Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Flower Lady

I work at 7-11 and there is this lady who comes in every day to buy lottery tickets. I don't think anybody knows her name, but we call her 'the flower lady' because she stands outside and hocks plastic flower arrangements when the manager isn't there to shoo her away. I've seen her all over town hocking those plastic flowers, and woe to the person who runs into her when they're out and about because they'll be spending their next 15 minutes participating in a one sided conversation. That lady LOVES to talk. I'm sure she means well, but it is kind of hard to do 6 things at work with her carrying on, talking to me clear across the store, while I'm trying to 'interface' with the public and make coffee and shit. She's big, black, and although somewhat annoying at times, she's very friendly. She bought me a lottery ticket on my birthday, which I thought was very sweet. Every now and then I'll buy her one, and vice versa. She's got a good heart, but she definitely has a problem with those lottery tickets.

The other day, she came in the store and 'aksed' me if I would loan her enough money for a pack of cigarettes. "I done spent up all my money on them dang lottery tickets," she confides. Then she goes on to tell me how she has car repairs to pay for, and how her air conditioning went out and she had to pay for that, and how her phone bill was too much (she gotsta get hold of dat phone compny n straighten em out), etc. A long list of woes which, I'm sure, are all due to the Texas lottery. Anyway, I dig around in my pocket and come up with about $5.65, just enough for a pack of Kool filter kings. "Thanks baby, I'ma owe you one. I'ma pay you back, you see. When you work next? Friday? When you get paid? I'ma pay you back before den." So I buy her a pack of smokes and she's happy.

A couple of days later, in comes the flower lady, yakking away at full volume. We exchange pleasantries and she disappears behind the coffee bar. After a few minutes, I make my way over there to check on the coffee, and she sidles up to me real close and kind of whispers to me: "You think you could buy me another pack of cigarettes? I pay you back, I promise. We friends, right?" I sigh. I don't have any money, but there's a little thing we employees can do at 7-11. It's called 'payrolling' and it's the scourge of my existence at the moment. If we want anything in the store and we don't want to pay for it right away, well hell. We can just payroll it and it comes out of our checks. Convenient. Easy. Fast. Friendly. Deadly. I really have to quit payrolling so goddamn much... last week a hundred dollars of my check was spent on my 'grocery bill', as it is referred to on the check stub. However, I'm not without sympathy for the flower lady, so I tell her that I'll payroll her a pack of cigarettes (I explain what this is to her) and all is right again in her world.

Fast forward a couple of days. In comes the flower lady. We exchange pleasantries at high volume and again she disappears behind the coffee bar. I'm reluctant to go over there, but eventually I have to check the coffee. She's hanging around back there, drinking her coffee (I give all of my favorite customers free coffee) and as I arrive, she kind of whispers to me "I gotsta talk to you about sumpin." Uh oh, thought I, and I hurriedly make fresh coffee so I can get out of there. She's obviously reluctant to broach the subject, as she is unusually silent. Finally, I'm finished with the coffee and I'm about to return to the register when she hits me with it. "Baby, you think you could pay roll (two separate words she uses) me another pack of cigarettes? Kook filter kings?" Ok, I've had it. I tell her, very sternly and seriously, that I can be a nice guy, but nice only goes so far. I don't appreciate it when people take advantage of my generous nature and that she is 'this far' from crossing the line with me. With this stern warning delivered, I agree to payroll her ONE MORE pack of smokes. ONE MORE, and that's it. She stammers out an apology with reassurances that she will pay me back in a couple of days. Fine, I say, and that's the end of it.

A few days later, I'm at the coffee bar making coffee, and the flower lady rushes up to me and presents me with a wad of cash. What's this? thought I. So I uncrumple the bills, and there in my hand was the money she owed me, plus 10 bucks extra! No, no, this simply will not do. This is placing my karma in debt. I don't want this extra 10 bucks! I try to give it back to her. She won't take it. I lay the 10 bucks on the coffee bar. She picks it up and hands it to me again. I tell her no! No no no! I try to put it back in her hand. She takes it and stuffs it into my front shirt pocket with finality and takes several steps back. I sigh. Thanks, I tell her, but you didn't owe me this much. It's too much. She smiles and says "I told you I'd pay you back." And that's the end of that.

So, a day or two later I'm at work, it's too frikin early, and in walks a couple of guys who want beer. It's not yet beer:30 (we have to keep the beer locked up until 7:00 am), so they hang around and count the seconds. Finally 7:00 am arrives and I dutifully unlock the cooler. The two guys grab their beer, pay for it, and leave. Soon after, the flower lady shows up per her normal circuit, and immediately espies a wallet on the counter, partially hidden behind the banana basket. "Whoo boy, somebody done left der wallet!" She hands it to me and I open it, and I immediately recognize one of the guys who just left with beer. There is about a hundred dollars in the wallet. I go through it and find several Jimmy Johns business cards (a local sandwich place) and I seem to remember that same guy being in the store before, wearing a Jimmy Johns shirt and hat. I quickly deduce that he must work at Jimmy Johns, so later that day I call them up and ask them to tell what's his face that he left his wallet at the 7-11 on Oak street. Ok, they say, and that's the end of the conversation. Meanwhile, the flower lady is ecstatic. "If he give you a reward, I wants some of it!" Sure, I agree. After all, she found the wallet.

The next day the flower lady asks if I got a reward yet. No, I say, the guy hasn't come back for his wallet. It's not like I'm actually expecting a reward... this kind of thing happens all the time. People leave their cell phones, wallets, credit cards, keys, sunglasses, gloves, work badges... just about anything you would normally carry on your person, we have it in our lost and found pile. I've never gotten a reward for holding onto something that was left at the store, and I really didn't expect one now. So, the flower lady, dejected and disappointed, leaves the store. Just about exactly 10 minutes later, the owner of the wallet shows up. Hey man!" he fairly shouts. "You have my wallet! Thanks man, I was here yesterday and they said you had put it in the office for safe keeping, so that nobody would steal the money. Thanks man!" He's smiling and shaking my hand and patting my back, and the next thing I know, he's putting 13 dollars in my hand. "I know it's not much man, but I gotta give you something. That was just fucking cool man, thanks for getting my back like that!" Well. Isn't this the coolest thing. Wow. A reward! Fuckin-A! I go back to the office and retrieve the guys wallet and give it to him. After a few more 'thanks again, man!'s' thrown in for good measure, he departs and the good karma is palpable.

Next day. "Did you get a reward yet?" Inquires the flower lady. I really would like to just lie to her and say no, but I'm too damn nice. It really is one of my character flaws. So, after a few seconds of mental anguish, I tell her that I got ten bucks (ok, so I did lie a little) and that she should have stuck around for another ten minutes, because the guy showed up right after she left. If she'd have been there, I tell her, I'd have given her her share. She's disappointed, and I'm sure she's wondering whether or not I really have that five bucks on me. I really don't have it though. That money is long gone. Thirteen dollars lasts about 13 minutes with me, so we come to an agreement that she has five bucks coming her way.

"Or you could just pay roll me a pack of cigarettes!" Sigh.

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