I Can Take It (“This I Believe” Final Draft)

“Yea boss, I can work”.

I replied, before he finished the question. How could I respond otherwise? Without me, only one employee was left manning the fryers, burger station, and doughnut machine simultaneously. I envisioned hoards of sugar crazed toddlers and maple glazed stoners waiting impatiently in endless lines. How could I break so many artery-clogged hearts in one night? I couldn’t. I kissed my day-off plans goodbye, tucked their picture in my breast pocket and put my work shirt on like chain mail. I strutted into the store that night not as a regular employee, but as “that guy” — that guy that takes your shift”.

For nine months I’ve worked at this convenience store and burger joint both merged together as one establishment, owned by the same guy, and despised by all those who wear its bright red shirts and funny looking hats. Each business is located on opposing sides of the store: “store-side” and “food-side”. I originally started on food side. But after 4 months in the kitchen, I got wise, applied to store-side, and stayed there permanently.

Grease, coney sauce, carcinogens, lottery tickets, expired milk — I provided it all during my months there. Food-side employees worked considerably harder, longer, and sweatier shifts, while store-side employees worked calm, mundane, and predictable shifts. If store-side was a quiet, insular prairie town, food-side was the war-torn middle eastern village that those townspeople knew nothing about.

But I did know. I was both farm boy and freedom fighter, wise to the fry cook’s distress and the store clerk’s leisure. I had the same attachment to that kitchen as professional athletes have to their highschool teams. My manager salivated over my hybrid skills and called on me whenever coworkers were sick or out of town. I was the guy that takes your shift because I believe in taking shifts. I believe in the sacrifice and selflessness required to be a shift-taker, and I like to believe what goes around comes around. I believe that utility implies responsibility, and I despise seeing things crumble having the power to hold them together.

Am I deluded? A push-over? Greedy for the extra shifts? No, not really. Although there’s probably some guilt and greed involved — to this day still, when I visit the store and talk it up with co-workers, I get behind the counter, ring up the next orders, drop the fries, and sweep up the messes.

“It’s okay boss, sit down — I can take it”.

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