Tuesday, November 18, 2014

All Kinds of Kinds


By Savannah Elliott
  
“High school is the best time of your life. Cherish it, because once it’s gone, you’ll miss it and you can never get it back.” Hearing this every hour at work gets old, exceedingly fast. 

The people who tell me this don’t realize that the little gas station I am stuck in for eight or more hours on weekends is very similar to the prison I’m trapped in for another eight hours during weekdays. If you walk into a school lunchroom, you can instantly identify all the cliques—the band geeks, the nerds, the jocks, the prima donnas, and the techies. You can also see people from all walks of life in the station. They are pretty easy to classify, just like high school kids are. You have your regulars, your creeps, the ignorant city people, the big and bad bikers, and the grouchy old ladies with their sweet old husbands. As frustrating and uncomfortable as some of these customers make me, they make my job interesting. They bring a little action to what would otherwise be a monotonous day of cooking, cleaning, and running the cash register. 
 
Before I can make it to the door to start my shift, I almost always run into one of our “regulars.” Regulars are the people who find nothing wrong with stopping by 10 or more times per day, even if it’s just to get a cup of coffee or to ask how I did in my latest race. Being the only teenage employee, I get the blunt of the mockery from these regulars. I like to think it’s because most of the old men that tease me know that I will tease them right back about having nothing better to do than to hang around the station to annoy me all day. Not only do they tease me, but almost every one of them has their own nickname for me. I can always count on ole’ Mick Collins’ eyes to brighten as soon as he walks through the door as he yells, “Ayyy, it’s my Squawberry!”  or Jim Sevier’s almost permanent frown to curl at the ends to see “Smiley” for a few minutes while he gets his Bud Light. 

Some of these regulars aren’t always the regulars that I look forward to seeing. They are the creeps. When Ralph comes in to get his Arizona Peach Tea, there is no getting rid of him for at least three hours, making them the most uncomfortable hours of my life. The constant stares, invites to take me to places like Omaha and Sturgis, and the highly inappropriate jokes make for a teenage girl’s worst nightmare, especially if I’m working alone. 

“Those tight pants look great on you,” he’ll say with wandering eyes. 

“You need to leave. You need to leave right now.”

“What? Why? Then we wouldn’t be able to screw around in the back.” 

“Ralph, I’m about to call the sheriff. Get out of this building.”

How do you get rid of customers like this? The fool proof way is to call your dad and have him come run him off! Ralph had been sitting at the table across from the checkout counter for 3 hours and had yet to take his eyes off of me for a millisecond. Fortunately, it was getting close to suppertime. This gave me the perfect excuse to call my father to have him “bring me supper.” I could have lived without supper for the night, but what I couldn’t live with was Ralph’s eyes on me for a single minute longer. As soon as I mentioned that my dad was on his way, Ralph shuffled his way out of the station to fit his whale-sized body into his peanut sized green Ford. 
 
Sometimes I wish it were socially acceptable for me to take a picture of some peoples’ faces—not in a creepy way like you may think! The reaction on the travelers’ faces when they realize how small our tiny town really is, is absolutely hysterical. These travelers’ that come from the far off lands of New York City and California are very curious about our culture “out yonder in the stix.”

“How many people live here? A couple thousand?” 

“No, about 180.”

“180,000?”

“No, only 180 people.” 

“So, do you see a lot of famous people in here?”

“Honey, you are in the middle of the Sandhills. The only famous person around here is the star high school football player.” 

All these city slickers get a kick out of the cowboys that come in. They won’t leave until they have taken a picture with them and successfully sent it to all of their friends back in the city along with posting it to all social media, bragging that they saw a “genuine cowboy.” They are constantly asking questions about the town, how it is to go to a small school, and what we do for fun. 

Sturgis week is the biggest week of the year for gas stations. Thousands of bikers roar in on their Harleys on their way to South Dakota for the week long rally. During Sturgis, we often set up a map of the Unites States so people can mark where they are from. Unfortunately, this board isn’t large enough. Bikers come from everywhere—from New Zealand to North Africa, we get them all. Out of all these bikers that come through, we are bound to see at least one or two from one of the more notorious biker gangs in the country. I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen the One Percenter’s emblem on the black leather shoulder of a biker.  Not all these bikers are known for their good deeds. A lot of them come from gangs like Hell’s Angels and The Bandidos that are on the run for crimes such as assault, theft, and murder.  This is never very nerve racking for me as some people may think. I didn’t feel intimidated at all when a Hell’s Angel came in with narrowed eyes, looking like he was ready to take someone’s head off. Most of the time there is always someone working with me, especially during Sturgis. Sometimes the boss has no choice but to leave me to fend for myself, but I don’t mind. After all, if something bad did happen, how many people could say they went up against Hell’s Angels all by themselves?

