I make no excuses or fancy titles up for what I do to pay the bills. I clean offices in a manufacturing plant. It's not a job anyone would aspire to, I think, but I like it, it pays well, and sometimes....well, sometimes good things happen there.
One of my duties is to clean the large bathroom in the main factory. It is HUGE, it has 15 stalls, and it is the part of my job I look forward to the least every day.
Believe me, your back starts screaming at you pretty loudly after you've bent over the seventh toilet to scrub it out. By the fifteenth, you hope you can still bend.
Today, as usual, the day crew had done the bare minimum in there so I was stuck resupplying toilet paper, changing out the sanitary napkin dispenser paper bags (which I put on not one but TWO pairs of gloves on for), climbing up the ladder to change out the automatic paper towels, scrubbing toilets, cleaning sinks, cleaning mirrors, mopping, etc etc etc.
Just as I was finishing up, one of the ladies who works in the plant and comes in that bathroom during my shift, came up to me. She smiled and she said, "I just wanted to say thank you for cleaning our bathroom. You do a really good job and we appreciate you."
I smiled and thanked her very much for the compliment and waved as she walked out.
And then, I promptly locked myself in one of the stalls and bawled for about 15 minutes.
You see, what I do is a thankless job. People often get annoyed that I'm in their way while I am vacuuming or trying to empty their trash, or worse, they don't even see me. I'm an invisible no one.
But when someone takes the time to stop and thank you because they know and see you work hard, it means more than anything. Better than a million bucks.
I was thanked for a thankless job tonight. This I will remember on those nights I come home with my back aching or my heart hurting from the looks of disgust people can give someone who does my job.
Just that simple kindness, that tiny little thing, reinstated my faith in humanity.
So, if you work a thankless job like I do, THANK YOU.
It was an ordinary day, the day we found the burn house. We were
driving down the desert road, exploring. It was our first time in the
desert. Where we came from, everything was green, lush, and humid. The
new lay of the land seemed infinitely interesting.
across a long road that was flanked by giant red mountains on each side.
We drove and drove until we came to a turn-off with an arrow sign.
There were two women there, dressed in bright blue tribal dress holding
spears. You remarked that it was strange to see two white girls dressed
in some kind of native-yet-not-their-own gear and I laughed. We drove
slowly past them with the windows down. They didn't say anything, they
didn't even look at us.
We decided to follow the arrow.
came across a parking lot at the end of the arrow road. There was no
sign or anything but we decided to park and check it out, anyway. We
were on an adventure, after all.
We found a path and began to
walk down it. I said I thought maybe it was a hidden hiking trail and
you got excited. I began to wonder if maybe we should have brought our
walking sticks when we came upon it.
The sign said, THE BURN HOUSE. RETREAT ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE. THERE BE SNAKES, CROCODILES, SPIDERS, AND OTHER SUCH SCARY THINGS. BE WARNED.
looked at each other and let out a giggle. Maybe this was some new
hidden attraction that only the locals knew about. We loved haunted
houses and things that scared us. We ambled on.
We should have turned back. We should have never followed that arrow in the first place.
came to a long wooden bridge and began to walk across. It was like a
bridge I had been on before, ancient and smelling of old wood. It was
long and as we walked we sang silly songs we had learned at camp, a
million years ago.
At the end of the bridge, we found ourselves
in front of a large bonfire. Blue-orange flames licked humongous logs
from trees that seemed to be from forever. The smell emanating from that
fire was slightly smoky yet there was something undefined, something I
had never smelled before. We stopped to take it in for a moment and
Suddenly, the path opened up and we saw the town.
was like a town I had only ever seen in books. Something from Grimm's
fairy tales or pictures in history books of towns from the Dark
Beautiful cobblestone streets with little houses and buildings, not a
skyscraper or any kind of modern architecture to be seen.
There was only a large, ornate church smack dab in the middle of it.
I had to stop and let out a gasp. It was exactly like what I always imagined these villages looked like.
But, there were no people anywhere to be seen. None.
It would have been the perfect time to see a tumbleweed blow through.
Instead, a sudden icy wind blew across the nape of my neck and I let out
an unintentional shiver.
Out of my periphery, I thought I saw something. I turned and standing not but three feet away from me was a woman.
She was just standing there, looking at us.
After a moment, I raised my hand and my hello was caught on that strange wind.
