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Shoplifting, and Other Career Paths

by Justin C. Justin

Copyright 2018 Justin C. Justin

Published by Justin C. Justin at Smashwords

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Table of Contents

Shoplifting and Other Career Paths

Hailing From Harvard

Employment, Anyone?

About the Author

Other Books

Shoplifting, and Other Career Paths

by Justin C. Justin

So what's the deal with store-eating? I understand the shoplifting thing. I could never get away with it, much mine said about always getting caught when copping drugs. "It was like I was wearing an invisible sandwich board when going to cop, with "Bust Me" on one side and "Rip Me Off" on the other." Shoplifting has always carried a similar curse with me.

I had a friend, Manic Mervin the Preacher's Kid, and he stole anything he could carry. Manic Mervin the Preacher's Kid was hyperactive and loud, and he stuffed innumerable packs of Bubble Yum into his wet swim trunks after we left the Boy's Club passing through Safeway.

Manic Mervin had a harelip and you could barely understand a word he said, but that little bastard had some quick hands. He could wander off juggling cans of Country Time Lemonade, and I'd be the one getting screamed at by a clerk for reading "Mademoiselle" without paying for it first.

I believe store managers were in terror of Manic Mervin. as a pal of

He'd he'd strut out of the Safeway or Giant carrying a huge package of egg salad, just to be dumped on some unfortunate pigeon in the parking lot. Manic Mervin would wave merrily at the store managers with his big twisted mangled grin and by George, they just feebly waved back.

Made of Teflon, that boy. I am long of the belief that I was the one in Special Ed, and he wasn't, because if you couldn't understand what he said in class, some of it might've been correct. Right?

But yes, shoplifting was out for me, hand-to-eye coordination-disordered creature that I was.

Store eating has long been a pastime with me. My first wife and I would pick up a couple of (well, many) snicker-doodle cookies from what was called a bakery at the Schnucks supermarket in St. Louis, Missouri - but by the time we reached the cashier, we had a bag of crumbs.

Once, as I hovered over the hot food bar at Safeway, a nice kid from Nicaragua or Honduras nudged me as his mother, in some sort of native garb, smiled beneficently.

"Look, is buying this stuff a good deal, Mister?"

"Absolutely not!" I spat hot Mac-n-cheese out of my stuffed mouth. "You (I pronounced it "Thoo") can get a frothen Thtouffer's for a third of what these capitalitht bathtardths" ruminating a noodle on my tongue--"will weigh thith Hot Bar thtuff for, or thoo can jutht boil noodleth--"

Yes, consumer advocate that I was… now let's move on to the cream of celery soup, and are those Swedish meatballs? Delicious, but not at those prices, the bathtardths.

Thinking it over judiciously, the biggest pain in the ass for store employees after the store eater has finished his banquet is less inventory control, and more where the bits of smorgasbord are left.

I've placed empty Mountain Dew bottles behind rows of disinfectant, half a Suzy-Q on top of the "Donate to Kids With Cancer" box, the white cream oozing like an indie porn flick in a gentle obstruction of the photo of the afflicted. Stuck nibbled cheese curls between neatly stacked Yuban coffee jars, and at least once, dropped an open receptacle of Wintergreen Tic-Tacs into a vat of "Low Fat" chili. (I couldn't decide, and the wintergreen "bit" me.)

By no means am I a connoisseur of store eating. One enterprising fourteen-year-old of my acquaintance did major liver damage by sticking a couple bottles of Pino Grigio into a paper bag, hustling into the loo, and coming out dead drunk. The empty bottles were broken in the bag, and he stuffed it in the trash can outside. No clues there!

So years later I got a part-time job as a dishwasher for a German-European restaurant. I have been trying to be helpful, starting culture-based conversations "You want me to use these surgical gloves when I scrub the pots? I think this is the kind Eichmann used!"

I told the boss, whom I'll call "Harold," that I am desperate for work, not even for a lot of money.

