I’ve had my mind on comics and comic book stores a lot lately, and so I’ve been thinking about the BEST job I ever had, ever. But because of one guy, it was also one of the most horrible workplace environments. Ever.
In the mid-’90s, I took a second job at a comic book/collectibles store to make extra money, and to try to forget about how bad my once-awesome-but-now-terribly-corporate video store job had gotten. I used to buy my comics there and had discussed my rampant Clive Barker obsession with the owner several times, as he always seemed to have several signed books, figurines, et cetera (as I found out later, he was good friends with Clive! SCORE). So, when I mentioned that I was looking for something part-time, he thought it would be awesome to have a chick working there who knew her stuff. It was a quick hire. I don’t even remember an interview, really. I had become so chummy with most of the staff that they already knew me and liked me.
All of them I guess, except one.
For the purposes of this story, I will just call him “Dick.” It seems appropriate.
Dick had relocated to the fair city of Lynnwood from some small town in the Midwest and, as I came to find out, hated women. Not just a little. A lot. Or maybe it was just me he hated? I guess I never quite figured it out. In any case, Dick was polite and accommodating when other employees or the manager/owner was around, but as soon as we were the only two in the store, he would have me do the most insane things, backed up with the excuse that the owner wanted it done.
He would have me move whole sections of comics to the other side of the store, and when I finally got them all perfect, he would have me move them all back to their original place. He would tell me to clean the glass counters over and over and over, sometimes up to 20 times a shift (a whopping 5 hours, usually). I was instructed to vacuum all the time. He would tell me to take a toothbrush and scrub in between the tiles on the floor by the counter, or use a wire scrub brush to try to get stains off the back door.
WHY would I put up with this, you ask? A few reasons, I guess.
1) I needed the money. Working 30 hours a week at minimum video store wages wasn’t covering my college books, rent, food, and bills.
2) I’d been treated worse by a boyfriend, or actually a few, so I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. In fact, I was sure I deserved it in some way. I spent most of my 20s feeling like I deserved to be miserable.
3) At the time, I was naive enough to believe that these are the way things were, and that the boss wanted them that way—until I worked with my absolutely favorite guy (Hi, Brian!), who said, “Wait. He told you to do WHAT? That’s not cool, Amie,” when I described my workload.
Also, while I was doing all this Cinderella-caliber work? Dick would be on the phone. CONSTANTLY. Talking to friends, family, you name it. He was always on the damn phone. He barely ever put it down, and when he did, it was only to ring up big sales.
So the next time I worked with him, I politely explained that I didn’t think things needed to be cleaned over and over—and also probably not with a toothbrush, ever. He glared at me and then ignored me for the rest of the shift. UNTIL someone came in to buy something. Since he was on the phone as usual, I helped the guy. A nice older gentlemen who was interested in the whole Magic card phenomenon (at the time, it was kind of a big deal). I talked him into buying an entire box of starter decks and another of the packs to try it out.
Toward the end of the purchase, Dick got off the phone, and decided to talk to the guy as well. (He was nice to the customers, just not to me.) And then the customer turned to me and said “You know, you are stunningly beautiful! I just wanted to tell you that. Have a good night, and thank you!” And he left.
Dick’s response to this was to turn angrily to me and scream in my face:
“God, I fucking HATE you! You. SUCK.”
And then he stormed into the back room. And man, I felt it. I absolutely FELT the fact that he hated me. For seemingly no other reason than that I was a woman, and that someone had told me I was beautiful. I wondered what was next. More insults (I had heard him call me a bitch under his breath more than a few times)? More rage? Would this guy actually try to hit me?
I was terrified to work with him again and almost quit. Fortunately for me, the very next day, it was discovered that all of Dick’s phone calls were long-distance calls to his Midwestern hometown—all on the company’s dime. So, Dick was out. And I was able to stay. And I never had to see him again.
Which meant Brian and I had the most fun ever working together once Dick was gone. And coming up with scenarios about the miserable, unhappy life he was leading.
Hopefully it didn’t involve serial murders, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Amie Simon is a Seattle-based writer. She likes cake AND pie. You can find her on Twitter at @posiegirl.