Jerry’s smile was never genuine. When he hired me I ignored his soulless eyes and naively accepted the lowest wage allowed, $6.40 per hour. Anything more than my weekly lunch allowance was attractive.
My first day of work he told me to enter my social security number into his computer and explained that I was never allowed to clock myself in or out. Each day he shouted at me to move away from the computer so that he could underpay me.
My first week after training it was my turn to wash all of the cooking and baking equipment, mop the floors, and pour the leftover lemonade into recycled mold covered paint buckets.
He stood behind me as I struggled to wash pots and pans. Fear loomed over me like a dark cloud as he watched silently with the rage building up in his face before shouting, “Are you fucking stupid? Do you not know how to wash anything?” Tears welled up in my eyes as he stormed towards me. “Like this!” he said as he scrubbed the surface of a cookie sheet condescendingly, “Hurry up, I’m not trying to pay you all night.”
He followed me around during each task, sometimes standing directly behind me to remind me that he was in control. A servant to an angry master.
I wasn’t quite sure why I didn’t speak up. Instead, I prayed he wouldn’t touch me. I began to throw up before starting my shift out of pure anxiety of being around such toxic energy.
Every night I washed the knives, I imagined his blood on them. When I poured out the day’s leftover lemonade, I imagined lowering his sales by telling the customers the truth. When his wife came by, I wanted to tell her about the two beautiful women he spent time with on his break, walking with them like he was some kind of Greek God. I wanted to ruin him the way he felt he could ruin me, but at 16, I understood that he would have his own epic downfall.
The day I quit, I knew he would never pay me for the three weeks of work I had already put in. The shift began. As usual, I was greeted like slim on a white shirt, told to smile and be efficient.
The first customer asked for a Pina colada. Nausea set in. He was sitting in the office watching the cameras. I entered the fridge praying there was another Pina colada mix besides the spoiled one he advised me to keep. I quickly head to the back to let him know it was foul.
“Use it anyway, get back out there, there’s a line forming,” he said glaring at me.
As I poured the curdled mix into the blender I turned my head to gag.
Within the shift I was told to serve drinks with spoiled milk, serve the previous day’s lemonade that picked up a few crumbs or mold, god knows, I don’t know what was swimming in each cup.
Each time a guest came back to complain, I smiled and chuckled behind him as he ruined his business with his arrogance, denying refunds and suggesting an exchange.
My plan to say, “Fuck you” after making a mess didn’t happen. I wasn’t comfortable disrespecting an adult in such a blatant way. My mother always emphasized the importance of respecting others so I walked out when it was busy smelling like sugar chocolate chip cookies and dirty mop water.
Now at 27, each time I pass by the business, I flip him the bird, smile, and tell the women and children in the line to go to Auntie Anne’s.
Some days I’m tempted to buy something just to tell the young cashier there’s better job opportunities waiting for her somewhere else but he never paid me so I keep my money to myself.