I’ve been meaning to share this story for a while, but didn’t really have an impetus until I recently posted some related Homemade Comics on the subject. So a lot of this is culled from a few posts over there, but I know nobody reads words on Tumblr, so it should be fresh to most of you.
When I was about 13 (maybe going into 14 a bit), I worked as a stock boy at the 7-Eleven around the corner from my family’s apartment in Bensalem, Penn. My job was relatively straightforward: stock and straighten shelves, refill soda and Slurpee machines, restock the refrigerator, and sweep and mop when necessary. I think I also occasionally changed out the pretzels and hot dogs, experience that would serve me well in high school while running the concession stand at a movie theater. Working there in the summer was awesome, as hanging out in the cooler during hot, muggy days definitely beat being outside. In the winter, though, it could be brutal just to do things like taking out the trash. But for the most part, I loved it. It was easy, it earned me play money (which I presumably spent on comics and trips to the mall; I sure as hell didn’t save it), but the best part of the experience had nothing to do with the job itself.
See, the 7-Eleven gig afforded me first dibs on things like comics and magazines. I’d literally be the person to help unpack the new periodicals when they came in, so I kinda treated the Sev (as I like to call it) as my own personal comic book store. In addition, this was about the time the 1989 Batman movie came out, so there were a lot of inexpensive Batman toys coming in there (Do convenience stores in other states still carry toys? Because here in Nevada, they sure don’t.) — you know, cheap stuff like plastic detective tools, stickers, etc.
When there were things I wanted, I’d put them in a paper bag and hold them under the cashier counter until payday, at which point, one of the managers would ring me up for my stash, mark it “paid,” and at the end of my shift, I’d take the stuff home. It was like having a pull box at a comic shop. All good, right? Well, yeah, until I finally quit the job there (not sure why, I guess it just ran its course), and on what was probably my last day, I walked out with a bag full of stuff marked “paid,” as I often did, except … I didn’t pay for it.
I don’t know why I did that. I gamed the system. I took the trust of these nice people who employed me (and they were great to work for), and kinda threw it in their face (although they had no idea, until now maybe?). OK, to be fair, this was penny-ante stuff, maybe $30 worth of comics and toys. But it was super lame of me to do, and though I’m not proud of it, I can at least admit it now while chalking it up to stupid things we do as kids.
Anyway, to this day, when I smell burnt coffee left sitting in a pot on a burner, it instantly takes me back to the Sev, and those innocent times when my biggest decision was whether to have a free hot dog or free pretzel for lunch, and my worst sin was stealing plastic Batman handcuffs and a Quasar comic. Good times.