Before everyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, I have not quit my day job at the casino. Nor have I given up my other job as rising author. I just wanted to give you all the giggles about the time I DID have a job, and the day I decided to call it quits.
During the years that Christina and I owned our own comic book store, I had to take a bunch of odd jobs to help make ends meet. I worked for the post office for a few months, and I enjoyed a fairly lucrative job as a wedding DJ for a year.
One of the jobs I took was working three nights a week at a liquor store. That worked out pretty well, and I pretty much liked the people I worked with, although I hated being away from my wife for so many nights a week. But it was all worth it to help keep our business alive.
When the opportunity came along to work as a wedding DJ, which would pay me for one Saturday night’s work what I was making for three nights at the liquor store, it really was a no-brainer. I’m a natural performer anyway, and it was a really great job for me. I put in my two week’s notice with the liquor store, and finished out my hours.
Now, I said I got along with most of the people at the store. Actually, I like most people I meet. But there's always an exception, and this exception's name was Jennifer.
Which is strange. As a rule, I’ve always weirdly been attracted to nearly every Jennifer I’ve ever known. From the girl in second grade I had a crush on, to a beautiful heart throb in Peoria, to that girl on Friends. Jennifers rule.
Except this one.
How do I best describe the Jennifer in question? Imagine, if you will, an 18th century school mistress, untouched by the hands of man, with a thorny and uncomfortable stick wedged firmly up her ass and a prediliction for being judgmental and not shy about sharing her opinions with you. That would sum up Jennifer, my co-worker who had been working for the mom & pop couple that owned the liquor store for probably more years than I’d been alive.
Jennifer enjoyed casting judgment on the personal lives of both myself and my co-workers. Any woman sporting visible tattoos or unnatural dyes in her hair must certainly have been whores. Any young person wearing a hoody was probably here to steal. Any couple consisting of two different races were probably going to sire children bound for jail. Don’t even get me started on her opinions of the gays.
Yup. She really wasn’t my favorite person.
I actually was angry at the woman for breaking my life-long trend of Jennifers that I was attracted to. (Yes, that was her real name. But I never said what liquor store I worked at, what town it was in, and this isn’t the sort of book she would read anyway. Screw it, the mom & pop couple have long since retired, the store has been sold twice to different owners, and Jennifer has probably long since crawled into a gollum hole somewhere.)
Of course, having the lucky streak that I do, I found out that my final night at the liquor store would be spent closing the store with Jennifer.
Now, I’m not really, by nature, someone who likes to pull dark pranks. Maybe it’s because I just don’t get a sadistic thrill out of screwing with people beyond simple innocent teasing. Maybe it’s because I know payback is a bitch. But a lightbulb lit up, and I asked my supervisor Steve a quesiton.
“Does Jennifer know tonight is my last night?”
“No, she doesn’t even know you put in your notice,” he told me.
“Could you do me a favor…and not tell her?”
There was a flicker of recognition of mischief afoot, and he smirked. He really wasn’t Jennifer’s biggest fan either, as it turned out. The game was afoot.
What I was about to do, I had never really done before. Not on such a grand scale, anyway. It was going to be, ultimately, a harmless prank. But what a prank it was going to be.
About two hours into our shift, I pretended that my cell phone had rang. I chose a moment when no one else was in the store, and I drifted off to a corner of the store to answer it. I was far enough away from Jennifer to convincingly pretend as if I was trying to have a private call. I was close enough to guarantee that she would be listening in. Being the nosy human being that she was, Jennifer was always ready to gather potential information to be used for gossiping with the rest of the staff. I knew that.
“I told you, I don’t want to talk about it right now,” I said to the phone. My back was to her, and I was whispering. But it was a loud whisper, loud enough for her curiosity to be stroked. It was a short call that lasted about ten seconds, and then I shoved the phone back into my pocket.
Now generally, Jennifer and I never spoke to each other on the job unless it was specifically related to work. I’m interested in topics such as popular films, writing, acting, running my own business, and sex. She was interested in church activities, quilt making, cats, gardening and the evils of sex. We really didn’t have much common overlap, other than the occasional annoying customer. So I didn’t volunteer to discuss why I was exchanging harsh words with my wife, and she didn’t press for more information. But I could tell that she was hooked. She wanted to know more.
An hour later, when the store had no customers around, I received another “call.” Once again, I secluded myself to a private corner where I could talk. From the security mirror hanging up above me, I could tell that Jennifer had stopped doing whatever paperwork she was doing so she could carefully listen in on the conversation. This was getting too good.
