Booze engagement

Today, I went in for an engagement group session on my road to substance abuse recovery. The only reason why I want to do this is to quit for the time being while I can maintain my studies in Grad school. That in itself is kind of a problem as well because for those who never read The Shining, that is the reason why Jack ended up at the Overlook hotel due to an alcohol incident in which he ended up hurting a student. Back to what I was saying, I didn’t know what to expect. What do they want us to get out of this interactivity and what do I need to say?

The counselor I had was amazing. There were three of us there for the same thing, alcohol. He starts with a thoughtful question, a basic why are we here but encouraged that we didn’t have to mention anything we didn’t want to. Beforehand, I had something planned. I was thinking that I wanted to share something real but wanted to spare the water works. Not today Satan. Already, there’s this eager, privileged, lady who went through countless AA meetings, had sponsors, and couldn’t wait to put herself out there. Already I was annoyed just by her mentioning that being in Europe triggered her year of sobriety. Must be nice, I thought. Here I am struggling to make it home to Montana for a Peyote meeting and this bitch has money to travel. A little harsh that I was thinking this being that these meetings are suppose to bring positivity to our mentalities.

Once it was my turn to speak, I gave little by little and the counselor was impressed that I was young and already realized what I needed to do to be successful in my life. I have so much respect for counselors being able to listen and summarize what people are going through in a sentence. To my realization, I did that myself. I don’t know how to handle myself, myself. Drinking came at an early age due to self esteem issues so without intense research, I will never know how I would have been without ever starting it. That’s what I’m afraid of. Who am I without alcohol when that’s all I know when it comes to meeting people, interacting with people, to hooking up!? That’s the problem! What I do know is that I’m not going to dwell on what would have been, that’s just unnecessary.

When it’s all said in done, I’m not going to bash alcohol yet I’m not going to praise it either. It’s just another factor in my life that plays an important role in the person who I am now and who I want to become later. Like the counselor was telling us, “it’s going to take a lot of time to receive a little.” He was being real yet that scared the shit out of me. I’m a patient person but my stubbornness expects fast results. Tomorrow is the day I meet my one on one counselor where she picks my brain and all that good stuff. I for sure won’t feel the need to hide anything anymore. In the wise words of Bridget Jones, “It’s time I tell the truth, the whole truth.”

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Booze engagement

Oh, What a Job This Is

As if sleeping in wasn’t enough. Eventually I had to get up. It was the summer and all I wanted to do was to sleep all day and wake up at night but no, I felt obligated to get a job, a quick ‘n easy one. Summer sun fun? No, sickening summer job hunting. I ended up at fast food feeling embarrassed because of the stigma around the fast food business. My mom would always assure me, “It’s a good job! I’ve worked there before.” Thanks mom, that makes everything better. If you have guessed McDonalds, you’re ridiculously right. It wasn’t just McDonalds, it was McDonalds in Wally World! Everybody is at Wal-Mart. People I know practically live there which would mean constant run-ins and a friend shouting out, “Hook me up with a free Big Mac!”

Anyways, back to bewailing about sleeping in. I had to wake up around noon every day. I must’ve been working there for over a month now because rising up from my bed like it was my grave and doing a zombie walk to the bathroom for a shower became all too familiar. Since Wal-Mart was about three, long, humiliating blocks from my house, I had to walk. I walked on 24th Ave, one of the main busiest streets in West end Billings, uniform and all.  When I arrived, usually about five minutes late every day due to bad timing, I clocked in, washed my hands, sanitized, then asked whoever the manager was what they want me on. Once situated, I longed for the end of the shift. The ending of the shift was the worst because I closed, so I couldn’t leave until everything was in shipshape. I looked forward to walking my aching feet home where I would be greeted with my nocturnal, older brother and his friend asking me how work went. I would find them out in the back patio with a half-full case of beer. Miller Lite it was. He would say, “You worked hard, have a beer,” and handed me a cold can.

