Sunday, January 20, 2008

Customers: Part 11 - I Used To Work Here

   "I defy you. I defy you!"
   One of my earlier memories working the Floor. The Boss listened patiently, a polite smile plastered on his face, while the newspaper reporter noisily declared. "Name one! Name a single double album set that wasn't padded with filler."
   Even though I was heading towards the Booth, I mentally swept down to my music collection and began scanning spines.
   "The White Album, easily lose one or two sides. Tusk, completely overrated. Anything by Chicago. Frampton Comes Alive, come on. I love London Calling ... but. And Allman Brothers' Eat A Peach or Live At Fillmore? Hello, I was asleep at Fillmore!"
   I thought up Electric Ladyland, then The Wall. I was new, however, I kept walking.
   A portion of the job involved listening. A fair amount of customers needed to talk. Usually, male customers. Sometimes they were interesting or entertaining, they might have insight worth hearing. More often than not, bombast ruled.
   "Sign O The Times AND Graffiti Bridge. Woodstock, my God! Wheels Of Fire, Springsteen's The River, A Show Of Hands - - I can show them a finger. And Yes. Who keeps letting Yes release those marathon snooze fests?"
   You perched in the crow's nest and pointed starboard, "Thar she blows!"

   "I just fail -- completely fail to see the connecting dots."
   "They progressed, man."
   "How was it, they could make that leap from Hard Day's Night to Sergeant Pepper? It's impossible!"
   "Rubber Soul, then Revolver. They experimented, they grew. Plus, it was the 60's, Hoss."
   Shooting the breeze. This guy wasn't going to buy any Beatles albums, he probably owned the complete collection on vinyl and CD. He was my age. Short hair, trimmed beard, glasses. Looked like an office drone. Paper pusher. He was an a Regular (subset: Annoying Regular).
   Wrong. He was worse than an irritating Regular. He was a wannabee.
   " ... I used to work here, you know ... "
   He'd drop that phrase into every single conversation. I wanted to answer, "I used to shop here."
   I went up the ladder. Greg, John, finally asked Dan, who'd been at Camp Bowie a decade, about this man.
   "Why would he spout shit like that? Besides, I'm new, why's he not talking with his old coworkers?"
   "Because senior employees avoid him. He's told me the same thing, only he never worked with me. I don't know what his game is."
   Eventually I asked The Boss, who'd been manager since the Peaches era. He knew the character. He had never, ever hired him.
   "Sure, he's told me the same crap. 'I used to work here.' Bull. Maybe he worked one week while I was on vacation."
   So, I tried to tune him out.
   "The collective consciousness of 70's, after the drug induced genesis of the 60's ...    After Gabriel left, who would ever imagine ...    Lennon specifically said imagine, he asked listeners to ...    How dare he call himself the King Of Pop, I mean ...    Big deal, he played guitar with a violin bow ...    She can't sing, she can't dance, she's not even blonde ... "
   I discovered, if I clammed up, he got stymied. He wanted the good argument. If I didn't respond, he searched out another sounding board.
   Or towed in his own audience.
   For a while, he came in with the wife. I assumed it was the wife. Female, same age. Bored.
   Then ... the girls.
   Young girls.
   Fifteen, sixteen. Usually shopped around 3:30 - 4:00. When school let out.
   I realized he was a teacher. Our store had become a special, one on one, extra credit assignment.
   " ... I used to work here ... "
   They must have been students.
   They were always female. Young, fresh, pretty.
   He'd tour from artist to artist, sharing priceless, opinionated wisdom. The girls were wide eyed, eager. He was an expert.
   " ... I used to work here ... "
   Female staffers, Layla, Pepe, Trina, Amy, were completely creeped out. The scenario smelled of mandatory dating. Like he was using his authority position to ... to what?
   I didn't know what to think. I never talked with him anymore. No one did. Didn't matter, he coerced his own entourage. Every two weeks, different girl. Never once saw a boy.
   Then again, maybe he taught at a girl's only school.
   Yeah, that had to be the explanation.

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