Being an unruly and independent sixteen-year-old means you don’t take shit from anyone. Or in the parlance of the age, you don’t take shit from no one. Ever. You do as you please. You wake when you want. You go to school if you feel like it. You listen to your parents if it suits you – because obviously you know better than they… How the hell should they know what it’s like to be alive in the 80s as a teenager? They were teens in like the 50s and shit. Trust me, Pop. You just don’t understand.
It also means you have to work in as many jobs as you can fit between your sixteenth and your nineteenth birthdays. Seriously. I didn’t quit because I got sick of places. Actually yes, I did. But I was going to say that I quit because I was ready for something new. I wanted to experience it all. And both are true. How long can you work at Skaggs bagging groceries before you begin to believe you could manage the store yourself? It can’t be rocket science, dude. That’s why you, Mister Store Manager, only make like thirty grand a year. When I grow up, I’ll make twice what you make in my spare time. I’m sixteen, all powerful, hear me roar.
So I quit Skaggs, my first job, after about a month or so. It might have been five weeks, but I doubt it. That’s a stretch. And I went to the ever more glorious Taco Bueno. I swear, that place is a money trap. They know I’m sixteen. They know I only have like thirty minutes (if I’m lucky) to eat lunch. And they know I’m sixteen. The reason I said it that second time is because it translates to meaning I’m sure as shit not responsible enough to bring a bag lunch. Otherwise, why would I be working at Taco Fucking Bueno? So half my paycheck would go back into the store. Because every night on my lunch break, I’d go for convenience and eat a Mexi Dips and Chips, two Muchacos, a Bueno Chilada Platter, whatever I wanted that night. But always something from the store, and always a lot of it.
Once I got tired of that place, I started moving into the cool jobs. The ammo places. The ones you’re wanting to read about. Let me first tell you about Blue Bell. Yeah. The ice cream place. There’s a little distribution plant in Lewisville behind the Bluebonnet Bicycle shop. It’s been there for many, many years. They don’t make ice cream there. They just store it for shipment to the local stores. That was one bad ass job.
First you have the drivers. These dudes drive the trucks full of ice cream and take the product to the stores. Obviously. Right? Well when they’re out of product, they come back to the plant, plug in their palm-sized computer and it prints out a list of product that needs loading. That list gets picked up by the number two guys in this operation: The Vault Creatures.
These guys work in the deep freeze vault, where it’s 50 degrees below freezing. There’s not a lot of wind in there, so you don’t immediately feel that it’s that cold. But if you spit on the floor with your foot in the ready position, you swing your foot and try to smear the spit… It’s already frozen. Seriously. Yes, I tried it. There’s no sticking your tongue to a piece of metal in the vault. You’ll lose your fucking tongue. But it took around an hour typically to pull one truck. There were three rows in the vault. Three creatures, one for each row. I worked the first row. This is the popular product in the half-gallons and the snacks. This means some Brown Rim, some Gold Rim and some boxes of shit like frozen Snickers, Klondike type shit. You know, snacks. And in case you didn’t know, the color of the rim on the half-gallons of Blue Bell is directly related to the value of the product. If it’s a brown rim, that shit’s expensive. Gold Rim, pretty good, but not as pricey. Silver Rim? You might as well be eating Ben & Jerry’s.
First cool thing about working in the vault is – well, I guess I’d have to say it’s that you’re working in the vault. Where it’s cold. My uniform was long johns pants and shirt, t-shirt, sweat shirt, jeans, sweat pants, two pairs of socks, coat, vault suit and sub-zero boots. Then a ski mask and a hoodie, with my vault suit hood pulled up over that. Yeah, you look like a fucking Eskimo. And the bad part about this uniform is that for the first few minutes you’re in the vault, it’s hotter than shit. So you start sweating. And of course that shit freezes. Your nose hairs freeze within the first five minutes. Your eyelashes, eyebrows and hair freeze then. I wore my hair long back then. I’d walk out of there an hour later with a frozen rope of pony tail behind my head. Toes begin to freeze after about forty five minutes and fingers happen in about thirty. Because you’re grabbing product with your hands. I wore a pair of warm gloves covered by some sticky vault gloves that gave me good grip on the cardboard, but the frost on those cartons and shit just freezes the life out of you. I think the longest time I ever spent in the vault was about three hours. That was pulling a colossal order, too. Like a Skaggs that had sold out of Blue Bell. I came out of there feeling like the Ice Man himself. Wait. Who is Ice Man? Oh yeah, Val Kilmer.
The third man on the totem at Blue Bell is the loader. I did this job for a time as well, when I first started working there. You take the product on the large carts and you toss it to the driver of the truck, who is standing in the back of the truck catching it and throwing it on shelves. That gives you a helluva workout, and you get in good with the drivers. Oh, I forgot to mention – if you accidentally drop something and it breaks, you can eat it. Or if you break a carton of snacks – something that has multiple individual items in it – you can throw all the singles into the employee freezer. This is the snack freezer where you can walk by and grab a candy or a cone or whatever and snack on them throughout the day. There’s really no limit to how much you’re allowed to have out of that freezer, but they don’t want you stuffing your coat pockets full of shit to take home. Let’s just say that I accidentally damaged at least two boxes of frozen Snickers bars a week. Those son of a bitches were the best thing I’d ever put in my mouth, besides breasts, and I always took some home to my Dredge House roomies. I was the best roommate to have.
I also got the obvious discount on ice cream. When Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough came out, I ate like a pint of it and thought God had come down and mixed that batter himself. I went to work the next day and bought an industrial-sized five-gallon tub of it. My buddies and I ate so much of that shit that I could have probably baked myself into a fucking cookie. Yes, I ate a lot. Now I can’t even look at the shit without getting nauseous. It was insane.
I guess I should wrap this up now. I was planning on telling you about all the cool places I’ve worked, but I guess I went a little crazy on the Blue Bell. I was a jet mechanic on the B-1B for a time in the Air Force. I worked on the world’s fastest bomber, friends. That was pretty slick. I ran my own computer business when I lived in Abilene, helping fair maidens with ridiculous little computer problems. And yes, the stories are sometimes good, like you’d think of pizza delivery boys getting. You know so much about computers and you’re able to fix them so quickly it makes her head spin… She finds a little attraction there due to impression, and next thing you know, you’re scrolling her mouse wheel. It happens.
I worked at a web hosting corporation where I built high-end state-of-the-art servers all day and made insane amounts of money. I’ve worked for Dr. Pepper, delivering drinks to special events. Like expos and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders functions. That had its perks too. And a shit load of free Dr. Pepper. But by far, I think the coolest place (and pardon that pun, please) I ever worked would be Blue Bell Ice Cream. I just loved going to work there. And as a sixteen-year-old kid, there aren’t too many places that excite you enough to say that.