An In-Depth Look At How Minimum Wage Work Erodes Your Will To Live

Once upon a time in the distant year of 2002, I had my first job. It involved me working with people and giving advice about hardware. This is actually quite funny because I neither enjoy working with people, nor do I know a damn thing about hardware — still, to this very day! But I figured it was at least something to do to get some spending money and help pay the bills. “You gotta do what you gotta do.” I had no idea that it would be such a horrific experience.

Illustration. Brown background. Jeremy who is a guy with a beard, is wearing a red vest over his nondescript clothes, and is holding a rake. He looks sad. Writing along the side says, "Welcome to first job traumas, starring O M G Jeremy reminiscing like an old man."

My workplace was the galaxy’s center for human freakishness and stupidity. In an effort to show you all what I went through on a daily basis, and because we need an article for today, here was my daily routine which I have recently unearthed and spruced up for modern day consumption. I have left in many, but not all, of my long, unwieldy run-on sentences which were so in-style in the 2000s, when periods were scarce but commas were free for the taking. Maybe I still write that way.

Let me just make this clear: absolutely none of what you are about to read is an exaggeration at all. These are all actual events that are totally true, and I think that makes it all the more sad. Also, most importantly, I compiled this list after having worked there a mere four days.

Dear Diary, in the Year 2002,

6:30 AM — Yes. That early. I slowly wake up from a restful slumber to the soothing sounds of the sixty man street crew that has gathered outside of my window. They are using the kinds of earth-moving equipment that seem to be powered by several miniature nuclear bombs going off inside them every second. Once my brain begins to swell to dangerous levels because of the incessant pounding noises, I decide it is time to get up and face yet another wondrous day.

7:05 AM — After I finish my healthy breakfast of Pop Tarts, a food I do not like but always find myself buying without fail, I walk in random directions throughout the house until I eventually make it to the bathroom and begin the morning ritual of getting ready for work. My routine includes looking at myself in the mirror for twenty minutes straight, trying to justify why I should put myself through the impending torture. Eventually, I decide that I do in fact need to have enough money to live. I find my pants and away I go.

8:10 AM — I arrive at work with all the vibrancy and gusto of a four week old rotting corpse. If another of my coworkers greets me in a cheery morning tone I withhold the urge to spit directly onto their neck and instead murmur something that vaguely sounds like “uhhhhnn” and then continue to the back room to clock into work thirteen minutes late.

Illustration. Beige background. Jeremy in the same pose as before, but not holding the rake. He is standing, frowning, looking a a blue bird on the ground. The words written on the image say, "contemplating birds and their free lives without employment."

8:15 AM — I go onto the sales floor where I am kindly greeted by a man who has decided not to wear anything to cover his massive swollen gut which seems to be impregnated with a small horse. He is curious as to where a certain product is in the store that we of course do not carry, have never carried before, and will never carry in the future. After informing him of this, he becomes agitated because he is POSITIVE he saw it in the store a few days ago. I do not doubt what he says, as he probably did see the product — just not this store. This is one of the many negatives of having a liquor store right next to my workplace. I inform the customer that we are currently out of his imaginary product and tell him to check back Thursday when the truck comes in. Thursday happens to be my day off.

9:30 AM — The first of many customers playing the role of beleaguered parent stumbles through the door with their nine kids hanging off of them, all screaming and crying for some reason or another. Our new friend would like a plumbing fixture for his sink. His kids meanwhile have effortlessly knocked over every single product in aisle fifteen and are now headed for aisle fourteen. I nod my head back and forth in vague ways until he gets exasperated and decides to leave the store. Crisis averted.

Same illustration as last time except now instead of a bird, there is a small screaming child holding a hammer and toddling towards Jeremy. There is a trail of wreckage. The words say, "Children dont work. Not anymore. Now look at them."

10:35 AM — I am assigned to build a lawnmower with my coworker named “Wayne.” That’s pronounced with that wispy H sound before the W. Wayne can be best described as the seedy barfly you see in movies that usually dies a horrible death at some time during the film. Inconsequential and there to only build an atmosphere of somewhere you don’t want to be. Wayne also smokes and does so the entire time we are building it. Yes right there in the store. He has the unnerving ability to blow smoke in my face no matter where I am standing in the room.

10:50 AM — The building of the lawnmower goes smoothly until Wayne manages to jam his cigarette directly into my forearm while I am holding a screw for him to tighten. This results in me squealing like a small girl and rolling around on the ground until the mind numbing pain relents. Wayne seems to be generally concerned that he has scarred me for life and offers up a genuine apology by saying, “Sorry ’bout that.” He emphasizes his caring remark by belching and lighting another cigarette. I begin plotting Wayne’s death in colorful and graphic ways.

