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July 02, 2009

One of my favorite jobs that I’ve ever had was at a convenient store in Lewiston, Maine called Victor News.

I started working at Victor News my sophomore year of high school and worked there up until around the time I went to college. I really enjoyed every moment I spent working there. I didn’t even consider it a job. It was an escape. It was like living in the movie Clerks.

And it was a such great place to learn about society, human nature, and the struggle of life. During the day, Victor News was a daily stopping place for businessmen, lawyers, and bankers who wanted a cup of coffee, The New York Times, and the occasionally copy of Penthouse Letters. At night, Victor News was a seething meeting ground for recently released mental patients, winos, and white trash who wasted all their welfare money on scratch tickets.

I think it was also a late night homosexual pick up area, because one night after work, when I was waiting on the corner for my dad to pick me up, a creepy looking dude in a car drove around the block three times and kept flashing his headlights at me. He finally stopped and offered me $50 to watch him jerk off. I wasn’t interested but talked him into giving me $25 for a “Cleveland Steamer” since I had to take a shit.

As soon as I got hired at Victor News, I immediately established myself as the superior stock boy/wise ass cashier. Victor News prided itself on having over 3001 items in the store, so I made it my job to know everyone of those 3001 items. In the three years I worked there, no one could stock soda, reload the tape in a Megabucks lottery ticket machine, or bust shoplifters better or faster than me. And I was a gazillion times better than the store owner’s daughter, Sherri – an uptight nerd who had recently started working on the nights I had off.

I also went out of my way to add a little personal touch, whether it was memorizing all of the regular customers’ favorite brand of cigarettes, or delivering beer to a handicapped drunk whenever there was too much snow for his wheelchair.

One morning after I graduated from High School, my boss called me down to the basement of Victor News because he had a special job for me to do. As soon as I got downstairs he informed me that he didn’t have a special job for me. He was letting me go in order to give his daughter, Sherri a full time summer job before she went to school at the University of Maine.

I gave my life to that store and my boss paid me back my firing me. He then had the balls to ask me to finish out the week. Instead, I decided to moon the surveillance camera, and leave. I never worked there again.

Although I had my pride, I was out of work and needed a job desperately. I was preparing to go to Syracuse University in the Fall, and my financial aid only covered my tuition and housing. If I wanted to get drunk and stoned, I was gonna have to come up with that money on my own. Fortunately, my good friend, Chris Bragdon had a summer job working at Seltzer&Rydholm, a bottling plant that produced Pepsi-Cola products, and he was able to hook me up with an interview.

I aced the interview and the plant manager informed me that I had to take a physical before he could hire me. It was a precautionary measure that Seltzer&Rydholm, took with every new employee. They wanted to make sure I was healthy enough and capable of performing the rigorous, physical tasks associated with working in a factory. In addition to that, they also wanted to make sure I wasn’t a drug addict.

The plant manager asked me if I smoked pot or anything. And although I had smoked three bowls on the way from my house to the job interview, I thought it might be a good idea if I said no. I also quickly made up some story about how my brother had a coke problem and ruined his life.

“Good”, he said. “Cause they check for that, too. We’ll schedule your physical for next week.”

After my interview, I immediately rushed to the grocery store to buy all the necessary supplies I would need to flush the marijuana out of my system – but not before I took a few more bong rips. I was, after all, preparing to stop toking for a few days.

And I remember that day clearly because after I took a hit, I dropped my bong on the floor and shattered it. And I remember it because I was paranoid that my parents would smell the bong water and I cut my finger with a shard of broken bong glass as I was hurrying to clean it up.

Anyway, I wrapped my finger in a band aid and prepared to cleanse my system of marijuana. I started a daily regimen of drinking a gallon mixture of vinegar, cranberry juice, and Goldenseal – an herb used for masking the use of morphine in race horses. And in addition to that, I also drank ten gallons of water every day just to keep by body in a constant state of piss.

The physical was pretty easy. They tested my hearing, my vision, and whether or not I could tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. After that, the nurse handed me a plastic cup to pee in.

Whatever I drank worked because they called me in for work the next Monday.

Working at the Pepsi Plant was actually pretty fun. They hired about four or five college kids every summer and we were always doing all kinds of different things. Sometimes we’d have to mow the lawn. Other times they’d have us repair rows and rows of broken pallets.

But usually we worked in the production line called pre-mix.
Pre-mix is the term to describe the metal canisters of soda you see at bars and restaurants.

Before the metal canisters can be filled with soda and tagged for delivery, they first have to be washed. And that’s where I came in.

I stood between a metal conveyer and this giant industrial washing machine specifically designed for washing these metal canisters. The washing machine worked in a cycle and had rotating slots that could hold up to 16 canisters.

Every time the washing machine stopped rotating, it was my job to remove a clean canister and lock in its cap.

I would then place the clean canister into a metal cage full of other clean canisters, and replace the empty slot in the washing machine with a dirty canister before it rotated again. And get this – I had only four seconds to do all of that before the washing machine rotated. In case you need a recap, I had four seconds to do the following:

-remove a clean canister from the washing machine
-lock in its cap
-place the clean canister in a metal cage
-grab a dirty canister from a different cage and place it the washing machine slot

I basically did that everyday, from 6:30am to 3:30pm, for an entire summer. And I would always leave work soaking wet. But I eventually got the hang of it, and pretty soon I was even able to do it all in three seconds. My secret was I never wore the rubber gloves the plant manager wanted us to wear. It was too restrictive. But because my fingers were freed, I had more control and precision which allowed me to shave a second off the time.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and the bloody band aid I had on my finger slipped off while I was washing canisters.

We looked forever but never found my used band aid. It’s possible that it might have fallen inside the washing machine and was sucked out its drain, but we all know that didn’t happen.

Chances are my bloody band aid ended up falling inside one of those canisters. And since that’s probably what happened, I just wanna apologize to any one in Northern Massachusetts who may have drank Mountain Dew sometime during the summer of 1996.