I put my coat on and am waiting at the door, while my parents argue about which car to take. My father wants to take his Smart Car, but my mother asks where I will fit, as it’s only a two-seater. He says that they can strap me to the roof. That seems to make him laugh heartily. My mother is aggravated. It doesn’t matter. My father is on a roll and sees only his future in comedy. “If she wasn’t eating all my food, maybe she would fit,” he barely blurts out between laughs. “Enough!!” my Mom shouts. We get in the sedan.
In a nearly selfish attempt to dump them at the entrance of the mall to break away and find my freedom, I notice that they don’t remember which way the store is. My father limps over to the map (his knee’s been hurting him, and he may need surgery). I start to feel a twinge of compassion, which is happening a lot lately, so I tell them I’ll take them there. I’m feeling pretty proud of my helpfulness until we get in to Bed Bath and Beyond, and rather than my Dad thanking me, he shouts, “Look at the sign! They’re hiring!”
“Um, Dad” I try to reply, but he cuts me off with his authoritarian voice, “You need a job with benefits. Go! Go! Ask to apply. We’ll wait here.” I can’t believe he’s going to make me apply for a job here. They’re actually going to stand there and not move until I do it. That’s some dictatorship if I’ve ever seen it. To think I could’ve been home raiding the cookie cabinet.
I ask some numb-looking minimum-wage worker in this corporate conglomerate about the job, and she tells me to hold on. A few minutes later she brings me an application on a clipboard and tells me the assistant manager will be out to see me in a few minutes. As I’m filling it out, my father shouts, “Don’t tell them you were fired from your last job, Myra. And try to have a good attitude.”
My mother comes over and puts her arm on my back. “Do you need any help honey?” “Yeah, I need a therapist and some scotch and an airlift out of here. Can you handle that?” I want to say. But, I don’t. She continues, “This could be good Myra, to have a little money, you know.”
My father shouts out, “Don’t take the job unless they give you health benefits! And a 401K. We’ll be right back.” And my two aging crazy parents disappear into the aisles of fancy toilet plungers, hampers, and other frivolous plastic un-necessities that were probably made by 9-year-olds in China for three cents an hour, while I stand alone. And I mean, alone.
Suddenly, a pimple-faced youngster who looks about nineteen stands in front of me, holding out his hand. “Hi, I’m John, the assistant manager.”
“Oh, hello. I’m Myra.”
“Follow me, please.”
I follow him into the back office. He sits me down at a desk in this room that looks like a small warehouse. “So, let’s see…” he says as he pores over my application. I start thinking about things like…I hope Vito didn’t shit in the house. I can’t believe this is happening. If I worked here, would I steal towel warmers and bath salts? My parents are fucking assholes for putting me through this. I wonder if my ex-boyfriend is thinking about me. Has this guy heard of Acutane?
He looks at me when he talks, but he doesn’t look away. It’s weird. Like he lingers on me longer than necessary. I wonder if he’s judging me. Or, is it my mojo? He asks me about my previous job, and I start telling him about waitressing, how it was supporting my poetry, which is where my real career lies one day, but I’m a real team player, blah blah blah… He starts going on about corporate ethics…how my team-player qualities might be very useful here at Bed Bath and Beyond, how this company has a lot to offer its employees…and finally, what makes me want to work here? I dig deep in my soul for some bullshit answer, like about having a real affinity for products which can promote happy bathing and cooking.
“Oh yeah? What do you like about bathing?” He starts getting closer to me. “Are you wearing the Britney Spears perfume? My ex-girlfriend used to wear that.” What the fuck is going on here? Is this a joke, I’m thinking. Does he think he’s some mega corporate big cheese, and if I just fool around with him I’ll finally get this job of my dreams? This is so funny and absurd, as is my whole life at this moment, that I don’t even do anything – I just let it play out.
He tries to kiss me, which leads to a shouting match, and I tell him to go get his Dungaroos or something like that when suddenly, another employee, completely flustered and at her wit’s end peaks through the door. “I have more crazies, John, can you help me? Oh shit, sorry.”
“No, that’s okay,” he says, flushed, “Come in.”
My parents are standing right behind her.
“Those are my parents,” I say to him.
He rudely tells them that they can’t have their thirty bucks without a receipt. It’s a horrible scene.
As we walk through the parking lot to the car, my parents are furious at me. My mother accuses me of dressing too sexy, to which I reply, “I was wearing my sweats, Mom!” My father is furious because I ruined my chance at a job with benefits.
In the car ride home which is a tense, loud, anger-dome, my parents are fighting about who’s fault it is that they didn’t get the thirty dollars, theirs or mine. My father says that I know nothing about the value of money. I scream, “Because I am a poet! Words are my fuel!”
Suddenly, like a sea shaking, like a volcano about to erupt with no strength to restrain it, my parents try to contain their outburst. My mother’s red in the face, hand over her mouth, other hand waving it off, as if to say Oh my god, Oh my god, I’m gonna pee in my pants. They both are now laughing out loud hysterically. Like they just heard the funniest joke of all time.
I feel like a powerless frustrated child in the backseat. I see that speaking doesn’t get me anywhere with them. I consider peeing on the seat, just for revenge. But then my sweats would be wet, and I just washed them.
“Well I’m glad I entertain you,” I say. I catch on to their laughter with contagion. Didn’t Billy Joel say “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints?”
So, fuck it, I take it further. “Every syllable is my sword! Iambic pentameter my dream! The English language is on FIRE in my soul. I am a warrior riding the horse of rhythm and rhyme…”
My mother has to cross her legs, because she’s going to pee in her pants. My father almost swerves the car because his eyes are squinted up with laughter. And, I laugh too, because we’re all so fucking crazy.