Red Label

23 May 2021

Last night, I accidentally mixed Windex and bleach in an attempt to loosen the speckles of shit spackled to the bathroom floor. I guess the day shift happened upon the clogged toilet and had to use both plungers to get Red Label’s bowel movement to flush, splattering some on the floor in the process.

Red Label is a sad alcoholic regular. He buys a couple, a few, or six tall boys a day. However many he can afford with his bag of change. He walks in like he owns the place, as though his cheap beer purchases make him the king of something. I could get over the alcoholism if he weren’t also a creep.

He goes out of his way to say hello to everyone, which sounds nice in theory, but there’s something about the way he says it that really grosses me out, how he spots an employee in the security mirror and practically chases them just to shout, “Hey, how’s it goin’?”

I will never unhear it.

My personal distaste might have something to do with the time he asked me to help him with condoms.

It’s a rainy Saturday night. Red Label makes his traditional entrance, bellows an exceptionally loud “Hey, how’s it goin’?” to the three of us on duty, who all happen to be within earshot, grabs his tall boy, and strides down the middle aisle. He walks past John, says “Hey, how’s it goin’?” again, and finds me an aisle over.

I don’t get the formal greeting.

Instead, he opens with, “You need to help me with the rubbers.” There isn’t a please, and I can tell by the smell of him that he had a little extra change in his bag today. I am not happy, but I dutifully walk him over to the condoms and turn to leave.

“Which ones should I get?” he says to my back, and I can feel my shoulders rising up into my ears, an uncomfortable wave of heat. I want to tell him probably not the Magnums but instead mutter something along the lines of, “Well it’s really personal preference.”

And this fucker says, “I need them to be strong. Which ones are strong?” I imagine this guy jackhammering some poor woman. I don’t know what to say at this point, so I just choose a box, avoiding anything with the heating or cooling lubes, and say, “This should work.”

“Last time I used one of these things, I busted right through it.” He stares at me. Even though he’s wearing a mask, I can tell he’s grinning by the way his eyes wrinkle around the edges. “It was no good.”

All I can say is, “Okay,” and as I’m walking away I catch John trying not to laugh. I feel violated. Not because I had to help someone find condoms, but because of the way he went about it, and how obvious it was he just wanted to put me in an uncomfortable situation.

So he clogged the toilet yesterday, got his beer shit everywhere. The two plungers left on the floor, still caked in poo poo, dripped onto the beigey-grey tile and glued itself like noodles to an unsoaked pot. I did my best to get it off with disinfectant spray and paper towels, but eventually had to put on an extra pair of gloves and use my fingernail to scratch it off.

My eyes and lungs started to burn, and I realized what I’d done with the bleach and ammonia. Instead of leaving the bathroom, I embraced the burn and finished what I was doing. With only a little over a week before I’m laid off, I thought about how this isn’t the only time I’ve touched someone else’s shit at work.

But probably it will be the last.

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