The most frequent travelers that seem to pass by are elderly folks. Some of these people can be the sweetest that you will ever meet. Others are not so sweet. Some will come in screaming because they can’t figure out how to run the gas pumps, some will give me a $20 tip just for making them a pot of coffee, but my favorite type of elderly customers are the veterans. As soon as I catch glimpse of a cap with their unit name and the words “Vietnam War” I thank them for their service. I’m sure they get thanked all the time when they wear those caps but something as simple as a thank you can spark a flame in their eye about their past. The next hour or so is often spent intently listening to all the gruesome, inspirational, and awing stories of their time spent overseas. 

“When I signed up for the Army, I thought I would be tracking down the enemy, not killing innocent civilians. Sitting up in that bomber, they looked like ants running around. They had no idea what was coming. It’s almost like I could hear their screams from way up there. I can still hear them, you know. Every night when I’m trying to go to sleep, I hear them.” 


All the biographies in our library and all of the stories in history books cannot amount to any of the stories I have heard about the struggles of these former soldiers. Sure, I may not get any cleaning or bookwork done while I’m listening to their war stories, but these stories have helped shaped my appreciation for those who sacrifice everything to keep others safe.
 
All the people that I interact with on a daily basis have a story to tell. When life gets to moving too fast, you often forget that all these people have their own troubles and heartaches, prides and joys, just like you do. Working as a cashier at Hodges Cenex is more than just helping travelers keep moving down the highway, selling them combos and ice cream, and cleaning up after them once they leave. It’s a way to connect with people from all walks of life.




Venti Crappucino with an Extra Shot of Awful


By Victoria Rouch

HONK! As if the drive-through commotion isn’t loud enough with the kids in the car at the speaker shrieking at each other, now some impatient jerk things laying on his horn is going to make the line move! Nobody likes dealing with a difficult customer. The popularity of the saying ‘The customer is always right’ doesn’t help things much, either. If the customer is always right, they are always happy.  However, in the retail industry you find out that the customer is hardly ever right, and even if you abide their every whim, they are usually not very happy. Working at Starbucks I deal with these people every day.  There are four types of difficult customers that I deal with daily at Starbucks. These include slow customers, impatient customers, angry and rude customers and the occasional creep.
 
Slow customers are the least difficult.  They order slowly, they come through the drive through slowly, and they are slow to pick up their drink.  There is a couple that comes through our drive thru every night.  They stop at the speaker and wait about a minute before saying, slowly, “I’d like a tall skinny cinnamon dolce latte with breve and one pump of white mocha.”  Then they sit at the speaker for about 30 more seconds after we’ve taken their order. They then drive up to the window.  We all know that by ‘skinny’ they mean ‘with whipped cream’. They also usually want another drink the same way, they just don’t order it until they get to the window because they’ve forgotten, most likely because they are stoned. This causes the line to get backed up because we have to make a whole other drink that should have been started before they even drove up to the window. 

Impatient customers are usually the ones in a hurry, or those that are under the impression that their order is more important than everyone else’s.  A lot of customers make it a habit to stop by Starbucks on their lunch break or on their way to work.  If I am late for work, I don’t stop. I drive as fast as possible to get to work so I’m not late, and so I don’t get fired.  These customers come in, even when the drive-thru line is overflowing and the parking lot is jammed full.  There is one girl that comes in and orders a venti caramel macchiato with lots of whip cream and an extra espresso shot. Espresso shots take at least 18 seconds to come out of the machine so that is time consuming in itself.  She will then order some cookies, which we have usually run out of by the afternoon shift, go to the bar and wait for her drink, and stare down whomever is making it.  She will roll her eyes and sigh “I’m late for work can you hurry up?’”  Another impatient customer I dealt with recently was a trucker whom ordered a coffee with a shot of espresso and steamed milk.  His drink was next in line to be made. 

When I picked up the drink just before his he looked at me and yelled, “Oh, we’re gonna play that game are we?!” 

I was so shocked! I calmly said “Sir, this drink was in line before yours, so I’m making if first. Yours will be right out.” He just huffed and puffed something about having to get on the road, and I stifled the urge to spit in his drink as I handed it out.

Most of the time the customers whose drinks I really want to spit in are the angry and rude ones.  There is a man who comes in every day named Paul. Paul gets a grande coffee with light ice and refill after refill after refill of the same drink.  When I take Paul’s order he doesn’t speak to me; he just assumes I know what he’s getting.  If I ask him what he wants, just to make sure he doesn’t want to change it up a bit, he talks down to me and throws his Starbucks Gold card across the counter. Another rude regular is a woman named Lisa. We all dread having to deal with Lisa. She always asks us to do ridiculous things, and if we don’t do them, she gets ridiculously mad.  One day she asked Abby to put her drinks in a paper bag so they wouldn’t make a mess in her car.  Obviously Abby thought that was a dumb idea so she handed Lisa a bag so she could do it herself.  Lisa then called corporate to complain that we were not making her drinks correctly and that we are rude to her. As awful as Lisa encounters are, the worst experience I’ve ever had with a customer was with a man traveling with his family.  One day his preteen daughter came in and ordered a venti Vanilla Bean frappucino with caramel. Now, when you order a drink with caramel you will get it with caramel flavoring.  I made her drink in this way. She took it and left.  A few minutes later her father came storming in.

