Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Bakery (Part I)


By age sixteen, I had already been playing the guitar for nine years, and was in a rock and roll band playing Hendrix and Zeppelin cover tunes. I was practicing my guitar for an average of 2 hours a day on the weekdays, and 6 hours a day on the weekends. When my parents told me I had to decide between playing an extracurricular sport after school and getting a part time job, I opted for the latter.

By the time I was a teenager, sports and I had gone our separate ways. In eighth grade, while trying to shoot a lay-up in gym class, Mikey M. stuffed me-- jamming and breaking my pinky simultaneously. I couldn’t play the guitar for six weeks! From that day on, basketball was out of the question: nothing came between my guitar playing and me.

First year of high school, I wasn’t too keen on playing softball, but tried out anyway. Once, while pitching, a line drive busted my lower lip in more than one place, and that is when sports and I officially parted ways.

Since I was kid, I had my sights on working at our local bakery. The owner, Cal, wouldn’t let me work off the books, but told me to inquire as soon as I turned sixteen. My father drove me to the bakery the day after my sixteenth birthday, and Cal hired me on the spot.

I recall being both excited and apprehensive about my first day of work at the bakery: ‘excited’ because my dream job came to fruition, ‘apprehensive’ because Clara worked there. She was one of the main culprits who had made fun of me just years earlier because I preferred the Bionic Woman to the Six Million Dollar Man. I can still see her face as she mocked me in the hallway of our grammar school: Clara, with her feathered back hair that was styled with her all-too-fabulous pink Vidal Sassoon comb--as if having a plasic comb hanging out of your back pocket could possibly make you look cool.

Much to my delite, she left the bakery for a more promising and higher paying job several months after I was hired.

I became best of friends with many of the girls I worked with. Katrina, or “K”, as she was known to her friends, was one of my best friends in high school, and it was a total trip to spend my afternoons in the bakery with her. We were always clowning around while working, and being reprimanded by Babushka, or ‘Babs’ as we affectionately called her. Babs was a 60-something immigrant from the Ukraine. She was famous for never smiling and for completing sentences that she did not start. Here is a typical conversation with Babs:

Babs: “Why are you late today, Mardcy? Eh?

Marcy_Peanut: “I’m not late. I was supposed to be here at—

Babs: “Three o’clock. Eh? You should be here’d at two-fifdty if you want’d to be on time. Eh?”

Marcy_Peanut: “Uh…Yeah, but I don’t get out of school until—

Babs: “Two-forty. I know. (Nodding her head up and down) Everyone gets out of school at two fordty. In my country, you would be here on time or you would-t be fired’t!”

Marcy_Peanut: “But I am on time. I was supposed to be here at—

Babs: “ Three o’clock. I know. I know.” (She hems and haws while cleaning the class with vinegar and water.) "Jusdt get to work.”

Babs never appeared to be the happiest camper in the universe. She showed up to work every day in a yellow and white checkered dress and wore a bright white apron. She wore lovely white nurse shoes, one heel higher than the other one. Her hair was pulled back in a bun in keeping with her true babushka image. Not once did I see her crack a smile at work: maybe a smirk here and there, but never a complete smile. Yet, her face lit up every single time her husband walked through the door to take her home. My goal in life was to make her smile. I knew she was a lovely woman at heart, and that there was more to her than the military-like demerits she barked at K all day. There just had to be; no one could be that miserable. Sometimes I felt like saying to her., "Look lady, this is a bakery, not bootcamp. Lighten up!"

K was the kind of girl who—no matter where you were or what you were doing, you were going to have fun with her. She always brought out the silly-whacky side of me. I loved being around her. One of K’s neighbors worked at the bakery, too. Her name was Lauren, and even though she was great friends with K, I didn’t’ know her too well because she was shy. Another girl I met at work was Kim. She was quite the professional at work. It took K and me quite a while to get Kim to come out of her shell, but when she did, she was the funniest gal in the universe!

