Stupid Stuff I’ve Done, at Work and Elsewhere – Part 1

Today I’d like to share some stories with you.  This is probably going to be a two-or-three-parter.

Anyone who knows me in real life, knows that I am probably one of the biggest klutzes on the earth.  I am constantly breaking glassware at home–I have my own designated bucket where I get to put all my broken glasses in once I’m finished demolishing them–and I usually have one or two bruises I can’t explain, from bumping into random objects.  My fiance is often the one who takes the biggest beating by being with me–I can’t tell you how many times I have head butted him, elbowed him in the face, outright punched him in the face, all by accident (and sometimes inflicted during intimate moments where fists to the face are not as acceptable).  I am constantly doing stupid, awkward shit and all I can do is laugh at myself these days.  I used to get upset about it or even cry sometimes, but now I run around and tell everyone immediately and then we all have a good laugh at my expense.  It’s wonderful.

I am going to try to think of things that have happened to me at various jobs, but I may have to include some domestic tales as well.

My first job was when I was 15, and I was the very first employee of the gift shop at the Radisson Hotel.  The hotel itself was very new, and there was a Tony Roma’s inside, and they owned the gift shop as well as the Timothy’s/Pizza Pizza joint across the hall.

So here I am, a teenage girl at her first job, with absolutely no prior experience, unpacking boxes and boxes of souvenirs, Russ Beanie Babies, candles, cigarettes, and various clothing which all needed to be tagged and priced and organized in a way that was appealing to the customers.  The owners were very wealthy and also very particular, so everyone was always terrified when we knew they were coming.  The wife would come into the gift shop and rearrange everything the way she wanted it and criticize whatever I had done.  Obviously I kept my mouth shut and took it, but inside it did hurt me because I had literally opened that store by myself and put my heart into doing the best job I could.  Not to mention that I knew all the ups and downs of the cash register and the store and trained every other person who eventually worked there.

In the winter, there was barely anyone at the hotel and therefore the gift shop would be very quiet.  I was allowed to read if nobody was in the store, and I remember making it through several Harry Potter books sitting on my stool, and getting super annoyed whenever anyone walked in and interrupted me.  I made friends with the people who worked at the Pizza Hut across the hall, and had some existing friends who went to the same high school as me.  In fact, I think there were about 6 or 8 of us all working there, most of them hostesses, and it was a lot of fun to come to work. One girl would come over with a deck of cards because we were both bored as shit, and she taught me how to play Rummy, so we did that often.

Eventually I got a 25 cent raise (which brought me to $7.50 per hour) and I moved into the restaurant as a hostess.  I really enjoyed this position because I was always on my feet seating people, and I enjoyed polishing all the furniture with Orange Glow and rolling silverware. The one thing I did not enjoy about the position was the behaviour of the servers, because they were always up our asses about their sections and who got seated where, and fighting with each other and with us, and it was a lot of excess drama.  There were a couple ladies there who I could’ve done without, I mean, how can I stop someone from requesting a booth even if it’s your turn but the booth is not in your section?  This was also back when you could still smoke inside a restaurant, so usually the person who worked the smoking section got shafted.

We goofed around a lot, because at that age you don’t feel having a job is an absolute necessity; essentially, you are just earning yourself some pocket money. Eventually I quit to work at a call centre which offered a higher wage, full benefits and full-time hours. I’ll skim over that one because it didn’t last very long and it’s not that exciting. I’m pretty sure I just stopped showing up there. I had problems from the get-go; I didn’t get my first paycheck (right before Christmas!) because of some issue with the payroll department, and they basically had to lend me money until it came in because I was pretty pissed off, and also I still had to buy all my Christmas presents.

After that I believe my next job was working for a company which owns one entire side of Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls.  I started out as a midway attendant and was then moved into the Fantasy Fudge Factory, where I literally gave free samples of fudge (and then PACKED THE FUDGE).  In addition to that, we sold any and all kinds of fun toys and candy for kids, as well as some very expensive collectors dolls.  But yeah, I was a fudge packer.

