Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Coworkers: Part 19 - Lollapaloozers

  People get so touchy sometimes.
  Promos were to be pulled and Angela and Keith lobbied hard to do the deed.
  Thursday morning, they drew names at 11:00 AM, worked until 2:00. Three hours. Then they took a break from 2:00 - 8:00, eventually finished after 10:00 PM!
  Course no one got a damn thing that day.
  Angela offered the lame excuse of Spring registration, Keith whined that he couldn't find any clove cigarettes. So what?
   They should have thought of this before volunteering their sorry services.
  Incompetence begot ridicule.
  Two days later. Saturday. Ticket sales! The store anticipated a mob scene for first day Lollapalooza sales. An obligatory sign instructed potential buyers on prices, limits, seating, etc ... Dan had sketched two cartoon figures over the sign, dead ringers for Angela and Keith, holding hands. The cartoon girl waved and smiled cross-eyed behind wire glasses. The cartoon guy sported a pink bandana and smoked two clove cigarettes, one from his mouth, the other from the shunt tube protruding from under his ribs. Each sported a T-shirt: Lola Pa Loser or Call Me Malph.
  Rob profiled the artist's models while barking instructions to laughing ticket slackers.
  By noon, Dan clocked in. Keith answered his casual, "Hi, Malph," with a shrill, "Fuck you, Dan!" and went home early.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Coworkers: Part 20 - Full Moon Washout

   Todd and I were adept at getting screeners into the store. Screeners = advance viewing copies of movies. Films scheduled for release within 60 days were routinely sent to video buyers to encourage orders. Mind you, distant Bromeroids in Dallas ordered all sell through and rental videos for the chain. Todd and I were mere store drones, yet we implied we were "big buyers."
   I made contacts with Republic, PolyGram, Buena Vista, and some soft-core porn representative. Camp Bowie received monthly boxes of all sorts of winners. Quality art house flicks from Miramax, neo noir from Poly, B-films from Republic, and naked thriller junk.
   Todd only had one contact, direct to video Full Moon Productions. Subspecies, Trancers, Demonic Toys, Puppet Master, and a hundred sequels.
   I added my boxes to the promo pile and coworkers borrowed jewels at random. I didn't mind. Todd was far more territorial. He shared, but he wanted those masterpieces returned. Todd was building a collection of tiny terrors. Actually, Todd was far more involved with Full Moon than he let on.
   Once a month, I'd phone Monty or Terri or a couple other reps, chat for a couple of minutes, then request whatever they had available. Todd, on the other hand, joined Full Moon fan-clubs, entered their contests, created in-store displays. There was an ulterior motive. Todd was trying to get The Toadies into one of their movies. Press, even for a grade-D film, was still exposure. And Full Moon was holding a contest for bands. A lucky winner would get an appearance in a film to be determined.
   Todd's correspondence with Full Moon, like mine with the majors, went to and from the Camp Bowie address. Mail addressed to specific employees was generally safe.
   Envelopes might get trash canned by accident. Or opened. The store was family, what could you do?
   Todd asked several of us to watch for any mail with the Full Moon return address. Didn't want to miss his winning notification!
   Rob found the letter and plopped it in his box for safe keeping.
   Robert and I had the worst employee boxes of anyone in the store. Ours were nailed on a wall just off the hallway into the office. Coworkers marched into these daily. Once a week, they'd end up on the floor. Contents strewn or kicked everywhere. Yeah, yeah, poor baby. Worse, we were directly under the condensation unit of the store air conditioning. When the A/C froze up, it leaked buckets. Where did all that water go? Rob's box, my box.
   On that particular day, when two boxes were soggy, cardboard messes, there had been an envelope in Rob's box, placed there for safekeeping.
   Took our boxes about a week to dry out.
   In the confusion, Rob forgot.
   Todd was really pissed off.
   He and Rob were sharing an apartment at the time.
   The band hadn't won that grand prize, but, that wasn't the point.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Coworkers: Part 21 - Damsel In Distress‏