In 1985, afternoons at the bakery belonged to Lauren, Kim, K, Babs, and me. Lauren and Kim obsessed about keeping the till in order, I obsessed over keeping the pastries, cookies, and cakes organized in a visually pleasing manner, Babs over-obsessed about the cleanliness of the glass (telling us daily about the power of vinegar and water to get the job done!), and K kept us all amused with her incredible good humor.

During the spring of 1985, Hurricane Gloria paralyzed the East Coast. I remember knowing that a big storm was on the way, but was ignorant to the magnitude of her strength. I went to work as usual, expecting some rainfall and a bit of wind. I was in for a big surprise!

After school, on the fateful day that Gloria hit our town, I walked to the bakery with K. Working that afternoon were K and me, Kim, and two other girls, Sandy and Desiree. Sandy was hands down the most gullible person I have ever met. She believed everything that she was told, and although she didn’t appear to be the sharpest crayon in the box, she was very intelligent. More importantly, she was kind. Desiree was just beginning her tenure at the bakery: Sandy had talked Cal into hiring her just a week before the hurricane hit. Desiree was loud and obnoxious. Babs made it very clear that she couldn’t tolerate being in Desiree’s presence. Babs grunted something under her breath every time she encountered her.

There was also one other very important player in the bakery on the day Gloria hit: the Nazi window washer guy. He was a man of about 50 who walked around town washing windows all day. He carried with him a squeegee, a bucket, and a brown paper bag filled with cash. He always had a cigar in his mouth—a mouth decorated with a Hitler mustache. It was apparent by his personality, or lack thereof, and by his power to be innately mean and rude, that he was emulating Hitler and not Charlie Chaplin with the square mustache that sat right below his nostrils.

‘Mean Window Washer Guy’ entered the bakery the same time everyday. He would walk up to the counter, point to what he wanted with a swift jerk of the wrist—never making eye contact—and then would pull a dollar out of his brown paper bag to purchase said item. Before handing over the dollar, he would flatten the bill on the counter with both hands. Then, he would pick up the bill and hold it between thumb and forefinger on both ends. He would then snap the bill feverishly with both hands several times before handing it over to the clerk behind the counter. It was the consensus that the Mean Window Washer Guy was a miser, and this was the cause for such paranoia when paying for bakery items. I often mimiced his paranoia by snapping the bills several more times after he handed them to me--just to be completely sure there weren't several bills stuck together.

At the exact moment that Hurricane Gloria paralyzed my hometown, Mean Window Washer Guy was in the bakery. The wind began to pick up outside. I remember the rain blowing sideways and the sun suddenly disappearing behind the dark brown, ominous clouds. Mean Window Washer Guy looked scared to death as he clutched his paper bag to his chest. He found himself a place to ride out the storm right beside the refrigerator that housed the wedding cakes. All of the girls, myself included, huddled around the window behind the counter to get a glimpse of the harrowing wind and rain. Four girls pressed up against the window. I was both scared and exhilarated: I wondered if my life was going to end at the age of sixteen inside the bakery. I didn’t want to take any chances. I grabbed two large chocolate chip cookies and headed towards the back of the building that housed the baking supplies and ovens. K inquired what I was doing, to which I replied, “Making my last dinner one that counts!” I took the lid off the metal garbage can that was home to the butter cream icing. I dipped one of the cookies into the can, and made the most spectacular butter cream/chocolate chip cookie sandwich known to mankind. Most of the other girls followed suit. We took our sandwiches and headed back to the window. Babs, in the far corner of the store, rolled her eyes in dismay as she took a puff of her cigarette.

I was eating my cookie sandwich when K called my name from behind. I turned around and saw that she was holding a lemon meringue pie aimed directly at my face. I laughed aloud.

“Should I do it?” she asked.

“Yeah!” I grinned.

“Don’t you dare'd do dat’d!” yelled Babs from the corner.

“Should I?” asked K one last time.

