Thursday, April 27, 2006

Coworkers: Part 79 - Lenny

   Once upon a time, there were three distinct strata of mental disability.
   Moron, imbecile, idiot.
   I learned this during a college course. Speech Communication, something like that.
   " ... if someone calls you a moron, this could be considered a compliment," the instructor smiled, "because a moron is the most intelligent of the three."
   The class laughed. This was at Cal State, obviously long before more sensitive modifiers such as "challenged" or "victimized" were applied to 100% of humanity. In our more enlightened era, everyone is special.
   Lenny, screaming at the Listening Bar, had floundered his way to imbecile level. Not quite the dumbest.
   Maybe I should have said goofball, that sounded more gracious.
   Lenny knew diddle about music, he had the attention span of a startled kitten, and people skills of a sea sponge. Typical late Blockbuster hire.
   He passed the drug test, and was agreeable. The newly mandated psyche test supposedly gauged honesty, sociability, openness, stability and conscientiousness. Not intelligence, not expertise, not the ability to comprehend instructions, let alone predict cause and effect.
   Evening crew forgot to empty trash cans so Lenny drew the morning assignment. To be efficient, to save bags, he compacted. Smashed his foot deep inside the trash box at the Listening Center. Foot got stuck in the box. As someone up front rang for assistance. Clip clop, up to the front.
   "Duhh, can I help you?"
   Another moment. The time he gazed towards the ceiling, balancing a bellboy bell on his forehead. Dancing the Macarena. Tripping over a stool, annihilating an end-cap, stepping on his glasses.
   For reasons unexplained, he drove a staple into his thumb. That's why he was screaming at the Listening Bar. On one hand, it hurt like hell. On the other hand, he was terrified of the resulting gusher if he yanked the wayward metal. He could die! No one would care because everyone around him was laughing. Stacey had tears in her eyes.
   After much self debating, Lenny summoned his nerve and asked Stacey to yank the staple out.
   She gripped the metal and tugged furiously. Lenny went with her, howling like a stuck bunny rabbit.
   "Did that hit bone when you drove it in?" she finally asked.
   "Oh my God! I can't believe I did that. Pull it out! Pull it out!"
   Couple more jerks, direct from the Inquisition, and the staple was free.
   No one had thought about bandages ahead of time.
   The copious leakage surprised everyone.
   Especially Lenny, who passed out.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Coworkers: Part 80 - Pierced

   The customer wore a painters cap, stained striped shirt, and frayed blue jeans. The record store was not the bait shop, he appeared uncomfortable. Only three places spelled home to that man. Trailer park box, even though neighbors probably swiped all his Pit Bulls. Bottom end strip bars, where 40 year old broads flashed on counter tops for tequila shots. And any construction site that didn't know him, where he hired on as General Labor, doing the sweatiest work.
   In short, bottom feeder. Definitely not a customer. He'd walked in with two CDs. Refund time. Cool green for that passed out 40 year old slag in his truck.
   By the looks of him, he was getting angrier and angrier. Because he couldn't understand the counter clerk. Female.
   I couldn't comprehend most of the girls, either. Most of them now jabbered like infants.
   Medication? Some baked brain game? Nooo.
   Except for Mandy, all the women had decided to get their tongues pierced.
  Pair of big ole silver bearings, size of green peas. Tongue bruised, swollen. They were learning to talk all over again.
   "Aah woo wha ooh wee wun?" Heather asked.
   "Wuu waa way wee wun?"
   "What? I wanna a refund!"
   "Waa wha ahh thay."