   New girl, Linda or Lynne, had been hired for weekend coverage in Video. College freshman, pretty, bit intimidated. Friday and Saturday nights were riot scenes in Video, so most employees had little dealings with her aside from, "Hello," or "How's it going?"
   Most, but not all.
   Double-A and João were regular staffers in Video. Lynne's shy smile caught their eye. Double-A and João tossed jokes, romance, and suggestions her way. They fought with each other in friendly and not-so-friendly ways. Manly rivalry that modern females adored.
   Lynne gave notice and departed. João and Double-A each blamed the other for chasing off their future steady.
   João disappeared under store radar for awhile.
   Double-A sprayed the sky like a Roman candle.
   Double-A wore very thick, black framed glasses, combed his brown hair down either side of his face, like Manfred the Butler, and he was one of the finest yawners ever to push a video buggy. Initially, most employees disliked A-A. After several months, a higher percentage approved of him because of his radioactive weird factor. Newly minted high school graduate whose dialogue was heavily sprinkled with, "ehh" delivered from the back of his throat.
   "Ehh, I wish I was at home, hacking some Internet sites." or "Customer didn't rewind that, ehh." or "Ehh, stupid pen, ehh, won't write when I want it to. Ehh."
   I was not an admirer. I tended to make judgments based on work. W-o-r-k. When someone didn't pull their weight, someone else, or everyone else, had to carry them. I could understand illness or injury, I could sympathize with alcohol after effects or having a bad day, a bad week, a bad month. Life wasn't always rosebuds and festivals. Double-A was simply sorry assed lazy. Didn't like working, and tried to loaf as much as possible onto colleagues.
   He did enjoy Video, however.
   Because Pat worked back there.
   Pat blossomed easy in his eyes. Pat laughed at his inane jokes and smiled bashfully.
   She was cute.
   And ... Pat had separated from her husband. Even better, the ex was deployed overseas.
   Aside from the two lads, Pat was alone.
   Pat was the A-A's Medieval damsel imprisoned in the castle tower. She needed rescuing. If not rescue, attention. Manly attention.
   Princess Pat not remotely interested in Double-A's suggestion they lunch at McDonald's, then find a dark corner of the parking lot. Didn't want to watch Last Tango In Paris or Two Moon Junction. Didn't want to shove back when he gave her a sporting nudge.
   He could understand NO as well as anyone else. And he knew the reject's response to NO.
   Double-A began stalking.
   Parked his car outside her apartment every night. For hours. Surely, she'd understand his love was serious. She'd open the door. They'd be friends.
   Didn't happen, Pilgrim.
   Employees grew abrupt, if not rude, towards Double-A. The Boss had a sobering conversation with him. Pat quit laughing at the jokes he heard on TV.
   Gave notice. Headed out of state to college.
   Eventually that computer hacking brought him trouble.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Customers: Part 05 - Play Berlioz For Me

   Friday evening. I worked backroom. Todd had a Dallas gig and I agreed to cover. Shipment came in large. Pat walked back and said I was needed in Classical.
   "Who's the customer? Male, female, student?"
   She lowered her head and shot me a look, "It's a movie question."
   "What's with the look? What do you mean by that?"
   "Just come see me afterward."
   I put on a better shirt and made for the floor. Film cue was likely Wagner, Orff, German noise, or maybe Russian.
   Heading out of Video, I tagged my clients right away. Couple. Probably wanted "baby music" like Mozart. No, Pat said movie. Maybe they wanted "baby making music," like Ravel. Or Delibes. I suppressed an image and approached.
   "Hey, can I help you with anything?"
   "We asked for Classical help," the woman said. "Is that you? It's just, you don't look Classical."
   "I am head of Classical," I answered, "I'm also one of the shipment guys. I don't wear my suit on truck nights."
   What did people expect? Tweed jacket, sweater, trimmed beard, spectacles, pipe. A British accent, too, I suppose. I wore jeans, red flannel shirt, long hair, Fu Manchu mustache. I had, admittedly, toked a pipe once or twice in my life.
   At least she didn't say, "Classical ... you know ... Classy."
   Early twenties couple. Preppies. Tailored clothes. The girl was attractive and packaged herself nicely. Professional. The guy's clothes were quality, but ill fitting. He stared at the floor, he seemed uncomfortable. Pretty clear who made that "tops or bottoms" decision.
   "Did you see Sleeping With The Enemy?" she asked abruptly.
   My brain emptied for a second. This was not what I expected.
   "Julia Roberts movie? Yes, I saw that."
   "He bought the soundtrack," she nodded to her companion. "It doesn't have the music."
   "Which ... number ... ?" I scrolled the film quickly in my mind.
   She leaned forward and cocked her head. "Berlioz."
   I paused momentarily, then walked towards the B's.
   The selection was the Witches Sabbath from Symphonie Fantastique. Played in the background during Sleeping With Enemy, while a very dominant husband had his way with the wife.
   The girl pondered several of them, than asked which one was the darkest.
   How the hell did I know?
   "Get the ... oh! ... the Bernstein version," I suggested. "Because Bernstein is ... you know?" I narrowed my eyes like I knew something.
   Total bull.
   "Thank you so much."
   "And turn the volume up. Loud."
   "Oh, we will. We will."
   The power couple departed. Later that night, there would be candles, and that red and black lace outfit. Berlioz would pound. The male partner would be expected to accelerate his sluggish testosterone libido. More likely, he would, once again, be bottoms.

