Friday, August 25, 2006

Coworkers: Part 65 - Chicks With Whips‏

   "Hold still. I think you have something on your chest."
   Joe looked down. Now what? Food spill? Or a bug. What if it was a spider? Not the Brown Recluse Spider!
   Sarah reached out to brush something away. Then she grabbed his nipple, squeezed hard and twisted it cruelly.
   "Oww! What the hell are you doing?" he yelled.
   Joe tried to back away, but bumped into the wall of customer listening CD units.
   Sarah struck a second time for the unprotected nipple. Same maneuver. Grip and rip.
   "Oww! Damn, stop!"
   "Ha ha ha,"
she laughed, then walked off.
   I wasn't sure how Joe merited such punishment, but I suspected it was deserved. Coworkers treated each other shamelessly. Responses were often physical and painful.
   Especially from the girls against the guys.

   Greg was one of the most agreeable of individuals. So how come, after he endured an agonizing operation, Trina and Amster decided to prop him up for a little photo? Greg, his face all bandages and blood, stretched unconscious under white sheets. Nearby, in their sweetest bedside, nursie manner, Trina and Amster grinned away. Had they thought of it, they would have waved baseball bats and tire irons.
   The picture was quickly reproduced and stapled inside the store.

   Guy got hired. Named Marco or Omar. Only child. The chosen, special son. Completely dismissive and discourteous to the females. If customers asked a question, he interrupted and shanghaied the client. Once he even commented, "Oh, she won't know. She's only a woman." No merit badge for him.
   Marco's cash drawer was often a trifle off. Dollar here, dollar there.
   Anyway, he finally pissed off Diana. The Skinny Witch.
   Behind that sweet face and innocent looking smile, lurked a crafty individual. Diana set a trap.
   She counted out Marco's drawer in front of The Boss and John. The drawer was $10.00 over.
   Marco came into the Money Room, counted down the cash till. Not a peep.
   Four hours later, change of shift, Marco recounted his drawer, which was even steven.
   The extra $10.00 had vanished.
   Ten minutes later, Marco's name had vanished from the schedule.

   It was dangerous for guys to play jokes on the females. Sexual harassment could be misconstrued so easily. Still, some couldn't care less.
   Julie used to smoke cigarettes during bathroom breaks. Probably against the law. No one paid attention. Hell, no one noticed. Except Rob.
   One afternoon he stuffed a tiny dynamite stick, like you find at joke stores, into one of her smokes. Replaced it back in the pack. Every time she visited the bathroom, he followed like a stalker.
   Busy Friday night, running around like mad answering bells, complaining customers, the usual. Julie ran into the back, headed toward the bathroom. Rob waited and actually heard the loud pop, followed by a louder, "FUCK!"
   Julie burst out of the bathroom near tears. Rob had tears too but his were from laughing. Julie laughed her ass off, and swore she would get even with Rob, but I don't think she ever did. Someone else would, however.

   Larra suspected Rob of cheating on her. To retaliate, she asked a friend to phone the store, pretending to be a representative from the County Health Department. The voice contacted Rob, then warned him that his girlfriend had recently been blood tested. The results were HIV positive. County Health, by law, had to contact all suspected partners, and urge them to have blood work done as soon a possible. Time, what little remained of it, was of the essence.
   Rob completely freaked out.

   Dan teased Tawnya whenever he could. Trying to get her to unload her private life. Tawnya had already shared her history one time too many with profound consequences. She was wary of Dan's earnest wheedling. After awhile, she simply smacked him anytime he attempted to probe.
   At first, these were moderate punches to his arm. Dan persisted. Thereafter, she hammered him in his stomach. When he doubled over in pain, Tawnya advised him to quit being such a pussy.
   After several more strikes, Dan ceased his needling questions.

