“Tales of a Scorched Coffee Pot” — Chapter 16

Healthy Hippie deli department
Healthy Hippie deli department

He hates to see Dolly go. She was one of his earliest and most vocal champions, and this isn’t something he takes lightly, or will ever forget. Also, as a sidebar, it’s worth noting that she was continually trying to hook Edgar up with her daughter, and while this didn’t happen, he appreciates the effort.

These twin topics are dominating his thoughts, in the wake of Dolly’s firing. As is always the case, a circling of the wagons is enacted between the survivors, taking stock of what this shakeup means. An assessment of which allies are left, and looking at these hardy souls with a newfound, greater appreciation. But also, yes, this whole notion of employee relations — for Dolly’s daughter is in fact a cashier at Southside — and how it pertains to his current status.

It’s something he typically acts on with a little more swiftness. But in reality has been a little too busy, at work and elsewhere, to even catch his breath. Not to mention that wading into this murky swamp of middle management, or whatever you would call it, is mostly unfamiliar terrain to him, and the policies that go with it. He’s been a department manager many times over, for various grocery and other retail outfits, but this is sort of a step above.

At least, this is his impression of how things lay. Though Edgar has thus far managed to successfully dodge those dreadful department manager roundups, every Monday morning in the conference room, Duane did advise him early on that, “you probably wanna be sittin in on any other management type meetings.” And as such, if he is considered management, it’s his impression that fraternizing with the help, so to speak, is frowned upon.

Granted, if something cropped up, he probably would not avoid it. But the thought of filing official paperwork with the HR department, over a casual hookup or something, does send shivers down one’s spine. Not only that, but it pays to be cautious, because in a sense doing so, when you are known to be linked to someone else working at the same establishment, basically implies that you are signing off on everything that person is doing, too.

While romantic sparks never fly between Edgar and Dolly’s daughter, Diane, he does consider her a really cool chick, as far as he can tell, smart and pretty, and nearly as funny as her mom. Like for instance the morning he arrives at work and finds a note she left on this desk, attached to a receipt for arrowroot powder. He must have screwed something up with his latest price update, because it’s now ringing up at $79 million per pound. A customer was trying to purchase two pounds and it only charged him a cool $158 mil.

This seems…um…a bit HIGH! she wrote, with a smiley face.

Then again, aside from maybe Pierre and the BBQ acid casualty, the staff here on balance does continue to display much less neurotic behavior than the other two locations. Aside from early allies like Craig and Dale, or the merchandisers who also spend more time at Southside than anywhere else, he’s also hit it off over the ensuing months with characters such as the produce manager Pablo, an exceptionally cheerful and hardworking fellow. He always shouts out, “GOOD MORNING MISTER EDGAR!” in rapid fire fashion, essentially one long boisterous word, to which Edgar replies identically with Pablo’s name.

Or you can even take the example of Willie who, despite whatever mental disorders he might be dealing with, nonetheless has a great attitude, is reliable, and actually pretty intelligent when it comes to certain topics. Edgar thinks Willie is a mighty cool dude, actually, and for example they can talk about football at great length. Of course, you can always count on him to keep you continually guessing, with a steady diet of curveballs, too, as part and parcel of the Willie experience. Like the company picnic earlier in the summer, where some of the employees’ kids were running around throwing water balloons at one another, and one of these happens to explode at Willie’s feet as he was walking across the lawn.

“What the fuck!?” he jumped in the air and blurted at considerable volume, genuinely startled by this development — just as the parents and children within earshot were by his language at this family friendly affair.

Then there is the day of their most recent inventory, when, as is custom, the store orders pizza for everyone on hand. For whatever reason Willie was chosen to make the announcement that their food had arrived in the conference room. Over the intercom they can hear him pick up the phone, his identify obvious despite not saying a complete word for quite some time, as he croaks out a series of “eh…uh…ah…um…” type monosyllables, followed by a short silence as he continues to struggle with the exact phrasing here. Then simply shouts, “CHOW TIME!” and hangs up.

There just seems to be far more uncomplicated friendless here in general. Big city or not, to Palmyra’s small college town, for example, this is a less pretentious region for sure than that somewhat uppity enclave to the north. And it translates down to the help.

Even when dealing with other big city complications, like discovering that the police down here are not messing around, this phenomenon is well represented. One morning Edgar is popped directly in front of the store for driving with expired tags, and pulls into their parking lot with the cop car right behind him. Such is also the current sorry state of Edgar’s transportation that his driver’s side window doesn’t roll down, thus he cracks open the door instead. At least until the officer advises on foot with one hand resting on his holstered gun.

“DO NOT EXIT THE VEHICLE!” the policeman shouts.

“I wasn’t…I’m just opening the door, my window doesn’t…”

“DON’T OPEN THE DOOR!”

Edgar swiftly shuts the door and rolls down his rear window instead, as they will transact conversation and paperwork both in this manner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem he will be able to negotiate his way out of a fine. However, upon entering the building, he discovers that Aria witnessed the whole thing from her cash register, via the spacious glass store front, and asks him what the deal is.

Maybe half an hour later, after he’s finished explaining his tale and drifted upstairs, she materializes in his office with…a blank 30 day temporary tag? Yes. Smiles and hands it to him, explaining that she just so happened to have this with her. Edgar doesn’t ask why she carries one of these around — isn’t sure he wants to know, really — but is extremely thankful, just the same, and screws it onto his car before leaving.

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