It was early morning, well before sunrise, and my girlfriend and I were getting ready for work.
Out of nowhere, Joanne asked, “Does your company offer benefits?”
I was pulling on my pants, and I paused mid-hitch. “Why?”
“Because if they do, it’s something you should take advantage of,” she said, dabbing some makeup onto her forehead. “Didn’t you ask during the interview process?”
“There wasn’t much of an interview process,” I said. “I hand-filled an application and got hired on the spot.”
“Well, you need to ask,” Joanne said. “There’s no reason you should be paying for stuff out of pocket if you don’t have to.”
“Money isn’t an object on a weed-puller’s salary,” I pointed out.
Joanne held her makeup applicator like a knife, as if to stab me. “You better ask, Peter. Or I’ll get medieval.”
So that afternoon after work — once all the other guys had left — I went to talk to the company owner, Benito.
I cautiously approached his office. He was sitting at his desk with a set of plans unrolled before him, puffing on a rank cigar. The shades were drawn, and the only light came from a dusty lamp standing beside his desk.
I knocked on the door, gently. “Benito? Can I talk to you for a second?”
He looked up, startled. Cigar smoke swirled around his head. “What you want!”
My throat constricted. “I just needed to ask you about benefits.”
His eyes narrowed. “Benefits?”
“Yeah. Does the company offer benefits?”
“Yes!” Benito said. “You have the benefit of working here and getting paid!”
“Actually,” I said, licking my lips, “I was thinking more in terms of insurance.”
He clenched his hand into a fist. “The only assurance you have of getting paid is if you do your job!”
“OK,” I said, nodding, “I think I see where this is going. Clearly, there’s no sense talking about retirement.”
“Retirement?” Benito slammed his fist on the desk. “You too young to retire! I’m 67, and I no can retire!”
“You know,” I said, pointing behind me, “I think I’m taking up too much of your time. I should probably get going.”
“Did I answer all your question?” Benito asked.
“You did,” I said. “And thank you. I appreciate our in-depth discussion of the employee benefits program.”
He pointed his cigar at me. “Remember — you very lucky I give punk like you job. Don’t forget. You should be grateful for your benefit!”