   Much of the in-store signage hung from the ceiling. The larger ones, like banners and huge posters, were too heavy for fishing line. Straight metal rods carried the weight from joist to drop. Rods were three to four feet long, quarter inch in diameter.
   These were one of Stacey's favorite weapons.
   Stacey had no qualms about reducing guys to tears.
   Jesse was a good, part time employee. Showed up on time, never dumped any crap. Solid. Talked too much for Stacey's inclination, however. Shucking and jiving bravado to front his eighteen years.
   Jesse leaned across the Listening Center counter, boasting about his big plans, his great future, his balls. That afternoon, wearing khaki cargo shorts.
   Stacey walked by. In less than a second, the rod whisked across the air, smacked him against his legs.
   No reason. Jesse hadn't done anything.
   Just ... cuz.

   "Hey, Joe!" Sarah still approached Joe, and still tried to nail him unawares.
   Most of the time, however, Joe adopted the coffin corpse defense. Crossed him arms, hands on opposite shoulders, protecting his tortured chest.
   Not always.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Coworkers: Part 66 - Cracker Diplomacy‏

   There were fewer and fewer Country experts working the store. Kristi was the last, hard core aficionado, but she had left for the greener financial pastures of the brokerage world. Pat was more than qualified with mainstream, Top 20 hits, and her favorite artists. Sharon emerged as the dark horse. Without question, she was the sharpest with R'nB, but that cowboy expertise came as a surprise.
   Trouble was, many Country types were middle of the road types, both in listening habits and personalities. Sharon was an unpredictable firecracker.

   The woman had come in requesting some Gar Brook tune. The song in question was by Brooks & Dunn, climbing the charts.
   Sharon ought to have known better. She was attempting to assist the customer and educate. Big mistake.
   "Listen! I know this song," Sharon told her. "Radio was playing it when I drove to work."
   "I looked through all the Gar Brook CD's and don't find it."
   "That's because it was Brooks & Dunn. And the other singer's name is Garth Brooks, not Gar."
   "No, it's really Gar. He was named after a pond catfish,"
the woman corrected her. "Everybody knows that."
   Sharon doubled over laughing. "What? You're saying his real name is Gar Pond."
   "I read that in the grocery checkout lane."
   "Stick with the National Enquirer, not those copycat rags. You'll get ink all over your clothes."
   "Gar changed his last name from Pond cause some lawsuit. But Brook is close enough to Pond. They both mean running water."
   "A pond is still. A brook flows."
   "Do what?"
Sharon held out the Brooks & Dunn disc, "this is the song you requested. Here. See?"
   "I want the Gar Brook version."

   The woman was late 30's. Wore bright green stretch pants, which were stuffed to maximum, and a billowy peach blouse, sized for a baby elephant. She looked like a waffle cone, pinched on the bottom, overflowing at the top.
   Just then, two of the woman's children rushed up. She entered with three kids who had charged all through the store, screaming and fighting. This was a school day. When that mother made it to check out, I planned to ask why none of them were in school. I already had a good idea.
   Besides, Sharon beat me to it.
   "These your kids? Why aren't they in school?"
   "They are in school. We home school. I'm their teacher."
   "But ... this is the middle of the day,"
Sharon spoke the obvious.
   "Oh ... uh ... outing. This is a field trip."
   "An outing to buy some music?"
   "Yeah, Gar Brook."
   "I'm trying to help you. You don't even know what you want."
   "I know what I want. I ain't no ignorantus like you. Why my kids are home schooled and gonna grow up right."

   Sharon stared at her.
   "And if I wanted help from a piece of trash," the woman continued, "I'd pick through the sewer dumpster."
   The argument had grown loud. Mandy and Stacey looked up from the Listening Center. The Boss hurried to defuse the situation.
   Too late.
   "Screw you, lady." Sharon walked off.
   I think she said screw. Could have been another word, often used to describe a similar activity.
   The woman went wild. Stamped up and down, twirled like a noisy top. Wanted us to phone the police. She would call the landlord, Action News At 6:00, her Congressman. She threatened to contact District.
   That last one seemed the most serious. Most of the store did not think she would follow through. She wouldn't phone, and she sure as hell wouldn't write a letter, no matter how stellar her teaching qualifications. I mean, surely home school teachers had to get the same degrees and credentials as ordinary teachers.
   The Boss, anticipating the worst, blundered.
   He phoned the District Manager with a preemptive call. Tried to explain the situation. The DM was even more concerned, and co-opted the decision.
   Sharon was released.
   The furious customer, by the way, never bought Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, or Gar Brook. Never bought anything. Never wrote that letter, either.
   Sharon's dismissal turned into probation. Six months later, she was rehired.
   Still our Country expert.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Coworkers: Part 67 - Receipt Rolls

   Receipt rolls, not dinner rolls.
   Actually they were empty spools, and I was treating them like Christmas ornaments.
   This was a prank months in the making. Object? The Professor.
   Started back when Chris still worked.

