Her name was Jessie Hall. She was one of the “night managers.” One of the Saturday and Sunday managers too. She was an older lady with gray hair and glasses. She had eye problems. A lot. She also had other health ailments and she was always worried about her weight. Her health didn’t stop her though. It didn’t stop her from teaching us things. Life things. How to be a decent human things. She loved us kids. She loved her work kids.
We lived in the Prospect house. It was up the alley from the store I worked at all through high school. Sooper Dooper. They had a jingle. It’s catchy. Sooper Dooper Market, have a Sooper Dooper day. It’s stuck in my head now. Probably not yours, unless you had heard it on the radio when you were younger.
Sooper Dooper was a crappy old building with lots of character. The characters were rats. In the basement. Creepy. It’s the building that is right next door to the Zesto. Notice how I didn’t say Zestos. There is no S on the end. It’s Zesto. If you grew up in Pierre, you know this.
Jessie was a good night boss. She scared the crap out of us and didn’t let us get away with anything. At the same time, she showed us respect. I love when adults can do that with high school kids who probably have no idea what they want to do in life. Jessie listened to us. She let us talk. She let us be. Jessie was the type of person who could spot a bullshitter a mile away. She didn’t take crap from anyone. If you showed her you were a good worker and were honest and trustworthy, you were on her list. Her life list. She would do anything for you. She was not lazy. She was an extremely hard worker and expected others to be the same.
There was an office at the store, back near the butcher area. She usually stayed back there unless we needed something. There was an intercom, so we could be lazy asses and not have to walk all the way back there if we needed money for our tills, or if we needed her to come up front and approve a check or something.
I met a lot of friends there and worked with a lot of amazing people. One friend, Chet, is one of my all time favorite people. We were super close and we got a long really well. Still do. Another friend was Angela. She and I, and I’m sure Chet too, usually had to work the dreaded 3-10 shift on Sunday. That was the worst shift ever. If you were the lucky checker that night, you got the 3-9 shift. Still rotten, but getting to leave at 9 was like heaven. Sundays were the least busy times at the store. Boring as boring can get. You know what happens when people get bored? When kids get bored? They start to do goofy things. One Sunday, Angela and I were checking and we bored beyond belief. We found some basket/pot things and wore them on our heads like hats. We told everyone we were pot heads. We thought we were super clever. I’m sure nobody else did. Hey, it passed the time.
Another time we were all working together. Another Sunday, I’m sure. Jessie was managing. We were having fun. Maybe a little too much fun. We were laughing and must have been pretty loud. Pretty soon, we could hear her coming up to the front. She yelled at us and told us to get to work. She told Chet to go face shelves. If you’ve ever worked at a store, that is the most boring, mundane job EVER in the history of stores. It absolutely sucks. After she got done chewing us out, she started walking back to the office. Chet followed behind. No big deal. Except as Chet followed behind he decided to walk like a monkey. He was swinging his arms and his legs were low to the ground, following behind her. I was dying laughing. I couldn’t stop, until Jessie turned around. She turned around and caught Chet making fun of her. Holy crap! I can still see her face. There might have even been steam coming out of her ears. And then she said it. The thing she said to us every time she got mad at us. The dreaded phrase. The dreaded Jessie phrase. Nobody wanted to hear this phrase from Jessie. She looked Chet right in the eye and said, “God’s gonna punish you.” Whenever she said this, we never knew whether we should laugh or cry. It was disturbing. Sometimes you could tell she was kidding. This time she was not kidding. I’m pretty sure Chet was on her other list. You know the “other” list. The shit list. I’m sure it wasn’t for very long though. Like I said she loved her work kids and we loved her. I miss Jessie. Rest In Peace.