When I was in 17 and in high school I worked in the pharmacy at Target. It was the neatest job, and not just because technically it made me a drug dealer. I definitely wasn’t cool enough for that to be a thing. Though it didn’t stop friends and strangers at parties from asking if I could roll their joint for them. KIDDING, mom.
I never got invited to parties.
I was a total dork, but it must have dazzled the hiring managers with my winning personality so they gave me the job. It was the perfect job for a type-A, rule-follower with a jammed-packed extracurricular and academic schedule that included very serious things like showchoir and theater. I only worked nine hours each week, from 4-7pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and about eight of those were spent wondering the aisles of Target. As you can guess, not much has changed in my adult life.
I learned a bunch of cool stuff at that job that is interesting even today. For example, I can deconstruct a doctor’s handwriting on prescriptions with expert accuracy. BID = twice per day, TID = three times per day, AL = left ear, etc. VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION. I also memorized weird things like what antibiotics treated strep throat versus herpes and the generic names of every antidepressant on the market. My photographic memory has never proved more useful. It was exciting, too, to learn how medicine healed the body. NERD ALERT. In fact, if I was better at math I probably would have gone to medical school and become a pharmacist. But I was a really dumb kid.
And also clueless. Part of my job was cashiering at the pharmacy counter. This proved to be an anthropological study in weird stuff people want to buy discretely. I get it, being spotted by your neighbor with an economy-sized bottle of stool softeners in your shopping cart is not my idea of fun, either. It was always entertaining to bag up a Nicholas Spark book for a roughed up biker dude, or trashy lingerie for the Mennonite women, or a pregnancy test for your 10th grade history teacher. Small talk in those situations was… interesting. People would come to the counter constantly asking where things were located in the store and part of my job, obviously, was to help them find it.
I come from a fairly strict background. My dad is a Southern Baptist minister and my upbringing was super sheltered. My high school taught abstinence-only sex education. Purity rings were a thing I actually coveted. True Love Waits, ya’ll. Save room for Jesus! Plus, I was fat and no teenage boy wanted to hold my hand, much less touch my thigh meats. So, when this older McDreamy look-a-like dude asked me where the KY jelly was located, I was happy help… except I had to no freaking idea what that was.
“Would that be with the peanut butter?” I asked.
OMFG. McDreamy dude turned 50 shades of red and just looked at me, probably trying to figure out if I legitimately didn’t have a clue or if I was just an asshole trying to punk him.
“What is it used for?” I, probably the last innocent 17 year old in existence, pressed him further. I mean, I took my job as the helpful Target cashier very seriously. I began walking around to the front to look down the aisles, quite perplexed that I hadn’t run into this item at any point in the eight hours each week I had walked around the store. At this point I’m sure he was about to beg me to stop helping.
The pharmacist, a gay man in his 40’s who found my “quirky” innocence adorable, offered to help the customer find his item on aisle 17. Of course! I had never been down aisle 17 because, let’s put it this way, none of my extracurricular activities required any forms of latex. I owe everything I know about unsanctioned pop music, relationships, hell, even pot, and all the stuff found down that aisle to Richard… and later the internet, of course.
Shoot, sometimes I still wish I had a Richard around to explain some of the weird crap people are doing nowadays. Thank god for the internet.