@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Confession number one. I’ve been rather cheap in tipping delivery guys when I order in food. In the beginning of quarantine, I was good about it. But I’m financially strapped, and the days look grimmer.
Outside of comedy, I work part time for a marketing director. For the first time in maybe forever, I actually like a job outside of comedy (or being a nanny) and this is largely because I have a great boss. However, having the part time job has prevented me from unemployment benefits despite losing near 40% of my income. So I’m in a sticky spot. Look, it’s not like I was ever making a killing as a comedian. It’s a rough, rough business. But I’m in a corner of desperation, and frankly, scared. There’s really no way around the fact that I’m perpetually consumed with anxiety about the uncertainty of the future— and not solely for selfish reasons that my career dissipated to nothing— but also for the future of the world and the country, a potential depression looming ahead.
Yes, it’s a shitty thing to not tip well in this environment. I’m kind of a shit head (for a number of reasons). Usually, I answer the door with a messy hair and robe, looking like a drunk house wife of the 1970’s, and at best despite my poor tipping the delivery guys get a view of my cleavage and I don’t even care if they look at my boobs in lieu of an extra few bucks. “Stare away boys because I’m not giving you anymore money, I’m sorry don’t hate me. LOOK AT HOW SKINNY I AM THIS IS MY ONE MEAL OF THE DAY.”
Anyway. The people I do tip more than usual are those who are bagging groceries in grocery stores. There are two reasons for this. The first is, they are far more subjected to close human interaction than the delivery guys and they also get paid shit. Secondly, as a former grocery bagger, I carry a certain level of empathy for the grocery bagger.
Confession number two. Back in the day, now over 15 years ago when I was only 15, I worked in a market on Fire Island. I was both a cashier and a grocery bagger, but I preferred bagging groceries. This was because we didn’t have scanners at said market, and because this was Fire Island, the prices were jacked up for import reasons. This means, on items that had an already printed price on them (for example, certain brands of bread or Entenmann’s products), the cashier was to add $0.75 to the printed price. I cannot do math. I’m almost retarded when it comes to numbers. So I never added the additional amount. Or if I did, I just made up a number, but I low balled it because I hated my bosses.
Here’s where I defend myself. Because, yes, that is a shitty thing to do (I already confessed to being a shitty person, how many times do you want me to apologize). Our bosses were brothers, both in their 70s. They were greedy bastards and treated everyone with general disdain. They were sexist, not only in how they ran the store (only women were allowed to work the register and only men were hired to stock or work the deli) but the one brother would sit on a stool at the door and say shit to us girls like, “if you wore your bikini’s to work, we’d get more customers.” Again, I was 15 years old.
Here, at the market, I always preferred bagging the groceries. Despite being remarkably behind the times when it came to equal rights and not harassing women, they were ahead of the curve when it came to green living and encouraged paper bags over plastic bags. I liked to bag the groceries because it meant I didn’t have to do any math and also I didn’t have to make eye contact with anyone.
Confession number three. We were required to ID anyone who was young looking who bought booze (obviously). But since I was unable to do math and crumbled under pressure, when I carded someone, I couldn’t add the years to the date of birth to actually check if they were legally allowed to buy alcohol. So, when I checked ID, I just looked at the picture, and if it was them, I’d say, “okay” and ring up the booze. To this day I wonder if anyone figured this out. “You know the little blond kid with braces who works in the market… yeah, she’ll card you but sell you beer anyway, either she’s really cool or really retarded.”
This really isn’t something to brag about, but I became a savant at bagging groceries. I know this doesn’t seem like a skill, but it is. Not a very hard one to hone, I’ll admit, but there is an art to it and I became the best. I was quick and fit the groceries perfectly like a Tetris game. And I did it all without making eye contact with anyone. Any day where I could bag groceries and not make eye contact or do any math was a good day for me.
Sometimes, people would tip you for bagging their groceries. We weren’t allowed to accept tips and I often turned them away, but people often insisted. If my boss wasn’t around, I came to take the tips. This was largely because if you lived or even rented on Fire Island, you were probably rich.
I loathed working there and got in trouble for very stupid reasons. One of my best friends, Marissa, also worked there. Marissa and I constantly joked with one another and our boss tried to keep us off the same shifts and when we were on the same shift we weren’t allowed at the same register because we “laughed too much.”
There was also a strict rule that only employees were allowed to use the bathroom. Which I realize is a normal thing and I also understand why the rule exists. But I often broke this. Because if a woman comes in with her six year old daughter asking to use the bathroom (there were literally no public bathrooms around) while the little girl is visibly squirming in her discomfort, I’d go, “yeah, sure, c’mon,” and bring them to the back. This is because I’m not a totally shitty person, only part time.
I got hollered at for this. Cowardly, I just looked at the floor and took it. Powerless and shameful, too many times in my life I’ve failed to stand up for myself. It’s just a fucking bathroom. I didn’t want this kid to have an accident. Plus, I’ve been riddled with stomach issues my whole life and knew too well about bathroom emergencies.
There were many days my parents picked me up at the ferry (I was too young to drive) asking me how my day was and I’d go, “I hate it. I hate it there. You don’t understand how awful they are.” But who else would hire a 15 year old? From even that age, I knew, I had to have a job I liked or I’d kill myself. It’s not that I didn’t want a job I didn’t like, it’s that I won’t do it. I wouldn’t do it unless it was temporary— a stepping stone to something else.
Confession number four. Years after I worked there, a friend of mine had a bathroom emergency and went in that store asking to use the bathroom. They refused. He simply could not hold it in any longer and went to the back of the store and pooped in the aisle. When he told me this I laughed and laughed and laughed and praised him a hero. “Good. They deserved that.”
I had crushes on blue eyed boys or big smiles who came through the store but I was never looked at. Then, I thought my peasant status was the main reason for my invisibility though really it had to do with the fact that, at 15, I had a mouth full of braces and at best weighed 80 pounds (additionally I wasn’t making eye contact in my introverted nature). People even sometimes asked my age, perplexed that I was some child laborer. The DMA’s my age (daddy made assholes) didn’t have to work at all. I don’t begrudge DMA’s (though our country has a vengeance against them, and our president (and pretty much all our presidents to be fair) is king DMA) as I’ve known very generous and kind spirited DMA’s, but I’ve known plenty to be selfish jerks as well, near intolerable to be around. The fact of reality is most people in every class, in every part of the world are assholes. But there exists true winners of humanity in every class, in every part of the world as well.
Naturally, I spent a lot of time in my own head while bagging groceries. Daydreaming of a different time. A time when I didn’t have a mouth full of metal. Replaying sitcom scenes and jokes I heard on television from comedians in my mind. Fantasizing about success as a novelist. Actively trying to avoid looking at the clock for my ferry home, where I’d be much happier. Admittedly, I’d be annoyed when anyone interrupted a reveries. How else was I to get through a day without my imagination? Unless they handing me a couple bucks. Then you felt a a lot more appreciated and a little less broke.