He asked me "Can you wait tables?" No, I have poor memory. "Could you host?"

No, spatially, that would freak me out. "How are your cutting skills?" What am I, a Ginsu ad? So I am in the dishroom.

I explained to Harold that it was mostly important that I impress my wife with going to a job, so she won't feel like she's supporting a bum.

"Look, Harold, women basically judge according to their emotions and instincts" I said earnestly.

"Mom knew I had to do homework, and so every night I would bring home a Palmer Handwriting book, and give her a token argument while she told me I couldn't watch TV until I got the work done.

I avoided real homework, but made my mother feel secure throughout all three years I was in fifth grade...the same I must do for my spouse with this part-time job. It's all about the effort."

"She just wants you to work?"

"Right, Harold. I'm too old for the shelter now. I have to at least pretend to be industrious. My beloved is a high-powered lawyer and has taken enough guff for marrying a seventh grade dropout, you understand?"

"Wow. How did you meet her?"

"In a Pinterest group for John Wayne Gacy look-a-likes . Irrelevant. We have to keep her happy, otherwise all hell breaks loose."

"Wow, who looks more like Gacy? You or your wife?"

"Depends on the day. Look, I really need a lot of hours, you understand."

"Look-a-likes make a lot of money, you know, at openings for galleries, churches, day care centers..." the sous chef offered. "If your John guy, whoever, has a Disney movie like the Little Mermaid, you could make serious bank."

There was a silence while Harold and I pondered this.

The two women I work with in the dishroom speak no English. NONE. I mean,not even "How are you?" I am fascinated, they've been at the restaurant for eight years, both of them, and possibly in the country for longer, but wow. It's like they just got off the boat, or over the fence, what have you.

So I guess I'm progressing at work, kinda. I was down in the dishroom and the dumbwaiter elevator thingie they have sends down these pots of various sizes. I would rather just wash dishes, but you know how it is.

Imagine...a pot that has split pea soup GLUED inside it. Three huge sinks, and nowhere to brace the pot to scrub it out, AND the bubbles fly everywhere so I began to look like Sigmund the Sea Monster. Somehow I never thought of Siggie as being an up and comer in the restaurant business. The restaurant owner said to me tersely, "You work wet. I don't like that."

Sure, but when you are wrestling with a SIX GALLON pot that you're sticking your head in, that keeps falling in the suds and doing weird shit like making other stuff in the sink, like a pudding encrusted whisker popping out at me like a flying fish in the Chesapeake, there's going to be some, uh, "wet".

I mean, there's no dignity in the struggle. "Captain Ahab and the dried pudding whisker: The Nightmare Continues"

I'm sorry, I'm still thinking of Mervin, shaking up a purloined can of "Country Time" Lemonade and trying to shoot the contents at an old lady pushing her groceries to the car. He didn't understand the concept of carbonation, and just thought the stuff wouldn't shoot because Jesus was mad.

I'm worried I am going to have to get one of those wetsuits, the ugly black ones they have in San Diego, just to wash the dishes in that place. I mean, the water just envelops you. It's like a tidal wave of sausage ends and grotesquely infected ladles. If Jacques Cousteau was alive, I'm sure he'd film this.

I have pets, and this distresses the owner, too. He stares at my Health-Department-violation pants and shakes his head. I keep reminding him that I am German-American and that I have intellectual disabilities and "special needs" ("What is your special need, Benedict? Currently, to go to the bathroom a lot.”)

I keep telling the owner that by hiring me he is on to something big. I explained to him "Bringing the handicapped into the workplace is a boon to business. Your best bet would be, like, Helen Keller or Dennis Rodman as a dinner-time host, but we can't have everything."

It's hard being old in this gig, because I don't have denial. When I was swimming in suds, cigarette butts and other detritus at Roy Rogers Family Restaurants after my unceremonious expulsion from Wilson High School, I'd get grief from these horrible supervisors who weren't that much into English.

