No one truly wonders what is around nightclubs while they’re drunk; however, it is usually the people that live around there that explore things other than the club. Naturally at some point in time we will all have to get a job to maintain ourselves. Since birth my family has always worked for themselves. In a certain way, I have never had to struggle to find a job and have worked for family since I can remember. I have had to jump around from working for my cousins, to my uncles and aunts, and ultimately working with my mom at our grocery store. My job is filling in any spot that is needed in the store I work in. I’ve had to work all the way from sticking my hand in the clogged plumbing and go deposit money in the bank. In all honesty, the job is not that great but the people and community involved have made it worth more than anything.
My first real position was a butcher position and it consisted of going into the freezers and coolers, pulling a specific piece of meat, taking it either to the cutting table or place it on the electric saw. Either way it ended up on a nice folded grass green piece of paper inside of a stainless-steel tray, and then wrap it in saran wrap to be able to place it in the display case. From there I would move on to the next cut of meat until I finished doing my section of the display case, and wait on people from outside Aldine Mail road to come in and ask me to give them what they would end up cooking for dinner later. Sometimes the clients would come in not knowing what they wanted to cook for dinner so we would start naming dishes until we guessed one that they wanted.
Working as a butcher is where I started to realize how odd the customers in that area are but also being unique to the community they live in. The early 6am customers consisted of hard working construction people, most of them went there to try and find someone to give them a job for the day. They usually stayed from 6am to 9am, and after that most of the people that came after were mothers and wives that came in to do their daily shopping. This is when the economic, financial, and legal borders become clear. I would see some of the customers go straight for unnecessary things such as candy, imported drinks, and chips; however, some of the others stayed in what I ended up calling the “bare minimum” section that consisted of all raw bagged food such as beans, rice, and potatoes. The funniest and oddest thing about the whole situation was that four out of ten times the two groups would end up paying with food stamps. Majority of the community would rely on food stamps. If they did not need food stamps it is because they usually were drug dealers or sometimes the drug dealers would have food stamps because they could not report the money they earned due to them not being able to launder their money.
One of the customers who used to be a drug dealer would tell me that his friends would launder their money by investing in a property and building a business on the property. It was slightly depressing seeing the drug dealers and other people mostly need to walk across the street into the poorly maintained apartments that was mainly occupied by hurricane Katrina victims.
I first heard they were badly maintained by the guy who does the maintenance himself. The man who does the maintenance is Cuban and always comes for two things: a pack of Marlboro light 100s, and to complain about his job. The main thing he hates about doing the maintenance is not the job itself, but the materials they give him to fix or maintain the apartments. Almost all the materials he is given is either the cheapest item or it’s a second-hand item that was salvaged from the trash. I never believed it was as bad as it sounded, until I had a girlfriend who lived in the apartments that the Cuban maintained.
I went to the apartments to originally meet her mother, which I did do, but I did not pay any attention to her after I walked into the apartment. The paint on the walls was as bad as an elephant hiding behind a leaf. It was obvious that the sheetrock had water damage and was merely just brushed over with one thin layer of paint. The bathroom sink and shower only had cold water running through its piping, and the toilet was leaking water from the tank itself and the base of the toilet due to cracks it had. The rooms were entirely too small and had bad air conditioning systems because most of the apartment was always hot. At first I thought it was just them who kept their apartment that bad, but it was not until later when I visited my girlfriend’s friends’ apartments where I saw it was just the whole complex that was bad. The only apartment I witnessed that had none of these issues was because the father of the girl was a remodeler.
I ended up learning most of the gossip from the customers when I switched from being behind the glass display case to the front either reorganizing the produce section or stocking the shelves. I would usually make small talk to the customers if they needed something from me or just wanted to talk. Some of the men and women would start to tell me what they were going to cook, and even give me the recipes of their dishes. During the small talks the people would either complain about their day at work or home, or they would talk about their personal lives with me, which made me feel uncomfortable with some of things they would tell me.
It was okay with me for the customers to come and talk with me but, it made me feel odd talking with one of the employees, who was also a butcher. His name was Bernabe and he would love to call me to the back and show off how clean or organized he had the butcher area. Normally, after he was done with that he would love to come and try to tell me how to do my job and show off his home that he sent to be built in Mexico for his family. As I would get more and more annoyed with the conversation I would usually ask him about his drinking problem to make him stop talking to me and get us both back to work.
Most of the other employees are interesting people. At times my mother and sister, who also work at the store, start suggesting that we should start charging an entrance fee as if we were a circus because of the things the employees say or do at times. I’ll start from the front of the store all the way to the back in naming the employees and something about them: Roberto is the cashier that loves to watch beauty contests and does his eyebrows when there are no customers, E is the manager of the kitchen section and is Honduran but can drink like a sailor, L is in charge of all the cooking for the day but loves to drink just as much as E on her days off, E2 is one of the regular kitchen ladies but is the most political out of all the workers, J is the manager of the whole meat and kitchen section, he’s a total ladies’ man but is married, I’ve already talked about B, and last but not least B2 is B’s roommate who also loves to drink. The two occasionally get drunk together and not show up to work, and make J stay the whole day. I love going to the back and talking to him knowing he’s frustrated because he could not go fishing that afternoon. Then he goes off on a long rant of how those two employees are so ungrateful and irresponsible.
Since J has been working there for years he has seen my sister and I grow up. So, anytime I would defend the butchers for not working he would bring up my dumb childhood mistakes, such as locking myself in the meat freezer or cutting the tip of my thumb off on my first day as a butcher. Either way the two butchers would get scolded by Jesus and my mom the next day or the day they decided to come back.
My mom and dad originally opened the store in 1996 with the help of my aunt M, who gave her the loan to start up the store. By 2001 personal issues between my mom and dad forced them to divorce, leaving my mom to be the sole owner of the business with two small children at the time. Since my sister and I were so young she decided to leave one of her sisters and her son to run the store. Yet again issues arose but this time they were related to money. My mom, seeing that she still had two young children she had to look after, decided it was best to turn a blind eye. My mom said it was easier to fix a store close to bankruptcy rather than have a pocket full of money but her children be out of control. After the years passed my sister was now in college and I was halfway through high school. My mom saw it was best to relive my aunt and her son from working with us for 10 years. This is when my mother asked us to work for her and we happily accepted. When my sister and I went in to help her, we saw that we were heavy in debt with some of our suppliers and had to talk with them explaining our situation. It has been three years since the three of us have taken over, and by what my mom tells her friends and family. She is glad we have helped her run the store because she knows she could not have done it without us.
Everyone has some type of job, either it being raising children or an actual salary job. My mom was right about the grocery store about almost being a circus. My job simply consists of doing and dealing with everything at my mom’s store. In the end, it is worth my time since it will make for great stories later in life.