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.

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