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Never lie when you look em in the eyes

Dave's Supermarket in Cleveland, OH, was owned by a man named Dave Saltzman. At that time, I think there were 3 or 4 branches. Today the Internet tells me there are 13 locations in northeast Ohio and more than 1,500 full-time and part-time employees. That's 1500 stories waiting to be told. As happenstance would have it, the Harvard branch, where I worked in high school, had a manager named Dave. His last name was Stueve. Although the spelling looks like it should be pronounced stew•evay or stew•eve, it was pronounced stew•vee. He was the person who initially hired me. I don't know if you've read the post where I talked about the first day I went to the supermarket. He was the guy who turned me away when I wanted to cash a check, then called me back and offered me a job.

Dave was about 10 or 11 years older than me, which means that he was in his mid to late 20s. He was a handsome guy with rosy cheeks and a Tom Selleck mustache. I know that my fellow supermarket coworkers would smack me upside the head for writing this, but he had a kind of Tom Cruise aura about him. Looking back on those days, I have to give him a massive amount of respect for running the supermarket as well as he did despite it being full of crazy characters. One of my biggest regrets in life is the I lied to Dave Stueve.

I was about 19 years old. It was my third year working at the supermarket. For whatever reason, the ladies in the deli section took a shine to me. They loved calling me Marcy because I had once told them it was the nickname my family used. My grandmother hated the nickname because she thought it was too girly. However, the ladies in the deli thought it was the most adorable thing they had ever heard. They insisted on calling me Marcy too. Sometimes, the ladies would fix me a really huge sandwich and then give me a receipt for the sandwiches as if I had paid for it. I should have paid for the sandwiches, but it was our secret, and I was happy to get the sandwich for free. The girls made the most amazing sandwiches, and they always put a lot of extra love into mine.

One day Dave caught me with one of my deli girls' sandwiches. He had been having a problem with too many people getting free sandwiches and was trying to put an end to it. He asked me, point blank, "Did your purchase that sandwich?" I was trapped in a dilemma because, of course, I had not paid for the sandwich, but I couldn't say that the ladies at the deli had given it to me for free. Not only would I have been fired, but the ladies would probably have been fired too. I mumbled that I had indeed paid for the sandwich. Dave didn't seem to believe me. He asked me again, more firmly. "Look me in the eye and tell me that you paid for that sandwich." That was the worst. I didn't want to look him in the eye at all. I wanted to run away. In the time that I had been at the supermarket, he put a lot of trust in me. Sometimes his trust was slightly misplaced.

He used to give me the keys to his precious Camaro. It was the pride and joy of his life. To prevent the car from being stolen, he had a secret way of starting the engine that only he and I knew about. I won't write it here, just in case he's still using this method today. After the store closed, my job was to drive the car from the back of the building to the front. It was like a big brother giving a precious assignment to his little brother. One day while pulling the car around, I accidentally hit the gas instead of the brakes causing the car lurched backward and whipped around because I also had the steering wheel turned. I missed crashing into a wall by inches. If I had destroyed Dave's car the only thing I would have been able to do was to get out and run until there was no place left to run. I returned his keys after I finally got the car where it was supposed to be. He noticed something was wrong and asked if I was OK. I looked him in the eye and told him everything was fine.

Dave had always treated me well. I remember him introducing me to the big shots at the supermarket as his protege. I didn't know what that word meant at the time, but I knew it was some sort of compliment. Once when I had a bit of legal trouble, Dave was there to help me get out of it.

I had gone to see Madonna live with some of my friends. I was 18, and everyone else was 17. We were drinking in the car even though it was illegal to do so in Cleveland, OH because of something called an Open Container Law. When the police came to pull us over, I tried to hide the booze under the seat. A cop knocked on the window and asked us to roll it down. He said, "Do you have any drugs or weapons in the car?" my friend Vince, who was driving, told the officer that we did not have any of those items. Immediately, the officer said, "Then what was that you tried to hide under the seat?" There was an awkward pause in the car. I had to think quickly. I don't know why it was my responsibility to do the thinking, but at the moment, I felt like I had to act fast. I told the officer the alcohol was mine. The logic was they would not call our parents because I was 18. The officer issued me a ticket and said, "Consider this a warning."

A few months after we had been pulled over, I received a phone call from the Police Department. Apparently, I had missed a court date, which I didn't know about. They threatened to send a police car if I missed the next one. The idea of getting arrested scared the crap out of me. I didn't know what to do, so I went to Dave. He reassured me that everything would be OK, and he offered to drive me to the court and be with me through the process. I put on my best dorky boy sweater and went with him to the courthouse.

In the court, the judge was an older man in his 60s. He looked very stern and was doling out fines and short prison sentences to the people in line before me. I could hear, "You know the law $500." or "You know the law 30 days in jail ." I knew the law well, and I was undoubtedly guilty of drinking alcohol in the car. When it was my turn to face the judge, he looked at me and paused for what seemed like 30 seconds. He asked me to explain to him why I was there. I told him it was because I had been caught drinking in the car. He asked me how I pleaded, and I told him no contest. He looked surprised and asked me to explain. While there was booze in the car, I told him that we had actually drank it in the parking lot before hitting the road. I also told him that the driver had not drank any and that I took responsibility for the booze because I was the only one who was 18 and didn't want our parents to be involved.

After I told my story, the judge began to laugh. Then he looked at me and said , "I remember how it was to be young." He told me the story of how he and his friends went to Woodstock or some big concert event in his day. He had the same look of nostalgia and longing that my grandfather had when he told me about his days in Okinawa during WWII.

After the judge finished reminiscing, he went on to tell me that what I had done was illegal and that I should be careful in the future not to get into trouble. He then hammered his gavel and told me that I had to pay $25 in court costs. Dave, who was by my side the whole time, gave me a pat on the back and paid the 25-dollar court cost for me. It really did feel like he was my big brother.

That's why it was so hard to look Dave in the eye and tell him that I had paid for the sandwich when in fact, I had not. I know it's an exaggeration, but still, I felt as if a small part of my soul had died at that moment, as if I had stuck my big toe over a line into the dark place. I think a devil or two must have laughed that day. I could see in Dave's face a disappointment that took him into a dark place as well. We both knew that I had not paid for the sandwich, but there was nothing either of us could do about it. I wish that I could find Dave now, apologize, and give him the $0.50 that I should have paid all those long years ago when I was too young and stupid to know, when you look into someone's eyes, you should always tell the truth.


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