“This isn’t what she ordered! Make my drink right!” The assistant manager, Tina, tried to explain to him that the drink he was holding was exactly what his daughter had ordered.

 “No, it’s usually brown, it’s usually brown.” he kept saying. Finally we realized he wanted caramel drizzle inside the cup and on top of the whipped cream.  I graciously remade his drink after suggesting he order the drizzle next time so we knew exactly what he wanted.  The next day the same family came through the drive thru and ordered a vanilla bean frappucino with caramel. Guess what I made! When the man got to the window and the drive thru barista handed out his drink, he lost it. 

“This isn’t what we ordered!” He screamed through the sliding window as it tried to close on Tina. “It’s really sad that you guys can’t get this right!” Tina tried to reason with him, and then tried to tell his daughter why she had received her drink incorrectly again. The man yelled “Don’t yell at my daughter!” At that point Tina burst into tears.  Sue, the store manager came to the drive through and gave the man five certificates for free drinks just so he would leave. I am always thankful that he was just travelling through and that I don’t have to deal with him on a regular basis. 

Rude customers seem like terrible people until you associate with the creepy ones.  There is a man that comes into Starbucks every night in a dirty orange sweatshirt.  His white hair is always a mess and his eyes never rest on one spot, like they’re chasing an invisible fly.  We are polite to him but as soon as we hand out his drink he will stand and stare at me for a good three minutes.  He used to try and talk to me about anything and everything but lately I have stopped acknowledging him, because if I engage him he will stay in the store for 20 minutes.  Yet another encounter I had with a ‘creepy’ customer was when I went on break a couple weeks ago.  I grabbed my free drink from the handout plane and went to sit in the corner.  As soon as I sat down a middle aged man with glasses walked up to me. 

“Do you go to the university? He said.

“Excuse me?”

“Do you go to the college out here?”

“Uhh, yeah.” 

He then continued, “Oh okay well I just wanted to say that I’m a pastor and you should keep Jesus Christ in your life and have a good day.” And then he left. I immediately got up and walked to the back room where I sat down on the stool.  I told Sue what had happened and she promptly told me that man is a sex offender.  I will never sit in the lobby again.

Probably the creepiest man I have ever encountered at Starbucks was the homeless man that strolled right up to the drive through window between me and a customer’s car, trying to exchange his coin rolls for cash. I had no idea what to do so I called my shift supervisor, Brett, over. Brett hurriedly exchanged the coins and got the man out of the drive through as quickly as possible, then hurriedly apologized to the appalled customer. After this ordeal we finally opened the rolls of “dimes” only to find out that they were actually pennies and the homeless man had swindled us out of fifteen dollars.  Brett called the police to warn them that people were doing this kind of thing, and as he was on the phone the man stumbled over to our ‘Thank You’ sign and peed on it. 

Though most of the customers don’t pee in front of me, they are still pretty interesting.  Some customers are nice. However, the majority of them will be slow, impatient and rude; or if you’re lucky, just creepy.

Are you ready for 2014’s polar vortex?



B Jasmine Simpson

Newsflash: It’s really cold outside. Sure, you’ve got your nice warm hoodie on and your car is blaring the heater as high as it can go. Are you really warm though? Are you able to face that frigid wind for more than the half-a-minute walk from your car to the college? Chances are, your ears are ready to fall off and your nose is lighting up like Rudolph.


People, there is a way to avoid this horrid feeling. There is a way to be prepared for the cold weather and it does not just involve donning a hoodie with some sweatpants. To be truly ready, you need to plan for a walk longer than half a minute. 

For those of you who drive to school, don’t just wear your winter clothes, pack some extra in your car. You never know what passengers of yours will need it. Make sure you always have spare gloves, coats, hats, boots and blankets in case your car breaks down. Whether you have to walk home or not, you will be grateful to have extra layers keeping you warm. 

This second bit you probably don’t even need to be told. It’s always best to remember that keeping your cell phone charged is vital. Getting stranded with a dead battery in the middle of the winter has happened to many people, and the outcome was hardly ever good. Being able to instantly call someone for a ride is a privilege not many people have; use it well. 

Last of all, you should really have spare food, such as energy bars and trail mixes, stored in your car. This should be super essential when traveling home for the holidays. Having extra food means less chances of starving and freezing when your car decides to die on you. Water bottles could be packed, but it is easier to bring a new bottle every time you get in your car (this deters getting stuck with frozen water). 

Well, that’s all there is to it folks! If there is any preparation tips not mentioned above that you feel our readers should be aware of, feel free to comment below. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Buried Monuments



by Jasmine Simpson
Shrieking hinges break the silence

Shivers tingle up the spine

Lost no more beneath the earth


Here lie ruins of lives untold

Rustic assets turned to scrap

Now inhale a modern glory

All these relics of the past

Inspire anew the thirst for change