I began working at Cameron’s Pharmacy when I was 15. It was one of those small all-purpose stores, located in historic Pawtuxet Village. Cameron’s had a pharmacy, a small selection of groceries, a hardware section, and a liquor license. You could get a bottle of wine, a dozen roses, lubricated condoms, a thank-you card, and a refill on your prescription of Valtrex, all in one stop. The store was ran and owned by a fat Italian-American by the name of Anthony.
Before proceeding with my story, let’s talk about Anthony. He was a big, fat Italian man in his mid-forties who would always tuck his shirt in, emphasizing his big, fat Italian stomach. You could never tell when he was angry or when he was joking because his facial expression never changed. His beady little eyes, which rested above a thin, woolly, graying beard, bore a perpetually flat affect. Rumor has it that he was arrested 5 years ago for filling the prescriptions with free medical samples rather than going through the proper channels. Anyway, he was a big, fat moron.
I was making less than minimum wage at the time, selling liquor and cigarettes to old men who smelled like liquor and cigarettes. I found Anthony intimidating, what with how he would creep up behind me or make snide remarks that may have been funny if he his face were not a sullen, dead-eyed waste land. Whenever Anthony was looming around I would get nervous and make mistakes. He would complain I was ringing people up too slowly, then he would “help” me by scanning in items and taking money. Every time he “helped” the till was always off.
It was a Sunday, I think. My family was home, enjoying someone’s birthday dinner while the Cameron’s staff was also enjoying some cake for a completely unrelated reason. I was left to man the register. The store was quiet when a police officer waltzed through the automatic sliding doors. He looked a lot like Detective Sipowicz from NYPD Blue, but with less hair, less height, and more weight. He came up to my counter and cited that Cameron’s Pharmacy was in violation of this law and that law and it will be fined. I was then told that a clerk had sold cigarettes to a 14 year old girl.
“I hope it wasn’t me,” I joked.
Apparently, I was caught in a sting. A DARE sting. I was caught in a sting, by DARE.
Now, I did not sell a minor cigarettes because I was trying to earn the store more money. No. Likely it was because Anthony was berating me for not ringing people up quickly enough, so I panicked and began skipping steps. Sipowicz handed me a citation. I sat behind my counter, depressed, unsure if I will have a job tomorrow or if I will have to pay a fine with the little bit of money I had saved. To make matters worse, when Sipowicz got back into his is car, he called my mother. All he really told her was that he “had me.”
I quit my job in shame and Anthony ignored me for the rest of my life. I had a meeting with the chief of the Cranston Police, which was somewhat intimidating for a 15 year-old who had never done anything wrong, ever. The chief understood that it was an oversight on my part and that Sipowicz was a little overzealous about his big bust.
Eleven years later and Cameron’s Pharmacy still stands in Pawtuxet Village. It is now owned by Anthony’s big, fat son, who I think was also named Anthony. Rumor has it, this was to evade losing the business after being arrested. I now make a living not selling cigarettes to anyone.