Thursday, December 30, 2004

Although we made it through the holiday shopping season unscathed, this evening we all had to evacuate the building for an hour because there was some sort of fire in the ventilation system. I wish I had a more exciting addendum to that, like me swinging through a window attached to a roof-mounted firehose a la Die Hard, in a brave attempt to save some lost little girl trapped in our Dr. Seuss section. But no such luck. The fire didn't spread to any stores and I was across the street during the whole thing, sipping a coffee and plowing through the new Haruki Murakami book, "Kafka On the Shore." It's good stuff, read it if you can.

On another note, I'm really enjoying the simple pleasures of an awkward conversation. I guess that's good, since my basic lack of conversational skill means most chats are awkard. The point is, so many customers come up to the counter and are forgotten moments after they leave, that it's refreshing when I can have a truly confusing exchange with one of them. Tonight for example:

Me: Hey there, all set with that?
Woman: Hi!
Me: Hi, how are you?
Woman: Good. How are you?
Me: Great!
Woman: Good.
Me: Need a bag?
Woman: How much is it?
Me: 25.00
Woman: Yes.
Me: Yes to a bag?
Woman: Yes.
Me: Okay.
Woman: How much is it again?
Me: 25.00
Woman: Great.
Me: Thank you very much.
Woman: Thanks.
Me: Thanks.
Woman: Thank you.
Me: Yeah, well...goodbye.
Woman: Oh! Yes, yes. Goodbye. Yes.
Me: Yes.
Woman: Goodbye!
Me: Goodbye!
Woman: All set, yes.


Monday, December 20, 2004

I should've known the last week before Christmas would bring the nutters out. Sometimes sarcasm and evil are the only weapons in the fight against stupidity.

Me: *checking credit card, running it through the machine, handing it back*
Him: Why did you look at it?
Me: To see if the signatures match between the card and the receipt you're signing.
Him: (smiling triumphantly) But there's no signature.
Me: I see that.
Him: So why didn't you say anything?
Me: Because I figure anyone dumb enough not to sign their card deserves what they get. If it had said "see ID" then I would have asked for ID.
Him: (mutters sheepishly) It used to say See ID, but it rubbed off.
Me: I see. Have a nice holiday, sir.

In other news, I'm forced to "put the smack down" (as the youth say) on one of our regulars, Carol. Irritating in the extreme, this woman dresses like a well-to-do bag lady (figure that one out) and her stringy grey hair gives one the unmistakable impression that she's a retired schoolteacher. Well, maybe it's the insanity instead of the hair that tells me she's ex-teacher material. Either way, she's managed to claw her way to the top of the ranks of Most Irritating Regular. Yes, even more irritating than poor Ed, O He Who Asks About the New Bellamy Brothers Album. At least Ed's a happy-go-lucky fellow. Carol has a perpetually crabby disposition, the kind of naturally surly face and manner which suggests that if you handed her a brick of gold, she'd look at it and say, "this is too heavy. I want to return it." Yes my friends, that's why I have to blacklist her from placing any more special orders: she returns (or outright refuses to buy in the first place) every damned disc she orders. Took me about a dozen orders to figure it out, I'm ashamed to say, but when the pieces of the puzzle clicked, I also realized that she's the person who concludes every purchase by making me call her a cab. No joke. So that's it for old Carol, no more music orders and no more phone calls to the cab company. According to the book clerks in the next room, she does the same thing with book orders. Begone ye harpy!


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Haven't written much lately but 1)it's frickin' Christmas so we're busy, and 2)there haven't been any standout events or people worth mentioning. Today our health care provider sent us an eclair ring to munch on. Talk about mixed messages: "We pay for your insurance in case of ill health. Now eat this chocolate-slathered, cream-filled pastry."

