I'm doing nothing
Since I had to wait for the bus in front of the store anyway, I decided to stop in on Friday afternoon to check the schedule. THe boss whas nowhere to be found, nor was the guy who usually worked in the Wine Shop. Charlie was, as always, over in the Antique Book department, so I stopped and talked to him.
Charlie was in the midst of a massive tome when I walked into his department. "Did they ever figure out what was wrong," I asked.
He sat, immobile, his nose still in his book. I wasn't sure if he had heard me. "Charlie?"
"Yes, I'm here," he said, putting a business card in the book to mark his place. "I was just reading a selection by Poe. That's where I'm lucky. I can consume my product and it's still around for someone else to enjoy." He smiled and chuckled at his own joke. "In answer to your question, the Board of Health has cleared us as of Wednesday, and we were back in business yesterday morning." He smiled again. "Have you enjoyed your time off?"
"Not really. I'm running dangerously low on funds. I was just on my way to check the schedule."
"It's been quite busy. I'm sure you're scheduled for tomorrow." He went back to his book, signaling the end of the conversation as far as he was concerned. Charlie was like that. I don't think that he was necessarily unfriendly, I think he just didn't know sometimes how to be friendly, or at least how to make idle chit-chat.
I went back to the office and checked the schedule, and was surprised to see that I wasn't on it for Saturday, just for Sunday. This would be a killer for me. I had Christmas shopping to do, on top of needing money for carfare, cigarettes and coffee. I went off in search of the boss.
He was in the wine stockroom with Joe, and they were busy unloading several large cases with strange markings on the side onto the shelves. He had taken off his jacket, tie and shirt, and was working in his undershirt. I could smell him from across the room.
"Mr. Schwartz, I need to talk to you," I said.
He didn't even stop. "Mr. Reardon, you're not assigned today. You shouldn't be back here." He set a box down and faced me. "If you want to discuss the matter of your lack of hours, then I would suggest that we do so on Sunday, or that you call and make and appointment with me. Now, as you can see, Joe and I have a lot to do here. Please remove yourself."
I wanted to run over and bust him in the mouth. It wasn't as though I was making that much money, but I had no money now, and it would only be coming in slowly from now until at least Christmas. I decided not to argue with him there, but I wasn't going to leave until I had some sort of satisfaction.
I went down to Personnel and asked to speak to someone. The young woman behind the desk told me that no one was available, but if I left my name and number, someone would get back to me. I told her not to bother and left.
All the way home on the bus, I was kicking myself for not keeping the hundred dollars that the gangster had given me. It sure would have come in handy. For the first time I began to entertain the notion of looking for another job, either in addition to or instead of the job I had with the store. Kate had told me that she was starting to lean in that direction, why shouldn't I? I began to ask myself what it was about my job that I liked. I decided that I liked the people that I wokred with, but not the people that I worked for. The pay sucked, and I had to wear a suit to work, which then meant that I had to get it cleaned. Plus, all of this bullshit with my boss was starting to really suck. By the time I got off the bus at the dorm, I was ready to start looking for another job.
A week later, I was getting frustrated with my job search. Everywhere I went was either only hiring Christmas help, or told me that they had hired everyone that they were going to hire for the year, or that they weren't hiring until after the first of the year. The one or two places that were hiring gave me a bad feeling when I was there. It was as though something inside of me was telling me to get out and not bother with them. Usually, by the end of the application process, I understood what it was.
I resigned myself to starting my search for a new job until after the holidays. I knew, being a business student, that most company ended their year in December, and that there would be a crush of work in January for people to count inventory, so I started scouring the want ads for people to do that. There weren't many ads there, either, which frustrated me that much more.
Kate called me that evening to say hello. I hadn't talked to her in a couple of days, which I felt badly about.
"How are you, Tony?" she said. She didn't sound like herself. Kate usually had a happiness in her voice.
"I'm doing fine," I said.
"You don't sound like you're doing fine. What's going on with you?"
I explained the situation with work, and told her that I was looking for another job, either to replace the one that I had or to supplement my income, and started sharing my frustrations with her. I stopped myself before I got too involved with myself. "You don't need to hear me complain about this," I said.
"I don't mind listening, Tony. I feel badly for you. Mr. Schwartz picks on you constantly, like he wants to get rid of you or something. Now he's cutting your hours when he should be happy that you're willing to come in whenever you can. He should be begging you to work more, not cutting your hours. I think, if I ever get out of this cast, that I'm going to find another job and tell him to go to hell."
"How are you doing, Kate?" I asked, changing the subject.
"Lousy. I'm in this damn cast, and now they're saying that they may have to replace my hip. Of course, that's put Daddy into a state. He's not getting violent, thank God, just loud and abusive. I swear, I'm going to move out as soon as I can. Have you ever thought of getting an apartment?"
"I can't afford it, I don't think."
"Hey, you're the business student. You'll be making the big bucks." She laughed a little. It cheered me up to hear her laugh.
"Can I come see you tomorrow?" I asked.
"Aren't you...no, that's right. He cut your Saturdays out. Yeah, if you'd like to come over, that would be great. I'd really like to see you, especially since you're going to be going home next week."
"You know, I forgot about that. You're right, next Friday is the last day before the break."
"How about after lunch tomorrow, say, one o'clock?"
"Sure. That sounds great. Let me get your address and how to get there."
"We live right down the street from church, so you know how to get here." She gave me her address. "So, I'll see you tomorrow, then?"
"You got it."
"Great! I'll see you tomorrow. Kiss kiss."
"Kiss kiss back," I said, and listened as she hung up the phone. I set the phone back on the cradle and looked at it for a minute. She was sounding a lot better now, and I had something to do with it. What an accomplishment.