“Yeah!” She pushed the meringue right into my face. I fell to the floor, laughing hysterically as I licked the pie off my lips. Kim blushed. I stood up, looked into the mirror behind the cash register and saw Babs over in the corner trying to bite back a smile. Desiree grabbed a pie and aimed it at Sandy’s face. Babs screamed, “DON’T YOU DARE'D! YOU WILL BE SURE TO BE FIRET’D! One time is ENOUGH!”

Desiree threw the pie at Sandy. Sandy cried. Mean Window Washer Guy stood expressionless, leaning against the refrigerator clutching his paper bag to his chest even tighter than before. Kim blushed in anger. She knew two pies in the face were too much to ask Babs to handle.

Over all, Gloria didn’t do as much damage outside as we managed to do to the bakery inside. We had so much fun that day, but, inevitably, someone had to take the fall. Desiree was canned. Babs had told on her, and not on K. Even if she had told on K, I don’t think Cal would have fired her. Cal was a great admirer of K’s lighthearted shenanigans. Desiree was rightfully pissed that she was the one whose job was terminated. After all, she was not the first one to throw a pie.

Desiree was screaming for vengeance. She devised a plan that would leave the bakery owner wondering what hit him. They say vengeance is better served cold, so we waited several days before implementing “MISSION: DIRTY UNDERWEAR”. I drove the car—a brown 1979 piece of junk station wagon that was large enough to hold all of the high school bakery employees. K, Kim, Desiree, Sandy, Lauren and I piled into the car and headed to the bakery at 11PM on a Friday night. We knew that the front door to the bakery would be open, as the bakers would be inside getting the next day’s goodies ready for sale. K opened the front door. We all tiptoed inside the bakery, armed with our lethal weapons: we each had in our hands a pair or two of dirty underwear we had swiped from our fathers and brothers, respectively. One by one, we draped the dirty underwear all over the bakery: on the corner of the pastry display case; around the round spool of bakery-box-tying thread; on the handle to the cupcake case; over the OPEN sign on the door. I wished I were a fly on the wall so I could have seen Cal’s expression when he saw the new dirty tidy-whities décor that adorned his beloved bakery.

To this day, no one has mentioned the tidy-whity incident. Cal never mentioned it, nor did Bab’s. Needless to say, Desiree didn’t get her job back, but MISSION: DIRTY UNDERWEAR was definitely the beginning of a fun career of hanging out with the gals from the bakery.

tags: , , ,

©2006 Marcy_Peanut. All rights reserved.


Blogger Mr. Althouse said...

Bravo! I wish I could remember my high school days in such detail. It all seems like a blur now. The shenanigans of my youth were perhaps not as creative as the "Dirty Underwear Mission" and sometimes not so innocent, but it brought back memories of a time when I really didn't have a care in the world however much I thought so.

Life is a funny thing when looked at in it's component parts - and even stranger when assembled into the complete picture thus far. An adventure to say the least!

Thank you for the advanced notice and I am honored and privileged to leave the first comment on this post.

Although I don't specifically remember Hurricane Gloria (I was in sunny San Diego at the time), I have had encounters with some exceptionally nasty weather and like you have been terrified and exhilarated simultaneously. I am something of a bad weather junkie. I'm not sure why, perhaps it is the sheer power of Mother Nature. It's just awesome.

BTW: I was kind of sweet on the Bionic Woman too!


4:06 PM  
Blogger Salbert said...

Ah, brings back those distant memories of Frances, Jeanne, and Wilma, even though they're not that distant.

Gotta love that sideways rain!

5:46 PM  
Blogger marcy_peanut said...

Hi MIKE: Yeah, 'innocence' is the most accurate word to describe my high school days. I was into good, clean fun, as you could tell. I had a solid bunch of friends: I recently ran into "K", whose name has been changed for obvious reasons, at a local store. I haven't seen her since high school (I moved to NYC right after I graduated from high school), and am looking forward to getting together with her to reminisce. I want to ask her what she remembers about the bakery and the underwear incident!

Thanks for all of your wonderful comments. You are definitely getting a free, signed copy of my memoirs book (Don't gasp--I don't have an agent or a book co. interested yet. Key word 'YET').

