I don't get paid enough for this...

Submitted into Contest #19 in response to: Write a short story about someone in the middle of a very long and busy retail shift.... view prompt



I don't get paid enough for this. Those seven words always seem to dance around my head this time of year. Of course, everyone says it's the most wonderful time of the year, but do they mean it? Really? Do they mean it? Everyone is like: 'Why are you so sad? Cheer up! It's Christmas!' and I play along until THIS happens. By this, I mean the craziness that is Christmas shopping. I am currently standing behind a register and watching people beat each other up to buy a pen. A PEN! What is wrong with you people!? Can't we just act like civilized, calm, normal, peo-

"HEY! GETAWAY FROM THERE! YEAH! YOU WITH THE BIG FOREHEAD! MOVE!" I glared at the preteen trying to grab one of the Zelda games on the sly.

He glared at me back. Oh, he's trying to threaten me? ME? "First of all, who are you glaring at? Don't try and intimidate me with your gap-toothed, big forehead, Tim-Burton character looking self. I know you saw me see you try to take that on the sly. I'm not a C student. I'm an All As, coffee drinking, AP AND honors taking, works a dead-end job, Junior! I will NOT be intimidated by some lowly middle-schooler."

The boy blinked and then spoke with a voice that definitely did not belong to a preteen. "I'm 34. I was getting this for my son."

My anger quickly turned into embarrassment. "Oh. Let me help you with that." I hopped over the counter and grabbed the game for him. "Here you go sir, I can ring it up for you."

The man snatched the game and clutched it to his chest. "HA! Sike! I may be thirty-four, but I have no son! Or a family! You just got tricked!" He turned and ran to the front doors. He didn't even make it to the welcome mat before he was arrested by security. I ran a hand down my face and sighed.

I returned to my position and leaned down on the counter. I watched as people acted like actual animals in the middle of the store. I’m not exaggerating. Two GROWN women were growling and hissing at people on all fours. They stood in front of their cart and snapped at people who passed too close to their goods. I closed my eyes. God, if you can hear me, why? Just-WHY? Why are doing this? Is my suffering funny to you? Do you find it funny to watch me be in pain? Because if you do- 

“Excuse me.” 

I internally groaned. What is it now? I opened my eyes and put on my best customer service face. An elderly woman was sweetly smiling at me. I smiled at her. “How can I help you, ma’am?” 

“Hello dearie, I was wondering if you knew where I could find the hot sauce?” 

I blinked. Hot sauce? Why would this old lady need hot sauce? “Uh, yeah. It’s on aisle 6. Right next to the ketchup.” 

“Thank you, dearie. My grandson isn’t going to prank me ever again thanks to you.” I swear I saw a flash of evil in her eyes before she scurried off. I hope I’m not an accomplice to murder. 

For the next hour, everything seemed to calm down a bit. Someone called animal control on the two hissing women and the old lady checked out fifteen bottles of ‘Devils’ Snare Hot Sauce.’ I felt bad for her grandson. That stuff would make the toughest men cry. I had three hours left of my shift and I was home free. Unfortunately, I was thinking too far ahead. As soon as things began to calm down, Karen, Megan, and Ashley walked in. 

Megan and Ashley are the two most insufferable people on the planet. Well, after the Kardashians and the dude who created the Bee Movie. Megan and Ashley are spoiled twins that come from a horribly entitled family. Karen is their mother. They scoffed at me as they passed by my register and it took every bone in my body not to scoff back. I made eye contact with Karen, and she rolled her eyes. I already knew what trouble I was in. 

As I waited for the inevitable interaction with the infamous Karen, I directed my attention towards the technology part of the store. I expected to see people fighting and the occasional families leisurely walking around. What I didn’t expect was a full-on ‘Star Wars’ fight between two men and their families. One family had red lightsabers and the other had blue. A baby sitting in the cart on the blue side had a small green one. I watched in awe as the men screamed: “FOR THE EMPIRE/REBELS!” The families rushed towards each other and began to battle. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the events that were unfolding before me. ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas’ complimented their fight. 

Is this even real? Am I in a coma right now? Did I eat some bad ramen? Is this what happens when you drink mountain dew, two monster energy drinks, and five-hour energy blended together? Did I upset God today? What. Is. Happening? 