11:49 AM — I temporarily stop building the lawnmower when a customer comes in and informs me of the following:

  • He is looking for something
  • He does not know what its name is
  • He does not know what it looks like
  • But he is positive it is in the store and it is imperative I find it for him immediately

As far as I know the customer could have seen the product he is describing in a dream after he drank a gallon of whiskey and passed out, hitting his head on the curb when he fell. As much as I would like to tell the customer that he is wasting valuable minutes of my life with his little game, I quickly solve the problem by telling him to please wait while I go into the stock room and hide until he decides to leave the store.

12:00 PM — The lawnmower is finally assembled and took approximately one hour longer than it should have. This is because Wayne forgot how to read English and had me use several wrong parts, even after I tell him that I was sure they were wrong. One hour worth of disassembling the lawnmower and putting it back together using the correct parts later and I am finally free to get as far from Wayne as possible.

Same Jeremy as the other illustrations, looking sadly at a poorly drawn lawnmower. The writing says, "Enjoy this drawing by someone unfamiliar with lawnmowers of a lawnmower build by someone also unfamiliar with lawnmowers. Probably accurate."

1:26 PM — A man comes in looking extremely agitated and asks where the restroom is for the customers. I tell him that there is no restroom for customers and suggest that he go next door instead. This is a horrible mistake on my part because that is apparently the nicest thing anyone has ever said to him. He decides then and there that I am his best friend and launches into a nonstop story involving every single detail that has happened to him in the last seven weeks. I try to escape by walking away from him but he continues to follow me around the store until he finishes up the tale that involved him getting thrown out of his house because he decided his eighty year old landlord was possessed by an evil demon and tried to exorcise the demon by shooting her in the thigh several times. Problem is solved however when I lock myself in the office restroom and begin crying uncontrollably.

2:05 PM — The same beleaguered parent from this morning comes back in the store and buys about 350 feet of plastic floor padding, then goes outside and wraps it around his car for some reason.

2:58 PM  — A customer buys twenty sixty pound bags of cement. I am ordered to retrieve the bags from the stock room and then meet the customer by the back door. I do so, nearly dying in the process and shaving at least seven years off my total life span. I wait for the man by the door. Eventually, he pulls up in a small car that is barely large enough to hold a family sized microwaveable dinner. Twenty bags of cement can never fit. Never in a million years. The man instructs me to “throw ’em in the trunk,” which is actually what most people would refer to as their backseat. I wonder if it would be possible to smash my own skull in with a bag of cement.

3:40 PM — I start my precious countdown until 4 o’ clock and my freedom from this new hell on earth. My countdown is interrupted by a woman who appears to be approximately 148 years old. She crumbles up to me and asks if I have any biscuits. I am completely at a loss because as far as I know a hardware store does not sell any food products, not even biscuits. I inform her of her error but then she says it is slang for a certain type of part that she does not know the real name of, nor has any idea just what the fuck it looks like, nor even what it does exactly. So to find the part I must escort her through most of the store, slowly walking behind her, praying that she has some type of stroke or dies because it is past time for me to leave work. The old lady continues to somehow use the two small strands of muscle going down her legs to keep her mobile and looking through the aisles….

Same illustration of Jeremy only now he is regarding the elderly woman, who might be a ghost. She is frail and hovering and weakly saying, "Biscuits? I need biscuits? Young man?"

4:17 PM — I begin to wonder if the old woman is still alive. For the last several minutes she has been looking at a small piece of hardware and has not moved the whole time. I consider poking her with a screwdriver to see if I can get some kind of response but decide against it when I notice the nose hairs dangling around her upper lip moving, showing that she is at least breathing. I eventually ask her if she has found what she was looking for. She looks at me curiously and says yes. Since she has found her biscuit part, I politely point her in the general direction of the nearest check out lane before she can go back into her standing coma. I madly dash to clock out and end this nightmare.

4:45 PM — I arrive home and rejoice in the fact that I am free from the torment and shame that no set minimum wage will ever soothe. I survived another day. Then I fall to the floor and weep as I realize I have to do it all again tomorrow. But I guess at least I have two thousand words of experience to write for the possible entertainment of all who care to read it.

An illustration with a brown background of a blue book with a lock. The book says on it, "Jeremy's Diary. Keep Out! Do Not Open!" Arrows to the side helpfully point out tear stains. And Jeremy from the other illustrations is looking at the book, actively weeping.

Weepingly Yours, Jeremy

And there you have it: every reason in the world to remain unemployed. Or at least not employed at a hardware store in the middle of a white trash garbage pit. You never know how easy you had it in your last job until you find something even worse, and folks, not to over-exaggerate, but I sincerely believed I found hell on Earth. That is, until I ventured into other kinds of retail hell as the years wore on…

So the next time you go out looking for a job let this be a lesson to you. And take this handy top: if the person that interviews you is wearing a tank-top — run. Run far away and never return. Believe me it’s for the best.

Sneer Back

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