Diamonds in the Rough / by Courtney Mehlhaff

At some point in our lives, we've all worked at jobs that were, politely put, less than stellar. When I first moved to the TC, I worked retail at a boutique gift store. It was intended as a short-term gig, a place to land while I got my bearings in a new city. Six months, I reckoned, would do the trick.

Over a year later I was still there. I worked weird hours and could barely pay my rent, but I'd met such wonderful people. My coworkers were so bright and funny that they occasionally made me forget my aching back and the last customer who'd treated me like dirt.

There was a guy in a band who would write little songs, such as his ballad about the Loomis truck driver called "Armored Car of Love." There was a woman who would twirl rolls of wrapping paper like batons, tossing them up in the air with a flourish. There was a girl who would work late nights during the Christmas rush, and we'd dance outrageously to a techno version of Bing Crosby after the store closed.

But the story that makes me laugh without fail involves another girl who was (and is) utterly delightful. We'll call her Heidi.  Because that's her name.  For a few months, we were selling personalized bracelets. You could buy a simple leather band and choose individual "diamond"-encrusted letters to thread on in any combination that suited your taste. 

On one particularly slow afternoon, Heidi decided to do a little shopping. She announced that she was going to make a bracelet for her sister, and proceeded to carefully pluck sparkly pieces out of the trays. She finally turned, quite seriously, to display her creation.

"Do you think she'll like it?"

I'd expected her sister's name, perhaps, or initials, or an inspirational word that held special meaning for them both.  What I saw instead, spelled out in glittery diamond letters, was "POOP."

It was ridiculous. And genius. And still one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

I eventually left that job, partly due to a poor change of management, and partly because having to call 911 after skateboarders threw lit firecrackers into the store didn't seem worth $8 an hour. I was too young and dumb to realize that you shouldn't burn bridges, because I frickin' dynamited that one. But I was lucky enough to know a few real gems, and that's worth a lot.