I watched as the dads got into a fistfight, the moms started to use the mystic force on each other, and the kids (One teen, one pre-teen, and a 10? year old on each side) continued to use their sabers until the broke. Then, they just gathered in a group and watched their parents duke it out. I had no idea what to do anymore. As soon as I turned around I was face-to-face with Karen, Megan, and Ashley. Each of them were carrying armfuls of not that cheap stuff. 

Oh, Joy. 

“Oh! Welcome to-” 

Karen cut me off. “Nope. You hush. I don’t want to hear any excuses about why you weren’t doing your job. Clearly only people who are incompetent are hired here.” She smirked at her daughters who snickered in return. 

I clenched and unclenched my fists, fighting the urge to punch her wrinkly face square in the pinched nose. I spoke through my teeth. “How can I help you?” 

“Ring up my findings. Now.” They dropped their stuff on the conveyor built. I don’t understand why they didn’t just use a cart, but whatever. I began to ring up her ‘findings.’ “Alright, that’ll be 1575.” 

“Oh wow. 15 dollars? This place really is the best place for deals.” 

I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion, but quickly realized my mistake. “Oh, no. I misspoke. I meant, One thousand, five hundred and seventy-five dollars.” 

The color drained from Karen’s face. “WHAT?! That can’t be right! LET ME SEE!” She made a grab for the register computer, but I stopped her. 

“You can see how much each item is on the screen.” I pointed at the register screen beside the card scanner. 

Her features contorted into a look of shock, and then horror, and then pure unadulterated rage. “How DARE YOU!” She slammed her hands on the conveyor belt and narrowed her eyes at me. “YOU’RE TRYING TO SET ME UP!” 

I fought the sudden urge to set this insufferable she-beast on fire. “Ma’am, I am not trying to set you up. You were mistaken and-” 

“Uh, no.” Megan interrupted me. “My mom wasn’t mistaken. You, are mistaken. All of these items were for sale.” 

“Yeah!” Ashley crossed her arms and watched from the sidelines. 

“Were they in the sales part of the store?” 

Ashley uncrossed her arms. “Well, mom told us to get stuff from the back of the store because everyone was too stupid to check the back for the good stuff.” 

“That wasn’t my question. Were there special sale stickers on them?” 

Megan scoffed. “No?” 

“Well then, they were being sold for full price.” 

“But, it’s black Friday! Everything should be for sale!” Karen began to whine. 

I looked up at the clock. I had ten minutes left. “Look, you were the one who went into the back of the store. You didn’t check for special sale stickers, and you weren’t paying attention. That’s not my problem. My problem is wondering whether or not you’re going to pay for all of this.” 

Karen turned a deep red. Her narrowed eyes began to twitch as she walked away from the counter. She began shaking as if she were going to explode. “YOU- she took a deep breath- are the most INCOMPETENT, IGNORANT, SARCASTIC, AND DISRESPECTFUL PERSON I’VE EVER MET!” 

Geez. Do you even listen to yourself lady? Have you looked in the mirror lately? 


And there it was. The infamous Karen saying. Despite everything that i’ve witnessed, it seemed like that stars and the heavens above aligned just for this moment. I gave them the biggest grin I could muster. “I am the manager.” 

Karen gaped like she was a fish out of water. The only sound coming out of her big mouth was a squawking noise. When she found out that she had nothing to say, Karen shut her mouth and scurried away from the counter. Megan and Ashley scurried after her. 

“Thank God.” I cleared the bags from my kiosk and waited for my shift to end. Fortunately, nothing else strange happened. The Star Wars families checked out together, and all of the normal people happily left with their goods. 

“One minute left.” I began to count how much money we made when one final person walked in. We made eye contact and I was immediately confused. A middle-aged dude walked in with an armful of pool noodles. I was about to ask what was going on, when he spoke. 

“My wife asked me to get noodles, she didn’t specify which ones.” He grinned. “Boy, was she mad.”

I started mentally writing my resignation letter. Two weeks was not quick enough. Seven words rang out in my head as I checked in 39 pool noodles.

I don't get paid enough for this.

December 12, 2019 21:40

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