Saturday, September 29, 2007


With apologies to the Taz!

My first job that was not agriculturally related was at a discount store, one of a chain managed by a local family. They have since gone the way of many such ventures, thanks to the inability to compete with WalMart.

Note: I'm not bashing WallyWorld - many other chains learned not to compete directly with the leviathan.

At any rate, I was a student at St. Mary of the Plains College - another entity no longer with us. I needed a part time job. One of my classmates clued me in that he had just quit his job at the discount store and there was an opening. This store was within easy walking distance from the dorm. I immediately applied and was hired about as quickly. My job was to stock the food aisles and keep the stock in the back room in order. My immediate supervisor was an old school tough guy - he informed me there would be shoplifters, and capturing them would be part of the job. He also recommended immediate physical confrontation if things got a bit iffy. He didn't quite put it that way, it was more like "Kick their asses before they can kick yours." He did have a colorful command of language. I enjoyed working for him a great deal. For one thing, I learned a lot about the retail trade. Paul was a tall, bald, hard working sixty year old with heart trouble. He ate nitro pills like candy when he was pushing too hard. My size and strength got me the job - handling cases of coffee and canned tuna got pretty sweaty. He regaled me with a few tales of shoplifters past that he had to beat to submission. One wouldn't tangle with him, but instead was suspected of shooting the glass out of the entrance and stealing some trees from the gardening center. His name was "Tommy."

I'd been there about two weeks (and it was Paul's night off) when one evening one of the head checkers came running up to me and told me about a fight in sporting goods. It was the boyfriend of one of the girls in sporting goods and Tommy. They had clashed at a local burger joint - The Buzz Inn. Tommy wanted to write a check for more than the purchase, and it was against company policy. The high school girls behind the counter refused, and Tommy was threatening them. Boyfriend took up their cause. After much cursing and insults, they both left, one to pick up his girlfriend at the store, and one to buy a gun at the store to shoot the girls and the boyfriend. Since Tommy was an ex-con, that wasn't going to happen. He was usually pretty plowed on booze and drugs, so clear thinking wasn't his strong suit. The two had continued and escalated their disagreement. Of course, I didn't know any of this, all I heard was "Jeff, they're fighting and someone has to stop it!" That would be me.

It was halfway across the store - I had to run to the rear and turn a corner. When I rounded the corner, I saw Tommy had his back to me, and Boyfriend was facing me. I knew he wasn't the problem. He did see me coming, and didn't let on I was on my way. I took off my employee badge, tossed it on a counter as I went by, and I laid the best tackle I'd ever done on this guy. I put my head in the small of his back, wrapped my arms around him, and drove him into the linoleum. I bent the crap out of my watchband when we hit the ground. Tommy never knew what hit him. He let out a whoosh of air, and tried to get up. He had polio as a child and his right arm wasn't as strong as his left. I held on.

Then, literally out of the woodwork appeared some supervisors. They had been hiding. What a shocker. One told me to let him go. Tommy got up and staggered towards the front entrance. I was impressed that he got up - it took a bit, but he got up. I was a hero.

Then, I found out more about my tackling victim. The police, when they knew he was the subject of a call, were more than tardy arriving in many cases. He liked to fight cops, and they didn't like fighting him. When the railroad overpass on the east side of town was being built, there was a report of someone driving dangerously there. The cops arrived to find Tommy (and friends) driving a car to the top of one of the dirt mounds, rolling his car, and if it didn't land on it's wheels, finish rolling it over. He'd drive it to the top and do it again. He wanted to see what it was like to roll a car. He and a buddy crashed into someone's front yard, and sat in the car drinking and smoking pot. Finally, they drove away. The police showed up about an hour later.

He was famous for reading medical journals so he could fake symptoms to get drugs he wanted from doctors. If that failed, he forged prescriptions. He mostly enjoyed getting stoned and fighting! This, of course, somewhat concerned me. I could just imagine him waiting for me in the dark after work, walking home. I fretted for about a week or so, but nothing happened.

When Tommy had come into the store, the police were called. About forty five minutes passed after Tommy left before one showed up. He took the report and left.

A few months later, I was at one of the local watering holes. It was two dollar night - all the beer you could drink for two bucks. Naturally, I was a regular. Tommy and a younger guy came walking in. He didn't seem to recognize me. I knew who the other guy was, so I cornered him. Turned out, he was Tommy's nephew. When I told him about the incident at the store, he laughed - "Oh, so that was YOU!" He told me not to worry, Tommy had no idea what even happened that night. However, since I was the biggest guy in the bar, Tommy would want to arm wrestle me left handed, and for money. I was to avoid this at all costs, because it would turn into a fight. Sure enough, a wobbly Tommy challenged me to an arm wrestling match. I declined (heh!).

I heard of a few of his exploits in later years. A judge banned him from the city over one escapade. I don't know what happened to him, but considering his lifestyle, I would be surprised if he were still alive. Of course, in today's litigious society, he'd be a multimillionaire from the lawsuit he'd have surely filed against the store. Oh, and the jewelry repairman at the store fixed my watchband. Paul was proud of me. I told him about the other guys hiding. "They're all a bunch of p***ies" was his response. Paul was PO'd that he'd missed the whole thing.

Yeah, it was like a sucker punch - he never saw me coming. I've sure wondered what would have happened if he'd have turned around. I think I had enough steam built up and the last football season for me hadn't been very long ago. I'd have still creamed him, but I might have been punched. He was gonna get laid out no matter what.

Ya just didn't want to get caught shoplifting or fighting at that store!


Sezme said...

The most exciting to ever happen at the Drug Emporium I worked at as a cashier was a flasher outside the front windows. Yawn.

I did witness a shoplifter get snagged and then have a hyperventilation fit when the cops arrived while I was shopping at a department store. That was interesting.

Jeffro said...

rt: Was the flasher advertising his shortcomings?

Bob's Blog said...

You write so vividly about very real characters! Thanks!