(There's nothing like a Nigerian bald chap with a cowboy hat saying "Howdy Pot-na. Welcome to OK Corral. I change my name from Njitsu to George Foreman, of the Grill. George welcomes you to Roy Rogers and his wife, Trigger.")

But all the shit I went through, getting caught mixing Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill with a half empty carton of milkshake mix, all that kind of thing, I'd remind myself...

"You are gifted. Your mother told you so. You're quirky, but you will be discovered and laugh about this with Dick Cavett on television some day. James Baldwin was a waiter, Peter Jennings a high school dropout and bank clerk, and Woody Allen a smirking little child molestor. Your time is coming fast."

Not to offend my Semitic readers. Except for his romantic choices, Woody is my choice to run the universe now. He is so the anti-Chris Christie.

But, as we all know, my time - oh, it's too depressing. But the fact is, seventeen-year-olds can dream of bon mots and margaritas with George Plimpton, et al… but when you are a fifty-one-year-old junior high dropout and you can't wash a tub without looking like the evil purple creature that so terrorized "The Little Mermaid" there is just no dreaming.

And little escape or panacea. I am working for the only man in America who thinks that it is too expensive to get a Coke from the fountain. Four cents. MAYBE. And he keeps telling me how glorious water is, though we all know W.C.Fields asserts it rusts pipes.

You ask a waiter to get it for you, and he looks around for the owner as if I've asked him to take out a kidney and snort blow off it. Wow. One day I asked the owner and his wife for soda and they told me I could have all the pink lemonade I wanted.

That's like someone complaining that it's raining and you give them an ice cube.

The women at work are learning English fast. So far "I have Haws-ban" and "My Papi keel you." has entered their vernacular. It's all about the great melting pot, that’s what I say.

In all due seriousness. the ladies seem to like me, and I think I've worked out some sort of deal with them that I didn't really need to make. I started working there three weeks ago, and of course I preferred washing dishes to scrubbing pots. It's mindless work, and I can think about whatever I like while I do it.

I prefer to think of myself as having an interesting mind rather than an ADHD disorder. My repugnant foster parents were always trying to make me work around their house, and the only job I didn't seem to mind as much was raking leaves, because I could do it without thinking much, whereas pulling weeds or washing a car takes some focus.

People were always trying to take command of my mind, as if it were a colt that needed to be broken. My mother suggested once that I ruin my pleasant walk to school by saying the multiplication tables, and of course once I got to school, some insecure bitch who blew her LSATS (and probably the mailman) would be interrupting my studies of Oliver Twist or Captain America, with her urgent desire that I memorize crap about cumulus clouds, or the tuna output of Salinas, California.

And so I did my best work sorting mail or typing, and hated telemarketing or anything where focus is involved.

Even when I did catering work, I preferred passing a tray to having to learn the different formations of place settings. I remember when I was being trained to cater, and the manager suggested I study and memorize the place settings at home. God, that was funny. Not me, baby, pass and clear.

And the whole scouring of encrusted crap is unfortunately too focus-y.

As I explained in my before, pot-scrubbing tends to turn into the Poseidon adventure. Tonight I came home almost dry.

And this is what I think happened. The girls in the dish room are, I guess, pragmatic. If you offer a piece of gum, they take the pack, smiling...

What’re you going to do? Today I brought in four bottles of Coca-Cola to drink with ice from the machine downstairs (I LOVE manufactured ice. I once dated a "Big Beautiful" woman solely because of her Diner's card, her ice machine, and a Jacuzzi that marvelously held us both.)

So I offer "Sandy" (who knows what her name was back home) a Coke, and she takes it, and then she says "Maria?" (the other girl) and she snatches the other one and puts them on a shelf. I am at a loss of bilingual words.

This had happened last week when I brought in a case of Diet Pepsis, and South America descended on me from the kitchen and dish room, and nine disappeared while my head was spinning.