   God. Where was Stacey? I didn't want to deal with that loser. I'd only be rude.
   Stacey's tongue had been pierced for years. In fact, I think all the other girls had adopted a follow the leader mentality.
   Pat, Heather, Sharon, Clarita. All holding their mouths, saying, "Eee huuu thoo baa."
   It hurts so bad.
   What did they expect?
   "Hey," I walked up. "Can I help you with anything?"
   "I need a refund," Bottom Rent snapped. "Got two CDs here. That girl don't speak English."
   "Ahh aath hmm ff eee waa ahh -- "

   I waved Heather to stop. She was a terrific worker. Striking features. Unfortunately, she now sounded like she'd escaped from Weevil Willie's Sideshow.
   "Alright, what do you got?" I asked.
   "Alan Jackson and Michael Jackson. I don't want 'em. I want cash."
   Don't we all, I thought. "Receipt?" I suggested, though I already knew the answer.
   "I ain't got no damn receipt! I need cash. These were ... were ... birthday gifts! Oh yeah, birthday gifts! 'N I already own 'em!"
   Like hell. Both discs were in shrink wrap, and they weren't record club. So ...
   "Fill out this form," I handed him a refund slip. I wasn't exactly a Manager, but I could process this cellar rat.
   "What! How come? These weren't stolen! I don't want my name turned over to the police."
   "Anytime we make a refund without a receipt we need to tell some Corporate flunky we weren't just giving a refund to ourselves."
   "Huh? Oh." He began filling the slip, then must have realized what I just said. "Hey! Are ya'll hiring?"
   "No." Idiot.
   "Maa wee gaw wah baa baa caa."
   Pat, rattling something about Mandy. No idea what. I ignored her.
   "Tah Daa Poe feth ahh aba th thung."
   Something about The Professor.
   Sharon walked up. "Daa Poe feth ahh ith gonna thmaak ith fayth."
   Two girls, boiling at The Professor. Wasn't it lunch break yet?
   "Excuse me," I told Bottom Rent. Went to the Listening Center.
   The Professor anticipated me. "I didn't say anything. I just asked why they were acting completely retarded."
   Sharon and Pat pibble pabbled noisily.
   "Retarded is a poor choice of words, Dude. The girls all got pierced."
   "That -- Still, why would that make them -- "
   "Show him."
   Both girls rolled out their tongues.
   The Professor jumped like he'd seen an octopus. He stared, then blanched. From his expression, I knew he had tumbled into Amnesia Land.
   "My God! Why would they -- What possibly possessed -- Don't they realize -- Surely that hurts?"
   "Eee huuu thoo baa."
   "Still ... ahh ... ahh ... ahh ... "

   His brain had locked. The ladies began to torment him.
   "Thith naw ahh wee gaw pithed," Pat giggled.
   "This isn't all they got pierced," I translated.
   The Professor reddened.
   "Uuu wanna thee?" Sharon mocked.
   The Professor understood that, his mouth opened slightly.
   "Pith off, thippa cub lootha."
   Sharon and Pat burst out laughing. Truth to tell, so did I. The Professor was confused.
   "I mean, why would -- What would tempt them to pierce -- "
   "It's what women do, Professor. Tattooed, pierced, and ... most likely," I threw a look, "shaved. Just like me."
   The ladies exploded, The Professor flushed crimson.
   "Uuu doh wanna noo."
   "No, I don't want to know. Go away," I told them.
   They walked off, giggling like grade schoolers.
   By now, The Professor had recovered his composure, though not his brain. "Uhh, you think maybe Pat ... she is cute and ... you think I might -- "
   "She's too big for you," I cut him off. "Besides, she ain't one of those strippers you tuck five dollar bills into."
   His face drained of color. Dirty secret exposed.
   Up front, Heather waved. Bottom Rent must have finally remembered basic spelling. Joy.
   "How much is it?" I asked, glanced at the refund slip.
   "Uuu bedda loo aa tha."
   I ignored Bumble Mouth.
   "Around $25.00. Sound correct?"
   "Hell, yeah," Bottom Rent answered.
   "Uuu lithin. Ith aww ffftt aa."
   "Whatever." I was getting a headache, trying to decipher Heather.
   I rang up the Alan Jackson and Michael Jackson CDs. Came to $25.96. Forked over the cash, he left without a word.
   "Aaa caan bee leaf uuu dih tha," Heather warbled.
   "Can't believe I did what? Paid some goober to blow?"
   "No! Loo," she thrust the refund slip into my face.
   This time, I did look.
   Despite my prediction, Bottom Rent had filled out the form. All the form.
   His section, and the store section.

