Thriftin’

Olga. A thrift store find hanging on my wall since 1999.

At eighteen I was living in Hayward, the place I grew up in. I had a job at Walgreens as a photo clerk (I will have to post a blog someday about my collection of weird pictures I found at that job). I worked there for a little over a year and had spent most of that year trying to quit doing hard drugs and still go to raves. I’m not sure what I was thinking with having that as an achievable goal in life. I guess I had different priorities than your average eighteen year old. Going to a real college and trying to pick a solid path in life seemed like such an abstract, elusive idea to me. Hardly anyone in my circle was interested in such things. My friends were basically still a bunch of burnouts that liked to party and hang out at various people’s houses around Hayward. I always had a nagging feeling that I should want more out of life, but I didn’t have any motivation to figure out what it was. Have you ever seen the movie SubUrbia? Not the 1983 film of the same name about punk rock, but the one from 1996, directed by Richard Linklater, about a bunch of aimless friends who live in a suburban wasteland. We were all kind of like that.

While working at Walgreens I met a girl named Dino (pronounced Dee-no). She was a big girl, with dyed black hair and lots of weird, vaguely rockabilly tattoos like dice and flaming hearts. She had a son and lived in a trailer park with him and her mom. Dino liked me and seemed nice enough at first. I would later learn of her mental instability. She told me that I should apply at the thrift store down the road because it would be way cooler than Walgreens. I agreed. Getting hired at a thrift store wasn’t a difficult task, as you can imagine, and within a couple of weeks I started my new job.

My mom had taught me the way of the thrift. I grew up going to all the Goodwills and Salvation Armies Hayward and the surrounding area had to offer. As a young person there were few things I loved more than to spend hours sifting through other people’s discarded clothes and junk. There was so much joy in that moment when I found something rare and strange that no one else owned! How excited I was to be at the front line, able to sift through all the treasures before the public could get their hands on them.

It wasn’t long before I was promoted to a “pricer.” This meant I got to work in the back of the store, away from the public, and decide how much each piece of used clothing was worth. I worked with two other women and each morning we would set up our racks of clothing, make the giant pot of coffee for the backroom employees, and then settle into gossiping while pricing clothes all day. I truly loved this job. During the fourteen months that I worked there I felt vaguely like I was getting my shit together. I had what seemed like a good job for a nineteen year old. I had actually enrolled in some film production classes at a community college in San Francisco. Drugs weren’t a huge part of my life and things were fun.

Every thrift store has a slew of regular customers. Most of these people come in every day. It’s like a job to them. A lot of them are harmless eccentrics, in my experience. A handful of them are creeps and weirdos who have probably been featured on that Hoarders show by now. I quickly got to know who the good and bad regulars were. It’s funny because now my mom works in a thrift store. She has become extremely familiar with the exact kind of customer I’m talking about. The harmless weirdos are fine, it’s the wingnuts who want to haggle over the already low price of literal garbage that used to freak me out.

One of the many customers I saw every day was a man named Ron. He was a very tall, slim fifty-nine year old dude who kind of reminded me of the Marlboro man. He always wore jeans and snap button shirts and a cowboy hat. He typically had a real tough, serious way about him when he was walking around the store but as soon as I started chatting with him I found him to be hilarious. He had a sharp wit and was sarcastic in a way that made me jealous. After a few conversations with him I decided he was pretty dang handsome as well. I spent a lot of time pretending to work out on the floor, following him around, and talking to him about all kinds of things. He was curious about me. He laughed at my jokes. Naturally, I grew to have a crush on Ron.

Of course he was married and there was an age gap between us of FORTY YEARS. The relationship could never actually go anywhere. I knew that. I don’t think I could ever even visualize what that would look like anyway. My brain wouldn’t allow the fantasy. But he sure was a treat to hang out with at the store. He liked me too. For my twentieth birthday he brought me flowers and one of those silly, oversized birthday cards.