*

I told myself that the common cold will never be cured so I worked through one. In fact, I always worked through the occasional illness. Rising from my bed that noon took a lot more energy than usual. I woke up with toilet paper as my blankets and empty shots of cough syrup on my bed side. “Just a couple more days of this unfortunate sickness” I cajoled myself. It became my daily mantra before I headed to the Golden Arches.

I despise congestion but not as much as a runny nose in public. My nose felt inflamed to the point where it was numb from being squeezed by cheap Kleenex every other second. I squeezed hard when I blew my nose, mostly out of anger towards the cold. The runny nose symptom had me constantly checking my workstation for napkins just in case I needed to dive for one. Because of my furious squeezes on the nose, leading to numbness, my fingertips became the detector of the liquid nuisance. I had the till that day and a different manager, Mai. She was from Gateway McDonalds, on the other half of West end Billings. I’d like to think of her as a soft bitch because she brutally followed the work manual and anything not done the “right way” would be corrected immediately in the kindest way. Therefore, she was a soft bitch. I wasn’t too by the book. It was obvious because of my black Vans high tops that I wore instead of black gripped tennis shoes and there’s reason for that rule; the workstation floor was blanketed in a thin layer of grease.

Handling customers with a cold was a hassle but taking care of customers in general is a bitch.“Kill them with kindness”was another mantra I often used with the most unruly customers. I’d prefer to just kill them. I felt myself automatically sniffing extra to prevent leakage from my face. When I caught a break, my fingertip detector dabbed at the numbed nose. Caught off guard after the dinner rush, Mai called me over. Some managers are always counting money from the tills off to the side from view. A rickety old stool at a table by a safe, files of papers, and the clock out machine was the area for a manager most times. I walked to that station and addressed Mai. I gave her eager eyes that asked what?! She looked at me and said, “I’ve noticed you’ve been touching your face a lot. You know that you handle food so that’s unsanitary.” I replied honestly. I mean what other excuse could I grab out of my ass?

“Yeah, I know. I have a cold and I’m trying not to let it show.”

“I know a cold can be hard but if that comes about, you should really move to the side.”

There wasn’t much I could say after that so I apologized with a nod and headed back to the till, rolling my eyes. A nosy co-worker of mine overheard and said, “I usually use my sleeves like this.” He demonstrated by putting his forearm up to his nose. I nodded, “I’ll make sure to do that next time.” Who asked you, I thought but I still took his advice. “Kill them with kindness” I told myself again. No need to snap at a person who I had to see almost every day.

*

Since I was a “closer,” it meant being at the fine establishment until the dreadful closing of shop. Thursday through Sunday was Ruth’s days. My first manager Ruth, was a kind older woman who had some medical problems, but still felt like she was in shape to be the closing manager. It actually took longer than it should to close with her. Sometimes I wouldn’t get home until 1 a.m. even though we should have gotten out at 11pm. At first, I couldn’t understand why other employees disliked her so much, but after closing with Ruth, I could understand why co-workers found her so frustrating. I just thought she was the best because of how easy-going she was. Pitiful, petty work drama.Coming in as a new person, you had to figure things out by yourself. Mostly everybody who worked there had been working for years.I tried to keep my job as impersonal as possible but Ruth made it impossible. She always told me information that was unnecessary for me to know. Gossip, gossip, please stop it. Especially because sometimes it would be just the two of us closing. If it wasn’t gossip, it was about her health issues. She talked of her MRIs mostly. She talked of them so much that every time I passed an MRI clinic, I thought to myself that she might be in that clinic right now. It wasn’t until three weeks of working there that the store finally transferred her. That’s when Braden took over.

*

Braden King with the initials of BK: I thought he was working at the wrong fast food joint with such a name. He was creepy to me, but I favored him. At the age of 25, he was dating a girl in her senior year of high school. That makes everything better. I know “age ain’t nothing but a number” but really? Older and oddly creepy.  Why I favored him could have been because we had a lot of inside jokes and sometimes cried over some of the worst customers together. There were many regulars that were Wal-Mart employees. One had to be this elderly lady who was never satisfied. Something was always wrong with her food. What’s wrong was that I forgot to spit in it. I had the assembling line that day. Braden came over and told me to throw out the last hamburgers even though they hadn’t been chilling too long because we knew that this old sassy lady was coming by. Still,I knew she would complain about it anyways.

