up the turtle stool’s back and it still is in very good condition in its forever home in my living room. He was known to us all as the “turtle man” because of those footstools he made and eventually gave one of to all of us who worked at the store who had become friends with him. He used fabric that he was given by a local shop that reupholstered couches for the turtle backs and he would have us pick out which fabric we wanted for the stools he insisted on giving us for allowing him to “hang out” and visit and drink coffee. He also sold them, not very many that I know of, so over the years I knew him when I worked there every member of my family was given a turtle footstool I bought for $15.00 to help him out and make him feel valuable more importantly. Many years after I quit working there, and moved on to the “real” world of working after being done with college, I remember reading about his death in the newspaper and I still remember his name which was Roy Graber, a very sweet old man who I will never forget having the privilege to have known him. The other interesting old man I met working there was “infamous” in his younger years but they had long since past when I met him and he was just a little sweet old man to me, but what he was infamous for was being involved in the last train robbery in the state of Oregon that I live in and he had spent almost his whole life in jail for a botched train robbery when he was only 23 years old. The only reason I even know this about the man was that he would write checks when he came in to buy a few groceries and a cup of coffee so I knew his name and one day the local postman, who also liked to hang out and visit with me and the owner of the store, told me a little bit about the man. It also happened that one of my favorite places to go every year with my sister and my mother was to a world famous music festival in the town of Jacksonville, OR (where gold was discovered in Oregon in the 1850’s) which is a town on the national historic register because the town and its buildings are preserved as they have been since the town’s inception, and in the museum I visited several times they once had a display about the “last great train robbery” in the state of Oregon back in 1923 and one of the perpetrators of that robbery was the very polite and gentle old man who was one of my regular customers, Roy DeAutremont. He had been released from prison in 1971 and I met him in 1980 when he was 80 years old, he died 2 years after I quit working at 7-11 at the age of 84. He had been 23 years old when he took part in Oregon’s most famous train robbery which also turned out to be one of the most badly botched attempted robberies in our nation’s history. Roy was a very gentle soul and was one of the politest people I have ever met and, not surprisingly he never talked about the “great train robbery” he had spent most of his life in jail for. I met many other people while working there, some of them worth knowing and most of which I have long since forgotten. There were also a few incidents that occurred while I worked there which I will never forget. One of the most unforgettable was the time a man walked up to the counter and placed some groceries on it and I started ringing them up on the cash register and as I was doing so I realized he had quietly let his coat open up and he was naked underneath the coat. I didn’t make any acknowledgement that I had noticed his not having any clothes on and continued ringing up the items on the cash register and when I was finished I said the total out loud and looked him in the eyes and still didn’t allow him any knowledge that I knew he had no clothes on and he placed his money on the counter and I grabbed it and put it in the till and as I was getting the amount of change ready to give back him someone had walked in the store and the flasher closed his coat so that the person couldn’t see he had no clothes on under his coat. So I was able to give him back the change without having to acknowledge his lack of clothes. He grabbed his bag of groceries and left the store as the man who had just come in walked up to the counter. I then told the man what had just happened and when he looked out to see where the “naked” man was he was long gone. I told the guy that I had just pretended not to notice the man didn’t have any clothes on and I started to laugh as I figured I probably spoiled his fun by not freaking out when he stood at the counter and let his coat open up. A couple of nights later he did the same thing to a co-worker of mine and she screamed and gave him the reaction he probably was looking for from me. Apparently he ran out of the store and we never saw him there again. There were a few shoplifting incidents over the years and one time a bum drank a couple of bottles of “Night Train” (I think that was what it was called) back by the coolers where I couldn’t really tell what he was doing, and as he stood in line waiting to purchase one item he may have had the money for, he got so drunk he fell on the floor and I called 911 because I thought it was a medical emergency until the ambulance got there and a customer had found the 2 empty bottles of wine he had chugged. He ended up being transported to jail for shoplifting and to sober up instead of taking an ambulance to the hospital. Those were the major events I remember from my “time” as a checker at the local 7-11.

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