I have a certain way that I do things. Ridiculously. I do them ridiculously.
This particular time, I was getting pulled over for speeding.
“You have got to be freaking kidding me!” I muttered, sighing impatiently as I veered to the side of the road. I slowed to a stop and hurriedly checked the rearview mirror to see how I looked. I knew instantly that there was no way I was going to be able to get out of this one. My dull brown hair was uncombed and totally frizzing out, and my eyes were the baggiest I’d ever seen them. I hadn’t even had a chance to haphazardly apply any eyeliner or mascara while driving, like I usually did. Instead of sparkly bright green, my eyes were more of a slate grey. I was screwed!
I glanced back to see which cop was ruining my life this time. Fingers crossed, I hoped it was Tom. I’d just sold him a suit the other day. I willed it to be him; I knew he’d probably be easy on me. But of course it wasn’t him. Even with the sun obscuring most of him, I could tell by the shape of the figure behind me this was a different one. This guy looked taller, stronger. Tom was stout. I gripped the wheel, wincing at my short, chipped fingernails, and waited impatiently for the mean man to approach.
I took a deep breath as I saw his shadow nearing the car. He grunted. “Norma Nudle. We meet again.” He sucked his teeth after saying my name.
“Hello, Officer. What can I do for you today?” I smiled my prettiest smile, not totally sure if I had brushed my teeth.
Remembering that I had, I smiled wider. Perhaps flirting a little would work. My friends tell me they usually rely on it, and today it was my only hope. He didn’t seem to care. “License and registration.”
“Of course, sir,” I giggled, hoping he would look past the mussed hair and lack of makeup, and let me woo him into letting me off the hook.
“Not happening today, Norma. You outdid yourself!”
“What do you mean, Officer?”
“Norma, you are perfectly aware from our encounter last week that this is a school zone. 55! In a school zone! That’s just way too fast. You’re lucky I’m letting you off this easy!”
“How easy is that, sir?” My voice flattened.
“I’m giving you a ticket for only 45 in a 25.”
“45! That’s over a hundred dollars!”
“It’s better than reckless driving. I could slap some cuffs on you right now. And I will if you’re not careful!”
“Okay, okay I get it. Sorry.” I glanced at the clock noticing how late I was actually going to be.
“Alright, I’m going to write this up and I will be back in a few.”
“Please hurry officer, I’m running really late.”
“I gathered that.”
And that was the start to my day. It seems like lately, that’s how I start most of my days. I’m just not a morning person.
I work in a men’s clothing store. It’s mostly suits, neck ties, dress shoes and other types of formal wear. It was about six months ago when I decided to transfer stores and work approximately an hour away from home. Before that, I could wake up, get dressed and be in the store in about 20 minutes. Of course, I would have to put my makeup on at work– but hey, that’s what they got if they needed me so quickly. It must have been fine, because they’re the ones who offered me the promotion. I had to have been doing something right.
I’m a manager. No, I’m not quite the store manager; I’m the one that’s next in line. It sucks to have someone above me in the store, but I plan on taking care of that fairly soon. No worries, I’m not going to murder my boss or anything. I’m not the strange, psychotic, killing type. I’m just confident, and know eventually I’ll have my own store.
The cop came back and handed me my license. I glanced at it, momentarily feeling guilty as I realized I looked about 60 pounds lighter in that picture. For a quick moment I felt bad about the peanut butter I was chomping on only moments before leaving my home.
This is when the officer interrupted my thought process and I jumped, startled by his voice.
“Norma, I hope that you have a wonderful day, and remember to slow down and drive safe. I don’t want to have to pull you over again any time soon!”
“Thanks, Officer, the feeling’s mutual.” I smiled and waited for him to walk away from the car. I wanted to take off like a bat out of hell, but I knew that I’d be pushing my luck. I slowly accelerated the vehicle until I was out of his sight, and then I sped off. I needed to invest in a fuzz buster, but at the moment I had rent to pay. I would have to continue pressing my luck until I could afford one.
The clock read 8:45; I was supposed to be at work in Wealthy Springs by 9:00. I knew I wasn’t going to make it.
Fortunately, the store doesn’t open until 10:00. They weren’t too picky on the time as long as I was there to have the suits counted before the store opened. If I wasn’t, I’d be in big trouble.
