Sunday, October 15, 2006

Coworkers: Part 58 - Housekeeping Mishap

   I never witnessed this. Stacey related the incident after the fact, and Kristi verified it.
   I never saw it because I was distracted by Armstrong.
   Armstrong was a Regular, nutty as a rancid peanut ranch. Halted and interrupted himself like a stuttering duck. Shortchanged upstairs, he had the IQ and social skills of a marshmallow. Minutes earlier, I had sold him two cassettes, Phil Collins and Bread. Now, he stood frozen in the parking lot, midway between our front doors and his elderly mother's waiting car. Thinking. Pondering those two cassettes with that Swiss cheese mind of his. Damn.
   Armstrong was notorious for changing his mind after the purchase. He already owned it, he no longer liked the group, didn't like the cover. Who knew? He'd hurry back in, switch items off the shelf, hurry back out. Throw inventory off. Worse, he'd often switch a budget $3.99 tape for a $9.99 New Release. If he remembered to pay in the first place. Wasn't dishonest, just air upstairs.
   The first time I ever saw Armstrong was when Dan stop checked him at the front entrance. Dan asked if he remembered to bring money, then demanded he crack open his billfold to prove it. Oh, if only we could do that with everyone.
   Sound Warehouse - Customer service, first and foremost.
   Back to today. Soon as Armstrong reentered, I barked at him to fork over his sack and bring any exchange to my register. Now he stood in line, sharing his lunatic world.
   Armstrong was convinced he had cavities. He was complaining loudly to other customers in line about his dental hygiene. Trouble was, he didn't have a tooth in his skull. Dentures. Better, he had yanked out those gooey chompers and thrust them inches from onlookers. No idea what he ate for lunch, but I'm sure they enjoyed a full view. This was why folks shopped at Sound Warehouse. Free freak show. Where else could one peer at holes in gummy pink & white plastic?

   Anyway, my attention was preoccupied with Armstrong, his cassettes, those damned false teeth, and how many customers he would permanently scare away. Consequently, I wasn't paying attention to Professor, vacuuming the Listening Center, and his brain.
   As usual, Professor was in a nervous flurry. His mad craving for a cigarette rush agitated his jittery nerves. That Hoover was jerked back and forth with the same furious intensity used to clear foam from the happy twinkie.
   Of course, he wasn't paying attention.
   The vacuum rolled across the dangling end of a roll of security tags. The machine immediately began to gobble the strip. The box flipped sideways on the counter. Feasting accelerated.
   The intellect of the classical expert was a tightly strung web of minutiae, misplaced memories, interruptions. His brain seized. He lunged towards the disappearing tags, then back towards the "Off" switch. The Sensormatic box tumbled from the counter, and the Hoover slurping increased in tempo. Like a preacher caught in a brothel, Professor jerked back and forth, torn between rescuing those hapless security tags and stifling that naughty machine, now screaming its mind out.
   All the while, Professor uttered, "Ahh, ahh, ahh," in that monotone, robot voice of his.
   Kristi stood there, dumbfounded, then covered her mouth to giggle. Stacey laughed so hard tears streamed down her face.
   Eventually, between the twitching, hopping, thrusting, the power cord unplugged from the wall. Excitement ground to a painful halt.
   Professor rapidly explained to Stacey he was completely unsettled by the "piece of junk" equipment, then raced outside for the soothing comfort of burning nicotine.

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