Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My first job

I walked in to Happy Harry's Pizza on March tenth, 2014. I was excited and nervous, as it was my very first job interview. Dressed in a green, flannel shirt, I nervously walked to the front of the restaurant and in a faint voice, I told the cashier what I was there for.

"What?" she asked.

"I'm here for an interview," I repeated, my voice croaking.

I was then ushered back behind the kitchen area, to a windowless room  where my future boss, Carlotta, sat calmly.

"I know you're here because you want the job, but why Happy Harry's?" she inquired.

Crap. I didn't prepare for this question. "I... well, it's better to work for a local place instead of one of those chain restaurants," I spluttered.

Agreeing with me, she moved on, reading off of the application that I submitted last week.

"So, you've done a lot of work in Boy Scouts and youth group. And you're an eagle scout."

"Yes," I repeated.

After forty-five minutes, Carlotta decided to hire me on the spot. "You seem like a really awesome kid," she smiled, "I'll have you start Monday at three-thirty."

Excited, I pushed my germophobia aside and shook her hand, even though she was suffering from an obvious cold. I did it. I got my very first job; a home run. I left with a huge smile on my face, but quickly wiped it off and, once I got in my mother's car, I told her I didn't get it. After she expressed her sympathy, I could no longer control myself and I grinned and told her I was just kidding.

"I can't believe it. You're a working man," she said.

Monday came along and I was supervised by a classmate who got the job two years before. She also happened to be my brother's girlfriend. We hadn't talked for several years, until recently, after we moved from grade school to middle school, as our learning environment got much bigger. We worked well together, despite that I'm quite shy. The day went well and I was excited that I had made my first $32. Sure, people complain about minimum wage, but I was grateful. At least now I could stop begging my parents for money to buy junk at Walmart.

The next day, Carlotta was working alongside us, with her husband, Ron. Soon, the time came to fill the cheese bin inside of the station. I retrieved a large, white bucket of mozzarella and returned. As I began adding to the supply, a large amount escaped my grasp and landed on the ground.

"What a waste," Carlotta complained, "pick that up."

Thinking nothing of this, I quickly grabbed the ruined cheese and returned after washing my hands.

Within a few weeks, I learned that Carlotta's mood was unpredictable. Some days, she would be quite chipper. When I would make a mistake, one day, she said, "Oh, no, don't apologize. It's alright." The next, she would tell me off. Most of the time, I would move past any negative statements she made and would continue working.

In late May, work became nearly unbearable. Two of Carlotta's star employees were quitting, as they needed to work at a summer camp or find a higher paying job. On top of that, one of her new employees was fired after he failed to show up for work. Because of the shortage of workers and the ever-growing amount of customers, my boss began to work alongside me. Now, she had only one mood. Anger.

The rushes gave me a lot of anxiety, which led to me working frantically, consequently resulting in a messy station. "I can't work like this! I'm cleaning up your mess." she barked. My face turned red and I continued on the order as she wiped the olives, onions and cheese onto the floor. Later that day, I was confused with an order. Somebody didn't want their garlic bread  baked. Most of the time, they were, or another employee would package the item after I finished putting it together. I made the garlic bread and then placed it on wax paper, accidentally bumping it into one of the pizzas nearby, which caused some sauce to smear on the wrapper. Once my monster of a boss saw this, she was quick to criticize me. "Unacceptable."

I then asked a quick question on how exactly to wrap the bread with the nearby plastic film. Carlotta grabbed the item and wrapped it herself. "You've worked here how long and you can't wrap a garlic bread?" she mumbled, loud enough for me to hear. By now, I was shaking. By the look of my hands, it seemed like I had just downed half-a-dozen energy drinks. As usual, I forced myself to continue.

By midday, there were more orders coming in. Carlotta even placed her own, which was currently in the oven with six other pizzas. The timer rang, and because I was impaired by the panic, I grabbed her meal from the ancient stove and placed it in the back, where the employees eat.

 After processing more orders. I glanced up to see her walking swiftly toward me. "I want my pizzas cooked!" she snarled.

Right now, I was at the point where I should have thrown my apron at her feet and said "fuck you, I'm out of here." But instead, I whimpered "do you want to spray that sheet with the cooking oil before you put it in again?" She responded by repeating what she said earlier.

The next day, I snuck into the back and placed my resignation and my two-week notice on her cork board. I was sick of her and Happy Harry's and needed to get another job that made me feel like I was going to relapse in major depression. I made it through within fifteen seconds, avoiding any confrontation from my verbally abusive employer.