I hate counting the suits. I’m not great with the technical side of work. I hate getting my hands dirty, so opening boxes is a nuisance. I get bored with paperwork and I get really tired of jabbing my index finger with pins stuck in dress shirts. Some people thrive on the technical stuff and hate working with the customers. I love the customers and hate the work. I’m not lazy,
I just feel like I’m kind of over retail.
That sounds harsh, but I believe there comes a point in your life where you work out of habit and the need of a check, even though you outgrow what you’re doing. I was hoping my promotion would alleviate that feeling for me, but so far it hadn’t. The customers are what make me come to work every day. The work itself is tedious and mind-numbing. I mean, I’ve never fit in quite perfectly anywhere, and I’m pretty awkward. But ‘m kind of okay with that, partly because I’ve found that I am good at sales—in fact, I am very, very good at sales. And I take pride in that fact, because I finally feel like I’ve found my place in the world. Selling suits to people with the money to buy them.
I pulled the car into the lot only to see a guy taking a leak on the lamppost right in front of me. I rolled my eyes. That was one thing I knew I was going to have to get used to– weird people. The store happened to be located right next door to a mental facility, where apparently they allow their patients to come and go as long as they stick to a certain curfew. I mean, I know that the mentally ill need to be recognized for their value to society and everything, but I am just as impatient as the next person. I’ll admit I’m constantly working on my attitude about it—or at least thinking about working on it.
I found this out the hard way. It seemed to be like a certain initiation for the newbies in the store. My first day, I had just arrived to work when a rather large lady with bright yellow pigtails and about six missing teeth approached me.
“Got a cigarette?” She mumbled.
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t smoke.”
“Humph!” She stormed off.
The next thing I know, I was unlocking the doors, getting ready to open the store when I noticed her face mashed up against the window, tongue and all. I jumped back, startled. She smiled largely and mouthed, “I’m going to kill you” into the glass. I was dumbfounded, and as I grabbed the phone to call the police, my manager, Larry, walked in.
“Hey, Norma! Good to see you today.” “Uh…hi.”
“What’s the matter? Did I catch you off guard?”
“No, she did.” I pointed toward the lady beast. Her face was still distorted in the window.
“Oh, that’s just Barbie. You’ll get used to her. She’s from the home back there. You will be seeing a lot of her and her friends.”
“Ha! You have no idea. It’s nice to have you with us.”
That was my introduction to a whole new retail environment. It’s crazy– the stores are corporately owned, so they are supposed to be the same company, but there’s a huge difference in demographics.
The store I was from was small and considered “high-fashion.” The store I just transferred to is considered “conservative” and is considerably larger.
I got out of my car, hoping the guy wouldn’t get scared and pee on my leg. I very quickly made my way to the front doors. I hurried to unlock them and then as fast as I could manage, I jumped into the store and thrust the doors shut behind me. I locked the deadbolt and scrambled to shut off the alarm.
From the looks of things, I was going to need a stiff drink by the time the day was over. I went to the backroom and pulled out a bottle of water from the mini fridge as I began to count the suits. My day was off to such a rough start that I was already considering ways to burn the place down. I decided I would blame it on the crazy lady sporting the yellow pigtails. I made a mental note to call Rena later on that day to vent. She would understand my plight. Until then, I was stuck in the suit store, protecting myself from the not-so-shy guy outdoors.
Retail was not something that I ever imagined myself doing. It didn’t matter too much what I did for a living, since I only had to support myself. I had bills to pay and no one to depend on to pay them for me. I just did what I could, and whined later. That is pretty much my motto in life. That and, “you’ve got to be freaking kidding me!” I say that a lot– so much so, my friends tend to say the statement for me half the time.
When I first transferred to this store, I was intimidated beyond belief. After the incident with the psycho pigtail lady, I looked around and noticed a bunch of “hot chicks” working with me. I’m not a “hot chick” — I’m pretty much average; my waistline slightly above average. These girls looked like they could be models from a fashion magazine, and I know one of them actually is. I look like I ate a few too many jellybeans for lunch. Somehow, though, the customers seem to gravitate toward me. The one good thing about not being the hottest chick in the store is the fact that female customers are not intimidated by me. The strange thing is that I get hit on by the older men and not the young ones. For whatever reason, the old guys like me better. I’m not sure if I should appreciate it, because it is retail, and older guys do seem to have more money– or if I should be insulted. I haven’t quite decided yet, I just take it as I go.
