My last day at Walgreens

For my first day on the sales floor, Walgreens posted me at the beauty counter — yes, the fat, gray man at the lone cash register in front of the Maybelline and mascara, lip gloss and eyeliner, etc, was me.

When I'd arrived at the store ten minutes earlier, I'd stepped straightaway into the office, and said to a man I'd never met, "Hi' I'm Doug, and it's my first day on the sales floor."

He'd audibly groaned, and said, "Shit, nobody told me we'd have a trainee."

At that moment, Tabatha happened to walk by, stepped into the office, and said, "Oh, I'll take Doug."

Let me introduce you to Tabatha: She's a nice woman half my age, who'd chatted with me a few times in the basement hallway where I was sorta trained. She's smart, acerbic, and a few days earlier she'd described Walgreens in general and our downtown store in particular as "shit-storm retail." She would've been my choice as buddy and tutor for my first day, and I'm flattered that I was her choice, too. 

The guy in the office, whose name I never got, seemed relieved, and Tabatha became my teacher. She'd been assigned to the beauty counter, so I followed and tried to be beautiful.

First, though, when we were still in the office, she'd pointed to a box of thingamabobs — the Star Trek-devices I'd seen from flat on my butt on Saturday — and told me to clip one to my belt. "Everyone wears these," she said. Woo-hoo, high-tech.

At the beauty desk, Tabatha was surprised that I hadn't been issued a badge, because, "Everyone wears a badge." You need a badge to sign into the register, so she signed me in with her badge, and showed me what to do, which wasn't complicated.

It's only a slightly more electronic version of working cash registers at McDonald's in the 1970s. Now merch is scanned, instead of me keying in the price, but it's the same work. Announce the total, take the money or let the customer flash their plastic at a reader, and then, "Paper or plastic?" A moron could've done it, and I did it fine.

Pushing the Walgreens loyalty program is what I'd thought would annoy me most, but that became moot immediately. During my first two transactions, the screen flashed "ASK CUSTOMER: WOULD YOU LIKE TO SIGN UP FOR A WALGREENS CARD?" and both times Tabatha clicked "No" on the touch-screen, as if we'd asked, and as if that was the customer's answer. She was teaching, I was learning.

Usually several customers were lined up, but during a lull Tabatha tried to show me how to work the device clipped to my belt, but it didn't work at all.

"Just another day at Walgreens," she said and laughed. "Wait a few minutes, and something else will go wrong."

After ringing up several more customers, Tabatha said I was a better cashier than she is, and went away to do other things. "Holler if you have any questions," and then I was alone at the beauty counter.

Thankfully, nobody asked my advice about blush or eyeliner, and I handled maybe a hundred customers without having to holler for Tabatha. 

Two of them were fuming and grumpy, but it makes no never-mind to me, and I rang them up with an extra cheery, "Thank you for shopping at Walgreens!" For the second grump, my tongue slipped and I accidentally said, "Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart!" He didn't even notice.

There was one weirdo who pointed at some abrasions and scratches on my arm and told me I had fleas. "No," I said, "I have a cat, and she scratches me sometimes." 

"Fleas," he said again.

Tabitha happened to be nearby for the flea guy, and when he'd gone she said, "Yesterday someone called me a whore."

Then some man I'd never met came by, clearly management, and saw that my register was assigned to Tabatha, not me. "Where's your badge?" he demanded.

"Nobody's issued me a badge," I said, wondering how screwed up this place is. A shit-storm, indeed.

Boss-man, who never told me his name and wasn't wearing a badge himself, said I'd rung up my last customer until I got "badged."

He put Tabatha onto the register, and told me that my new duty would be to wander up and down the aisles attaching those annoying 'sale price' stickers to the shelves, for everything that's on sale this week.

Handing me a stack of the stickers, he 'splained that to know what shelf each item is on, there's a code on the sticker. It lists the aisle, the shelf section, and the shelf level. OK, so I looked where he was pointing on the sticker, and the typeface was about half as tall as the short side of a grain of rice.

"I can't read this without my cheaters," I said. 

Boss-man: "Cheaters?"

Me: "Reading glasses."

Boss-man: "Well, why aren't you wearing your glasses?"

Me: "Why is the print so tiny?"

Boss-man: "Did you at least bring your glasses?"

Me: "Sure, they're in my backpack. I'll go get them."

Boss-man: "No you won't," and that's when I learned something else that wasn't mentioned in the training — it's against the rules for employees to leave the sales floor, except for breaks. (What, like I'm going to slip some mascara into my pocket and then stash it in my backpack? I could just as easily do that on my break.)

Boss-man, sighing: "Where's your backpack?"

Me: "Outside the break room." There are lockers for employees' stuff, but the lockers don't lock, so I'd left my backpack on the floor. 

Boss-man: "Tell me what color your backpack is, and I'll bring up your glasses."

Sounded like a shit-storm of hinky to me, but this un-badged man was management, and I needed my reading glasses to read the rice print. "It's tie-dye," I said, and he went downstairs, rifled through my backpack, and brought me my reading glasses. Which was nice of him, I guess?