This is around the time I met my future husband, and I think his nasty attitude and abrasive demeanor had already started to rub off on me. I ended up sitting in the back with the manager for my review, only to learn that everyone else who worked there was basically intimidated by me and that I made them uncomfortable. This was of course a shock to me because I had no idea that any of my “friends” felt that way. I sat there and cried, I was so upset. In hindsight, I suppose bringing oxycodone to work and taking some for fun and then having to leave early because you’ve puked seven times may make you somewhat less approachable. After that they started scheduling me in one of their ice cream booths, but I’m not gonna lie, I could not for the life of me make a nice-looking soft-serve cone.  If you asked me to draw one, I could do it no problem.  But I just never got the hang of it.  Even after months of working there.  They had two of those big steel waffle cone makers, and I can’t tell you how many times I had burns all over my hands and arms from that fucking thing. Eventually I was placed in a solitary booth near the top of Clifton Hill where I worked alone all day and watched tourists walking by while listening to the same Indiana Jones theme song looping over and over from the nearby Wax Museum and hoping nobody would come and ask me for any “bonilla” ice cream. By the end of that summer season, there was no more room for me there, and I was completely fine with that because I had nothing left to give that job. You can only pack so much fudge, yunno? If someone doesn’t like me, I’d rather know about it than have them pretend otherwise. Or at least not have to engage in meaningless conversation that neither of us really want to be having.  If you don’t like me, don’t pretend to!  Just move along!

After this I believe my next stop was working at veterinary hospital as a “Veterinary Assistant”.  I was around 18-19 years old and making $8.00 per hour I believe, which is the same wage as another girl was making who had paid $3000 to take the Veterinary Assistant course in college and gotten her certification for the position. My only prior qualifying experience is that a) I did a co-op at this same vet’s office during high school and b) we raised about a million animals at home because nobody ever bothered getting our cats fixed (and we had cockatiels that kept banging so much that at one point we had 7 of them flying around our kitchen and shitting everywhere).

Working at this place, for me, was a dream in many ways. In high school I was aiming to become a vet, which is why I chose to co-op there, but once I hit Grade 12 Biology I just couldn’t grasp what I was learning anymore. And once I started working there, I had conflicts in my mind because I couldn’t imagine myself becoming a vet and having to essentially play God and euthanize an animal with my own hands. But I learned a lot while I was there.

One thing I learned almost immediately is how much I hated being there. Don’t get me wrong–I loved the job itself–anything from making appointments, to doing the filing, answering the phone, having the vet dictate letters to me while I typed them out for him, counting out pills for animals’ prescriptions and making labels for the medications, assisting with surgery and grooming, developing x-rays, cleaning everything, etc. I loved it. I was always paying special attention to the animals whenever I could. And because our office also accepted exotic pets, I had the privilege and the opportunity to help out on some pretty interesting cases: iguanas, chameleons, large birds, turtles, rabbits, guinea pigs, regular pigs, sugar gliders, serval cats, etc. It was an animal lover’s dream.

Except that the staff at that time ruined the entire experience. There was myself and two other assistants, the one I mentioned earlier and this other older woman who had been working there long before we started.  She had a major chip on her shoulder because her mom was dying of cancer and she hated the female veterinarian who handled all of the exams and appointments. The male vet, who was the owner, handled the exotics and all of the surgeries. He generally put this MegaBitch on a pedestal and allowed her to terrorize the female vet and the rest of us as well. She refused to assist this lady with any of her appointments because she didn’t like her, and this forced the other two of us to have to do most of the work. Now I’m not saying that I liked the female vet either–nobody enjoys walking into a room and asking a stranger how they’re doing, only to be greeted by an onslaught of physical ailments that nobody cares about or can do anything about. Nobody enjoys someone who spreads their misery around. But these two took it to the extreme. They would get into full-blown arguments and make things super awkward and then nobody would speak to each other all day. And I’d feel bad for the vet, because she definitely took it more than anybody else and she lived somewhat of a sad life, but at the same time I couldn’t stand her either. She was not my cup of tea, and either was the MegaBitch. And I had forgotten about all of this from my co-op days, but it only took me about a week to realize, “Oh fuck, what have I done?”