Since my departure, at least three more people have left. It sounds bad, but I always liked driving past the restaurant and seeing her tacky HELP WANTED sign posted on the door, for the umpteenth time. Truth be told, she deserves it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Unidentified persons awareness

Imagine leaving your home to go to work, school or getting groceries. It's a normal day and the sun shines vibrantly in front of you. But then, your life ends. It doesn't matter how, but it's over. You lose your friends, family, precious memories -- and your identity. When you body is found, within hours, days, weeks, months or even years, nobody knows who you were, despite that your face may have been recognizable, unique qualities such as scars, dental work and birthmarks could also be observable.
Over forty-thousand people in this country alone are faced with this problem. Decedents of all ages, races and sexes have spent years being known as "John" or "Jane Does," accompanied by mortuary photographs or facial reconstructions.

Reconstruction of the Glendora John Doe
In November 1979, a teenage girl was murdered and found a day after she died. Her clothing and jewelry were distinct and her dental information, fingerprints and DNA were all recovered with ease. She was nicknamed as "Cali Doe," named after the town she was discovered in. Her killer has never been found, although she was identified in early 2015 as Tammy Jo Alexander.

Moving forward,  some aren't as lucky as Cali Doe was. The partial skeleton of a male child was found in Glendora, California in 1984. Unlike Cali Doe, his fingerprints, clothing and DNA were not recovered. Examiner's weren't even sure if he was, in fact, male. However, they do know that he may have been of mixed race, possibly white and Asian and likely had hydrocephalus.

In 2012, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (abbreviated as the NCMEC) began a project on Facebook, dubbed as Help ID Me, which they launched to help identify America's unknown children. So far, 279 decedents have been added to their website. They began to digitally recreate the faces of these children and young adults, which involved scanning their skulls into machines and then adding layers of tissue and skin to digital skull in a fairly expensive computer program. For cases where the decedent had not been dead for very long, an artist drew over a sketch of a morgue photo, also with a digital program,

One case, of a girl who was discovered on Valentine's Day in 1988 in Millen, Georgia, a sketch was created earlier in the investigation. Recently, the NCMEC created a composite using the latter method, which looks somewhat different than the original. Hopefully with this new and more accurate technology, such cases will eventually be solved.

The girl found in Millen, Georgia in 1988. The NCMEC created the composite on the right.
What people do for the unidentified is extraordinary. Not only are their faces recreated, but countless websites feature their cases with information ranging from the location they were found and their physical descriptions, as well as missing persons who have been ruled out as possible identities. Such sites, such as The Doe Network and The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System have exceptional coverage and have even assisted detectives in identifying the unidentified.

Since late 2013, I have become fascinated with these cases and have even created multiple pages on Wikipedia about such people, including a young woman found in California. I also have a separate blog dedicated to the unidentified.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My first play

Forward: I was given the assignment last year in my creative writing class to write a play. I had never done such a thing before, minus a terrible screenplay I penned in eighth grade. I decided to write about my recent fascination with unidentified murder victims (dark, I know), despite my history with depression. The story below is a combination of several different cases, incorporating possible scenarios that these people encountered when they were alive. All of the characters, besides Beau and Jacques and Melinda's parents are based on real people.

MELINDA: (It is the summer of 1976, where two step-siblings, Jacques and Melinda Fuller have left their home in New Brunswick, Canada. The road is busy with cars as the two make their way alongside it. Jacques carries a very large cell phone, as they were only recently invented)  I can’t believe what Dad did. Just like that, he disowns you for a complete accident. Who could ever do that sort of thing? (Her expression is distant, as if she is thinking what else to say.)

JACQUES: Lindy, it’s okay. I was planning to leave home anyway my junior year of college would have started soon anyway (he looks down at his feet).

MELINDA: (Annoyed) Really?! I thought you were going to stay for my graduation! You only get one time to celebrate the end of high school! And now, I’m going to… (she covers her face with her hands and drops to the ground)

JACQUES: (Sympathetically places his hand on his sister’s shoulders) It’s okay. Graduation is so overrated anyway. All they do is have the students sit in rows for four hours until their names are called and then they go home carrying a piece of paper. You still made it through four years of school at the top of your class.  You did better than I did, (sarcastically, with a grin) even if you were in last place with a negative grade point average (Melinda stands up, her hands slowly leave her face).

MELINDA: (Quietly) I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get angry. (Her gaze shifts to an overpass which is located downstage) Do you remember when we used to watch  boats off of the dock near the house?

JACQUES: (Smiling) How could I forget. (He guides his sister over to the bridge where they both sit, dangling their feet from the edge) Now we can watch cars instead. It’s not that different.