Other than that it's been business as usual for us. The lovely cast of regulars along with clueless parents ordering me to tell them what music their son likes, woman with too much perfume paying for two-dollar purchases with a credit card, and people hiding in the corner after closing so they can bring their books to the counter five minutes after I've closed the cash register. Rock on.


Monday, December 06, 2004

Not especially retail-related, but after work yesterday I headed over to my parents' place to help trim the tree. My mom used to handle those duties herself (obsessive decorator that she is) but a few years back she let my brother and I throw on the ornaments and she suddenly realized we're not completely without aesthetic sense. (She also came to realize that, after decades of us asking for colored Christmas lights, maybe having white lights alone isn't necessarily better...but now I'm just gloating, heh heh!) So there we were last night, Christmas beats kicking in the background, putting the finishing touches on the beast. My mom came downstairs to admire our handiwork, handing us a tupperware container full of candy canes: sort of the whipped cream and cherry of the Christmas Tree Sundae, so to speak.

So I went to back to work, hanging a cane here and a cane there, pleased with the overall result. Suddenly there was a little noise, like a Christmas ornament falling off a limb and hitting the hardwood floor. "What was that?" Mom and I asked at the same time. I got down on my hands and knees, looking under the tree for the fallen bulb or snowman. Nothing. Scratching my head in yuletide confusion, I grabbed some more canes and got back to work. A minute later that sound again: an ornament pinging off of something hard. Again I knelt down and again I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Wherever these mysterious ornaments were, they must be stuck somewhere inside the branches, I thought.

Finally I finished off the last handful of candy canes, placing them carefully in the places that needed them most. We stood back and drank in the magnificent sight of our fully armed and operational Christmas tree, resplendent in its corner of the dining room. The lights twinkled merrily and each ornament looked perfect, as though placed on its limb by the hand of a master trimmer with a lifetime of experience decorating artificial conifers. It was incredible...

...for about ten seconds, until that falling ornament sound was heard again, except this time it was a much louder cracking noise. As our Christmas tree came down next to the dining room table with a thunderous crash, it occured to me that the noise we had heard was actually the plastic base of the tree coming apart. A cursory examination of the spot where our tree had once stood confirmed my hypothesis. Poor mom was on the verge of tears as we picked up all of the various ornaments that had flown onto the floor around the tree. Dad swung into action, however, heading for the basement and crafting an impromptu tree base out of two-by-fours, his radial arm saw, and some nails. I guess that's our first Christmas catastrophe averted. Let the holiday fun begin.


Friday, December 03, 2004

Oh man! I'm so psyched. As in psychedelic. As in, that freaky dude I sketched for the May 6th post came in again today! He was dressed incognito, just a black jacket and dress pants, but his timewarp sensibilities were intact below the surface. He still had the Haight-Ashbury, Byrds-style bowl haircut rocking his scalp area, and the tinted shades had a retro feel as well. He came up to the counter and asked, "Do you have any garage or sixties rock from other countries? Like the Rattles? Or 'Love, Peace and Poetry'?" Sadly the answer was no and our little flowerchild exited stage left. But here's hoping he comes back in again. His taste is actually pretty good when it comes to psychedelia. Besides, I like a person who seeks out the obscure, and in the retail trade you can never have enough easygoing weirdos.

Speaking of obscure, anyone who's remotely interested in power pop or indie rock should check out the new reissue of The Mice. To quote the description at the record label's site, "The Mice were a young band active in Cleveland, Ohio during the mid 1980s. The group brought together a range of influences infrequently heard at the time, and their moniker itself distanced them from the sometimes testosterone-heavy punk scene. But whether the energy comes from early punk or Brit Invasion anthems, there's plenty of it in many of these songs, aided and abetted by a very young Moon-esque drummer in Tommy Fox. In this environment, Bill Fox presented songs of passion and subtlety with mad genius pop hooks." I just picked the disc up and it's great stuff with jangly guitar, strong lyrics and surprisingly good musicianship considering how young they were at the time. This one deserves wider recognition.


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