She didn't move for a second, and then, a creepy smile spread across her face.
came forward and I could have sworn that when she moved there a
slithery, slushy sound in my ears that I could not quite put my finger
She stood before us with that same creepy smile and when she
spoke, the sound was suddenly inside my mind, burrowing and tunneling
through my brain like a hot arrow shot from far away.
"Oh, hello. I see you have found The Burn House. Come, come. Enjoy."
opened my eyes from the wince of pain her voice gave me and looked at
you. You were smiling from ear to ear, like you were seeing the most
beautiful thing in your life. You were practically vibrating with
urgency to follow this woman. There was absolutely no hint of
apprehension, fear, or pain on your face. I looked back to the woman and
was struck again by the strange sound and absurdity of her face.
voiced your eagerness to yes, absolutely, view The Burn House and began
to follow her. I held back and when the length of our clasped hands
was reached, you let go and kept following her.
I had no choice but to follow you.
walked down the cobblestone road until we came upon a small house. It
was different from the other houses in that I saw an air conditioner
hanging from the window. I had time enough to just register that before
we were through the door and standing in a room that seemed impossibly
large compared to what I had seen outside.
And the people, my god. There were people, EVERYWHERE.
Some were dressed in fairly modern attire all the way down to what seemed to be primitive animal skin.
Suddenly, I did not want to be there. I wanted to be anywhere else but there.
people were all smiling like the woman and then they began to sing,
"Welcome....welcome..." and that wet burrowing began again in my brain
and I was falling, falling into the black, into the void into the nothing...
* * *
I awoke, you were standing over me. I blinked and let out a moan. My
head was pounding, pounding, pounding like there was a New York City
construction working jack-hammering in there. I rolled over a bit to
look at you, again. And then, your smile spread out like water spilled
upon a table and I knew.
I knew you, the you I knew, was gone.
"Hello, my dear. I am glad you are awake. There is much you need to learn."
I scrambled up and away. As far back as I could. I would have melted into the wall had it been possible.
At that moment, a man walked in. He was very tall and wearing a cloak that seemed to be made of the night.
came to my side and laid his hand on my arm, and it felt like there
were a million ants crawling inside my skin. I violently pulled my arm
away from him and let out a scream.
He smiled that same smile all of the people here seemed to have and began to speak.
will love it here, my darling. We are a simple people and we live off
of the land, just as the creator intended. We know you have special
talents and skills that will blend in masterfully here. We are preparing
your new home now. We are glad you will be staying here."
Oh, the pounding. The POUNDING. When he spoke, it grew and grew until I was almost blind.
"The fuck I will," I yelled as I jumped up and headed for the door.
didn't see any hands or arms around me but I was instantly thrown back
against the wall and that cloak, it was swallowing me alive oh
The FUCK exactly you will." That snaking, skulking, worming was making
caves inside my brain now and the cloak was over, above, around me and I
fell again into the night, the sleek, serpentine darkness.
* * * *
don't know how long it's been now since I've been here. I tried to keep
count for awhile but days ran into nights and weeks ran into months and
years and all I know now is I've been here since forever.
I've been here since the beginning of time.
the same thing every day. We wake up, we go to the church and sing,
then we work, then we eat, then we work, then we listen to the cloak man
at the church some more, then we sleep.
I realize now that I have been abducted by a cult.
A very strange cult.
I can't even begin to explain the beliefs to you. You wouldn't believe me even if I tried.
am very good at pretending. When they began my change-over, I pretended
I had gone over. I had spent a lot of time watching you so I knew exactly what to do.
They don't suspect a thing.
But, today. Oh, sweet glorious today, I will make my escape.
day, after supper, they take something in a van away from here. I don't
know what it is and I don't know where they go but I do know this:
As they load the van, they keep it idling in the driveway. With no one watching it.
there is something pumped into the ditches beside The Burn House and
after that, they load something into that idling van and leave.
I have been watching this for, well, forever. And, today I am going to take that van and get out.
I'm going to drive and drive and not look back.
here I sit in one of the ditches, waiting. I hear the pump begin and
suddenly, I am being covered in some kind of beige pinkish glue that
smells sourly like old pork chops but I don't care, I don't care, I
All I care about is the sound of that van starting and idling.
And then, there it was.
I slipped around in the goo and poked my head up a little.
Nothing and no one. But, the van, oh the van it was on and the door was wide open...
I ran and ran like my feet were on fire and I was in, door slam, foot on the accelerator, gone.
screamed out of the driveway and down the street. People began to come
outside and stare at me and the sound started to wriggle in my mind but I
had long ago learned that if I recited my ABCs I could block it out.
