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Fired From My First Job: Conclusion

July 28, 2013

Check out the first part of this post  here.



When we reached the ladies’ room I whacked loudly on the door and didn’t receive a response. I yelled out, “Janitors coming in!”


Janitor,” Mr. Martinez corrected. “There’s only one janitor, and I’m it!”




We entered the ladies’ room and I propped open the door with the broom Mr. Martinez insisted I bring along. “Your job is to empty the trash cans, clean the mirrors and mop the floors. And do whatever else needs doin’. Think you can handle it?”


I nodded, wondering just how insecure he was to worry about losing a job like this.  


So all summer I cleaned the ladies’ room and nobody once screamed “rape”. I also had to clean the grease traps under the grill in the lunch counter and change the oil in the deep-fryer, two chores that would keep anyone with a delicate constitution from ever eating there. 


Ricky came into the store from time to time. I never caught him pinching anything, which was fortunate because Mr. Martinez told me that part of my job was to watch for shoplifters. I worried about having to choose between Ricky and my job, but Ricky remained on his best behavior whenever he visited. Sometimes he’d even help me scrape up the chewing gum that kids deposited everywhere. 


Unfortunately, an incident happened several weeks before school started that compromised my employment with S.H. Kress & Co. I had just finished emptying the trash and mopping down the bathrooms and was headed to the Dumpster behind the store. The assistant manager, a friendly young guy who had a difficult time remembering to lock up the store at night, interrupted me on the way to the Dumpster to ask me to clean up a spill on Aisle 6. As I pushed the mop cart over to Aisle 6 I could hear two ladies talking on another aisle.


“Filthy!” said one.


“They shouldn’t be allowed in decent stores. It’s horrible,” said the other.


I wondered who they were talking about. Vagrants dropped by occasionally, and Mr. Martinez told me to watch out because they had lice and would steal you blind.


When I poked my head around the corner, I saw two white-haired women with vinegar expressions. They were scowling at another woman, who was ignoring them while busily browsing through a display of dishtowels. The woman on the receiving end of this snottiness wasn’t a vagrant, wasn’t filthy and she certainly didn’t look like she was about to steal anything. She was Helen Delgado, my best friend’s mother and the first woman I ever loved.


I’d practically grown up in Helen’s kitchen, chattered at her nonstop, pouring out my childish hopes and dreams as she rolled tortilla dough into perfect balls, flattening them between her palms. Helen’s laughter was sweet and as soothing as a wind chime. I still had a crush on her.


I was too shocked to speak out, even when one of the old women said something about “…stinking Mexicans!” I slowly cleaned up the spill on Aisle 6 without anyone noticing me. It was the first time I’d witnessed prejudice, and it wounded me deeply since it involved someone so close to my heart. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat, then angrily kicked that mop cart to the back of the store. The dirty grey water swirling around the mop spilled onto the floor in several places, but I didn’t stop to wipe it up. I couldn’t breathe and needed fresh air.


Ignoring the summer heat, I stood beside the Dumpster thinking about those awful ladies and what they’d said about Helen. My rage went from a simmer to a boil. Just then, those two old women drove by, using the shortcut behind the store that led to a nearby apartment complex. As they slowly rolled past, I grabbed the bucket off my cart and flung dirty mop water at the open front window of their car.


Had my aim been better this story would have a more powerful ending, one worthy of Hollywood and the big screen, but unfortunately I missed the car completely. Not that it mattered; my act of rage was seen by the store manager who’d chosen that moment to smoke a cigarette behind the store. My promising career as a janitor’s assistant came to an abrupt end when I was fired.





I would classify this as a young man who was taught the difference between right and wrong... with the emotionally maturity of a person his age. I likely would have done something too.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 28, 2013
As I see it, the ONLY thing you did wrong was to not aim properly!!
By: fishducky on July 28, 2013
What a rude awakening to the idea of racism. Sad really that a child should ever get to that day when they realize prejudice exists. As with most of your stories, I always have questions. When you told your parents about being fired were they supportive or angry.?
By: Cheryl P. on July 28, 2013
Well now we have something in common, I only lasted 1 week as janitor assistant at Great Eastern Mills. I accidentally bumped into a lady with a cart used to collect boxes and she called me a moron. I responded in my best moron voice, "A'm towwy lady." I left this 1.65/hr job to become a very bad house painter, so we have painting in common as well.
By: Cranky Old Man on July 28, 2013
Thank you for your story. I was raised by my grandparents. When I was a child they would from time to time make similar comments. The cul de sac that I live in now is very diverse. My kids have the opportunity to play with kids of different ethnicity. Being surrounded by the very people that caused fear and hate in my grandparents.
By: David Walston on July 28, 2013
i so wish you could have gotten those horrible women filthy and wet. may they receive their kharma due for their wretchedness.
By: TexWisGirl on July 28, 2013
grew up with a Dad who made similar comments and evaluations of others. I was always humiliated at his "stupidity". I think you had a healthy reaction to the situation based on all the facts and your age at the time. And I'm also sure that Karma who is a big old biotch got those ladies at some point. Great story. You always have such a heart to everything you write. I enjoyed it very much. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on July 28, 2013
I love that you struggled with choosing between Ricky Delgado (if he were to steal something) and your job. But there was no question between your job and your sense of what's right. You had fine values at a very young age. Those "ladies" never did learn that lesson. I hope they know what you did.. did then even see you?
By: Hilary on July 28, 2013
You were a man of high morals, even as a kid. You had no tolerance for garbage. That's impressive, Stephen, and worth the job loss. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on July 28, 2013
You acted on principles. You were rightfully offended and probably rightfully fired, but so it is with social protest and civil disobedience. It's a shame such tactics are necessary but you made a statement. I just wish you had better aim! Great post!!!
By: Tom Cochrun on July 28, 2013
I am glad you missed the car window...only because I am sure you would have regretted it. As it is, you have nothing to regret. ;)
By: Rita McGregor on July 28, 2013
Now there's an idea for a superhero. The Mopwater Flinger, drowning out prejudice before the wagging tongues can spread their wretched message.
By: Val on July 28, 2013
As awful as those women were, i feel sorry for them, too, that they were raised by their parents to be that way. My grandparents held similar views, and i'm so glad we have a diverse neighborhood for my kids.
By: mimi on July 28, 2013
Aw, that's a sad story. It's a hard way to learn how nasty people can be and be fired from your first job at the same time. My first job was at an Arby's. I didn't learn much, but I loved the free food and gained a bunch of weight! lol
By: Lexa Cain on July 28, 2013
Sounds to me like you gained more than you lost.
By: Scott Park on July 29, 2013
I dont blame you a bit- shame on those women. Why do some people think they are better than others and that they can talk so meanly .
By: Kathe W. on July 30, 2013

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