I started working pretty young, at about 14. My first job was with Olan Mills, cold-calling people from the phonebook and trying to sell them photo packages. I tried working for Burger King the summer after my sophomore year in high school, but decided that it was too hard to get the grease smell out of my hair – so I switched to Baskin Robbins my junior year.

Let me tell you, scooping ice cream gives a girl some killer forearms, especially if it’s the 1980s version of “lite” ice cream, a coffee flavor made more of water than anything else. Dishing that stuff out was like chipping ice, but I loved the job. In fact, it was heaven for a compulsive eater, what will all the “free” sweets available. One of my favorite work snacks was a cup of hot fudge, straight up — maybe with a few nuts sprinkled in for some protein. Actually, now that I’m writing about this, I should find the owners of that store and pay them back for all the food I ate.

The shop had a safe in the back room, and during our shifts we were supposed to make periodic deposits into it from the register so that there wouldn’t ever be a whole lot of cash lying around. None of us who worked there knew the safe’s combination; we just shoved the money, along with a receipt, into a slot in the floor.

The night we got robbed I was working with Tina, just the two of us. We’d had a rush early on and had already emptied the register once, although more customers had come so there was a bit of money in there when the guy in the ski mask showed up, his right hand hidden in his jacket.

Tina was stocking cups and spoons, right by the register. I was over by the cake case, practicing with icing or something, so at first I didn’t notice what was going on. But she made a weird sound and when I looked over I caught sight of her shocked face and the man’s jacket bulging out from his body. I froze.

Tina gave the guy the money in the register. He left without another word. As soon as he was gone, I ran over to Tina and we both started hyperventilating.

“He said he had a gun,” Tina shrieked.

“Call Terry!” I yelled. Terry was our manager. Tina dialed Terry’s number. They had a short conversation, and Tina hung up.

“She told me to call the police,” she said. “She’s coming over.”

Actually, Terry must have called the store’s owners first, Mr. and Mrs. Lee and their daughter, Sandra, because pretty soon all four of them were there, standing behind the counter with Tina and me. I don’t think Tina actually called the police, because I don’t remember them coming.

Mr. Lee asked us how much we thought had been in the register.

“I don’t know,” Tina said. “Maybe $40. I’m so sorry!”

He looked frustrated. “Okay,” he said. “But next time, call the police first!”

“Next time”? Tina and I looked over at Terry, who was standing behind the Lees. She rolled her eyes. We all stood silently as Mr. Lee got the money out of the safe and left with his wife and daughter.

“C’mon girls,” Terry sighed, and she helped us close up for the night.


About Kate

Things are weird in the wide world -- and like everyone else, most days I'm used to it. But to shake things up for myself, I like to notice and write about stuff that strikes me as both beautiful and strange, fascinating and repulsive, sweet and sour -- like how the steamy, stinky air that comes up from the BART vents at 16th Street Mission reminds me of being twenty-two, apparently immortal, and in love.

3 responses »

  1. Shirley Holley says:


  2. Cheryl Garlick says:

    It pisses me off…all the insensitive idiot adults you ran into as a kid. I think what really gets me is that that is probably true for most of us and sometimes I am sure I’m the idiot adult…..there is something to mull on there about sin…human brokenness and frailty. I may get there at some point but right now I’ll just be pissed. (Since you so often remind me that it is ok to just feel what we feel)

    Love you…and young teen ager kate too.


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