And so, I was flying down the street, screaming my ABCs at the top of my lungs, and
no one chased me.
They just stood there and watched me go.
And every single one of them was smiling.
* * * *
had been driving for at least three hours. I was almost out of gas but I
hadn't seen anything for miles and miles and miles. I don't think I
would have stopped if I had. The stench from the goo I was covered in
was making me dizzy and I was shaking like I never had before.
And suddenly, there you were, in the middle of the street. I was headed straight for you.
swerved to miss you and then I was turning over and over and over.
Flipping into the air in a death spiral. As I hit the ground, I only had
time enough to begin to wonder what you were doing there before I was
knocked completely out from the impact.
* * * *
I finally cracked open my eyes, I knew where I was before I could even
see. I knew that smell. I knew it from so many days, nights, months,
I was inside The Burn House.
I looked around and
found that I was strapped to a table next to two other people I had
never seen before. One was either asleep or dead while the other...
Oh, the other
other was wide awake and screaming. The hoses I had always seen were
hooked up to some kind of pump, snaking up to and connected to his belly
button and it was on
and it was sucking
and I saw that pink beige solution being pumped out and away in those and as it did, the other became flatter and flatter....
I whipped my head around and saw the cloak man standing in the corner, smiling.
were warned, girl. You saw the sign. It said to stay away from The Burn
House. But, not you. Oh, no. You had to see, didn't you? Well, now you
will see...and I am going to show you...."
He grabbed my arm and
all at once, my mind was filled with images. A crash, creatures
slithering out, finding people and taking them to the ship and hooking
them up to the pumps and hoses, then they put on their skin, and they
had been doing this, they had been doing this since forever.
They had been doing this since the beginning of time.
saw the village built, I saw the people, all of the people, over and
over again coming here and being put to work, being tricked into
believing they were serving a creator, believing they were in a better
place, and then I saw some of them being pulled into this house, The
Burn House, and I knew. I knew the ones being pulled in here were like
me. The ones who wouldn't, couldn't change over.
The ones marked to be the creatures' new skin.
let go and put his face directly into my line of vision and spoke to me
without moving his lips. He spoke inside my mind, "Yes. I told you that
you were never leaving here. You can't. You have been chosen to be my
new skin. My lovely, lovely new skin."
And as the hose cut into
my stomach around my belly button, I began to scream. I screamed until
it turned to gurgling as my life oozed away in a putrid, sludgy mess
down the hose and into that ditch.
The cloak man picked up my skin, shook it out, and smiled. In one fluid motion, he was out of the old and into the new.
During World War
II, so the story goes via my father and my grandmother, my great
grandfather (my grandmother’s father) was violently opposed to Hitler
and the Nazi Party. So much so that he decided to plan and blow up a
Nazi train that happened to travel through the small French town where
my father’s side of the family comes from. He carried out his plan, blew
up the train, was caught, and then very bad things began to happen to
the family. Because my great-grandmother feared that something terrible
might happen to my grandmother, who was only 13 at the time, she put my
grandmother into a convent to keep her safe.
We don’t know what happened to the rest of the family. She never saw them again.
grandmother lived and worked at the convent safely until she was 19
years old. At that time, she met my grandfather who happened to be in
France as an United States Army soldier. They fell in love, married, and
my grandfather brought her back home to the United States. They had
four children and were married up until he died when he was 54 (and I
My grandmother is a very proud, headstrong woman. She is
set in her ways and she is not afraid to tell you exactly what she
I know this because she hated my mother and wasn’t afraid to tell me how much she did any chance she got.
up with my grandmother was difficult. I don’t think she ever really
loved me. Not in a way that is your typical insecure person about
everyone, I mean, she was cruel and mean to me a lot.
When I was a
baby, she used to pinch my legs just to make me cry. She said she did
this because, “I didn’t cry enough” and she was trying to teach me a
lesson, that there was always a reason to cry. She used to make my
mother change my diapers outside on the concrete patio, no matter what
season it was. She said I stunk and she couldn’t stand the smell.
I was about 5, she slapped my mother in the face with a plate and was
screaming at her about how she wasn’t doing the dishes right. To which,
so the story goes via my mother and father, I stood all of my little 5
year old self up on a chair and screamed, “HEY! FUCK YOU, GRANDMA!” Of
course, this language and bad behavior was the fault of my mother, and absolutely not because fuck was my father’s favorite adjective.
