Thursday, December 6, 2007

Work in America. . .

In my five years with RadioShack, the only thing I gained was the following story.

I’d transferred to the Lawrence chain from the Dodge City franchise. This store was located on the highway leading out of the city. Most of the people that wandered in were from a dilapidated complex located three parking lots across this developing sprawl.

I worked with a townie named Mike. He was a good kid. His step dad owned a bar that was known as a good departure from the college crowd. He knew everyone that came into the store. It made me feel known to know him. We would spend most of our shift sitting on boxes of merchandise; watching t.v. off the satellite.

One afternoon a Chinese girl with glasses came in. She was all of four feet and asked to use the bathroom in grotesquely fractured English. Following this, the five-o-clock rush came in and we found ourselves occupied.

It must have been an hour and a half before Mike would ask me who was in the bathroom. I looked around to a store that had been empty for the last half hour.

“There’s no fucking way,” I stated.

Given my title of Shift Manager, I approached the bathroom door while Mike trailed behind. I gave the door an unobtrusive tap of the knuckle.


Through the thickness of the door and her accent, the words were indistinguishable.

It would be several minutes before she emerged to find Mike and I standing there, wholly petrified. Drops of water were splattered across her lenses.

She scrambled to key something into what looked like an electronic dictionary (On sale that week for $69.99!). Over her shoulder I could see the bathroom floor was now a cloudy puddle. She held the device upright and depressed a button. An electronic voice rang out.

“The bathroom has been destroyed. I am shamed.”

Mike rushes to the backroom. It only added depth to his laughter. The girl is confused. She presses the button again, thinking the translation went misunderstood. She edits her entry.

“The bathroom has been destroyed. I am become shame.”


“The bathroom has been shamed. I am destroyed.”


“I destroyed the shamed bathroom.”

She held her Acme Translator up one last time, before I lowered her arm. I gave a series of understanding nods while kindly ushering her out the door, curious to survey the damage.

The sink was on.

She had prevented the risen water from seeping out of the bathroom by blocking the bottom of the door with toilet paper. With the door ajar, the water seeped out onto the sales floor nearing the batteries, parts, and accessories kiosk. Due to limited storage space, we had placed the excess toilet paper in a box tucked away into a corner. She used all but a few rolls to soak up the mess, leaving the debris strewn throughout.

We didn’t just lock the door. We piled boxes in front of it as if it never existed. You would think Fortuanto could be found inside.

Like always, we followed our shift with a drink at his step dad’s bar. Staring off into the pitcher, I thought about how often I tend to walk away from a bad situation rather than find a rational resolve. It’s a cowardly thing. But it’s one I’d become good at.

It needed to stop.

Months later, a scam I’d been conducting against the company would come to light.

And that’s the story of how I ended up in Chicago.