“This is the year, Freddie,” I said as we lifted the barriers on the truck. It’s been years now that Freddie and I have done this routine. We block off the parking lot, forcing people to pay the three-dollar parking toll. I’m something of an overachiever, though. I was, anyway. This was years ago when I could run after cars. The drivers were always surprised to see me outside their doors, panting, “It’s two-dollars for parking (this was obviously back in the day before the [redacted] returned to the stadium).” Now, at thirty, I’m beginning to see my limits. “I’m either going to get hit by a car, or I’m going to get fired.” Funny thing is, I imagined going out in a blaze of glory of being plowed down by a dumb ass driver than getting canned for telling one to “Fuck off.” I get ahead of myself.
Most of the day was filled with self-doubt. At the library, a kid was being particularly pesky. The last few days, actually. And considering he’s one of the regulars, he feels like he has special privileges. Today he stood at the doorway, blocking me from doing my job. He kept insisting that I give him my autograph (a 90’s sitcom con to get me to sign an agreement). I asked him to step aside, but he didn’t budge. I bit the inside of my cheek. I can’t lose my job, so I can’t risk just going off on him. I do threaten to remove him from the department if he doesn’t settle down, but he thinks I don’t have the power to do so considering I’m neither the children’s library or her assistant.
“Please, [redacted], I’m only going to say this one more time.” I’m pleading. With a goddamn thirteen-year-old. Oh how the mighty have fallen. He insists. So I play along, which is possibly where he gets the misguided notion of special privileges. Go Away [Redacted], I write. He then misspells my name and shows it to my coworker.
“Did you tell someone to fuck off?” Doug asks. Doug is possibly the best boss I’ve had thus far. I’m sitting in the same seat where a couple of years ago we discussed Cat Stevens’ music. And I can hear the disappointment mixed with the anger.
I sigh. I could lie my way out of this. I normally tell people to sod off when I’m angry but can’t bitch them out. But today, in the parking lot as I was explaining to another customer the situation with parking (we ran out of space) and instructing her to turn around and park in our third lot (across the street), one patron finally got the best of me. “Here,” I said giving her money back. “Now fuck off.”
“I can’t have you working here anymore,” Doug says. I’m both relieved and heartbroken. “You can’t expect to keep a job by saying that to a customer,” he says. “Say that in a library to a kid who says [incomprehensible] and see if you keep the job.”
“I know,” I said. “I know that I disappointed you.” I catch my word too late. Upset. I meant upset. Didn’t I?
Since 2009, I’ve looked up to Doug. We held several conversations. He told me about his father. His life. His job. How he came to this point. In a handful of years, I knew more about his life than I knew of my own father’s. So at thirty, I finally understand what it’s like to disappoint a father figure.
He pays me my last check and excuses me. I apologize again and thank you for the opportunity of working there. I’m at a lost. I’ve never been fired before. Just like I’ve never been broken up with. Today’s just another stone skipping down the side of the mountain. Another loose stone loosening to release the inevitable rock slide.