But anyhow, I had gotten so many Cokes because the crazy owner bitches when I use his fountain, for a drink that costs him about three cents, but I couldn't tell the girls no… and then they wouldn't let me wash pots!

They insisted that I wash dishes, and they washed pots, and I tried in vain to say "Look, I hate washing pots too, but I'm the new one, and why destroy your delicate little hands?" But all I could do was wave my arms, and of course look ridiculous...

So I had a pleasant time shoving dishes into the big "cleanie thing", machine, my mind was free to entertain me.

I already figured out not to go upstairs to the kitchen because they want me to remember where all the different pots and chafing dishes go. I just hide downstairs and put the stuff through the machine, and use that squirty thing.

Thus, I have to remember nothing, and not focus....

Yes, and I came home not looking like I'd just been out Saving Private Ryan or something. And the women let the whole thing go, because I can't speak any Espanola, but I gave them the Cokes.

Shit, with just seven million dollars and some real estate holdings, I am qualified to be the Leader of the Free World.

Hailing from Harvard

by Justin C. Justin

When I was in my early twenties, I worked for several years as a mail clerk in a law firm. Until Christine bought me the PhD in Philosophy, I was quite proud of my high school dropout status. I would tell anyone--in-laws, prospective employers, etc., that I was a 9th grade dropout, and I was self-educated. Sometimes people would ask, "So what have you learned, or taught yourself?" And I would mumble something about Bob Dylan, I dunno.

But back to the firm. Somehow, it got around that I had gone to Harvard, and left under a cloud or something. When questioned about this by an associate in the Bankruptcy area, I denied it, no Harvard, and she looked at her secretary with raised eyebrows, and the other woman nodded wisely.

"No one wants to admit to going to Harvard." the Bankruptcy associate told me with a nod. "It's a terribly elitist school. I'm really proud that I was in Middlebury." I think that's a mental hospital, since she told me she "learned languages" there.

This denial of mine made things worse. A Documents Specialist shrieked at me when I put his mail down in a clump, "You Crimson fuckers think you're better than people who went to Oberlin. I'm GLAD I went to Oberlin!" The married woman he was reported to be boinking, an Of Counsel, told me in a cold voice that I shouldn't mistreat Jeremy, and besides, the USA Today rankings of my purported academy had fallen sadly.

"Do you think you may go on to law school, now that you've experimented in our little community?" a lobbyist for the Tobacco floor inquired jovially one afternoon.

"No sir, I'm planning to be assistant manager of my 12-Step club while taking courses at Montgomery Community College."

"That's an acerbic and cynical answer. Sarcasm can get you fired, who do you think you are?" He didn't look happy. "You know one of our patent guys says you're lying about Harvard. He says you went to M.I.T. Well, I think MIT is worse!"

I couldn't disagree…

Employment, Anyone?

By Justin C. Justin


"Welcon' to Messie's. I mos' ask ju son' questions?"

"Of course."

"Why do ju want to wan' to sign on to de Messie's Drean'?"

"Uh...the dream? "

"Great opportunity...Messie'' sobseediary, Bloomindale."

I need a job, desperately. Would blow a donkey for a job.

"I have always found retail an invigorating challenge."

"Jes. ah...Retail?"

"Fashion, clothes."

"Jes. Messie's ees bes' fashion challenge for all goo' Americans."


Wha' does tean'work mean to ju?"

"Teamwork? I, uh...I try to work well with other people. You know, I do what I'm told--"

"No. How you, say--wha' is tean'work. (Pause) To Ju."

"I uh, understand, you gotta get the job done, so you do um, cooperate--"

" JES. Bu' who ees mos' importan' on tean?" [Interviewer gives me a coaching, though illustrative look.]

"The one in most need?" (Grasping) "The customer?"

"No, no..."(patiently) "Dee Soup-er-bisor. Ju lissen to Soup-ber-bisor."

"Yes, of course, I will listen to the man in charge."