MELINDA: (Turning her head to look at Jacques) What was it that you did? I mean, all you ever told me was that it was a complete accident or misunderstanding.

JACQUES: (Sighs) Well, just when my sophomore year of college ended, we had a party at Eric’s. They started taking shots and someone distributed all sorts of drugs. Someone brought Juliet Green as their guest and she didn’t hesitate to call the police. Mom bailed me out while you were on that trip to Alberta and once Dad found out, just like that, (he takes a breath) it was over.

MELINDA: At least now I know that it was a good reason for me to leave with you. I was afraid you’d done something worse. Kelly said she heard a rumor that you were driving after you got drunk and killed someone. That sort of thing would make you a criminal. Which I knew you would never be anyway.

JACQUES: (Surprised) Really? Why would anyone think that? I would never drink, not after Aunt Martha died from alcoholism. And then there was Pam who was killed after her boyfriend drove drunk.

MELINDA: (Eyebrows raised) Then why were you at a party? There’s always all sorts of illegal things going on.

JACQUES: Half of my friends were transferring to Northwest University. I needed to say goodbye. Sure, I was tempted to try some of Mike’s mushrooms, but I controlled myself.

MELINDA: Why wouldn’t you just go with them? (her legs move back and forth over the bridge) Then we wouldn’t be in such a mess and I would be giving a valedictorian speech (laughs).

JACQUES: Do you seriously believe I could pass a semester at that school? I’m not smart like you are.

MELINDA: (Grins widely) True, true. (Jacques gently punches her shoulder) Ouch! That hurt! (playfully hits him back)

JACQUES: You hit like a girl, Lindy. Should have joined the basketball team instead of becoming a cheerleader.

MELINDA: Yeah, like they’dve let me join the basketball team. I’m too short. Even though they needed more players at the start of the year, they would never integrate girls, even if I’m the younger sister of the famous all-star Jacques Fuller (she smiles widely).

JACQUES: (Rolls eyes) You have a point there. (The cell phone rings) I still can’t get over how these cool these things are. Who knew that they had the technology to invent something like this only three years ago.

MELINDA: Yeah. Soon everyone in the world will have one. Not just the kids with rich parents… who had rich parents.

JACQUES: (Answers phone) Hello? (an indistinct voice is heard, his expression turns to  worry) Yes, Mom? Yes, we’re still fine. You don’t have to call us every day. (Long pause) I’m not coming back. No, Lindy decided to come with me. Here she is (passes phone to his sister).

MELINDA: (Reluctantly takes cell phone) Hi Mom. No, I’m not going back, either. (The voice on the phone gets louder, seemingly frantic. Angrily, her face changes to a sour expression) I don’t care if Dad says he’s sorry! How could he just throw out his own son for something he didn’t even do! Just stop. It’s been six days and were fine. We crossed the United States’ border yesterday and we’re going to have a better life here. The battery is almost gone and we don’t have the charger with us! And we’re using it to keep in touch with our friends, not you! (Melinda hangs up and throws the phone off of the overpass) I’m so sick of them!

JACQUES: (Eyebrows raised, in a sarcastic tone) Not like I needed that anyway (The two are then interrupted when a vehicle stops next to them. A man with a baseball cap exits).

BEAU: Hi, (he pauses) anything I can do for you folks?

JACQUES: (Not making eye contact) No. We’re quite alright. (Melinda nods her head)

BEAU: (half smiles) Are you sure? Those clothes look pretty bad, like you’ve worn them for days. Are you two runaways? I just encountered one down the  road (He motions to a figure offstage).

MELINDA: We’re adults. Just left home a few days ago. We are in no need of assistance.

BEAU: If you say so. (Looks at Jacques again) Here, at least give you some clothes. (Melinda looks as if she’s about to refuse, but Jacques waves for her to stop. Beau opens the door to his truck and rummages around. He returns holding a pair of jeans, a red shirt, a white blouse and cutoff shorts) I’m meeting my wife at the Green River campground. I don’t think she would mind if I gave away her clothes. She never liked them anyway. (Hands over clothing)

MELINDA: Thank you. (Beau tips his hat and drives away. Melinda and Jacques sit back down on the bridge. They sit in silence for a few moments  until a teenage girl appears, who is wearing a red jacket and tan pants). Wow, that was generous.

JACQUES: (Eyebrows raised) No kidding. I guess it’s a good thing that Americans are willing to give away their extra clothing to complete strangers.

CALI: (shyly) Did he give you clothes, too?

