There are worse things than retirement
Thursday, March 14, 2013 is a day I will never forget. It was with mixed feelings that I got up that morning. I was facing my last shift of work at the Zellers store in Bells Corners. It was the last Zellers store still open in this area and the liquidation process was nearing its inevitable conclusion. It was the end of a retail era in Canada.
As I rode the 97 bus into work, I felt no particular sadness, anger or letdown at this situation. It had been coming for months, back to last July when the company had given us the bad news. Many of my co-workers remained in complete denial until the end. Others let their anger out, feeling betrayed by an uncaring business. A few remained professional, as they assisted the last customers. I felt little emotion for a company that had screwed up so royally. The fact that this was the fifth company failure under my belt gave me a great sense of deja-vu.
What did amuse me was how the customer base had changed in the last months, culminating in this final shift. Prior to the Christmas sales rush, we saw the regular customers shopping for gifts or the usual necessities. After Christmas, the store went into liquidation mode - all sales final, no exchanges, merchandise as-is, no bargaining allowed. The price of goods was adjusted downward on a weekly basis and the percent discounts slowly increased.
We now saw more and more bargain hunters than regular customers. More people shopped than ever before and sales soared despite the discounts. This showed that Zellers had priced itself out of the market before it was sold to American profiteers. Store theft also skyrocketed as the looters circled. More and more shoppers from visible minorities began to arrive. Sad to say but these new shoppers showed few manners and made us long for our old, regular customers. In my last week there, maybe one customer in five showed any proficiency in either official language. This created much confusion and frustration. There was a significant clash of cultures. Tempers flared.
My last shift was no different. Riding herd on ignorant customers was not pleasant. Even the liquidation manager lost his composure. He caught one customer opening sealed packages and dumping the contents on the floor when it didn't please her. He threw her out of the store. What irritated me the most was those customers who brought their ill-mannered offspring to the store. Much of the store was off limits as crews dismantled counters and removed fixtures. This was dangerous for little ones and no playground. Yet, these customers let their brats run loose into the closed areas without showing any concern. I dreaded seeing them fall onto nails or hitting their heads on projecting metal shelving. I yelled at one woman about this but she just looked at me with blank, uncomprehending eyes. I gave up.
I was relieved when my last shift was over. No more mouth-breathers asking, "Do you work here?" or asking, "How much is this?" while standing next to a price scanner. My pain was over. Actually, this was not quite true so I must backtrack to tell a parallel story. You see, I went from my last shift to Emergency at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital that evening.
My problem began the previous Monday when I had discovered a small nodule while showering. I thought little of it as I've had small deposits of fat appear and later disappear over the years. By Tuesday morning, it had grown into a lump. I had three shifts left to work, which I had to work in order to receive a severance package from the company. I went to work rather than having the lump checked out.
The lump grew to be the size of a robin's egg and was becoming uncomfortable. It was located in my groin. I deluded myself into thinking that some long lost stem cell had awakened and was evolving into a third testicle. Finally, I thought, I could get rid of the moniker of Three-Thumbs Brasseur in favour of Three-Balls Brasseur. I had visions of being the talk of Bells Corners. Wide-mouthed ladies of discerning taste would visit me from near and afar. The Liberal Party would want me, Trois Couilles Brasseur, as their leader.
Then the pain started. At work, I limped along and claimed that my gout was bothering me. Actually, it was bothering me too so I told no lie. My limp became more pronounced than ever on my last shift. The pain had levelled off, kept at bay by Acetaminophen. I vowed to go to a clinic the next day. I never got the chance. On my way home, I felt a sharp increase in pain. My bladder was over-loaded too. I was miserable.
I got home and limped to the bathroom. I couldn't stand, I had to sit. When I looked down at myself my brain seized up. I was frozen in a WTF moment. I could not comprehend what had happened to me. My crotch had exploded. It was covered in blood and corruption. I began to panic but cool pragmatism flooded my brain and I regained control. I gingerly cleaned myself and got dressed.
t Emergency, I had difficulty expressing myself to the triage nurse. She affected to be hard of hearing in order to get me to speak louder. Heads turned in the waiting room when I shouted to her, "MY CROTCH EXPLODED!"
"This, I've got to see," she chortled. "Please drop your pants."
"What? Right here by the waiting room?" I asked. The waiting crowd leaned forward in my general direction.
"No, no, Silly. Behind the curtain in the examination cubicle," says she. Okay then, I thought. In we went and I dropped my pants. "Oh my!" she cried out, her eyes widening in shock. "Girls, come see this!" she yelled to her colleagues in registration. Three other gals crowded into the cubicle and stared at my crotch. One pulled out tweezers and said, "I've seen bigger. I meant the abscess," the triage nurse said laconically. Anyway, I was processed and sent in to wait in Room 10.
Three hours later, I was taken to another room and told to change into a gown. It was now 11 pm. The doctor showed up another hour later. It had been a busy night in Emergency. Dr. Comeau was a young lad who seemed competent enough. He explained how the abscess had developed, that it was quite common and nothing to get excited about. He said it was a good thing that it had burst and begun draining. Yeah, right - be still my still racing heart.
The doctor asked the student nurse on duty to bring out a surgical kit for him. She looked to be barely eighteen years old. "Oh, by the way, nurse," he said, "You might as well stay and observe this procedure. Good experience for you." Nooooooo ..... There I was on the gurney, my legs spread apart, having given birth to an ugly abscess, with a cute youngster staring at what young girls should never see until they turn into old broads. Sheesh! But wait! My torments were not over.
"I'm going to have to freeze the area, Mr. Brasseur. I won't lie to you. It is going to sting. Here is a stick to bite down on."
My heart raced, zoomed into warp speed, as the doctor pulled out a syringe with a four inch needle and plunged it into my ravaged groin. Three times, he jabbed me with that lance. The pain was sharp. It did not sting. It hurt like fucking Hell. It made the needle that the dentist sticks up behind your nose before a root canal seem like a mosquitoe bite. Bastard. Even the young bint recoiled in horror. Fortunately, the anesthetic was fast working and the pain vanished. The doctor poked me and asked, "Does that hurt?"
"No, I don't feel a fucking thing because you just killed my groin."
"Hah, hah. I like your sense of humour." He laughed, as he pulled out the scalpel. Before I could say, "Don Cox", he had sliced me open and was pushing out the remaining corruption from the abscess. The bint looked a little green around the gills.
"Okay. I'll put in some packing and we're done," he said. He dangled a ten inch strip of pleated material, that looked all the world like a tapeworm, over my wound. No way that's going to all fit, I thought. Wrong. He made it fit and slapped on a dressing before it could sproing out and attack the student nurse, a la Alien.
I was kicked out into Friday and told to come back Saturday morning for a re-assessment. I crashed, slept, moped about, felt sorry for myself, napped ... then realized that I was no longer in pain. Progress, I guess.
Saturday, I was back in Emergency, bright and early. I was fast-tracked through the system. Ninety minutes later, another cab driver moonlighting as a doctor tells me to lift my gown and spread my legs. "I usually charge for this," I growled. He laughed and pulled the packing out faster than I could say, "GAAAAAAHHHHH!!!"
"Looks good, Mr. Brasseur. The edges are already starting to granulate and there is no sign of pus. I'll give you an antibiotic just in case. By the way," he said, pointing past the wound, "It will grow back once it falls off. Muwahahaha!" He handed me a prescription and fucked off to torment some other poor victim. I shuffled off to Zellers, where I took pictures of its retail remains and the remaining staff. Then I left, fading away into the mists of retirement.
Submitted by Jean Brasseur, 23 March 2013