My boss intentionally goes out of his way to hire beautiful women, and when I first met him, he seemed to be appalled by me. The boss I previously had couldn’t care less what you looked like, as long as it gave her a day off from work. She had hired me immediately.
Once I got into the store and did well, I took a promotion at the closest store, even though it was quite a distance away.
Unfortunately, upon seeing me, my manager was looking for a reason to get rid of me. But then he started reading my stats. My numbers banked me the job, and there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t figure it out. He would always ask me, “How do you manage to sell so well?”
My usual response was something like, “Are you kidding me? What guy could resist this luscious body?” I hoped he sensed my sarcasm. I think I’m a good salesperson because I exceed the customer’s expectations. I try to always under promise and over deliver. Once I saw how effective word-of-mouth really is, I ran with it! Sometimes customers are just not happy, for whatever reason– but usually by the time I’m finished helping them out, they’re laughing and joking- with me.
“Are you freaking kidding me right now?” Rena asked, chortling. Oh Rena. Rena, Rena, Rena. She’s my outspoken and sometimes hilarious best friend. I loved that that she’d just said that to me, since it was something I usually say. She said it in monotone even, to make sure it packed a punch. She was always so wonderfully Rena– kind of a loner, and my total opposite.
Whereas Rena is structured and smart beyond her years, a little stiff and organized– what one might call a real Type A personality– I am…not. Any of that. I’m random and ridiculous. Not to mention terribly clumsy. She’s so sure of herself, and I’m pretty self-critical. We balance each other out pretty well.
“How did you know I was going to say that?”
“You always say that!”
“Okay, let me finish my sentence. This gets good–” Just then, the waitress appeared. My story would have to wait. “Hi, my name is Joy, what can I get for you today?”
“I will have a Long Island Iced Tea.” I knew Rena was going to order that, she always orders the same thing.
I ordered a virgin Sex on the Beach. I like to try different drinks, but I’m not into alcohol. A “stiff” drink for me consists of hot chocolate or soda water. Rena just about spat her water across the table.
“A virgin Sex on the Beach?”
“Hey, you know I don’t like alcohol. It overtakes people’s brains and makes them act crazy. I don’t need help acting crazy. I see enough crazy at work.”
“Well, think of it this way, if she has sex for the first time, you’ll be drinking a Bloody Mary,” Rena said.
“Or, if she got pregnant you’d be drinking an Immaculate Conception!” Rena was just about rolling in her seat at her wit. Joy was squatted at the edge of the table, trembling. I wondered if she was going to have a seizure.
“I can tell the bartender, but you may only get some sand in a glass with some tap water.” Joy said in between giggles.
“I swear; the world hates me! Okay, give me a Shirley Temple and make it good!” I said huffily.
“How good can a Shirley Temple be?” Rena asked. There was an explosion of laughter. This time, water squirted out of my nose and clear across the table onto Rena’s plate. The whole restaurant was watching, and our laughter filled the place.
“Okay, I’ll hurry and put that in, and then I will be back for your food orders.” Joy was a trooper.
“Okay, so what’s your story?” Rena asked after gathering her composure.
“Dude, I pulled into the parking lot, and a guy was literally peeing on a lamppost right by my car. He wasn’t doing it secretively, either. I mean, he was all out there, if you catch my drift.”
“That’s sick!” Rena didn’t look as if it were too sick. She was quite amused.
“I’m telling you, these people are crazy! I mean literally cuckoo.It’s insane!” I said excitedly.
Joy came back with our drinks. I was happy the bartender made my “kiddie” cocktail look grown up. I pulled the cherry out of the glass and devoured it. I love maraschino cherries. The rest of the night was spent with Joy visiting us frequently, and for being her entertainment, we even got free appetizers.
It wasn’t often that I had time to go out with Rena– maybe once a week. We used the restaurant for a comfortable place to chat. My apartment was too small, and she lived with her parents to help take care of them. To be honest, I would have gone out every night if it was always this fun, but time wouldn’t allow for it. Typically, our schedules are completely opposite.
Rena is a college professor and runs the application process for undergraduates. With my full-time retail life, we’re fortunate and grateful that we see each other every week or so. Neither one of us have a man that messes up our schedule, which helps. Rena does have a boyfriend, but he lives clear across the country. I’m not with anyone particular. I date periodically, but I don’t have the time or the patience for commitment right now.