JACQUES: You’re the runaway? (Cali nods, nervously) Where are you from?

CALI: Arizona.

MELINDA: (Surprised) That far?

CALI: It helps when you’re a good liar. Most people are willing to drive a girl around who needs to see her sick grandmother. Where are you from?

JACQUES: (Looks at Melinda and she says in  unison with him) Canada.

CALI: (Eyes grow wide) Woah.

MELINDA: (Smiling) How old are you, anyway?

CALI: (Grinning) I’m nineteen. (As she receives puzzled looks from Melinda and Jacques, she laughs.) Okay, only  fourteen. I guess I’m not the best liar after all. How old are you two?

JACQUES: Thirty-five and twenty-seven. (He winks)

MELINDA: Did you lie about where you were from, too?

CALI: (Shaking her head) No, I figured I could trust two hitchhiker-looking people who got clothing from the same man I just ran into.

JACQUES:  So, what brought you here?

CALI: (Her expression changes) My parents kept fighting. It got to the point where my dad put my mom in the hospital and when I got in the way, he gave me a black eye. I had to get out of there as soon as I could, so when I got to visit my mom, I said goodbye. She was asleep, but at least I actually said it. (Her voice catches) I don’t even know if she’ll make it.

MELINDA: (Frowns) I had a friend who had an abusive father. She lives with her grandparents now. The police took care of the situation.

CALI: I called the police twice. They couldn’t do anything due to (brings up two fingers to use as quotations) not having enough evidence.

JACQUES: That’s terrible (looks down at his feet) I thought our home life was difficult.

MELINDA: (Embraces Cali as she starts crying) It’s okay. Sometimes things like that happen. But I’m proud of you that you got out of that situation. Not a lot of people are that brave.

CALI: (Looks up) You’re so pretty. I wish I was like you.

JACQUES: (Interrupts) Seriously? Pretty? She’s just my ugly stepsister. Or Medusa’s twin. (Melinda gives him a puzzled look.) Oops. Sorry, I have a really bad sense of humor. Sorry, Lindy.

MELINDA: (Her attention then shifts back to Cali) Why don’t you come with us? We would enjoy your company. Besides, would you like to spend weeks with only him (points at Jacques) by your side? It’s hard on your ears.

CALI: (Giggles) As much as I would like to, I’d rather go alone. I don’t want to invite anyone else into my own problems anymore than I just did. But thank you for the offer.

JACQUES: (A concerned look forms on his face) Are you sure? You’re awfully young to live by yourself for so long. I’m worried about you.

MELINDA: We’re worried about you.

CALI: I guess I could stay with you for a while. I hope you don’t mind, but can I ask why you two are out here?

JACQUES: (Half smiles) Our parents are jerks.

MELINDA: My brother got arrested at a party. My dad overreacted so he and my step mom kicked him out of the house.

JACQUES: (Interrupting) And she couldn’t imagine life without her perfect big step brother.

CALI: I wish I had a siblings that close. Even a step brother or sister would be great. How long have your parents been married?

JACQUES: They married when Lindy was a baby. Even though we aren’t related by blood, I’m closer to her than my mom. After how she keeps trying to buy my affection, her desperation doesn’t pay off. Even though Lindy’s dad is a doctor and we were spoiled rotten, neither of us were very happy living with them, as our personalities always clashed.

CALI: (Points upstage at Marie wandering near a road located below the overpass) Oh! That’s my friend, Marie. I was supposed to meet her over there. (Calling to Marie) Marie! Up here! (Marie looks up and runs to the overpass.)

MARIE: (Out of breath) Cali! I was afraid you left me. (She turns to Melinda and Jacques) Hi, I’m Janice.

CALI: (Rolls eyes) Marie, they already know your real name, I’m sure they heard me when I yelled for you.

MARIE: Oops. Sorry, I’m not used to using my real name anymore. I’ve been away from home so long that everyone is probably looking for me. I can’t afford to let it slip or the police could whisk me back to my drunk of a father in no time.

CALI: (To Marie) These are Jacques and Melinda. They’re Canadians.

MARIE: (To Jacques and Melinda) Oh! We met a Canadian just yesterday!

CALI: No, that was a Caledonian. (To Jacques and Melinda) We passed through Caledonia, New York and were given directions to St. Petersburg from a passerby. Just one look at Marie’s big, sad, blue eyes and they couldn’t resist.

MARIE: And after they saw your (she pauses, thinking) I’ve got nothing. (To Jacques and Melinda) As you can see, I’m not quite as good with coming up with things like Cali is. It took me half a day to decide on a false name. Janice Marie Brock, from Bartlett, Virginia.