I wasn’t there for very long, I’m going to say a few months at most, but I did my best to ignore the drama and do my job. One thing I will say is that working in a vet definitely thickens your skin to all the sad shit you have to see on a daily basis.  It’s really tough to have an animal there who appears to be healthy, but has some sort of an internal issue that they won’t recover from.  It’s tough to see them sick and dying too. And a couple of times I had to assist with euthanizing pets of people I knew, which was even tougher. I distinctly remember that within my first week of being back at this job, I had to assist in a surgery where five newborn baby rottweilers were having their tails docked without any anaesthetic, which was the worst thing I have ever been a part of.  I held it together for about five minutes and then I had to go and hide in the washroom and cry my eyes out. If you get a dog and it comes with a tail, don’t cut it off for the sake of appearances.  You have no idea what it’s like to sit there and watch this procedure. Same goes for declawing your cats. Don’t do that shit. How about instead you just cut the end of your own finger tips off and then superglue the ends shut?

So needless to say, I did my best to make the most of the situation. It occurred to me that nobody had cleaned out a couple of the closets and spare rooms in probably half a century, so I took it upon myself to spend my free time trying to organize these areas and make some sense of them. My boss loved the work I put in, and went on and on about how great everything looked, which only turned the MegaBitch even more sour. I started to form something of a bond with the other assistant, the one with the degree. We had a few great laughs. This next part is going to be a bit morbid, but don’t forget where I was employed.

Whenever an animal was euthanized, we had about a three-to-five-minute window of time after the animal died where they wanted us to get in there and put it in a bag and bring it downstairs to the basement where they had a gigantic deep freezer.  In case you haven’t put two and two together, the reason for the time line is because after a few minutes the body lets go of whatever waste or fluids were inside of it and then we have an even bigger mess on our hands.

So the nice girl and I often brought the animals down together if they were big enough to warrant two people. And once the freezer became full, which happened I would say once every month or two, we would have to drag all of these bagged frozen animals back upstairs to be picked up by the humane society and incinerated. But it was creepy as fuck. You’re downstairs in a gloomy old basement trying to hang the wet laundry on creepy old abandoned kennels and all the while you’re very aware that there is a freezer close to overflowing with frozen dead animals. It was impossible not to think about Pet Sematary while you were down there alone.

So one of these days when we had to empty the freezer, we had what I believe was a large dog to bring up, and because of its size and shape the easiest way to do this was to put it in a blanket and each of us held two ends, like a hammock I suppose, and we were trying to lug this dog up the stairs when suddenly one of us lost our grip on the corner of the blanket and the dog fell out, bounced off the bottom step and then hit the concrete floor with a very loud sound which was exactly what you would expect a large frozen dog making impact with some concrete to sound. We both stood there for a moment, kind of stunned, and then we started to laugh uncontrollably. We couldn’t get our shit together for at least 5 minutes. It was probably our only moment where we truly bonded, and I remember it fondly, as fucked up as that sounds. She was a great girl, despite the fact that I think she feared the MegaBitch so much that she often appeared to take her side on things. But that moment, we were both finding some humour amid all of the horror, and it was lovely.

I put up with this place for a little while longer before I finally had enough and left at lunch time and just didn’t go back to work. Nobody even really made an effort to find out where I went, except I think one day maybe a week later the female vet called and asked me very timidly if I planned on coming back. I told her no, I couldn’t. I didn’t want to face any conflict so my preferred method of quitting at this time in my life usually involved me leaving at lunch and not coming back. Shortly after I quit, the vet assistant who I actually liked, the one I shared the morbid moment with, was in a fatal car accident and she died. I went in very quietly and brought them a box of chocolates along with a sympathy card and an apology letter to the owner for quitting in the way that I did.

Things around there have actually improved since that time. I think it’s been about 12 years or more since I worked there, and they are better staffed and they seem to genuinely enjoy working there. The MegaBitch isn’t working there anymore which I assume is the main reason for everyone’s new, upbeat attitude.  I still take my pets there; there is a new vet now who is younger and funny and genuine and she never complains about her back or her arthritis or her gout or whatever else is ailing her, probably because she doesn’t have any of those things and is not looking for sympathy from the general population.

I’m going to leave it at this for now, because I have written another novel, but I fully intend to write a part 2 and possibly even a part 3 in the next few days, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

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