Its Thursday morning 4:30 a.m. and I’m up writing what should be a sweet schmaltzy piece about how much we all love our mothers. But as is often the case for Manteca to a T, we are forced to deal with a pressing social issue that has been permeating my thoughts for the past five days: Rude and incompetent convenience store clerks.
Let’s take the Manteca to a Time Machine to last Sunday morning. The not so young hero of our story was on his way to work. As many of you know, a day in the tractor in order to farm the crops that provide milk and vegetables for the children of America will require a few healthy snacks; Coffee loaded with cream and sugar, the biggest bag of beef jerky you’ve ever seen, two chocolate pies, and a bag of pumpkin seeds. I was the only one in the store...
….and we should be very clear about the next point. This was not a small hole in the wall Mom and Pop store that still has a jar of Brill Cream and Epsom salt collecting dust on a shelf. We are talking full sized service station, gas and 8 different pots of coffee – of which only one was full with that sweet Colombian nectar I require to start my day.
“Is this all the coffee you have going?” I mumbled in my most monotone “I haven’t had coffee yet” voice. The clerk’s head raised just slightly from her perched stool position, just enough to mumble back “Yeah, I been busy.” She was in her early 20s, and wanted everyone in the room to know that she didn’t want to be there...but I was the only one in the room.
Really? You’ve been busy?! Doing what? Playing Candy Crush on your phone? Regretting that neck tattoo I noticed when I walked in? (and not to say that all people with neck tattoos are lazy incompetent boobs, but it shone like a beacon of despair on my quest for coffee this early Sunday morning.)
No big deal. I filled my cup with 20 ounce of “Rage” – that double the caffeine coffee that would no doubt have me bouncing off the walls in moments. The final essentials of the day’s snacks were compiled and I headed to the register.
“It’s gonna be $17.31” said Clown Baby. (She didn’t have a name tag, but it adequately describes the look and persona she was serving the public with.)
I reached into the top pocket of my best blue coveralls, and pulled out a $100 bill. Now before we go any further, I know that often convenience stores are short on change, or won’t accept big bills – as you will soon see, this was not the case.
She did the “hold the bill to the sky” move. Like she was Indiana Jones inspecting a rare artifact. It was in fact one of the older generation of bills most of us remember. I may as well have just handed a Rubik’s Cube to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, as her confusion and befuddlement with the object, soon turned to anger at the transaction taking place.
“I ain’t never seen one like this – don’t you got something else?!” Clown Baby said with that 20-year-old girl’s head shake. It’s the kind of head shake that makes you wanna reach across the counter and scream “That’s a $100 bill Clown Baby, not a beaver pelt I’m trying to pay you with!”
I let her know in my calmest tone it was all I had.
“Don’t you got a ATM card?!” she added (and I’m emphasizing her awful grammar not to juice up the story, but because this was how Clown baby spoke)
I indeed have an ATM card. But like many a farmer, it is often hard to get to the bank before closing time to cash a check, so my account was on E. I realize for anyone under the age of 35, that sounds like me complaining about a broken stage coach wagon wheel – but I’m an old school “cash man”. I still enjoy the feeling of pulling out a $100 bill in public. It carries much more cache than the ugly boring ATM, which gives no indicator as to your social status. The $100 bill and ATM card have a much more nefarious pairing these days – but this is a newspaper column, not an episode of Breaking Bad. The $100 alone says “I am a red blooded American”, and have enough cash in hand to get me into a little trouble – but not too much.
“Nope, I ain’t got one of those” I returned fire at Clown Baby, with just enough tone in my voice to announce agitation.
She still stared at the bill?! Had she never seen a greenback? A frog belly? A good old fashioned Benjamin?
“It don’t matter anyway, I don’t got enough change” she happily stated.
Ok, at least we have a legitimate reason for the complete failure taking place. She opened the drawer in an attempt to show me her lack of funds. And held up five 20’s, a stack of 10’s – and I could see a rubber band holding the 5’s together.
“See?!!” she indignantly said with hands on hips.
It began to dawn on me, that maybe it was her lack of the concept of change that had become our barrier. “There’s plenty of change there, all I need is $80. I’ll take a stack of 1’s if you have to” I grinned.
“Sir I know how to make change, can’t you just use your ATM?!”
Now I will concede that if asked in a tactful manner, I have no issue with the ATM request. But as I stated earlier, it didn’t hold enough funds to slide it and walk away. I sure as hell wasn’t gonna give her that moment in the sun.
“Sorry I’m not familiar with them” was said. She gave me a once over, as if to say “Not surprised, you are wearing coveralls”...I’m certain were I gussied up in my nicest Sunday church attire. People often confuse the farmer look, for the look of empty pockets. Whereas the truth is, I know a handful of coverall wearing men out here that could buy this store twice over with their pocket change.
“Sir, I can’t help you”
Are you kidding me?! Has the last 6 minutes, and the opportunity to pour some coffee down my throat just died – over this generational and social inequity?!
….and just as I was about to have the meltdown of meltdowns. The manager revealed himself from the back.
“Clown Baby, here is some extra change for today – you know how Sundays get busy”
We both looked at each other with a sort of kissing your cousin look – there was no winner here. And as I exited the door I spun around and said “Well you have a hundred bucks in the till, you can shut the doors and call it a day”
Her answer of “..Yeah, but we only got $17 from you – I ain’t stupid”, put a smile on my face.
No Clown Baby, you are not stupid.
