The other day, Toot and I were in a pet store spending too much money on too little dog food. Being there reminded me that years and years ago I worked at a "big box" pet store. They put me in the Aquatics department where I bagged fish, boxed up birds and kept the cages and tanks clean. It was a time of great joy, wearing a very attractive and flattering back belt and big money for very little work, appreciated and applauded by every customer that came in store. /sarcasm
But it was always interesting. Like, there was this one time...
-A customer wanted a cichlid fish. These fish are full of personality but they're also some of the meanest SOBs in the water. I climbed up the ladder to the tank, took my handy little fishing net and went ta fishing. I was chasing one particular fish around the tank when all of a sudden, he leaped (literally) out of the tank and slapped me right in the face before hitting the floor. Ker-SPLAT! Don't worry folks, he survived and I popped his little fishy smarty pants butt right back into the tank. He slaps me, then he don't get sold that day. In your face, fish!
$4.75 an Hour (What? I told you it was years ago.) Worker: 0
Smarty Pants Acrobatic Fish: 1
-Like most stores, this one featured Muzak. Working a full 40 hour work week, you're bound to hear the same songs over and over eventually. I still can't hear Paula Cole's "I Don't Want to Wait" without thinking of dead fish, molting birds and 50 lb bags of dog food.
$4.75 an Hour Worker: 0
Dawson's Creek: 1
-This guy walked in one day and wanted to buy a goldfish. Selling goldfish was always a pain in the butt because most people don't realize that you can't just stick them in a bowl. They NEED a filter, folks! Anyhoo, he wasn't having any of my pet-righteous "save the goldfish" speech and haughtily informed me that he just needed the fish for one day as it was going to be a background prop for a commercial he was shooting. I then told him that not only would it be harmful for the fish to be put in a bowl but we didn't have a "buy a fish today, return it tomorrow" policy in place. He was shocked! Didn't I realize that my fish would be seen in a national commercial? Dude, it's not like you're going to add a tag that says, "Goldfish seen suffocating in the background is courtesy of Maggi". No dice, buddy. He got all huffy about how I was losing a sale AND there would be no fish from our store in his commercial.
$4.75 an Hour Worker: 1
Snooty Commercial Making Fish Killer: 0
-We had a couple of kissing fish in a tank together and one morning I came in and actually caught them kissing! It was the neatest thing! Nature at its finest, the true circle of the...wait a minute...they're not kissing...that one is eating the other one! *dry heave*
Grossed Out $4.75 an Hour Worker: 0
Dead Fish: 0
Live Fish Getting a Real Breakfast Instead of Fish Flakes: 1
-One day some customers asked to buy a parakeet. Oh crap. Okay, here's the thing. Trying to catch one specific bird (because they always want THAT bird) in an aviary full of birds trying to escape their prison is a pain in the butt. THEN you have to clip their wings. I always counted a "no bird sold" day as a win. So there I am, inside this aviary with my totally helpful bird catching net being swarmed by freaked out parakeets with these customers watching me through the glass. I FINALLY catch the stupid bird these people wanted and with a "in your face bird" look on my face, I take him to the back to clip his wings. The bird meekly hands me a wing to clip...NOT.
That little f$#%&^@ bites my hand and I yelled out...well...you remember that scene in "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie says "fudge" only he didn't say "fudge" he said the "F dash dash dash" word? Well, that was me. Now I had to go back out there and face these customers (with children), apologize for the cussing AND convince them to buy this evil bird. Luckily they were cool about it.
$4.75 an Hour Worker: 0
Evil Bird: 1
-Here's how you clean the fish tanks at a big store with a ton of fish tanks: Hook up a hose to the sink, run out a huge line of this hose into the store, stick the end of it into the water and it works like a vacuum, sucking up all the crap (literally). Problem is, you can't take the fish out before you vacuum because out in the air they like, die and stuff. I hated vacuuming because I was always terrified that I would suck all the fish up in this thing. Which can't really happen because when you lift the hose out of the tank, it stops sucking and just spits whatever water is in there out back into the tank. Well guess what...
One day I'm merrily cleaning the tanks when one of the most expensive fish we had gets caught in my vacuum. It had never happened before and I was by myself because the store wasn't open yet and I just froze. I totally forgot about picking the hose up out of the water to spit the fish back out and could only watch as the fish got sucked down about a mile of hose and went to wherever fish go when they go down the sink. I like to think he made it to the ocean and found his father a la "Finding Nemo".
$4.75 an Hour Worker: 0
Innocent Fish Sent to the Lord Before His Time: 0
Sidenote: Did you know that "vacuum" is spelled with two u's? I didn't either!
In conclusion, $4.75 an Hour Worker: 0
Mixed Media Pocket Letter
6 hours ago