“Maybe if you’d quit nagging me about it, I’d actually be more likely to do it,” I hissed into the phone.
This was fun. Not only was I screwing with her, but I was role-playing. I’ve never spoken to another person like this, nor do I plan to. But Jennifer didn’t know that. She barely knew me at all. It took everything I could do not to crack up. I just chalked it up to practicing my acting craft.
So this went on for the rest of our six hour shift together. I would occasionally “receive” a phone call, proceed to have an increasingly hostile imaginary conversation with myself, and then storm around the store in a grumpy mood. This gave me the additional bonus of having an excuse for not wanting to talk to her.
Fifteen minutes before we were supposed to close up, it was time for the coup de grâce. At this point in the evening, normally, we need to restock the fridge with cases of beer so they’ll be nice and cold, which tends to get heavy after a bit. The floors needs to be mopped, the cash has to be counted, and the lights need to be turned out. Now, because I’m not a complete bastard, I just want to point out that before I played out my last card, I took care of all the heavy lifting. She was older than me, after all, and that’s a lot of boxes to carry from the main floor to the fridges. But after that, right when she expected me to do the mopping because she was slowly, meticulously, conveniently still counting down the drawer, my phone “rang” one more time.
I don’t remember exactly what I said during this last call, but it was angry and heated and loud. I think I used the phrase “hateful bitch” at least twice, and it ended with “I don’t need this bullshit, I was ready to leave months ago!”
So I hung up, turned my back to Jennifer, and did my best stifled hyperventilating act that I could muster. I mean, I did a full-on performance of a man just coming this close to a full-on emotional breakdown. It was one of the finest acting performances of my life.
“Is everything alright?” It was the first non-work related words she had spoken to me all night. I’m still convinced that this was said not out of genuine human concern, but fear that she might be the one mopping the floors tonight.
I turned to face her, wiping imaginary tears off my cheek, but didn’t look her in the eye. They say people who don’t look you in the eye when they’re speaking are probably lying. So, yeah, that’s true. Thankfully, Jennifer wasn’t exactly a student of human psychology.
“Will you do me a favor, please,” I asked her.
She didn’t answer, she just stood there looking at me dumbfounded, so I pressed on.
“Please tell Tom and Margaret that I’m moving to New Mexico to live with my brother,” I decided. “Tell them I’ll send them a forwarding address for my last check.”
“When are you going to do that?”
“Right after I hit the ATM and go to the gas station, so probably about five minutes from now,” I cried, dropping my name tag on the counter. “Nice working with you, Jen.”
She started to say something, but it came out in a stammering, confused mutter. It was really the most comedic reaction you could imagine, although not nearly as funny as my trying not to pee myself as I walked out of the liquor store with five minutes still on the clock.
I’ve had many jobs in my life, but that’s the first and only one where I left so elaborately planned. I got into my car, squealed out of the parking lot angrily, drove towards the interstate until I was out of her view…and then I turned the corner, went straight home, told Christina what had happened, and we giggled ourselves silly. Then she told me to never do something like that again.
When I visited the store the next afternoon to pick up my check, Steve was there. He saw me, closed his eyes, smirked, and just shook his head. He revealed the entire details of the chaos of that morning. Steve was there with the owners when Jennifer had come in to pick up her check. She immediately launched into an emotionally charged saga of how John had left his wife, had a complete and total emotional breakdown, and decided to just quit his job and drive off out west and never come back.
The owners, who I had said good-bye to an hour earlier when I arrived, with my wife, to pick up my check, were completely caught off guard.
“Jennifer, he put in his notice two weeks ago,” Tom told her. “He hasn’t left his wife, he just stopped in with her an hour ago. They went to lunch.”
I wish I had seen her reaction, but it’s probably a good thing I never ran into Jennifer again.
Was it an immature prank? Possibly. But to quote Otter from the moving and captivating documentary ANIMAL HOUSE, sometimes “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part. And I’m just the guy to do it.”
Besides, it’s a hell of a lot more mature (and somehow, more satisfying) than just smashing the windshield of her car or mailing cow feces to her door. It was totally worth it. Even if it meant I’ll probably never work in the liquor distribution business again.
That's my story of outrageously quitting a job. Anyone want to share their tales with me?
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to work now. I promise I'll try to stay out of trouble. Happy Friday, everyone!
JOHN YEO JR. is the author of KING'S TOURNAMENT and MAMA SAUVETERRE'S CURIOSITY SHOPPE. His new book, THE INFINITE LEAGUE, comes out on August 21st!