(from Suburban Misfits)
You should have seen Craig Carlson’s face when I walked through the door from the warehouse.
He and Nancy figured they had gotten ride of me for good, and thought that we me gone they could get on with their affair -- and not have anybody know.
As if in a place so small as this, anybody could keep a secret even from the two new guys working the loading dock.
Me, I felt like a loser, giving up on college only after one semester, coming back to a job I had worked through most of high school.
Carlson actually had mixed feelings because with most of us going off to college, he had lost nearly everybody who knew how to do anything and wound up with two hippies who had once worked for him when he was manager at the theater in Paterson.
What they knew about shipping and receiving could have fit on the head of a pin and still had room.
I liked the idea of upsetting Nancy because she reminded me of girls who slept with professors at school to get good grades when I struggled to even pass.
Nancy, who was going to college part time in order to become a grammar school teacher, figured slept with Carlson so she didn’t tire herself out working during the day.
I came back to the warehouse because I missed it. This dusty place made no expectations on me, just eight hours of picking and packing orders.
I almost didn’t even have to think.
Terry, the other secretary who did all her own work and all of Nancy’s too, told me I was crazy for giving up college to come back here.
“The place is a trap,” she told me. “Once you get stuck here, you never get out.”
She asked if I wanted to end up like Carlson, a warehouse manager who keeps trying to climb the corporate ladder but can’t get passed the bottom rung? She claimed I was smart, but unless I had a college degree, I would just become another Carlson.
I put all her warnings out of my mind, and settled back into the back where I had packed boxes.
The two whackos Carlson hired weren’t as familiar as the people I had worked with before, but they looked up to me, and they were chummy enough.
And they hated Carlson and Nancy as much as I did, which made them all right in my book.
At that point, Carlson actually pulled me aside and said he was making me assistant manager.
What this really meant is that he would let me run the warehouse while he got to go to the motel with Nancy more often.
But what really scared me was my own reflection in the silvery top of the tape machine. I was looking at my face, but it already looked a little like Carlson’s.
Suddenly what I had seen as a haven looked like a dusty prison cell, and I already felt like a prisoner serving a life sentence here.
To make things worse, when Carlson was upfront busy dealing with a peeved customer on the phone, long-legged Nancy oozed up to me and suggested we get to know each other better.
I called in sick the next day, knowing that if Nancy hit on me again, I would belt her in the mouth, and Carlson – refusing to believe that his girlfriend would cheat on him the way she cheated on her husband with him – would fire me or worse.
I already felt trapped.
But when I came back to work – and before I could resign – Carlson pulled me aside and told me how grateful he was for my coming back, that Dallas had seen the warehouse’s numbers improve and was finally going to promote him and give him a slot in the main office.
This meant I was going to be warehouse manager, making me realize why Nancy had done what she had done, since she now needed me to keep the warehouse running so that she would have a job long enough for her to get through grad school.
I guess I did well enough after Carlson left for Dallas.
Nancy even stayed on, deciding she needed to do post graduate work, and so helped me out in more ways than I can mention.
And while I’m still here in this place, I’m up front in my own office.
Sure I heard the two weirdoes in back talking about me and what a loser I am. But I’ve got my foot on the ladder and as soon as I find some poor sucker to take my place, I’m going to Dallas, too, and maybe take Nancy with me.