Thanks for the good wishes and positive comments.

Good night,

PS Don't be afraid to email me if you see any typos.

11:54 PM  
Blogger marcy_peanut said...

SALBERT: Hhhmmm...sideways rain is very interesting. Especially when stuck in a bakery with a bunch of giddy girls, a Nazi window washer, and an elderly woman from the Ukraine.


11:55 PM  
Blogger flatlander said...

What amazing portraits¡ You have a real talent for writing, Marcy P. I wish I had as much fun at any of my high school jobs :)

1:35 AM  
Blogger flatlander said...

Wow! somehow that exclamation mark in the last comment ended up upsidedown! Amazing¡¡!!!¡¡¡¡

1:37 AM  
Blogger mizfit said...

now that was fun reading for me. somehow ur long-long-long posts never bore me.
did i tell u i like this blog?

2:45 AM  
Blogger Miladysa said...

Welcome back!

Wonderful story. I loved it!

7:19 AM  
Blogger TrappedInColorado said...

So... 3 high school girls staring out a plate glass window during a hurricane. What were you thinking!? Oh, sorry. You were probably making a "What NOT to do during a hurricane" video right?

It's about time you posted, young lady! Missed you.

Welcome back and, again, good post!


2:04 PM  
Blogger marcy_peanut said...

FLATLANDER: Thank you. :)
How in the world did you get the exclamation points to appear upside down?

MIZFIT: I'm glad that it was worth the wait for you! :)

MILADYSA: Thank you!

TRAPPED: Thank you, too.
Come on, give me a break--I was in high school! I didn't even THINK about the glass breaking! (Truth be told, I was more afraid of Mean Window Washer Guy than I was about Hurricane Gloria! No joke, either.)

4:51 PM  
Blogger Salbert said...

Now see, a neighbor was flying a kite and it got stuck in a tree, and when Wilma came, it blew the kite into another tree. Of course the neighbor got pissed, but then the vodka at the hurricane party relaxed them all....

8:35 PM  
Blogger flatlander said...

Option '1' ¡¡¡¡

9:01 PM  
Blogger uglygirl said...

i loved this story but then i love all stories of you.
hope hand and fingers are well.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Fred said...

I just printed it out so I can read it in the morning. Be back then. Based on the comments, though, looks like it's gonna be a great read!

7:43 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo said...

This is the kind of thing that puts cities out of work. The underwear, of course, and not the hurricane. Whoever would think that a hurricane would have the destructive power to make anyone spend any amount of time with a creepy window washer guy? Not I!

9:54 PM  
Blogger Salbert said...

Bob the window washer retired, I don't see him anymore...

6:12 PM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Marcy - You rock! Funny thing is, I can mentally picture each character.

I'd love to hear you jam. I bet you could really play. I spent about the same amount of time on the guitar, more if I didn't have to have a job.

Babs reminds me of a slew of Ukranian jokes. I worked with this Russian guy and he had a bunch of Ukranian jokes. Funny thing is, I heard them all as Polish jokes before. Funny Russians.

Hurricanes suck. Been in two.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Salbert said...

Zombie Slayer- I was in Andrew,Floyd, Frances, Jean, and Wilma. But Andrew and Flyod only gave me tropical storm winds. Frances did a good job clearing loose tree branches.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Salbert said...

I can't take it!!!!! Please post soon!!!

10:15 AM  
Blogger uglygirl said...

post something soon if health permits.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Mr. Althouse said...

Hey Marcy...

I think it's getting to be about time for a new installment!
Feed me!


9:58 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo said...

Death by suspense may be one of the more painless forms, but still unwarranted.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Salbert said...

Just to let you know, I E-mailed Marcy about this lack of posting. She has sharp arm pains or somethin' like that. But she does plan to keep wrotong here and is glad about our loyalty to her blog. She might go on to some disasterous dates and then go back to her friends at the bakery.

So let's send Marcy our regaurds!

10:08 AM  
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1:30 PM  

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