I was 12, I decided to talk to my grandmother about my thoughts on
faith and beliefs and it happened to slip out that I thought I might be
an atheist. The response to this was being locked in her hallway closet
until I said I believed in god. (Pretty stupid to try and discuss
religion with a Roman Catholic who lived in a convent for 6 years).
When I was around 14, I absolutely refused to go visit her, anymore.
my sixteenth birthday, she showed up with my aunt for my party. She
wasn’t invited and no one knew they were coming. That night, my mother
had had enough of her being terrible to me and went OFF. This was met
with my father punching her square in the face and my grandmother
telling her she deserved it. On my sixteenth birthday. During my party.
I was 19, my parents had been divorced for two years. My mother had
come out and was living with her partner, Mary. I was living with my
soon-to-be husband and my newborn son. She had come to visit my father
and he was calling me constantly to at least come say, “Hi” to my
grandmother and show her the baby. My father was the king of
manipulative guilt so finally, I pulled myself together, warned my man
what to expect, made a silent pact with myself to make sure that she
didn’t get her hands on my baby, and went over to my dad’s house. Within
fifteen minutes of walking in the door, she had already started in on
how my mother was going to burn in hell because she was “aqueerlesbian”
and when I asked her to please not talk about my mother like that, she
slapped me in my face and called me a whore with a bastard child because
I had my son out of wedlock.
I didn’t see her again until my
father’s funeral when I was 26 years old. Ten years ago. I had made a
promise to myself that no matter what she said or did, I would be
patient. I would be calm. I would hold myself together because as the
oldest child, I had to make all of the decisions. I didn’t want to, but
that was the way they said it had to be. I had to make the decision to
take him off of life support because his brain was dead. I was the one
who had to set up the funeral. I was the one who had to go through all
of his paperwork and tie up all of the loose ends. She was fine with
everything and didn’t fight with me. She didn’t say much of anything,
really except thanking me for doing everything that I could and being
there. After the funeral, I left on good terms with my family.
Because I knew that now that my father was gone, I never, ever had to speak to them, again.
And now, yesterday to be exact, I found out that my grandmother has had a second stroke.
has put me in a weird place because I don’t know what to do. Part of me
is just numb, while the other part of me feels like I should do
something for her.
I mean, despite everything, she IS my grandmother. She is part of me. She is where I come from.
It’s hard for me to cry for someone who was so cruel to me my entire life.
Yet, it’s hard for me to not feel sorry for her because she is what little family I do have.
You’re supposed to love your family, no matter what, right?
You’re supposed to cry when something bad happens to them, right?
36 years old, I am still not sure how I feel about the woman I respect
for her struggle, yet fear and loathe for what she did to me, her one
and only granddaughter.
This is my truth.
I was walking along the
shore, looking for interesting shells and picking up trash along the way
when I literally stumbled over it. I thought it was just another piece
of beach trash, some beer bottle left by partying teenagers or something
I then saw the cork, and decided to open it.
The cork was somewhat damaged so water had seeped into the bottle. The only thing I could make out was the name, Stephen.
This seemed profound to me at the time because Stephen is the male equivalent to Stephanie, which is my name.
mind began to whirl as I thought about what the letter might have said.
Perhaps I was meant to find it and this Stephen was my long lost twin,
sending me a letter from some far off wondrous place, hoping fate
stuffed in an old Michelob bottle would bring us together.
very day, I decided to pen a message of my own and send it whipping
through the waves to my twin. My kindred. This guy with my name but not
"Dear Stephen, I got your message in the bottle. Here is my address. Please write to me. I hope we can be pen pals. Sincerely, Stephanie"
I never heard anything back.
occurred to me today that with the technology of the internet, millions
upon billions of people can send out their own messages in bottles at
lightning speed to all corners of the world any time they would like. I
mean, isn't that what we are doing sometimes? Sending out messages in
bottles to see who will respond?
I like to think so.
Have you ever sent or received a message in a bottle?
I was sitting in the parking lot of the Marine base, waiting for my
son to finish his Young Marine program. As I sat with my dog keeping me
company, I began to wonder
What kind of mother raises a Marine?
I have never thought of myself as a strict mother. As long as they
kept their grades up, both of my children were free to do whatever they
wanted. I didn’t overly push them to do things, I let them choose their
own path. They could pick their own clothes, what kind of music to
listen to, they could go to church or not (my son is the only one who is
religious out of the 4 of us) ….basically, the world was open to them
to experience in the best way possible. I never lied to them and I
always talked to them about anyandeverything. I let them develop into
their own unique and individual selves.
