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The South

Back in the mid-nineties due to some bad personal decisions I was
forced to take a cashier’s job at the only game in town–the
world-dominating discount megastore. When I and several new hires
were introduced to the customer service manager to whom we’d be
reporting, her eyes got wide when I introduced myself, then she
curled up her face like she was smelling something bad.

At first I thought I was just being paranoid, but after checking with
others it was plain that this woman had it in for me. I got the worst
shifts consistently while watching people with less time move to
better shifts. If someone released some disgusting bodily fluid
somewhere even if there were lines at the registers going to the back
of the store I’d be pulled to go clean it up. She would threaten to
write me up constantly for stuff like “not smiling wide enough.” I
lived for the days she was off because the other managers had no
problem with me. After about two months of this (remember, only game
in small town or else I would have fled) I went to another manager
who I got along with and asked what I did to make my boss dislike me
so much. The answer floored me.

See, this was the south. I’m from the north. I found out that her
nickname for me was “Yankee B—-.” Then I remembered her car,
covered with Confederate flag stickers. Apparently some people were
still fighting the Civil War and when my new boss heard my
non-southern accent I became the Evil Yankee and she the Avenging Reb
That Would Make Me Pay For Her Ancestors Losing The War. The worst
part of all this was that I couldn’t go to the main manager and
complain … because he was my boss’ father (unfortunately
anti-nepotism laws hadn’t kicked in yet).

“I need the money, I need the money” became my mantra as I trudged to
abuse every day. But then came Black Friday, the day after
Thanksgiving. I was scheduled to come in at five in the morning and
work until eleven a.m. This was the year that Tickle Me Elmo was all
the rage, so I started my work day nearly getting trampled by the
gathered masses wanting that stupid doll. There were huge crowds, of
course, and everyone had been warned to strictly adhere to time
limits for breaks and meals. I was so busy that I was surprised to
see it was nearly ten when I got a look at a clock. I was dying of
thirst and had to go to the bathroom, so when a manager walked by I
politely asked if I could take my break since I was overdue.

“You’re marked that you went at eight.”

“No, I haven’t, I swear.”

Fortunately another manager corroborated my story and I was released.
I went to the bathroom and was sitting in the break room drinking a
soda when my boss stormed in, screaming about me being late coming
back from my break. I’d only been gone five minutes but apparently
this was only considered a bathroom break, which was a mandated three
minutes. So to the tune of my boss’ screaming I ran back to my
register. Finally eleven o’clock came and I began preparing to leave.
My boss saw this and rushed over, asking where I was going. I told her
that my shift was over. I was told that it wasn’t and shown a new
schedule that I’d never seen. It had me coming in at eight and
leaving at four. “And you ain’t getting out of it,” my boss said.
“I’m keeping my eye on you the whole rest of the time.”

So yes, I was there for eleven hours. That five minute break? The
only one I had. At the end, I closed out my register, took off my
blue vest, went to my boss and threw it at her, telling her I was
quitting. I also informed her that the first person on either side of
my family to arrive in America did so in 1905, forty years after her
precious war ended. “You lost, get the eff over it!” were my final
words.

I found out a few years ago that another northerner with better
resources successfully sued the store–and my boss–for
discrimination. There was also a class action lawsuit filed because
of stuff like not being allowed to go on breaks and having schedules
altered without knowledge. So that horrible Friday recently resulted
in a nice four-figure check for me. Ah, the sweet smell of karma …

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