Thursday, March 27, 2008

Coworkers: Part 35 - Angela

   Angela visited the store again two weeks before Christmas.
   By this time, it was completely pointless.
   Two years earlier, her family had moved east. She reluctantly accompanied them. She hated it, all of it. Then, chance beckoned, and she leapt.
   Angela accepted a crazy job offer in Colorado. State park near Yellowstone. Angela's sister had actually applied for the opening, had gotten approved, then changed her mind. Angela, typically, went instead. When she contacted me, we laughed about that.
   The whole outdoor, back-to-nature scene suited Angela, and she would have stayed forever. The position had always been temporary, however. Rotating gap year students. No exceptions. She scrounged everywhere for alternate employment. Nothing opened.
   She decided to move back to Cowtown. Asked me if she'd be able to return to the record store. I reassured her that would pose no problem, she would be rehired in a heartbeat.
   How fucking wrong I was. If I had only checked first.
   Loaded her car. Left the Rockies. Back to the Lonestar State. Chatted with The Boss, who seemed agreeable, but he'd need to contact Dallas. Meanwhile, she rented a duplex, and found part time work at Pig & Whistle. Yet, she really needed our store.
   By this time, her family had relocated back to Texas.
   Second interview, there were no openings at our store.
   I immediately advised her to go to Berry. Berry Street was always desperate. Ask for Eric. Reference my name. Eric wasn't there, Jordo never gave her the time of day. Then he told her he never heard of me. Typical Jordo.
   I chatted with The Boss. He confessed he had been inclined to rehire Angela. Thought she would be an asset, especially during Christmas. There were obstacles, however. Most of the employees.
   "Dan and Rob told me they'd flat out quit if I brought her back," he explained.
   "What? Why? They're not going to give up their jobs."
   "Hulen would transfer either one of them in a heartbeat. And," he paused, "I don't think Pat would be comfortable with her."
   "Angela built the Video section. Then Pat made it rock."
   "I hear you. Just ... there were more people ... and I'd rather have all of them, than one of her."
   "What's so wrong about Angela? She was goofy, but she never complained, she wasn't negative, and she worked!"
   "My friend, you were the only one who got her. Everyone else?" he gestured in the air. "Sorry, man."
   I couldn't get her rehired. I'd failed. I couldn't even get her hired on at the dump site on Berry. Here I was, her big friend, and I let her down. I felt like a shit.
   You wanted the best for your friends in life. Angela was now entering darkness.
   Her money was exhausted. Worse, her family pressed her to come home.
   She dreaded that.
   Home life was unhealthy. In every sense. She suffered victim's guilt. I tried to explain that wasn't her fault. My advice was like my help, meaningless. The music store had been her escape ticket. Colorado had been her dream world. Now she was running out of options, and the nightmare yawned open.
   The family insisted she return to the fold.
   Angela visited the store again two weeks before Christmas.
   By this time, it was completely pointless.
   I never told her no one wanted her. No one valued her efforts. How could you tell anyone such a thing?
   She went from one old coworker to another and wished each Merry Christmas. She was all but begging, she might as well have been on her knees. Her face graced the smile, but it was sad and lifeless. She was destroyed.
   Angela returned to the family, about an hour away.
   We tried to stay in touch ... but ... it got harder and harder.
   One day a letter came back, no forwarding address. Telephone disconnected.
   I never saw Angela again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Coworkers: Part 36 - FPH‏

   Specific first names had either an F, or a PH, now and then two F's. Never all three. Jeff, not Jefph. Jennifer, not Jennifpher. Philip, not Fphilip. Fifi, not Fphifphi. New Girl was the offspring of an indecisive parent, or a parent with faulty spelling.
   The newbie had that fph arrangement in her first name. Todd and several other guys immediately called her FPH. Her own radio call sign. She was one of the first hires who viewed Todd as "rock star," and not simply as the guy in the back, one of the managers, or simply Todd. FPH had seen Todd sing at clubs and now she was working with him! Brush with fame. Maybe that was why she didn't quash that FPH nickname immediately.
   FPH was a stereotyped goth girl. Black tresses, black fingernails, heavy makeup, lots of eye liner and eye shadow, blood red lipstick. Everyone assumed she listened to that type of music, but she rarely selected tunes for the play-stack. After awhile, whispers trickled that she didn't actually have any taste in music.
   That was also the time coworkers created extensions for that FPH. Fool, Phone Home was one of the kinder ones.
   I had little dealings with this creature. Even when we worked the same shift, she always seemed elsewhere. Dusting, tidying, walking about. Busywork. In fact, the only time I noticed her at all was during truck day. She found one excuse after another to drift into the Backroom and ask questions or seek advice. Not from me, not from Rob. Todd. She remained fixated, his embarrassing in-house fan club. Moreover, Todd already had a girlfriend.
   Ironically enough, a few months later, Todd busted her.
   He was in the Gents, admiring the Shannon Tweed poster, when he overheard crackling noise coming from the Ladies. All of us had razor hearing when 3M tape was being removed from CD's, cassettes, or videos.
   Someone was stealing.
   Restrooms were Employee Only.
   Todd hustled out, meddled in the Backroom a bit, until FPH departed the Ladies. Quick investigation. CD wrappers and cases buried under a pile of paper towels in the trash. Discs and booklets missing. FPH was sent home later that day. Permanently.
   She still crashed a couple of store parties, though.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Coworkers: Part 37 - Dancing Queen