Did I make mistakes along the way? Sure. Every mother does.
I did my best to instill in them to be a leader and not a follower.
I taught them responsibility.
I never treated them like they were not valued or insignificant just because they were children.
And, most of all, I loved them with my whole heart.
Yes, I am absolutely terrified of him going into the Marines. My
husband has been in the Navy since we were very young so I know what my
son is in for.
But, this is HIS future. This is what he chose.
And, I suppose it is natural to worry. But, the thing I worry about the most is,
Your racist/sexist/homophobic jokes aren't funny. When you tell them to me, don't expect anything back but a blank stare as I wonder why your momma didn't teach you how to act in public.
NO. NO I WILL NOT double bag your pack of gum or your one greeting card. WTF.
I don't care about your life. I don't care about why you have to use your card instead of cash. I don't care about whatever stupid small talk you want to make with me. I'm sorry if this is the only social interaction you will get today but MOVE YOUR ASS. There is a line and my manager is clicking his fingernails on the register behind me while you blather on. I don't want to be rude so I will smile and laugh etc at what you say but I truly, TRULY don't give a shit. Pay for your purchase and go, thanks very much, have a great day.
I am very married. YES, VERY. No, you can't have my number. No, I don't think you're cute for flirting with me, I think you're creepy.
Actually, I AM busy. Just because you caught me standing at my register, trying to catch my breath doesn't mean I "look like I need something to do hurdy hur hur." I have a WHOLE LIST of shit waiting for me to do when I come in PLUS more added on throughout the day PLUS ringing you out. I have PLENTY to do, trust me.
GET OFF YOUR PHONE.
Control your children. That one is climbing the shelves, that one is opening candy, licking it, and putting it back, that one is running down the aisles with the balloons and letting them go, and if that other one doesn't stop screaming/crying/saying "Mommommomomooooooooooomomomomom," you are going to personally witness me lose my shit.
Is that a service animal? No. Then, HELL NO you can't bring it into the store. I don't care how small it is, how cute it is, how it just fits in your purse, etc. It's a dog. It shits. And who do you think is going to have to clean it up? Exactly. Fuck your ankle biter. Keep it at home/in your car (with the window cracked damnit).
I am a human fucking being, not a robot.
Really? I can't even finish my sentence before you say, "No." It's called upselling, fool and what tiny miniscule perks I DO get with this shitty-ass-shit job revolves around that. The more stupid featured product or donation thing I sell, I MIGHT get a fucking $5 gift card. It's not great, but when you get NOTHING, it's something.
I am AT WORK. You are la-dee-da shopping. I'm not here to be your pal and listen to your shit. How would you like it if I came to your job and started bugging the shit out of you while you try to work?
I am on break. I get ONE break a day, for 10 minutes, I don't even get a lunch. ASK.SOMEONE.ELSE.
Sure, it IS my job to put shit back that you changed your mind about but you can hand it to me instead of hiding it in the candy or on the wrong shelves. Do you know one night I had to stay until TWELVE FUCKING THIRTY (I was off at 9) putting shit back where it goes, etc. Seriously, just hand it to me.
I don't care if it's just one thing, you are going to wait in line just like everyone else. Don't start hanging out beside, or worse, behind my register thinking I'm just gonna ring you up real quick. NOPE. Get your ass in line, King Shit.
The sink is not a toilet.
No. No, there isn't more in the back. If it's not on the shelf, we don't have it. It's not a never ending cavern of whatever the fuck you want back there. It's a room. And no, shit isn't going to magically appear if you ask another cashier, my manager, and the store manager, too.
Don't touch me.
Just because I wear a name tag does not mean you can speak to me using my name like we're buddy pals. I don't know you. I don't know your name. It fucking creeps me right the shit out when you start using my name like it's going to make me feel better about myself or something. I'm ok with me, I'm not ok with you.
Don't give me tips on how to do stuff. They train us to do something a certain way for a reason. Don't like it? Oh, well. When you start your own company, then you can do it however the fuck you want. As for me? Yeah, I'm just gonna do it the way I was trained to do it.
Call corporate. Go ahead, call 'em. Here's the number. Do you know how much BULLSHIT they hear from people all day? Oh, yes. Absolutely they are going to take your complaint about us not having a product/having too much of a product/upselling/not having any certain denomination bills/WHATEVER as completely seriously as possible. No, really. They care about YOU.
A Retail Worker Who Works Entirely
TOO Hard For VERY LITTLE PAY