I worked at the thrift store in Hayward until the end of 1999. I had been offered a job at a fancier thrift store in San Francisco and would start there just after the new year. I would soon be moving out of my hometown and hopefully beginning some adventures in the city. My BFF and I prepped ourselves for the upcoming apocalypse of Y2K. I remember hoping so much that it wouldn’t be the end because I really wanted to move and start my life. At that time it felt like good things might finally start to happen.

I never saw Ron again after I left that store. I like to think he’s still around in Hayward somewhere. Maybe I could even run into him someday. I still have that birthday card tucked away in a box. I’m sappy like that.

Here’s a clip from SubUrbia.

19 year old me. Short bangs, hair clips, piercing AND a hemp necklace. What a winner.

19 year old me. Short bangs, hair clips, piercing AND a hemp necklace. What a winner.

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  1. #1 by good2begone on January 8, 2013 - 11:35 am

    I go “GoodWill hunting” on a regular basis. If not for the stuff them for the people watching. It is always a great time!

    • #2 by Porkchop on January 8, 2013 - 1:39 pm

      Fo sho. Thrift stores are magical.

  2. #3 by lennonsundance on January 8, 2013 - 1:58 pm

    Wow what a find! I like the tone of your piece, the way it weaves, how objects are used to tell the story and characters. I’m also a memoir writer, new to this venue, and it has been exciting finding other writers and stories along the way. Thanks!

    • #4 by Porkchop on January 8, 2013 - 2:03 pm

      Hey thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am toying with the idea of writing my own memoir. Check out my “Apartment Life” posts if you get bored. Gonna go read your blog now!

  3. #5 by Sandee on January 8, 2013 - 2:03 pm

    I like that you had a crush on someone 40 years older than you. I was the same way, still am. Only you couldn’t visualize it happening. I can’t say the same for my 83 year old neighbor who I have a crush on. I play it all out baby! Yeah! Why the hell not — hehehe!

    You’ve given me an idea PC. I’m on a hiatus from work and thought I might find some off the books work. We have a really nice thrift store around here not far from where I had my book reading. I’m going in there tomorrow and see if they could use help — I have experience in retail — I was inspired by your post.

    Loved the clip also. I might get it in Netflix.

    • #6 by Porkchop on January 8, 2013 - 2:15 pm

      LOL! He must be a pretty hot 83 year old.

      When I told my mom that I had a crush on an almost 60 year old man she just shook her head at me and apologized for letting me grow up without a dad as it had clearly damaged my judgment. ;)

      I would love to work in a thrift store again someday. Such a fun job.

      Check out the movie. I’d love to hear what you think. It’s definitely a “feel bad” movie, which I’m into.

  4. #7 by Janet Johnson on January 8, 2013 - 9:19 pm

    I love this one!! We traded places!!

  5. #8 by calahan on January 9, 2013 - 8:57 am

    I happen to like your bangs. :)

    • #9 by Porkchop on January 9, 2013 - 9:03 am

      Well shucks, thanks! I’m just not sure what kind of look I was going for. A lot of weird elements going on there. Stupid late 90’s.

      • #10 by calahan on January 9, 2013 - 9:13 am

        Don’t consider it a mishmash, consider it style in a state of flux.

  6. #11 by nnkato on January 9, 2013 - 6:19 pm

    you must have seen this….

    • #12 by Porkchop on January 9, 2013 - 7:50 pm

      Not sure how I could have missed this one. Didn’t make the rounds in my circle. Love it!

  7. #13 by MissFourEyes on January 11, 2013 - 3:21 am

    Older men are so wonderful you can’t help but fantasize about them! It’s so sweet that you still have his birthday card

  8. #14 by idp05 on February 14, 2013 - 8:09 pm

    thrifting is the devil!! my man told me that in order for me to bring anything else in the house, something has to go out to make room for it. I <3 thrifting, it's always an adventure! totally jealous that you got to work at one, must have been AWESOME!

    • #15 by Porkchop on February 14, 2013 - 10:21 pm

      I worked in a couple different thrift stores and basically loved everything about it. I acquired A LOT of stuff during that time. It’s all dwindled down to my most prized finds now as my husband is really not into clutter. But I still love a good thrift and feel cozy and at home wandering around sifting through people’s old junk.

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