  Her feet hurt, she required breaks every fifteen minutes, she babbled endlessly, her favorite topics were herself and herself. Even Rob shunned this 18 year old, home-schooled, slightly racist princess. We were stuck with her.
  Thank you, Boss.
  Wednesday night, as she slouched at Chi Chi's with the crew, criticizing the dancing girls, she admitted her own natural brilliance on the dance floor. Missy and Trina mentioned Amateur Night on Friday. $100 or a keg for prizes! After they poured several margaritas down her, she was determined to add yet another trophy to her dresser.
  We already knew Wanda owned trophies. She had brought in a newspaper clipping of herself, grinning away, clutching some award for sewing buttons or eating hot dogs. Whatever. She'd tacked this by the refrigerator for our education and admiration. Dan cut the trophy out of her hands, Todd replaced that trophy with a photo of a chocolate colored dildo.
  Friday night, Wanda drank backstage with new buddies, Missy and Trina. Competition was skank. Nobodies. Clumsy jiggle bunnies and pork-rind trailer whores. Yet she still wanted an edge for her sure win.
  Stacey half-joked she should dance in her underwear.
   Wanda listened.
   Chi Chi's draped a sheet in front of the stage so patrons would vote for dancers -- not cousins. No one could possibly recognize her. Besides, her body was so hot! While she stripped down to skimpies, Missy and Trina teased her hair into a Mount St Helen's dust storm.
  The fabric was ... sheer. Backlit dancers saw their own silhouettes, audience members saw ... everything. Saw that Wanda was drunk and buck naked. Did NOT see that her epileptic baboon frenzy was actually natural brilliance on the dance floor.
  Half hour later, boozed up frat boys competed for the keg. Wanda had counted her five $20's a dozen times when she identified features and birthmarks behind the sheet.
   Looked around. Patrons smirked and tapped beers at her. Guys mimicked chimpanzees. She cried a bit, complained, then began cursing. Called us sick perverts, assholes, social deviants, shameless monsters. When she quit the store, we were crushed.
  Returned a week later for her paycheck. Plus her newspaper clipping.
  That didn't go so well.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Customers: Part 09 - Squishy Man

   "Could you watch my register for a bit?" Trina asked.
   "No problem."
   "There's a guy over in Cassettes. He doesn't know it yet, but he needs my help."
   I surveyed the section. "Big creampuff mooning over in Soundtracks or that 14 year old gangsta?"
   "Aren't you funny?"
   "Oh, maybe you mean that personal trainer type."
   "Wish me luck," she grinned.
   "You just be back in time to check out the Squishy Man."
   Trina cringed, then prowled towards Adonis.

   Squishy Man was a Classical Regular. Came in Saturday, checked New Releases, bought German or Russian. Moody and broody.
   The staff avoided him on sight. He was pasty white and soft. Bread dough. One might play patty cake patty cake with him, he was so soft. Zero muscle tone. The Squishy Man handle was in use when I started.
   He peered out of thick round spectacles. He was more into opinions and statements, less into questions. He liked touching. Tapped people on their shoulder or just below their ribs. Then complained.
   "Does this noise really have to be so loud?"
   Saturday morning, speakers purred light and breezy. Chart hits, movie soundtracks, alternative rock, rhythm 'n blues. No metal, no rap, no industrial or techno. That morning, Classical actually played. Orff's Carmina Burana. Not gentle music, but it should have been right up Squishy Man's alley.
   "I find my powers of concentration are diminished when you broadcast compositions I'm overly familiar with."
   Customers complained about loud music, about Rock. Country was stupid, Rap was offensive. Top 40 was repetitive, Jazz put people to sleep, and Christian or Gospel ... no one liked those. That Saturday, five Regulars browsed in Classical. Four were in Carl Orff Hog Heaven. Squishy Man protested, however, not because he disliked the music, but because familiarity distracted his mushy brain.
   I rolled my eyes, faded Carmina, and loaded Sinatra. If someone whined, staff fired up Sinatra, Beatles, George Strait, Al Green.
   As always, the Squishy Man entered with his shambling, meandering gait. His pants were baggy, white t-shirt half tucked, he always looked unfinished. Squishy Man taught at the large college. There were a number of profs in Classical. Hard core Regulars were predominantly Professors, Doctors and CPA's. The Doctors were quiet, CPA's gregarious, Professors moaners. They hated teaching, university politics, privileged, dim watt pupils. I doubted any of them scored coed leg.
   Trina and Mr. Rocky shifted their conversation to the Singles area. I tended Classical and watched the Cassettes register. Plenty of customers. Including Squishy Man.
   Funny, five minutes with the Squishy Man was an eternity. Ten minutes with someone cute was a nanosecond.
   " ... I conclude cheque writing is inherently problematic." Squishy Man tore up check number three.
   Squishy Man couldn't write a check to save his life. One of the girls, Emily, a bubbly type, once threatened she would brain him with a hole puncher or shoot herself if she spied his checkbook.
   No one understood his difficulty. Customers with severe mental problems mastered bank draft IOU's. For the fourth time, he scrawled across the paper, then held it against the lights. What was he looking for? Invisible hieroglyphics? I had watched, three times in a row, as perfect checks were ripped up after he noticed "something." What a muffin.
   "Mistakes lead to complicated misunderstandings," he explained.
   I grasped his meaning dimly. I had phoned his professorial abode several times for special orders. His mother always answered. She was a confirmed screamer. Loud, rural, and terrifying. Norman Bates sprang to mind. I didn't want to think about his home existence. "Misunderstandings" could be imagined a thousand unsettling ways.
   Everything was good. Check cleared. I handed Squishy Man his receipt.
   He'd purchased Beethoven, Brahms, and Orff. Orff, the "noise" he'd complained about, whom we'd removed from playing.
   There was no accounting. After he paid and departed, Trina took over her register.
   I didn't ask her how she fared.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Coworkers: Part 38 - Water Weenie

