Monday, August 1, 2011

Pissed On

This story was originally published in Smile Hon, You're in Baltimore's Waste Issue. Make sure to pick up your copy from Cyclops, Atomic Books or elsewhere around town. And be on the lookout for  the next issue which will have my poem, "Praying in the Temple of the Moon."



It wasn't my first, but it was the first job I ever worked during the school year, not just a summer gig. I was great at it, too. I mean we're only talking fast food here, the McDonalds on Dundalk Avenue near Willow Spring Road; but it’s where I developed my work ethic. Like most of the fresh meat, I began my career on the grill. I became the master of the short-lived McDLT, one of Mickey Dees' attempts to compete with the Whopper. Soon enough I was training other new hires on the grill and was moved to the front to take orders and ring sales. There was even talk of promoting me to assistant manager during the summer.

For a sixteen-year-old, life couldn't have been much better. And it wasn't just how successful I was at flipping burgers and taking orders. I made lots of good friends. One of the managers, Rob, bribed us at closing time by plying us with pot and gin. We'd crank on the OJ machines (we sold the little plastic, foil-topped cups to the public), mix some drinks, smoke a bit of herb, and get wasted. The breakfast crew would come in to the cleanest, best-prepped store in Maryland. Rob would even squeeze as many of us as he could into his little, two-seater Fiero and drive us home.

My family liked all the food I brought home that would have otherwise gotten thrown away. Nowadays they might donate food to homeless shelters and soup kitchens, but back then it would all go to waste—straight to the dumpster. The cooler managers would look the other way while I stacked bags full of double cheeseburgers, fries and cherry pies at the end of my shift. My parents and sibs would actually wait up, if I wasn’t getting home too late, for a late night feast. I was a hero.
There were, however, villains. One was named was Mike. He was a particularly lazy, fat-assed manager who spent most of his shift, once the day shift managers were gone, parked at a table in a far corner of the dining room sipping coffee and chain smoking. He'd hand his keys over to his lackeya girl named Tia, for voids and other register issues. Tia took this as a sign of power to lord over the rest of the peons. So while Mike hid in his corner like a troll, Tia would scatter off like a roach to find her own crack to hide in.

Now, once you're on a register you're not supposed to walk away unless a manager knows. Once, I had to go to the bathroom really bad—not a surprise since we got to fill our little courtesy cups as often as we liked. Mike was unseen in his corner adding more yellow to his fingers and teeth. Tia, as usual, was nowhere to be found. I figured one of them would have to show up, eventually. I kept taking orders and ringing customers. And then I realized I was trembling. I could still take orders, but my voice was halting as I had to focus most of my concentration on not pissing myself.

I looked around. Still no Mike. Still no Tia. At this point I was in serious pain. Finally, I had a brilliant idea. Maybe, I thought, just maybe if I let it out slowly most of the urine will get absorbed into my underwear and not show through my pants. So I did. I continued to take a customer’s order while slowly, carefully releasing the contents of my painfully over-bloated bladder. I was handing the customer change when I realized that as good as my plan was, my tighty whities just weren’t going to be able to hold all that liquid. I tried not to panic as I felt the warm wetness of my urine drizzle down my legs.

The pants saved me. Back then, the uniform pants were a heavy, forest green polyester. I looked down. I could feel that parts of my pants were wet, but they didn’t look wet. Also lucky for me, I had drunken so much soda, the piss was so diluted, that there was no smell to speak of. When Tia finally showed up I was furious to the point of tears. 
I promptly excused myself, ran downstairs to the employee bathroom and threw my soaked underwear away. The other great thing about the McDonalds uniform pants of old: they dried quickly. By the time my shift was over a couple of hours later it was like nothing had ever happened.

Regardless, I wasn't going to let that happen again. Neither Mike nor Tia were around, as usual, when I found myself in a similar situation a few weeks later. I was working the drivethrough. I abandoned my post before it was too late, ran down the stairs to the employee bathroom and relieved myself the human way. I was able to dart right back to my post undetected. However, as soon as I opened my register I realized something was terribly wrong. There was money missing.

I noticed it right away because a customer had paid using a fifty-dollar bill, and that fifty was no longer in the register. The first moment I could, I asked Tia about it thinking perhaps she had pulled it from my register to make change. She knew nothing about it, she claimed. To me that meant she took it. No one else could have. I was worried, but it was the first time any of my drawers had come up short. Not to big a deal, right?

Wrong. I was called down to the manager’s office at the start of my very next shift and was promptly fired. I tried to explain exactly what was wrong with their location, about lazy, fat-assed Mike and power hungry, thieving Tia, but all the general manager cared about was policy. Policy dictated that any shortage of fifty dollars or more could be dealt with by termination. It didn’t matter how promising I was as an employee, that I was the master of the McDLT or the king of customer service. All that mattered was that I could be fired, so I was. I was too embarrassed, then, to point out that I had pissed myself.
And there I was, pissed again. This time, though, I was pissed off. My mother had this saying for people who said they were pissed off. It’s better to be pissed off than pissed on. I always thought she was right, but as I walked out of McDonalds for the last time in what would turn out to be a long time I couldn’t help feeling that I was both.

 Reading "Pissed On" at Atomic Books

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