I walked off of the bus into the blistering winter cold. Outside of the doors sat an old man with one arm. He was furiously ringing a little red bell. I pulled out twenty cents from my pocket and put it into the red canister. I stepped through the double doors into a sea of people. Above me there was a giant wreath with huge bells and fake Christmas balls that were probably decorated by youngsters in China.
I walked past the chain retail stores and finally made it to the domain I call the food court. The lights from each neon sign blinded me. The smell started to slowly flow towards me. It was a smell of coffee, egg rolls and crisp French fries that have just come out of the oil. I round the corner and make my way to my station…Taco Bell.
I proceed to push my way into the food court and two men, probably in their late teens, bump into me. “Excuse you!” I exclaimed. They gave me a cruel look and kept walking.
I make my way closer to the restaurant and I get a visual of one of my co-workers. Her name is Tammy. Tammy is slow on the uptake mentally and some would say she exemplifies the social group of trash that is white. Her teeth are jagged and her eyes are wide like a pool of wonderment of things she does not know. Her under bite takes up half of the bottom of her face and her glasses are think ovals.
Tammy grew up in rural Vermont. Somehow she managed to meet a man who is also a bit slow mentally. Together they have two sons. Each son is graduated from high school and also working menial jobs to pay their bills. Tammy's hat is covered in Taco Bell pins. She’s proud of her accomplishments as she’s been working there for eight years. On her right lapel she has a nametag that reads “register manager” everyone but her knows it’s a made up title.
I walk into the quarter door carrying my purse and wool coat. Tammy looks at me out of the corner of her eye to see if I’ll greet her first.
“Hi Tammy, how are you today?” I say to her
“Oh! I’m alright…just getting by. We had a big problem on our way to work today! Our van started smoking on the interstate and my husband pulled over. We had to call them tow truck guys and everyfring’…I thought we were going to catch on fire!” Tammy exclaims.
“Oh no Tammy…well I’m glad you’re alright.”
“Yup we’ll be okay.” She replies.
“Good.” I say with a gentle smile.
I proceed to walk out back to see who is working and hang up my coat and purse. It’s my shift tonight and I want it to run smoothly. Another manager greets me with a hello. “hello Ronald” I reply. Ronald is in his early thirties. He is currently living with his wife and mistress and both of them are pregnant. I try to not listen to his stories about his personal life. Most of them read like a script for Jerry Springer, which is ironic because his mistress actually made an appearance on the show. I’m glad he’s not working tonight.
The evening begins as usual. Angry customers, cranky children, employees screaming out to me that they need more beef, lettuce, and sauces because no one did anything before I came in. I run around frantically.
Soon enough I see the two boys who bumped into me on my way into work. They begin to argue in the middle of the food court. All of a sudden I see one of them throw a punch! My crew runs up to the front of the counter to see what’s happening. Next thing I know they’re right in front of our restaurant. There are customers everywhere and our cashiers are trying to stay focused and take orders while two heathens go at it in the food court. Then…it gets heated. One of the two (a short boy with a white baseball cap, jeans and a fleece) picks up one of the heavy metal chairs from the court and hits the other over the head. The other boy (slightly taller with a short buzz cut and baggy jeans) picks the other up off of his feet and pushes him up onto our counter! He slides him across the counter and the heavy metal condiment stands go flying off towards my employees.
I screamed for my co-worker to call security. The two see a little man in a rent-a-cop uniform running through the mall. They ironically look at each other and run off in the opposite direction leaving a mess of sticky Mountain Dew and hot sauce everywhere. I scream to the cashiers and crew to finish taking orders and making food. The last thing I want is for people to complain about us because of some punk’s testosterone level.
When I go over to survey the damage one of my employees, a tall buff nineteen year old man, is standing in the corner quivering. His eyes have grown so large with fear that they take up half his face. I say to him “hey…it’s alright. You’re alright; now help me clean up this mess.” He replies “did you see that? They just…they just fought in the food court. I’ve never seen a fight that up close before.” Sometimes the ones you think are tough turn out to be neither fearless nor brave.
I finally clean up the store and maintain order with my employees. Another short security guard comes up to the counter about a half an hour after the incident. “I need you to fill out some paperwork” he says. “Fine, I’ll be right out.” I replied but I was furious with all of the pipsqueaks that are expected to protect us in the mall.
We walk over to the table and I take many of my frustrations out on him.
“Why didn’t you do something sooner? You would think that maybe you could have someone in the food court on a busy night like this. Most of these problems happen here but I never see you guys when we need you.” I say to him in a condescending tone.
“Well miss…we were off throughout the mall. We came as quickly as we could. He replied.
“No!” I began to raise my voice. “You took way too long and you sent the smallest guard in the food court. Do you really think that man could’ve done anything?” I said to him. Now my face was clearly not accepting.
“Listen, we did the best we could. I need you to sign this form.” He had a big ego and didn’t want a woman to tell him how it was. I filled out the affidavit and went back to work.
I walk up to the register to take some orders during another night at another crappy job to pay the bills. Yet inside I shout with joy…something happened today and it was better than making burritos.