by Justin Kenward
Thursday, August 8th was my last day working at the Menifee Valley Thrift Store. There were so many reasons to leave, like not wanting to spend another year contracting illnesses from unsanitary donations: cat litter scoopings, soiled underwear, used sex toys, couches soaked in pet urine, bags of clothing with maggots mixed in and a host of other biological toxins. I needed a new challenge.
If you work in a thrift store that helps people, you should show up with a good optimistic view for your work. But it didn’t turn out that way. This place had a large sense of gloom and despair. The workers and even the volunteers were grouchy. One elderly woman who was retired always came in complaining about everything. Then there was another elderly woman who never complained but never spoke to anyone else. She too was a volunteer.
We had some people serving in community service spots. Once, one of the girls started asking several people where I lived. I found out she needed a paycheck, from a full time job, to graduate out of the program. So she decided she wanted to slash my tires to get my paid position.
I was working full time at first. I worked out in the back, in the heat. Mainly, I had to go out on the truck to pick up donations, like furniture, and make sure they were saleable, not covered in urine, ripped, broken. Just when I started the job, they accepted a baby grand piano. My coworker Steve and I went out. He was a high strung guy, always talking, always moving, never had a pause button. We never got any instruction on how to move the baby grand piano.
It was in a small apartment with a very small door. The customer didn’t remember correctly that the legs had to be detached to move it. So first thing that happened, the legs collapsed under the weight of the piano as we tilted it. And then we had to struggle to keep it from crashing to the floor because we didn’t have the right dolly, which began collapsing from the weight.
When we got it to the door, there was a shade wall outside that blocked us as we were halfway out. We angled, pivoted, twisted. The more we moved it, the more we heard things inside breaking. Then once we got it outside, we forgot to remove the lid, which then fell open and hit the ground.
We got it to the sidewalk, but that didn’t end the fun. We had about 40 – 50 feet of cracked sidewalk, tilted over time, to cross to get to the truck. At the truck, we had to go from the curb to the street and then the truck. Funny how a five inch drop can seem like miles with a piano resting on your legs.
When we started, we had a nice piano but with broken legs and pieces inside falling out, they couldn’t sell it anymore. It stayed in back of the truck till the boss could think of what to do. It took her a month to find a piano repairman who bought it for $300 for the parts.
This happened constantly. They didn’t think about training, there were no “how to” videos, Steve never wanted to drive and always made me drive. So before I even had the proper insurance, I was driving that truck.
Steve at one point quit in a rage. He was always at odds with manager Kim, the two mixed like water and oil. In fact, Steve managed to wait to go out on deliveries until just before Kim showed up, so he could be out of the store longer, out of Kim’s presence.
One day, I came in finding that Steve had quit. He had intentionally pushed Kim’s buttons so that Kim yelled at him. Steve yelled back, threw his walkie-talkie across the room and left. A few days later, he told me he quit. A few months later, Kim herself was terminated. One of the employees claimed they saw her steal something. Kim denied it, went before unemployment court where the Thrift Store lost and she got her benefits.
Later, I found Steve had returned to working even though he had quit while yelling and cussing and screaming and breaking equipment. They welcomed him back with open arms.
In the meantime, a new manager seemed to object to me because I had returned to school and cut my hours for a job in the photo lab. I went out to work everyday, on time, and went out to collect items. I sweated and bled for the store. My foot still hurts from the pallet that fell on it, my back still hurts from that piano. My scarred knee doesn’t want to heal. Six colds, three flus and two missing wisdom teeth inflamed because of the flu. So I never understood her attitude. Maybe it was because I never went to the company barbeques.
The new semester started and my job at the college started.
Photos by Justin Kenward. Top to bottom:
This Teddy Bear sums up my experience working at this store.
Customers left these items outside in the elements. The lamp was too chipped and the clothing suffered from the weather. None of it could be sold.
One morning, I found this just lying on the steps outside the store.
Seasonal items were stored in this junk room at the back of the store.