“So what’s new on your side of town?” I asked her.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Girl, after everything I see daily, trust me. I’m likely to believe anything.”
“Just a second, let me finish my drink. I’ll laugh too much, and I don’t want to waste this on the table.”
I watched as Rena took a long hearty drink of her Long Island Iced Tea. I think it’s funny how much she enjoys them, because they look nasty to me. I took a sip of one once, and I could barely get it down my throat, it tasted so bad! Rena didn’t drink often, but she definitely appreciated the feeling alcohol gave her after a hard day at work.
If you couldn’t tell, Rena is my best friend. She has been for more than 20 years, and it seems like even longer. She’s a short, kind of squatty girl, with a heart larger than the world. She cares about everyone and everything, and because of that, sometimes her heart is her worst enemy, in my opinion. Rena takes on everyone’s problems, leaving no room for her own. I think that’s why I’m here, because I don’t mind listening and giving her perspective on her own life—and as a bonus, I’m typically good for a laugh.
“Okay, you ready for this?” Rena asked with an unrecognizable smirk on her face. Her blonde hair was pulled up into a short ponytail, causing her to look unusually childish, instead of intelligent as she normally portrayed herself. “Shoot.” I said, curious how this story could possibly top mine.
“I had a crappy day.” She said.
“Crappy how?” I asked, confused.
“Literally, crappy.” I was still confused.
“I teach college, right?”
“Yeah, and?” I wondered where this was going. Rena wasn’t the type to beat around the bush. That was more my style. She was almost always straight to the point. I honestly had no clue to where she was going with this one.
“A girl in one of the classes crapped her pants…” I started to object. “…I’m not finished.”
“Go ahead,” I mumbled.
“She left a pile in the bathroom, and then she went back to class.”
“That’s disgusting.” I groaned.
“We had to call a cleaning crew to clean the hallways.” She said with a shudder.
“Now I know you’re lying.” I said, laughing.
“People were gagging down the hallway, and somebody thought that it was a dog. It was a grown woman! I mean seriously, a grown woman.”
“Does she have any physical ailments?” I asked?
“No! That’s the kicker.”
“Why couldn’t she make it to the bathroom?”
“Who knows? Norma, I cannot take this job anymore. This is just ridiculous. I mean, last week it was crystal meth in the computer lab, and this week it’s more crap. Literally!”
I was laughing and I couldn’t help it. It was just too funny. Not the incident itself, but more of the idea that Rena was so bothered by it. That poor girl had her job for over 9 years, and since the first year she has continuously talked about changing careers. She’s so loyal to the students, and her boss, that she’s found it hard to actually quit.
“So, what’s the plan?” I asked her pointedly.
“How about you help me find a new job, and even make me apply. And… I will be forever indebted to you?” She said it with a sheepish smile.
“Hmm.” I did want to help her be happier. “I will keep my eyes open, but I don’t know what’s going on with this economy. I know I could get you in where I work, if you feel like dealing with Larry Drye as a boss, not to mention his women, and all the glorious, local crazies.”
“Sounds intriguing.” She said.
“Precisely.” I raised my eyebrows.
We shared a few more drinks and a ton more laughs, but then it was, regrettably, time for the night to end. We had work in the morning, and both dreaded what the following day would bring us on a platter.
The alarm went off, but I never heard it. Perhaps I had a Shirley Temple hangover? Perhaps I just went to bed too late— but at exactly 8:15, I woke up with a start. I glanced at the clock and actually screamed– I had to be to work at 9:00! I jumped out of bed, and as I was rushing to find some kind of suit to throw on, I had to make the decision of whether or not I should shower.
I decided to wait.
I grabbed a spoon from the pile of dishes left in the dishwasher, and dug out a huge pile of peanut butter. That was going to have to suffice for my breakfast. I love peanut butter.
On my way out the door, I bargained with God in a type of open-eyed in-a-rush prayer thing, “Dear God. I need to make it on time. If I speed, please don’t let the cops see me. If they are going to pull me over, please make my car invisible. If traffic is bad, please don’t let me die trying to drive on the shoulder.Please God, help me out. I owe you one!”
I started the car, backed out, and flew down the street. I dreaded going toward the school zone, but it was the fastest way to get to the highway– assuming I didn’t get caught.
