November 7, 1991.
A day that would live in infamy.
Well, at least to one cashier at Ghetto Kroger.
It was a normal Thursday. I drove into work with high expectations of the upcoming weekend. Ohio State Buckeyes football. Plenty of alcohol. Parties. Oh yeah, and payday. Being paid weekly had its privileges. Unlike a lot of people who get paid twice a month, I always had money for the weekend regardless of what week it was.
So, I clocked in and set up shop behind the hottest cashier I could find and started bagging groceries.
I was getting my jollies drooling over my cashier's beautiful ass when I heard the sobbing a couple lanes over. It was Fred, a full-time cashier who would shortly get promoted to Produce Manager.
Curious, I left my bagging station behind the cute cashier, and started bagging groceries behind Fred.
Fred was an interesting guy. He was a short, mid-western looking white guy in his mid-20's with a short brown hair and a mustache.
Yet, and here's the interesting part, he talked and acted like he was black. I'm not sure where he was from or where he grew up, but if you were talking to him on a phone, you would swear this guy was African-American. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
And boy could this guy play basketball. I played a couple pick-up games with him around Ohio State University and he could shoot a perimeter shot and toss no-look passes like the Nets' Jason Kidd in his heyday. And let's not even get into his rapping skills.
In short (no pun intended), Fred was a very kind, very cool guy that I was happy to consider on of my Kroger friends.
So there he was blubbering like a little baby. Blowing his nose and shaking his head while ringing up customers. I should also note that is was the first of the month, which was the busiest time of the month at Ghetto Kroger due to the monthly release of food stamps. However, I'll talk more about that in another entry.
"Hey Fred," I whispered while I was bagging Filet Mignons, lobster and baby formula. "You okay?"
He looked back with bloodshots eyes. Tears were flowing down his cheek.
"You didn't hear?" he asked.
I shook my head. I had no clue what he was talking about. "What's up?"
"Dude, it's been all over the news," he barked out. "Magic Johnson retired."
He wiped another tear from his eyes and blew his nose.
"He has AIDS."
I stared at him in silence. To be honest, I didn't know what to say. Words escaped me.
"I know. I know," he said to me. "It's a fucking tragedy."
Well technicially Magic Johnson didn't have AIDS, but that didn't stop everyone in the United States from saying that. On this particular day, after missing the first three games with an unspecified "stomach ailment" Johnson made the announcement that he was infected with the HIV virus and would immediately retire from the NBA.
Everyone that came through Fred's line had to hear about Magic Johnson having AIDS. A couple people gave him support. Fred even got a couple customer hugs as well with comforting thoughts.
"Everything's goin' ta be all right," one lady told him "Magic's goin' ta be here a long time." Ironically, this lady was right. Magic is still alive and well 17 years later after being diagnosed.
The crying and comforting continued throughout my shift. Not sure, but I can almost guarantee he cried into his pillow that night as well.
Flash-forward to a couple weeks later in the break room.
I was sitting with a fellow bagboy, who was telling jokes.
"Hey I got a good one," he said looking at me. "What does MAGIC stand for?"
"I dunno," I said with a shit-eating grin on my face. "What does Magic stand for?"
"My Ass Got Infected Coach!" He proudly cackled to himself.
All of a sudden, Fred marched into the room with this pissed off look on his face.
"Who said that?" he said looking as angry as a hornet.
"What," the bagboy asked.
"The Magic joke," Fred barked looking at me and then back to the bagboy. "Who said it?"
"I did," said the bagboy. "You wan't to hear another one.."
Fred walked over to the bagboy, picked him up from the seat and slammed him against the wall.
"If I ever hear you tell that joke again, I'm going to kick your fucking ass!"
Just like that, Fred released the bagboy and made a beeline out of the room.
After a couple minutes of silence. The bagboy sat back down in his seat.
"Sheesh," he said retying his Kroger apron. "That guy must fucking love Magic Johnson."
"Yep," I said. "I guess he really does."
From that time on, I don't think I ever heard another Magic Johnson joke again at Ghetto Kroger.
And I'm 100% certain it was because of Fred.