NAME: Fuck You
ADDRESS: Get Screwed
CASHIER: Retarded Redhead
MANAGER: Mister Shitty

   Hmm, hadn't been called Mister Shitty before.
   Two points for creativity.
   Stacey, Pat, The Boss, Joe, everyone howled.
   We sent the slip "as is" to Corporate with all the weekly paperwork.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Customers: Part 17 - Crackheads‏

  The couple waited at the front counter.  Nothing in hand.
  "Hey, can I -- "
  "Is this place hiring?"  the male interrupted.  Loudly.
  "I love music!"  the woman added.  "I'm a expert for music."
  Tank tops, both of them, faded and shabby.  Skin parched, leather brown.  Skinny, wrinkly arms.  They looked mid 40's, though I gauged them to be early 30's.
  Pure white trash.
  "Not sure who's coming and going,"  I replied, evasively.  "And The Boss is off today."
  "You got a application?"
  "Two applications!  I need a job, too!"
  "What kinda discount can I get once working starts?"
  "Are CD's free?"
  the male demanded.
  "How about concert ticket?"
  "I want to meet me  -- "
  "Oh my God, will I get to meet George Strait?"
  "God damnit, don't start up about George."
  "Too late.  I'm already getting squishy thinking about him,"
  she panted.
  The couple jabbered like their mouths were on fire.  Their mouths were on fire.  So were their jaws.  Both suffered "cockroach jaw," the involuntary twitching of their lower mandible.  Telltale meth addicts.  We'd never hire these human abortions, but I still had to go through the motions and hand, then accept, their applications.  Just as they had to go through the motions for their unemployment or welfare checks.
  Because we live in a society where every member is valuable.  Special.
  Even fuck-ups.
  I pulled out the empty register drawer.  Empty.  No applications.  Damn.
  "Gimme a second,"  I said.  "I'll print up some applications."
  "Is there a pen?"
  "Open your eyes, you dumb bitch!"
  "Record shops don't drug test, don't they?"
  "Shit, them test don't mean nothing.  I'll get the neighbor's pee."

  I found the settings and began document loading.  I tried to tune the crackheads out.  I flashed back to drama class, Cal State.  Eugene O'Neil.  All God's Children Gots Wings.  O'Neil must have been hammered.
  "Mama, the way you're leaning cross that counter ... I see titty."
  "I lost my bra."
  "We need to go to King's down the street."
  "They ain't got no bras."
  "I said King's.  Said nothing about bra.  Pay attention, bitch."
  "Fuck you."
  "That an offer?"

  Both laughed.  Their teeth resembled rotten pickets.
  I hit PRINT.  I wanted these waste products gone.
  "Applications are printing over on the other side,"  I advised as I began walking.  "I'll be right back."
  As usual, the printer took a minute to warm up.  I suddenly wondered how fragrant they reeked.  Both seemed allergic to soap and laundry products.  I'd have to ask Mandy to walk up and tell me if we needed one can of Lysol or two.  If I knew Mandy, she'd recommend a flamethrower.
  "Hey!  Hey!  We can't wait fellow!  We gotta go!"
  "Yeah, thanks.  Maybe we'll come back and do them forms.  Bye."