I asked a handful of Mantecans to give me a short story of their mother. Just a little sentiment to shed light on the women that carried them for nine months. The women that fed them, clothed them, taught them, consoled them, and gave them life. Some sentiments were short and sweet, others absurd and hilarious but all conveying one message – we love our mothers.
Most were simple Manteca memories. Wendy Bal Hunt and her mother walked downtown for a little shopping at Manteca Department Store and Mode-O-Day. Arlene Wells’ mother took her to Marie’s Hallmark for a small gift when she got good grades. Tamra Heinrich’s mom took her to the MRPS to see pictures on the wall of her great-grandpa. Lisa Marie Picarello getting a set of wax vampire teeth at the bait-and-tackle store near Calla after a morning shopping with mom at Big Boy.
Others remembered day excursions. Millisa Dirks and mother Kathleen McCarty would head to their cousin’s Geneva Bakery in Stockton for two loaves of hot bread – one for the ride home, the other for dad’s dinner. In grammar school, Pat Eavenson’s mother Elsie Morris would let her play hooky, spending the day together having lunch at Stockton Joe’s and ice cream sundaes at Woolworth’s. Lisa Johnson’s mom made her homemade French toast before taking her to ice skating practice every morning; she also handmade all her competition outfits.
Katharine DeRoos’ mother, Patti, played guitar for her kindergarten class for more than a decade at Shasta School, making her the “coolest mom ever,” according to Katie. John Coldren’s mom, Sharolyn, would always cook a smaller meatloaf for him on family meatloaf night – one without onions.
Some of my friends weren’t afraid to get in a little jab at their mom’s expense. Joe Norris remembers being dropped off at Lincoln Elementary by his mother Mary Sanders. Joe noted, “My mom wore so many curlers the kids called her Helmet Head.” He also mentioned she had the fastest jab in town and that he still ducks and moves when arguing with her. Tony Coit says his mother once accidently ran him over with her car as he rode his bike in the yard. I contacted Jocelyn Coit for a response. “Accident ... right” was all she said.
Cassie Smedley-Nasr was lucky enough to convince her mother to allow her to take ROP at their store. Cindy Smedley and Aunt Cindy Garcia owned Let’s Party near Valley Cinema. Third and fourth period during her senior year at East Union were spent delivering balloons around town. Happy Mother’s Day!
Ron Schultz remembers a game he and his mom would play en route to pick up his father from work late at night. She’d ask a young Ron to name five movies that “so and so actor” was in – an attempt to get him back to sleep. However ADHD and a desire to play made sleep a moot point at best creating fond memories of mother and son night owls.
Jessica McLeod would find little drawings and notes in her lunch sacks from mother Camilla, letting her know “Jesus loves you and so do I.” Arturo Diaz’s mom would let him play his Nintendo – even after being sent home from school.
Many friends had actual stories of Mother’s Day. North Manteca resident Jennifer Canfield gave her mom flowers and a card that read “Without you, there would be no me.” Her mom and the whole office cried. Melissa Perry always knew when Mother’s Day was coming. They’d head to Brown-Mahin for a new dress – Melissa was mostly thrilled to run up the staircase – and then to Larimore’s for brunch. Elena Torrice and Kerry Ouimette-Griggs may have trumped us all by giving their mothers the gift of a grandchild on Mother’s Day. Joe Brocchini’s father would make him head down to Knodt’s Flower Shop sometime before noon to pick up a white lily corsage for mom to wear, “because when mom is happy everyone is happy.”
Beth Emperador Coit recalls her father, Dr. Emperador, buying her mother a set of golf clubs for Mother’s Day because as mom put it, “That’s all he wanted to do.” It went over so poorly that he slept on the couch and tried to give her the same gift at Christmas!
Others thanked their mothers for instilling life lessons. Michele Flores worked every summer at peach and apricot drying sheds in Escalon to be able to afford her Catholic School uniform. “I can still cut fruit with a single swoop of the knife. Thanks, Mom.”
And maybe it’s said most simply and eloquently by Caroline Silva Silveira Wolfe: “My mom taught us how to cook, clean, and behave. Made us better women.”
I myself recall heading to Lincoln Pool with mom for Mudturtle practice when little. My mom always made sure the edges of my fried eggs were crispy the way I loved them. My mom is the most patient person I know – at least with me she is. If she had a dime for every awkward spot I put her in, she’d be able to buy my entrance into the Bernacchi Building, a quest I haven’t given up on. I remember one evening during my freshman year at Manteca High, the mother of a female classmate had stopped by to discuss my poor treatment of her daughter. I may or may not have driven her daughter to tears with my 14-year-old biting wit, but more than likely it was just me being a jerk. My mother politely nodded her head as this other mom verbally laid into me. I did my best Eddie Haskell impression. “Mom I don’t know what she’s talking about. I’d never say such things.”
About that time the phone rings, my mom answers with a series of “Oh reallys” and “I’m very sorrys.” My mother hangs up the phone and says, “Did you pee in John Rhodes’ new baseball cleats?” I turned ghost white, remembering this poorly planned freshman baseball prank I’d pulled earlier in the day. His mother was none too pleased to say the least. The female classmate’s mother’s facial expression went from anger to bewilderment and finally to empathy. “I’m sorry ... about your son,” she said as she grabbed her purse and headed for the door.
My mother didn’t say much, which for me was always much worse. I headed to my bedroom and waited for dad to get home, and that would only rank 85th on the list of awkward spots I’ve put mom in. Love you, mom.
And let’s remember those family and friends that no longer have their mothers with them. To all those that have lost their mother in the distant or recent past, may your weekend – and your hearts – be filled with wonderful memories of days gone by. Happy Mother’s Day to all.