While the boss-man was downstairs going through my bag, Tabatha and I talked a little. "It's bullshit that he took you off the register," she said, "but you'll see plenty of bullshit, every day at the Double-U."

"How long have you been working here?"

I expected an answer in years, but she said, "Almost a month, and every day of it's been hell."

"Are you looking for a better job?"

"Honey, everyone in the store is looking for a better job. There's no such thing as 'worse'." 

Then there were customers, and talk-time was over, and pretty soon the boss-man was back and handed me my glasses, so I stuck a billion sale tags on shelves all through the beauty department, and onward to toothpaste and mouthwash.

I noticed a few items that customers had left on the wrong shelves, and put them in their right spots.

A lady said "Excuse me" and asked for help finding shoe inserts, so I walked her to the foot aisle. She asked how the inserts work, and I explained that one size fits all, and you use scissors to trim the pad to fit your shoe.

A man asked where the walkers are, and I wasn't sure, so I flagged another worker and asked. She said, "We don't sell walkers in this store," and walked away.

In the training videos, when customers ask a question like that, employees smile satanically and walk the customers to exactly the merchandise they need, even answer their questions, like I did with the shoe insert lady.

In real life, the answer is, "We don't sell walkers," but I've seen walkers for sale in smaller Walgreens stores than ours, and I was pretty sure that worker had lied.

Then Tabatha came around a corner and asked, "Well, what do you think? Is this your dream job or what?"

"I have better dreams than this," I replied, "and with less sweat."

"Yeah, I noticed you've been sweating a lot."

And I sure had been. A couple of customers had asked about it, too. From the moment I'd emerged on the sales floor, I'd been sweating like a river. Sweating like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News. 

And I don't know why. The store is air conditioned, the work wasn't physical, and I wasn't particularly nervous, but a frickin' fountain of salty water was always flowing down my face. 

I kept reaching under the counter, taking paper towels and mopping my head and hair, and I went through about two dozen paper towels, soaking them. And still, sweat dripped off my forehead onto my shirt, which was polka dotted with perspiration, and always more dots as the old dots dried.

Tabatha asked, "Do you always sweat like this?" 

"No, I never sweat like this, except for heavy lifting or when I was sick with COVID." And maybe that was the wrong thing to say.

"You're worrying me," she said.

"Well, I'm worrying me, too," and maybe that was also the wrong thing to say.

Tabatha used her Star Trek communicater to call back the same boss-man who'd kicked me off the register and brought my glasses, and he looked at me like I'm wilted lettuce. "Sweating so much could be an early sign of a heart attack," he announced, and sent me to the basement for a break. 

I'd worked for two hours, sweating all through it like a basketball game, but I did pretty good for a rookie's first day. A very sweaty rookie.

On my break I thought things over, thought about everything in my pathetic life. Boss-man is not a doctor, and my sweat wasn't a sign of a heart attack, I decided. Men in my family get cancer, not heart attacks.

But maybe my subconscious was wetly telling me to get the hell out of Walgreens, and "shit-storm retail."

My body's been pretty good to me, and I trust what it tells me, so after about thirty seconds of thinking, I knew I was quitting.

I walked into the office, where two people I'd never met were talking, and told them that I was headed home and wouldn't be back.

"Who are you?" they asked in unison.

After a brief conversation about me and my sweat, they told me to write a resignation note for the manager, so I did, and then punched out for the last time.

Now I'll never get an answer for the 20-some questions I'd jotted down to ask later, during my three days of manager-free training.

Still sweating, I went back to the beauty counter and gave Tabatha a moist hug goodbye, and on my way out I noticed an aisle full of walkers for sale.

Then I walked to the bus stop, and along the was the intense sweating stopped. 

I rode the bus home, stopping at the Burger King I'm hoping will hire me, where I bought a simply perfect Whopper plus a side of pretty good onion rings, for $13.47. That's twice the price from two years ago, and I definitely can't afford it. It was a damned fine burger, though.

And I didn't have a heart attack, didn't die, and I'm feeling fine, but unemployed again.

 PS. In earlier entries about this job, I'd originally written that it was at CVS. That's because, after some unwelcome visitors during my Pathetic Life era, I always change any proper nouns that could lead anyone to my actual whereabouts. Now that I'm done with Walgreens, though, the truth can be told.


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  1. Congratulations on more unemployment! Fuck work and fuck the bosses!

    I'm in love with Tabatha.

    1. I'm not trying to be a rebel, just trying to survive, but that was an allergic reaction to Walgreens. Still looking, and there might be good news...

  2. Walgreens, I called it! You made me laugh, well chuckle, at the Way-mart crack...Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry's accusing the dentist of converting to Judaism "just for the jokes." Did you start that job just for the material? Well, three days, so in a week or a month you'll get a check for $300, plus or minus? Anyway, you know where the Big Steady Money is, soon...(Eel)

    1. Ha — no, I didn't start the job for material, it was the only place willing to hire me. But it *was* in my calculations that going through three days of training would bring at least one paycheck, even if I didn't stay long. I expected to stay longer than two hours, though.


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