  I did have a guardian angel.  I started humming a Beach Boys tune.
  Mandy came when I called.  Made a face, wheeled, returned with the fan.  Set it to high.
  Then she asked.  "Where's the March Of Dimes display?"
  "On the backup counter.  That clear plastic box.  Where customers leave their loose change for crippled children."
  "Isn't it ... right ... there?"  I craned my neck.
  "It was there this morning, gone now.  They stole it when you walked away.  That's why they left."
  I knew Mandy was right.
  "There was maybe three dollars in there.  Nothing."
  She walked back to the Listening Center.  I tucked the printed application forms in the drawer.
  Gazed past the parking lot, scanned Camp Bowie.
  Didn't see them.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Coworkers: Part 81 - Brown Jar Delivery

   Skip cruised in at noon. Wore his usual yellow plaid shirt and striped Bermuda shorts. Not Blockbuster's mandated blue and khaki. The Boss was off, so there would be no, "When are you buying regulation apparel, Skippy?" followed by, "I'm going to. Swear to God. Any day now."
   Skip had other priorities.
   Joe rolled in five minutes later. "Hey, Worth. Skip-Dogg in?"
   "Yes." I anticipated his next question. "He's wearing faded plaid and those short shorts."
   "That sucks balls." Joe scanned emails quickly. "Think we'll get inspected today?"
   "Mmm ... no. DM will be point for our booth at the baseball park."
   "Righteous." Joe immediately untucked the blue shirt and walked to the back.
   Skip was an affable man. Cheery, friendly, full of good humor, and full of substances. He was unaware of his probated status, which currently stood at two strikes. Skip was Sharon's neighbor, she had recommended him, though she confessed she didn't know him well. Within two weeks we realized he had a serious drinking problem.
   Most employees were tolerant. We'd all been late or missing because of drugs, booze, sex, looking for clothes, being without a car in a strange neighborhood, or a combination thereof. The Boss was less forgiving. Over the years, the aging hippie had become cynical. I'm certain he still believed the world could be made better ... but not with the current inhabitants. He now ruthlessly applied the old Sound Warehouse rule: Has alcohol use or substance use ever interfered with your employment performance? When attendance or performance became irregular, The Boss cut people swiftly.
   Skip was a classic, free fall fuck-up. Missing time ... and missing money.
   A week earlier, his cash register had been $10.00 short at the end of his shift. Not 7¢ or $1.43 or $14.06. Ten Dollars Even. When confronted he shrugged, apologized, confessed he didn't know. An hour later, he offered a fresh explanation. Sharon had cracked his register and pocketed a bill. Sharon, the neighbor who found him the job, had jacked him.
   This is hardly the forum to repeat Sharon's reaction. Suffice to say, Sharon's temper, and stamina, were remarkable.

   Stacey came in after 2:00. I waited for Skip so I could lunch.
   "Skippy-Doo wearing his usual?" she asked.
   "Hot pants, honey."
   "Thanks for the image," she laughed. "If the Boss is letting Skipster slide, I'm not going to be dress code enforcer. Where's Skip's head today?"
   "Cuckoo Land. Already tried to borrow $10.00 from me, then tried Joe. Looks like he's now trying Mandy."
   "Moron. He must be desperate. Mandy never brings her purse inside. She never contributes to birthday cards, cakes, bereavements, or goodbyes"
   "She's her mother," I said briefly.
   "I'm phoning Shelley to come in half hour early. I'm pulling Skip off register at 5:30, and having Joe count his drawer. You'll be here?"
   "I'll stick around."
   The trap was set. It wasn't just alcohol with Skip. He was addicted to painkillers. The Blockbuster drug test was a joke.

   Shelley manned register, Stacey watched Listening Bar. I stood behind Joe, while Skip explained how his register was $50.00 short.
   "I know what happened," he said. "But I don't think you're going to like it."
   "Try me,"
Joe replied.
   "I had to go outside for a second. Stacey watched my register. She stole the money."
   I didn't even bother to roll my eyes.
   "You're right," Joe spoke, "I don't like it."
   "I mean, I don't know what else -- "
   "Was this after you made all those phone calls?"
   "I don't know what -- "
   "She watched front register while you went outside and two business associates sold you a brown jar of Vicoden pills?"

   Druggies ... so little discretion.
   "Phone tomorrow, Skip," I offered. "Plead your case to The Boss."
   Skip went home. Never phoned, never returned.