MELINDA: (Concerned) How long have you been a runaway?

MARIE: (Shrugs) Six months. I was going to stay in New York until I met Cali. Now we’re going to Florida. It’s a lot warmer there, anyway.

MELINDA: To escape your father, as you said before?

MARIE: Yes. I originally wanted to stay with my grandparents, but they wanted to report me right away for running away. After that, I started on my own.

JACQUES: We invited your friend to travel with us. Do you want to as well?

MARIE: Sure. You both seem like good people. As long as you don’t turn me in.

MELINDA: Don’t worry. We’ve been through enough that we wouldn’t want to go back to our families, either.

MARIE: (Fumbling with her ear) Oh no! I lost my earring!

JACQUES: It’s alright. We’re all so dirty that it won’t matter anymore.

MARIE: (Angry) My grandma gave that to me!

MELINDA: Jacques!

MARIE: (Dismisses her anger with a swish of her hair) He’s right. It doesn’t matter. If they would have cared they’d let me stay with them.

CALI: Don’t say that (her voice trails off) Oh! I almost forgot, I was downtown today and I was able to get money from some of the tourists.

MARIE: How did you manage that?

CALI: We were supposed say we needed money to ride the city bus, remember?

MARIE: I don’t remember. I’m sorry. I can’t believe I’ve managed to stay alive for so long with such a bad memory. How much did you get?

CALI: (Beaming) Seven dollars. It took four hours but it was totally worth it. (Turning to Melinda) Do you and your brother manage to bring any money with you?

MELINDA: Jacques left first without anything. After twenty minutes, I snuck out but forgot to take anything. At least Jacques remembered to take my dad’s cell phone. He was intending to call me later, but after I caught up with him, we decided that we would use it to talk with our friends while we still had batteries. I ended up getting angry and threw it off of the bridge. (Cali peers over the side and moves back after she sees what is left of the cellular device.)

JACQUES: That was the short version, anyway.

MARIE: What’s the long version?

MELINDA: (Grins) You don’t want to know.

MARIE: So, you two are seriously wanting us to join you? Not a lot of people are in favor of helping runaways unless they want to reunite us with our families.

JACQUES: Like we said before, we wouldn't want to go back to our family either, so you can certainly trust us.

MELINDA: (To Marie) So, why are you heading to Florida?

MARIE: (Shrugs) I don’t know. It’s warmer and I suppose the long trip would keep us occupied for quite a while until we get there.

MALINDA: (Turning to Jacques) Well, Florida does sound nice compared to up north over here. What do you think?

JACQUES: Whatever you feel like doing if fine with me. Cali, maybe you could use your adorable charm to convince people to drive us down there and to get  us a little more money. As long as Marie’s mouth stays shut (he winks).

CALI: Well, I’m glad we were able to meet you both. Now, were just like our own little family (the group then exits the stage and the curtain closes).

Afterward: To this day, the true names of Jacques and Melinda are unknown. However, it is possible that Jacques did have the same name, as one witness claimed to have met a young man matching his description. The witness stated that the man was named "Jock," which was most likely spelled as Jacques. Melinda's name was no more than a guess. She was accompanying the real-life Jacques at the time they died in 1976, but her name was never recovered.
Real-life Cali: Tammy Alexander

Cali remained unidentified until 2015. The girl who she is based off of, dubbed as 'Cali Doe' was discovered near Caledonia, New York in 1979, which lead to her nickname. Her actual identity was discovered to be Tammy Alexander, from Brooksville, Florida. Marie was based off of a girl who died in Florida in 1973, who used multiple aliases such as the name Marie and Janice, but neither of those those were likely her actual name.
Reconstructions of Jacques and Melinda

Jacques' situation is based off of what one witness stated, that the real-life Jacques claimed he was from Canada after he was disowned by his father after he decided not to pursue a career as a doctor, instead of attending a party. He likely did play sports in life and was between the ages of twenty and twenty-two.

According to the witness, Melinda was not actually his stepsister, but more likely a girlfriend. Melinda's age is the only part of her character that is based from fact, which was between eighteen and twenty.
Real-life Marie: Janice Young

Real-life Marie, identified in May 2015 as Janice Marie Young, told many inconsistent stories with the people she encountered, stating she was from various New England states. The victim was seen alive on multiple occasions and gave the names "Cindy," "Maria," "Janice Marie Brock" (her birth name) and "Janice Marie Bromke". It turns out that Janice, who went by her middle name, was a runaway from Virginia.