I looked both ways and sped through as fast as I could. I wasn’t worried about hitting any children; they would already be in school. It was the cops I was worried about. I wasn’t sure how much leeway I had before they’d take my license from me.
I came to the stop light and broke the law again. There was no traffic anywhere near the intersection, and I don’t know why there is even a light there. Knowing there’s never traffic at that light, I quickly drove through and continued on my way.
“God, I hope you’re with me. I need you to help me out!” As soon as I was past the light, approaching the highway, I saw him there.
“Shoot!” I said to myself, as I punched the brake pedal sloppily. My eyes immediately scanned the rearview mirror. I saw the lights, and didn’t bother to watch and see if it was me he was after. I pulled the car over between the on-ramp and the highway and waited. Sure enough, up strolls an officer.
“Please be Tom, or any other officer but the one that got me the last two times,” I said under my breath. I don’t think God was interested in my plea. It was the one from last time.
“Mrs. Nudle.” He said it very seriously.
“Miss Nudle,” I corrected him.
“I stand corrected. So we meet again.” He sounded so self-righteous.
“Unfortunately on my behalf, I think I’m supporting the state of Michigan.” I said meekly.
“I firmly believe that it’s because of you that I still have my job.” The officer chuckled. I didn’t find him funny at all.
“Do you need my license and registration?” I asked, hoping to speed things along.
“I think I have it memorized, if you want the truth.” He was being hilarious. It was all I could do to not tell him so.
“Okay, go ahead and give it to me. I will be back in a hurry, just for you.”
I thank him, and he slowly walked back to his cruiser.
I waited and remembered the first time I was ever pulled over. It seemed so long time ago. I was 19 years old, and I was speeding only a little. I think I’ve always had a bit of a lead foot– I come by it naturally, I like to think. Not my fault.
Anyway, I will never forget that day. They stopped me, and immediately I started to bawl. My hands were shaking; I was so scared. I had no idea what was going to happen. That officer was wonderful, a real doll. I wonder if I started crying now, would he go easier on me? I could try, but I’ve already been so mouthy with this guy, I wasn’t feeling too confident. My next time being pulled over,
I’m definitely going to try.
Surprisingly, as promised, the officer hurried back. “Miss Nudle, you were pulled over for running a red light—and, let’s not leave out the fact that again, you were driving like a maniac through a school zone.”
“Not a maniac, just fast. I will have you know that I have never once– knock on wood– been in a car accident.” I was trying so hard.
“Well then. I’m going to take it really easy on you today. I’m almost off my shift, so I will let you go with just a warning– only because I enjoy your little sense of humor–”
“Seriously? I was amazed. “Heck, next time I will do stand-up if it makes you happy.”
“Don’t push your luck. I would like to add that you are getting up there on your points. You honestly need to be more careful while you’re driving, or you will 100% lose your license.”
“Thanks so much, Officer. You rock!” “I like to think so.”
“Okay, I need my license back, I gotta get to work.” Though grateful, I was so over this transaction.
“You’re not going to learn are you?” He was skeptical, with reason.
“Do you want me to answer that question, or can I just leave you with that thought?” I knew I was pushing it, but I didn’t care.
“Have a good day, Norma Nudle.” He walked away.
I tried not to leave in a hurry, but I really had no choice. I was once again running late. I slammed the gas pedal and hit some gravel, accidentally leaving the officer in my dust. I hurriedly checked the rearview mirror to see if I had angered him. I saw him laughing as he watched me leave, to my relief. The last thing I wanted to do was irritate an officer of the law, especially a good-looking one at that.
I arrived at work just in time to count the suits. I pulled into the parking lot, only to see the pigtail lady picking up old cigarette butts. She appeared to be inhaling any possible last drags. She was hard at work, shuffling through the ashtrays.
Watching her search for leftover butts and light them in hopes of her nicotine high, I couldn’t not roll my eyes in disgust. Imagine being so desperate! I considered buying her a pack of cigarettes just to give her a sense of dignity, but I knew if I did that, it would just turn into a habit, one that I didn’t want to deal with. I was apprehensive as I walked past her.
“Hello,” she said, smiling.
“Hi,” I replied shortly, waiting for an outburst.
“Do you have a cigarette?”
“I’ve already told you, I don’t smoke.”
“I’m gonna kill you,” she said, still smiling.
“I know. We’ve been through this before,” as I walked into the store, wishing for the first customer to arrive.