I thought I’d go way back into the archives of my life for this week’s episode of FridayFlash. A little background: in 2004, straight out of graduating magna cum laude, three internships under my belt, and a history of nearly all straight-As, I found myself unable to obtain a job in my chosen field. Thus, I found myself in the most humiliating position possible for a 20-something with a sense of entitlement — a cashier in the automotive department at Wal-Mart.
I was there for a mere two weeks before I put in my notice, and I rounded out my stay at five. The silver lining is that I had plenty to write about for my first venture into NaNoWriMo back in 2005. Now, I present to you an updated excerpt from that novel/memoir — a snapshot of a day in my life as a Wal-Mart employee.
I’VE GOT BILLS IN ALL THE RIGHT PLACES
Somewhat inexplicably, the automotive department at Wal-Mart attracts an unusual number of very strange women. Most pass out of memory within a few hours if not minutes, but there was one woman who will be forever burned into my mind barring any sort of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-style brain therapy.
One day, late in the afternoon, nearing both the end of my shift and the end of my service to the Big Blue Sign, a very overweight woman, probably nearing 400 lbs., came up to the counter to pay for some merchandise. I tell you this not to be rude or judgmental, but simply to paint an accurate picture of the situation.
I rang up her merchandise and presented her total, which was less than $2. She began digging around in her sweatpants’ pocket for change, which she handed to me one coin at a time as she found it. Though this was certainly annoying, and while it took all my mental prowess to ignore the disturbing warmth of the coins in my hand, I was mostly unfazed. I’d experienced worse. My discomfort was not enough to prepare me for what was about to play out.
“I think I put a dollar in my bra,” she proclaimed.
My first response to this was confusion. It was followed quickly by horror, as my mind could no longer ignore the body-heated coins in my hands. I tried to convince myself that I was simply having some sort of David Lynch-style nightmare. Surely, I was bound to wake up any second. All hope was shattered, though, as I watched her begin to fondle her own massive and ill-supported breasts.
I began a silent chant to any god that would listen to make that dollar bill so hidden within the depths and folds of femininity before me that it would never be found again — or at least not until after my shift had ended. But her hands only searched more fervently as the intensity of my prayers increased.
I was about to offer a dollar from my own meagerly-supplied wallet in order to prevent having to handle anything that had come out of the crevasse of this woman’s cleavage. But then, as abruptly as the caressing and squishing and prodding had begun, it stopped. We stared at each other for one of those moments that seem impossibly long. Terrible thoughts of her next attempt to find the dollar bill filled my mind — one in particular ending with a sweaty triple-F Maidenform bra flung at my face sent an involuntary shudder through my body. And then, she uttered the most glorious words I’d heard up until that point in my life.
“I must have put it in my billfold,” she resolved.
I laughed, half in relief and half at the absurdity as she pulled a black leather billfold out of her purse. She looked at me if I was touched in the head. I muttered an apology and took her unsullied dollar bill. As she left with her purchases, she spared me one last, curious-annoyed glance as she walked out the door. And I, beaten down and exhausted, could only smile politely back.
© 2010 Elizabeth Ditty