Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Customers: Part 23 - Gamma Lad

   Bucket was a Regular. I never had a problem with him, no one did. Bucket was low maintenance.
   He came in every afternoon, late, seated himself down at the Listening Bar and put on whatever was preloaded at that station. Never asked us to open anything, or suggest anything. Never bought, either. Bucket was short for Bucket-Head, he always rolled in swinging a five gallon white plastic pail. That pail was always full of groceries. 10 packs of hotdog buns or 8 heads of cabbage or 127 peppers. There was no rhyme or reason, and we never asked. Bucket worked down Camp Bowie at the car wash, our store was midway on his walk home.
   This went on for several years. Sit, listen, chill, say thanks and goodbye.
   He always said thanks. Can't tell you how much tiny manners help out in this life.
   After awhile we learned his real name and called him that.

   Gamma Lad started as a Regular as well.
   Over three summers, his sanity went away.
  Tall male, liked metal, rap, preferably a fusion of the two styles. Usually he'd stand at one of the wall listening stations. There he would stand. He would stand for hours. Hands in pockets, legs spread wide.
   Of course he never bought a thing. Always came in with a duffel bag, though. So we had to keep an eye on him. Fucking duffel bag.
   The Boss developed a dislike of this guy. He couldn't kick him out or warn him off because he hadn't done anything wrong. Or we hadn't caught him doing anything.
   The guy, like Bucket, didn't have a car. He walked. As Summer intensified, his clothing went black. Black boots, black bib overalls, black t-shirt, black jacket. Texas heat broiled past 110. He'd walk in, staff would alert everyone, "Matrix!"
   He didn't use sunblock. He used gel. An entire jar for his head alone, glistening and dripping. His forehead was shiny thick with the goo. Doffed his jacket, and his arms were equally creamy thick. Protecting himself from sunspots. Gamma Lad was born.
   After awhile, he must have found a pair of wraparound sunglasses on the sidewalk. Gamma Lad glued them to his head. They never came off. Even late at night. Sunglasses, vampire clothes, exposed body covered in jelly. The package was complete.
   We think he baked his brain, marinating his skull with petroleum sauce under the scorching sun.
   Everywhere he visited, a disgusting residue of glop remained. Headphones should have been burned, but we had to clean them. Where his hands or arms touched, a slathering silicone army began to spread. There wasn't enough cleaner in the metroplex.
   We had to rid ourselves of this pest.
   While Gamma Lad headed to a wall station, we raced to the back office. Ejected the disc and substituted Barney Sings Joy. We monitored from surveillance cameras. If Gamma Lad relocated, so did Barney. That worked ... sorta.
   He shifted to the Listening Bar proper. I haven't actually detailed some of Gamma Lad's personal hygiene shortcomings. I didn't have a sense of smell so it would be unfair of me to comment on the rotting, stinking, death cloud that accompanied him. I do remember one of the girls almost threw up. Customers objected to his existence. Stools and counters were slimed with grease. Difficult to remove.
   As with most Regulars, Gamma Lad grew comfortable. As with Bad Regulars, too comfortable. He never bought anything ... but ... he tried to pilfer a CD one afternoon.
   Caught him in a flash.
   Didn't bother with the police. Simply banned Gamma Lad for life.
   After a month, the store had cleared up most of his residue.

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