A Lousy Job, Part II

After wrapping up my freshman year at college, the time had come for me to return to Kansas City for the summer, and to find a job. I wound up working at Washington Inventory Service. My job entailed taking stock of everything–and I do mean everything–that the client store had in stock; to perform this task I had a UPC scanner attached to what looked like an adding machine.

Most of the time the client stores were located in small towns in the middle of nowhere. I usually had to drive to these exotic locales, unless they were more than sixty miles from the WIS home office, in which case I could take a company van. Those long trips to such places as Manhattan, Kansas or the aptly-named Peculiar, Missouri on a van full of people who smoked and neglected to wear deodorant sometimes lasted several hours, and in some cases we stayed overnight. I had to do that twice, once when we did inventory for a Super Target in Des Moines, Iowa and again when we did a Lowe’s in Branson, Missouri. At least I was getting paid for those hours I spent on the van.

WIS did inventory for many different stores when I worked there, but the major clients (i.e. the stores where I worked most often) were Orscheln Farm and Home and Dollar General. Orscheln (pronounced Orsh-lin, apparently) was essentially a small-scale Home Depot that also sold such curiosities as horse bridles, thermoses shaped like shotgun shells and rectal suppositories for sheep. An odd place, but still very much in the spirit of the towns that they were in, and the atmosphere wasn’t too depressing, given that the store would be closed on the day we were taking inventory.

The Dollar General, on the other hand, was a horrible place. The stores were dirty, small and packed to the ceiling with cheap goods. Furthermore, the stores would also be open while we were working, which meant that not only would I have to hear Country music oozing out from the overhead PA system, but also that every once in a while I would be interrupted by an obese woman in denim hot pants who wanted to know where she could find the scented Jesus candles. Everything about the place just screamed redneck. It was honestly very depressing.

But on those occasions when I didn’t have to take the van (or even when I did), I sometimes found myself enjoying the drive. I would often go fifteen minutes at a time without seeing another car, especially at night. Beyond that, the plains and gently rolling hills of Kansas and Missouri are not without their own particular brand of prettiness, even if they can’t hold a candle to the majesty of the pacific northwest.

That notwithstanding, the Midwest was and is still a pretty miserable place, especially in the summer. I was quite glad to head back to Tacoma in the fall. Not a statement one hears very often, but true nonetheless.


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