The devil wears blah blah
He tells me, at length, about his friend with the bright red hair and the melodious voice who used to be a DJ, and about another friend with a booming voice that needed no amplification, the guy who should have been a DJ but couldn't be bothered to learn the trade. Somewhere along the line, he segues into the story of his immigrant grandparents, and how they were made to run up and down the stairs at Ellis Island before being granted admittance to the States (I suspect that it was because watching people run in wooden shoes is universally hilarious, but I keep that to myself), and how his grandmother took all her money out of the bank the night before the stock market crashed in '29, and he doesn't know why they called it the "Great" Depression, 'cause it kinda sucked, actually.
My boss is wandering through and gets dragged into the conversation because she's found the item that was ordered for him. She and I share the thought, in our girlie telekinetic way, that perhaps he'll buy it and vamoose so we can get back to the stock that needs to go up. But no, he's now launched into the tale of how he and his wife ventured into the wilds of New York City in the late '60s, and how, by God, it was really a hellhole, and there were people dancing topless on the tables. I'm wondering, to myself, how I get on the waiting list for this hellhole, and then I remember that some asshole cleaned up Times Square in the '90s, and my little private bubble of breast awareness is deflated as the old guy relates, in excruciating detail, how he and his wife were trapped on the 88th floor of the Empire State Building during a blackout, but "this little Jap" fashioned a battery-powered lamp and led all the tourists down the stairs to the darkened street. I can't help but picture George Takei dressed as the Statue of Liberty.
We edge him over to the counter and manage to ring up his purchase as he launches into his explanation of how the Mexican drug wars could be easily eradicated with some of the US of A's heavy artillery. I decline to mention that the US of A's heavy artillery seems to be already in use elsewhere in the world, as doing so would only prolong the conversation. He asks me at least three times if I've ever been in the military, and I keep thinking, Do you really think anyone would willingly hand me a gun? Finally, miraculously, after the longest 45 minutes on record, he's out the door, and my boss and I are staring at each other, eyes wide with disbelief, exclaiming in unison, "Oh. My. GAWD."
And the thing is, he's a nice enough guy. Not once do I have the urge to hit him or gouge him or tightly wrap his danglies in speaker wire. Really, I feel kinda bad, because it's obvious that no one he knows will hold still long enough for him to get this out of his system, and dammit, it's a family's job to let him ramble at home so he's all rambled out before he's allowed to go out in public.
So, we go back to our work, and there is work aplenty for the two of us. We price, we stock, we hang tags, we sell phones, we sell cell phones, we sell cell phones by the seashore, we do price changes, and before I know it, it's an hour to closing time and my boss is leaving me to close the store by myself. I still have a few tasks on my list, but the last hour is usually slow, and I'm figuring it will be a breeze, a cakewalk, a walk in the park, a walk in the cake. Boss lady has her hand on the door when a familiar vehicle pulls up...
Chatty Grampy is back.
I shriek at my boss and she whips around to see what's gotten up my ass. Then she sees who it is and I can see her getting ready to bolt past him, out the door and into her car, where she will lock the doors and squeal out of the parking lot like she just robbed the place and put three bullets in the clerk. I beg her, "Oh, sweet Jesus, promise me you'll give me FIVE MINUTES and then call me on the store phone, where we will have a long conversation about digital converter boxes and their place in a kosher household. Promise me." She promises me, and I have no reason to doubt the sincerity on her face, though I only see it for a split second before she makes like the Road Runner and she's gone, into her car, a streak and a puff of dust, tire tracks on the concrete all she's left us to remember she was ever really there.
It seems we neglected to preach the gospel of "Do you need batteries with that?" when he made his purchase, and as it turns out, he needs batteries. The battery sale turns into his proud display of a bullet-shaped pen, which somehow turns into a solid half hour of his movie recommendations for me. He likes Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton together, and also that Jack Nicholson movie "where that one guy is a queer." He basically spoils the endings to several movies which, thankfully, I have no interest in seeing anyway. Surprisingly enough, his most enthusiastic recommendation is The Devil Wears Prada. In fact, he mentions high-heeled shoes and women in high heels so many times during the conversation that I begin to wonder if he's going to whip out a pair of red stilettos and beg me to wear them as I clog dance on his back. I begin to wonder exactly how much I would charge for that.
But mostly, I begin to wonder Where the hell is that phone call I was promised? Betrayal, that's what I call it. When a chick asks another chick to make a fake phone call to rescue her from an awkward situation, it's Chick Law that she make that call at precisely the preordained time. My boss has broken one of the cardinal rules of Honor Among Chicks. I make a mental note to fart in her office chair if and when this conversation ever concludes.
Thirty minutes to closing time, my work list not getting any smaller, and finally, miraculously, another customer walks in. Old guy sees him, grabs his batteries off the counter, and has the good grace to say "Well, you have a customer, so I'll let you get to it." The angels sing for just a split second, until New Customer smiles at us and says "Oh, you guys go ahead, I'm fine over here."
NO! I scream in my head. YOU'RE NOT FINE! YOU DESPERATELY NEED MY HELP TO PICK OUT A CALCULATOR! My attempts at telepathy fail. I will the phone to ring, but its will to remain unrung is stronger, and I swear that the caller ID briefly, silently flashes Sucks to be you. I'm sure New Customer is doing this to me on purpose, this blatant "knowing what he wants and where it's located" nonsense that he's pulling just to fuck with me.
After an eternity of movie plot spoilers, I see New Customer making his way toward the counter, slowly, slowly, slowly, and I practically spit a lung out screeching at him, "I CAN HELP YOU OVER HERE, SIR!" Old guy moves aside and bids me adieu, and I take my time waiting on New Customer, making sure I ask a lot of questions, make a lot of recommendations, assure myself that old guy is really and truly out the door, on his way out of the parking lot. I bag New Customer's items, and then I pick up the phone, dial about four digits, and pretend to engage in a fascinating debate about the availability of lead-free solder, just in case Grampaw Fuck-Me Pumps changes his mind and turns the car around.
It is with the greatest sense of relief that I lock the store, kill the lights, and shut down the electronics; it is with the greatest sense of revenge that I let loose an ass-rumbling thunderstorm upon the office chair where my can't-bother-to-phone boss will sit in the morning.
I shall never again forget to offer batteries with each purchase. Amen.