“That lady’s here again. She always says the hamburgers are too old.” As he was speaking he was multi-tasking between the grill and fryer while I assembled previous customer’s orders.

I suggested that he needed to tell her, “The hamburgers are too old? You’re too old!”  He laughed then continued working knowing that she wouldn’t be complaining that time.

I was fascinated by his character switch. He would approach me with a face that insinuated he wanted to burn down the place. When he took care of the old lady, he was the friendliest guy ever. I’m sure he told himself too “Kill them with kindness”. That was a definite skill needed for customer service that I slacked from time to time. I just knew I wouldn’t be working there for long. School was approaching. Soon I was going to quit.

*

            After I quit working at McD’s, it changed my outlook on the corporation in a positive way. As much shit is given to fast food, it didn’t prevent me from respecting many people who work in a similar industry. I actually never complain at fast-food anymore. I don’t think I ever did. I find myself sympathizing with the employees instead. I knew they had to endure fucking, folly, fast-food. I knew they had to endure radical customers, gossiping co-workers, and uptight managers. I will always remember. I was once in their shoes. I was once flipping burgers and salting fries. I was once showcasing my fake smiles. I was once repeating to myself “Kill them with kindness”. And I too once wanted to shove a greasy hamburger down an old lady’s throat.

Oh, What a Job This Is

The birds that don’t fly

It was the end of the first year of my life in the pen (penitentiary); well that’s what attending a boarding school felt like. It wasn’t an open campus so I was confined within the premises of the oldest boarding school to date, Chemawa Indian School, in the same area with the same people doing the same routine every day.  Every day for about three years but that’s nothing compared to the age of the 112 year old school. It was initially a manual labor school that to helped integrate Native people within mainstream culture back in 1835. Jason Lee, a Methodist missionary, assembled the school to help Native students develop skills for trade rather than assimilate. It wasn’t until 1927 that it became a legitimate high school that encouraged Native culture. So much for the original plan, guys. I was mentally liberated while physically limited in space.  My perspectives were free (I got to talk as much shit as I wanted and no one minded) with the people I’ve chosen to build a strong bond with, a consequence of restricted places.  These people represented states from all over the U.S., helping shape the demographic of Chemawa. Some states included Alaska, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and, of course, the Pacific Northwest states. If anyone wanted to leave, they would have to be checked out by a family member or someone at least twenty-five years old.  Don’t get me wrong, there were town trips that allowed students to go shopping, but that was usually on the weekends on a first come first serve basis so, it wasn’t a guarantee that one would get to interact with civilization again. There was a time that I didn’t know what was going on in the outside world. All of us honor roll students would sometimes be granted a trip to the movies. On these trips I wouldn’t realize the five latest movies that were out, I didn’t know about, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire being one of them.

Opportunity. An option that many students turn to, to release their selves from these temporary shackles was to make an escape route. If it wasn’t for the damn campus’ 86 acres being fenced in, sneaking off campus would be a lot easier. Oh, they had gotten us good, the school that is. On many occasions, the pals and I would accompany the fences along a lonely but noisy, dirt road that was off limits. To our discovery, there were patches of holes in the fences, giving evidence of others making a prison break. But they had gotten us again; we were required to check in every three hours and knowing that the campus was about an hour away from places actually worth going to on foot, there wouldn’t be enough time to get back before we were considered A.W.O.L.

May 17th 2006. It was track season still. Everybody on campus had gone home except the dedicated track stars. It was the Tri-River Conference taking place at Western Oregon University that kept me here an extra week. It was the fact that I wanted to go home. But it was me who felt punished for being strong in shot and discus. This is why I ended up placing 3rd for shot put. It was to prevent me from going to state which would cost another week.  It was also my coach who aggravated the pressure of going to state. He knew I wanted to go home so he bribed but not even a bribe of being treated to Bullwinkle’s every day worked to keep me here longer.