   "I've just been totally, totally grossed out!" Chris groaned.
   "Pack your own lunch again?"
   "What? No! It's The Professor."
   "Told you, Dude. Always knock on that bathroom door instead of waltzing in. He never locks."
   "Catch him with his pants down? Was he cursing or chanting?"
   "You are beyond ill."
   "In other words, are we talking Vesuvius or Mt. Kraka -- "
   "Stop!" Chris interrupted me. "This just happened at the Listening Center."
   "Oh. Why didn't you tell me?" I asked, innocently.
   "Because you distracted me. Anyway, I was helping this girl back in Soul. Shoulder length brown hair."
   "Did The Professor just happen to be in the area? Asked if she needed help?"
   "I was standing right there!" Chris exclaimed.
   "Ha ha ha," I laughed.
   "We chased him off. But he still kept hovering. All the way to the register."
   "I remember her. Yellow dress."
   "Name was Summer," Chris waved a slip of paper. "Anyway, The Professor waits by the door. Then he leans all the way over, so when she steps in her car, he's looking straight up her dress."
   "What? That's fucked up. What is he? Junior fucking high? What a dick. Did she catch him?"
   "No, but I did, and I chewed him out."
   "Damn straight."
   After that, The Professor became fair game for anything.

   If insane street people entered, we pointed out The Professor. Suggested they ask about free cigarettes. When he lunched, someone slipped in a Tele-Tubbies soundtrack into his classical mix. Stacey found the CD remote for the Classical Room and changed tracks or halted the player midway. The Professor went nuts.
   One afternoon Joe came in to visit his mother, Pat. He had worked at Camp Bowie a few years earlier, now worked at Hulen as Assistant. The Professor had never met him. We whispered with Joe, who shifted his baseball cap sideways, then began shopping the store, ducking down and swiveling his neck like a furtive shoplifter. The Professor instantly recognized the Latino bandito. His brain flamed. He tracked him all over the floor, gathering damning evidence. Finally, he urged us to summon the police, but then Joe walked out.
   Here and there, employees left small stacks of pennies. The Professor always found them, especially if we left them on the Classical counter.
   "These are messages! Gang members are leaving coded messages with these pennies. Something's going on!"
   I had been collecting receipt rolls for months. There was no reason. This was just me. I was weird. Anytime a roll ran dry, I pitched the plastic spool into a file cabinet. After awhile, other employees did likewise. They figured I was up to something.
   It was The Professor's day off. I took fishing line and boxes of those spools into the Classical Room. There were hundreds. I began making strings, like Christmas popcorn decorations. Placed them on the fake trees. Draped them off the counter. Hung them from the ceiling, the walls, endcaps. The room was covered and looked completely ridiculous.
   Next day, The Professor came in and had a complete fit.
   "Who put these up here? Why are they up here?"
   Everyone was on page.
   "Dunno, man. Some corporate people did that," I shrugged.
   "Oh my God! Someone from District was here?" he asked, terrified.
   "Yeah, it's a promotion of some sort," John answered, straight faced.
   "All Classical managers got some memo," I added.
   "Did you lose yours?" Stacey asked. "Do you want us to phone another store and ask them for the instructions."
   The Professor would never, ever, phone another "classical expert" for any reason. We knew that.
   And so the plastic spools stayed up there.
   Day after day. Week after week.
   Customers strolled in, beheld the lunacy, eyed The Professor, and made the logical connection.
   Danger - Crazy Man Alert.
   After a month or so, The Boss ordered us to take them down.