* *

   That was several weeks ago.
   The scene repeated frequently. Either a couple or a girl alone. Buying ... "for a friend."
   These females were all trying to reenact some fantasy ... that could never happen. For whatever reason, they had opted for the milquetoast, instead of some average guy, let alone the bad boy. Men who were hard to handle or difficult. A touch of classical menace would never add nasty to Mister Mild.
   Sleeping With The Enemy was about to end its stint at first run theaters. Full ticket, date venues. Next stop for the flick, el cheapo screens. Dollar theaters, then rental market.
   Which translates into a new wave of wanna be victims. Budget victims. Trailer trash and raspberry shut-ins calling the store.
   Asking for the CD. Buying it.
   Telling someone special, later that night,
   Play Berlioz for me.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Coworkers: Part 22 - Crunch

   The first announcement was a scream. Loud, piercing, girlie scream from the Ladies Restroom.
   Stephanie, Amster, Kathy, one of the part timers.
   First witness to the mouse.

   The "celebrate diversity" store ethos flew out the window. Nothing to celebrate about vermin. Especially, as more rodent-experienced crew members advised, if the vermin was female, loaded with babies. An infestation would explode within months.
   Everyone knew once customers saw mouses, they would become ex customers in a drop dead heartbeat. Worse, where there was mouse, there was rat. Rats carried rabies. They attacked other creatures, they swarmed in packs and devoured humans whole. They swiped helpless babies from carriages, dragged them down, down, to their deepest pits, and then ...
   The mouse probably wandered in by accident and discovered a treasure trove.
   Crumbs, corn chip fragments, bits of candy bar, fried chicken, pizza crusts. Coworkers were messy eaters. Desks held bags of potato chips, candy corn, peanuts, ancient Valentine candy. Dan had his pile of stuff on the floor. Rob and I had boxes nailed to the wall, from whence they tumbled every time the A/C leaked.
   The Office, Money Room, Backroom, Break Area, we were a vast, super-mouseket bonanza.
   In all likelihood, the mouse, a scout, would alert other mouses. They would set up pawn shops, crack houses, gambling dens, vermin brothels, gun outlets, sex barns. No one would shop at our store anymore. Closing managers would be overwhelmed once they switched off the lights. City officials, in their infinite wisdom, would decide there was only one solution. Sound Warehouse would have to be burned to the ground.

   The intruder was a small, gray field mouse. Beatrix Potter type. Everyone saw it. The creature was terrified out of its mind.
   All too predictably, the building landlord did absolutely nothing. The national pest agency, with whom the chain had an insect control contract, pointed out that a rodent, however small, was not a bug and, therefore, not their problem.
   We were on our own.
   The girls wanted the visitor caught and released somewhere. The Botanic Gardens, an island resort, maybe a retirement place for homeless mouses. Some decided the scuttling furball was cute. Stacey joked it could be the store pet. Most of the guys wanted the mouse killed. D-E-A-D. Rob, Todd, Greg, João, Derek, myself, we baited and set traps. We hid poison. Dan, James, and John were less medieval.
   Didn't matter. By now, the mouse had become wary.
   And it had developed preferences. It had become a crack addict.
   Rather, a crunch addict. One food became the overwhelming favorite.
   Nestlé Crunch bars.
   Every morning, we found foil wrapper pieces by Video checkout. The impulse counter.
   Obviously, the mouse was impulsive. It also did not pay.
   We relocated the Crunch bars to the highest shelf.
   Next morning ... mouses were excellent climbers, we discovered.
   Removed all Nestlé products. At closing, set a half dozen spring traps and bait boxes under the candy rack.
   Well ... we didn't exactly see the mouse. But all activity stopped.
   Week later, the Nestlé Crunch row at the front registers was attacked.
   We rarely spied it thereafter.
   Two months later, we found it by the Sound Check posts. Grossly overweight, the size of a tennis ball. Expired.
   The perils of an improper diet. Thus ends a cautionary tale.