Yard Time: Our Opportunity. Two out of ten dorms were open. Fewer dorms meant fewer staff. Fewer staff and students meant a free campus. A free campus with no one around sounds appealing enough to take advantage of the space, but it only increased the mischief in my mind to do other things. Bored out of our gourds, my buddy Brooke and I thought this was the best time to escape the usual scene, momentarily. Brooke was a runner in the 4K, making her a vital person on our team; there weren’t many females on the team that were long distance runners.  I, on the other hand, represented the field events for our team. Anyways, this idea of ditching the home base seemed possible because we didn’t have to check in. As a spur of the moment type of thing, due to a craving of Hot Cheetos, we headed in search for a hole in the fences.

Prison Break. The trail we took was behind the football stadium. Behind it were rusty old sheds, with broken desks and tables piled outside, where I thought maintenance kept their equipment. Every time I crossed paths with these sheds, I could never shake the thought of a student back in December 2003 who died of alcohol poisoning in a mysterious cell on campus, intoxicated. Wow, of course something like this would happen at Chemawa. I always imagined that she was locked in one of these very sheds in delirium and no one knew where she was. This area was convenient because it was covered in trees that couldn’t be seen from the main campus. It was also bad because it was beside one of maintenance’s headquarters. They weren’t necessarily keepers of us but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t report us if given the chance. Sometimes it felt like the school was always waiting a student to do something bad. On our way searching for a fence hole, the trail’s trees were covering us for some time, walking until we hit uneven land that was higher than the rest exposing us on a prairie-like plain as if we were easy lion’s prey on the Savanna. I feared staff would spot us out from the main campus. Once we found a hole on a corner where two fences intersected, we jumped through the fence as if the campus was about to explode.  There isn’t any other feeling compared to knowing you’re doing something wrong with severe repercussions. It’s very arousing but thinking of the consequences kills the mood. It left me worried, thinking of how fast we needed to get back rather than worrying about where the hell we were going in the first place.

My feet felt light allowing me to keep speed and my heart hit hard in my chest as Brooke and I searched for the nearest store. As I looked back towards the campus, I saw the millions of trees that had us hidden from view but on the other side, it wasn’t any better. Warehouse after warehouse, storage after storage with no sign of fresh greens or vegetation, everything was surrounded in golden, dead weeds that reminded me of the country side of home. Guess it was the downside of being on the outskirts of Salem. The sunset livened up the dead weeds, giving them an auburn glow. It gave us something a little pretty to walk through.  We walked through the neighborhoods of storages, trying to find the nearest street that we could convoy, making it easy and safer to find a store. After passing a long building that ironically connected a casino and a church, we spotted a lonely gas station across the street and headed in the same direction. When we got to the store, we rummaged as fast as we could. I wondered if we looked out of place. We grabbed our intended items: Hot Cheetos, Dr. Pepper, and Winterfresh gum, then hurried back.

May 18th 2006: The day after. The campus was lonely, and boredom came at the wrong time because we just got back from the first day of the meet and had nothing else to do. Brooke was craving Hot Cheetos again. That would mean only one thing, to eat Hot Cheetos. Besides the obvious that meant we would have to escape once more. I wasn’t too sure about this time around. I thought we were cutting it close the first time and we only had a few more days in the pen. We came to a conclusion that we would go unless signs pointed against it. This idea came about when Brooke tripped on the way behind the stadium. Okay, that’s not too much of a big deal and was a common thing that could happen to anybody. We headed toward our newly discovered escape route. Right by the eerie maintenance shed with busted desks was the most cliché sign ever, a black cat that ran across our path. I remembered us screaming silently, No to ourselves rushing to get ahead of the cat.  We knew this was only the second sign so we continued through the familiar trail. Before we approached the intersecting fences, I ducked a reflex I developed because of cases of almost getting caught in wrongdoings. Just then we saw one of the maintenance worker in a cart parked right outside of the fence. That was the last sign and the most obvious. We took off back to the main campus, scared shitless as though we’d got caught.

The birds that don’t fly