   There were two sides to many stories. Sometimes more than two.
   This particular yarn only had the two. Two coworkers, one romantic mishap.
   Point of view - - recollections - - Memories skewed. Worse ... shared.

   This was after the party. Or the show. Or the club.
   The rest of the gang had split. These two were alone. Bored. Drunk. Stoned. Blotto.

   Afterward, one version was mentioned to the guys.
   The other one gossiped to the girls.
   They should have known better. Camp Bowie was not the harbor for secrets.

   "So, we're hammered. Started fooling around on her couch."
   "I didn't know what I was doing. I was drunk. I knew I shouldn't. But I wasn't responsible ... "
   "I started old reliable, you know?"
   "This was about to happen, but I wanted to fix the mood a little."
   "She got up all of a sudden and started tidying."
   "The room looked like the inside of a trash can."
   "She was cleaning. I told her to forget it and hop back on the couch."
   "Maybe if I adjusted the lights, the room wouldn't look so bad."
   "She switched off the lights, which was fine. Then started digging around, searching for damn candles."
   "Candles would make the room look better. Make me more attractive. Only I couldn't find them."
   "Then she asked me if I wanted any tea. Hell, no. She went and poured two glasses anyway."
   "I didn't have anything else in the fridge. Not even beer."
   "She staggered back, still drunk. The room is dark, then she tripped, damnit."
   "I spilled tea all over him. So then I started searching for a towel."
   "Fuck the towel. I took off all my wet clothes."
   "I didn't have any clean towels. I was supposed to do laundry, but ... I don't know."
   "I'm down to briefs."
   "He was way ahead of me. Only I wanted, oh, I didn't know what I wanted."
   "She started fucking with the stereo system."
   "I was in the mood for Luther. Sometimes George is the man, other times Rod. I wanted Luther."
   "Fuck Luther. Fuck music, fuck beverages, fuck candles. I just wanted to -- "
   "Then I decided I wanted Prince."
   "Fucking hour of my life gone already."
   "Finally. I went into the bedroom to change into something else."
   "Another fucking hour."
   "I eased next to him."
   "Spur of the moment - dead."
   "He couldn't get it up."
   "Sitting on that couch for two hours. Wet. Tired."
   "He couldn't get it up."
   "Two hours earlier, it was a beast."
   "Whiskey duuu ... I can't say it."
   "Swear to God."
   "Was like, you know, water weenie."
   "If she hadn't been wasting all that time, she'd need fucking crutches by now."
   "I didn't want to remind him this happens to guys. They go all weird and get ultra defensive."
   "Got up and left again. Now what? She's going to make a meat loaf?"
   "I went to the bedroom and got a little ... gadget."
   "Darth Vader's fucking light saber handle!"
   "For other guys this is like their favorite part."
   "What's she going to surprise me with next? Mayonnaise jar and a watermelon?"
   "Only the batteries were dead."
   "Or a gerbil?"
   "All of a sudden I felt nauseous."
   "She left again! Bathroom or something. I got dressed and walked."
   "I must have passed out. I don't think we did anything."
   "Swear to God, it was as big -- "
   " ... water weenie."

   About a week later, a rubber Daffy Duck toy appeared on the Cassette area register. Arms stretched as wide as they could reach. Slip of paper stuck between the arms read, "Swear to God, it's this big."
   Elsewhere, in Video, inside drawers or cash registers, there often lurked a surprise. Water weenie toy. Preferably pink.
   Coworkers were ever considerate.