"Or woma'." (Reproachfully)

"Certainly. Or perhaps a transgender supervisor."

"Jess!" (Beams).

"Wha' your sense of interrity?"

"Pardon?" (I just want to unload trucks. I'm fifty-one and I want to unload trucks.)


"Oh, I try to believe in myself, in my tell others--"

"No!" (Firmly.) We' ha' camera's all over de store. Jes. I ha' to fire

t'ree employees a week for stealing our clothes."

"Oh, (laugh) no worries. Maybe if it was a bakery. I don't even BUY Macy's clothing."

(Gravely offended) Messie's an' subseediarry Bloomingdale' have finest clothes in worl' Our clodin' speshalees--"


"Clothing Specialist, employ jee...get deescount. You lucky to wear Messie cloding weeth deescount." A pause. "But no steal. Inte-reety."

"Oh sure. Integrity. I will not steal clothes, but I will buy them with the discount."

"No steal. I fire two, t'ree, sontime cinko employee, bad inte'rity."

"I don't want your clothes"

Savage look

"I mean, I really love the clothes but will manfully resist from purloining them because I have integrity."

(BIG SMILE) "Jes, an' eef you forget, renen'er, de camera, all over d'store."

"Ju mus' have goo' attitu' SMILE at customer. I walk all over de store, see frowning clothing specialist, an' I theenk, who hire dem. Eef you ha' bad day, keep you' prolen' at home."

"Or discuss it with a supervisor, but smile at everyone else."

"No, we no ha' time for dat. Don' ha' prolen's. Jus' smile." Pause. Gives me big grin. "TEET. Show me TEET."

I show him my teeth. No discussing my issues.

"Endure it all. Of course. Don't complain, even if your leg's sawed off."

"No comprende?"

Pause. Savage look, then reluctant smile. "Ees par' of being a goo' American? We wor' hard. Messie's make ju reech. I start at twelve-feety hour, now I am, forty-two thousan' dollar year. I can' teach ju the values of dees Messies!"

And thus I comprende.

So I saw this weird thing where violence in schools is explained because God isn't "allowed" in schools, perhaps because they don't allow formal school prayer. (Obviously you can pray silently in school; I'd do anything in class besides work--daydreaming, praying, reading comic books, etc.)

So--God isn't allowed in school. Does that mean A. that the fact religion or prayer is not formally introduced means that our values go down, and then we run around shooting other students or--

B. God, although all powerful, is unable to enter a school such as Sandy Hook where TODDLERS, who have no real religious affiliation are having their heads blown off.

Or C. God COULD enter if he liked, but considers himself like a privately funded fire department that only covers those who cough up fealty or dinero.

I actually read about a bunch of assholes who ran a fire department and when a house that didn't pay the premium caught fire, the entire department shows up and only hoses away from the fire, to keep it from spreading.

This, of course is why we need government. Just like those who say they wish they could invest their own Social Security money. Some people are too stupid to do this, and wind up destitute. I actually had a cousin-in-law who put in forty years at PEPCO, a D.C. utility company, and then somehow blew her retirement and wound up on welfare and food stamps. But that's another story.

What is God's motivation here? He either can't (legally?) protect non-believing schools or doesn't want to? Unless you pray enough to him. So how many of the people in the Twin Towers were believers? Maybe not many since it was a bunch of stockbrokers, but there must have been a few. Then of course those flying the planes believed in their own God.

Our God seems to have given up stuff like the Inquisition, and is more laid back now, but Allah is still on a tear.


About the Author

Justin C. Justin is the bastard offspring of a dissolute CIA agent, and was raised as the only white child in the foster care system of Washington, DC. He spent thirty years in the Smoking Room of his Alcoholics Anonymous club trying not to look for a job and getting into powerful arguments about deceased episodes of "Gilligan's Island". Justin C. Justin now lives in North Carolina, working as the only English speaker in a cosmetics warehouse. His goal is to learn Espanol so he can ask directions to the lavatory.

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