Shortly before Labor Day Weekend, two coworkers quit suddenly. The Man was sent to work my old job in the parking lot, and I continued to staff the mercantile. The manager and I worked alone on the two days the other had off each week, and we worked together on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
After Labor Day, weekdays were very slow. Some weekdays, the mercantile took in less than $100. Slow was fine with me. I entertained myself by writing or reading, and I got paid the same no matter what I sold.
One Wednesday I was working alone. The weather was cold and rainy, and only a few people had been in the store all day. Late in the afternoon, a man and a woman—both with totally white hair—came in.
Are y’all here for the trail? I asked the couple.
They said they were. I told them there was a $5 parking fee.
The fellow with the white hair started to laugh. That’s what the guy down the road told me, he said. I told him to take a hike!
I assured him the parking fee was real. The fellow with the white hair insinuated The Man (who was working the parking lot alone that day) was an imposter ripping people off $5 at a time.
Don’t you think it’s a long way to come up this mountain to hustle people? I asked the fellow with the white hair. It’s a pretty slow day for that too, I told him.
He didn’t have on a uniform, the woman said.
He didn’t have on a uniform? I asked incredulously. I was confident The Man was wearing a uniform when he’d dropped me off at the mercantile that morning. He wasn’t wearing a jacket like this? I asked, gesturing to the company insignia on the jacket I was wearing.
He was wearing a uniform, the fellow with the white hair said, sounding irritated.
That’s not what you told me, the woman said.
The fellow with the white hair looked at me and said, He was kind of scruffy.
I was aghast. That’s my boyfriend! I told the fellow with the white hair. He had the decency to look embarrassed.
The Man has facial hair, it’s true, and his jacket may not have been pristine clean since we live away from civilization and can’t always do laundry the moment our outerwear gets dirty. However, I’d call him handsome, perhaps rugged, but not scruffy.
The fellow with the white hair continued to defend his doubts about The Man’s validity as an employee empowered to collect parking fees. He knew a woman, he said, who hustled people by collecting money in parking lots…
Where? I shot back at him. Grateful Dead shows?
He nodded, while his lady friend grew increasingly embarrassed.
I told him again it sure was a long way up the mountain on a slow and rainy day to tell lies just to get a few bucks. He continued to look embarrassed, but not nearly as embarrassed as the woman with him.
The fellow with the white hair may have doubted The Man’s valididy, but he didn’t doubt mine. Not only was I wearing a uniform and a photo ID, I was standing behind a cash register in a store. I collected that old coot’s $5 parking fee before he went back to his car.