I was a sucky teenager. I pretty much did what my parents and teachers told me, and only broke the rules if I was on my way to the Planetarium to see the Pink Floyd laser show. That lack of a rebel spirit had its upsides – I got into university and passed my driving test the first time. But it also almost meant a career that would have added a heaping serving of mockery to the virginity buffet that was my teenage years.
Douchebag owned, douchebag operated
It all started when I got a job as a barista at a crappy little coffee shop owned by a guy named Doug. Physically, he was not well maintained. Even his goatee had dandruff. His personality was worse – an unpleasant mix of racist jokes and questionable management directives like “mustard never goes bad, so it’s okay to still use the tub I bought four years ago”, and “I can save $20 a month if we turn off the refrigerator in the pastry case.” And there was the whole problem — whatever he asked me to do, I did, even if it meant picking fruit flies out of the custard tarts.
Everyone loves a parade
On my coffee shop’s little strip of boutiques and restaurants, a parade was held each year with local Boy Scout troops, a fire engine and a sex-offender or two selling cotton candy.
The day before that summer’s big event, my boss pulled an outfit of sorts out of the back storage hole. He brushed off the mouse droppings, proudly held it up, and said “you have to wear this at tomorrow’s parade.”
At least it wasn’t anything a furry would like
This was a mascot costume of a giant coffee cup. Morose and stain-ridden, it was notable mainly for the brave and memorable b.o. stench that still lingered from whatever unlucky assholes had worn it to parade’s past. He held it out to me and said “It gets real bunchy if you wear jeans. You have any brown tights?”
He suggested if it was really hot I could just wear underwear inside the costume. I’m pretty sure he was joking about that, though, because nobody’s going to take a 2-for-1 latte coupon from a giant coffee cup with naked, hairless legs sticking out the bottom. Nobody besides the cotton candy vendors.
Mockery AND stinking like sweat? Sign Me Up
I’m not proud to admit it, but I would’ve worn the costume to the parade. I would have almost puked with embarrassment, but I would’ve done it because I was a sucky teenager, remember?
But then Doug got greedy. “And if it goes well, we’ll get you to go up and down the street every Sunday in the Mr. Coffee outfit.”
Every Sunday. That’s what did it. Suddenly my desperate desire to never stand up to an authority figure got into a thumb fight with my equally desperate desire never stand out in a crowd.
I looked my boss straight in the eye and said “No.”
“Put it on. I’m not asking.” He menacingly flicked a fruit fly from out of his teeth.
“I can’t wear that. People will laugh at me.”
“I’ll have to fire you.”
“I’m okay with that.”
I stared. He stared back. And then he laughed. And said he didn’t think I was stupid enough to wear it, but he had to try.
And that’s when I suddenly bit down on a crunchy taquito of wisdom that I would later use in my screenwriting career. That wisdom that taught me that there are some things you just shouldn’t do. And they’re worth quitting over. And if you’re honestly willing to quit over them, usually you won’t have to anyway. Also, I never throw out mustard.