Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Woman With No Voice Returns


Swing shift. The door bell we use to announce the arrival or departure of a customer through the front door sounds. There she is, like a boil on the anus of society. The woman with no voice has made her nightly pilgrimage to my humble shop, the holy Mecca of snack foods and sundries, the corner Plaid Pantry.

She's wearing a new hat today, and unlike the rest of her clothing it's not faded or caked in filth yet. This, unfortunately, fools me into greeting her with my customary and energetic "Goooood evening!" I even smiled! All that effort wasted on a madwoman. She waved an old pepsi (I think) can at me, as if to both say "LOOK AT ME," and "I'm going to turn this in for a nickle," in one deft movement. As she passed by the front counter, cutting off several customers, walking between couples and generally making a nuicance of herself, I heard her attempt to echo the noises she's heard real people make when they practice what they call talking. As usual and as assumed, she enjoyed little success, and the only word I could manage to comprehend was "Matches".

She placed a single can in the recepticle and made an immediate about face and headed back the way she came, barging right through people in a repeat performance of ass-hattery. She held her hand out, and since it's just a pack of matches, I went ahead and gave her one and began to ask for the other five cents a matchbook costs, but she was already near the front door.

As if the attention she had demanded from literally everyone in the shop, (and I assure you, literally everyone in the store was staring at her silently at this point), she picked up a job application, making sure I saw it. She then waved it about, as if to say "I'm taking this and there's nothing you can do about it! HAH!" as well as "LOOK AT ME HOLY FUCK LOOK AT ME", and left... but instead of just leaving, she made and abrupt right turn and set the job application down on top of a news stand, also making sure I saw this.

She looked me dead in the eye, smiled a mischevious smile, and patted the job application.

I nodded, and she walked off into the night.

The application was still on top of the news stand.

Not even ten paces from the store, she made yet another abrupt about face and returned to the news stand to carefully tear off the front of the matchbook, and ritualisticly placed the Plaid Pantry logo emblazoned cover on the application. I couldn't help it by this point. My jaw was hanging and I was staring at her in disbelief and confusion as she walked away one final time.

I turned to the other customers who were, apparently, just as confused as I and in exasperation cried out.


Monday, January 26, 2009

THE VOICE (Presumibly that of God?)

Graveyard again.

You have encountered A Rather Large, Smiling Black Man!
What do you do?
>Greet customer and ring him up

I do not understand this "ring him up"

>greet customer

"Hey how ya doin' boy?" he asks you.

"I'm still breathing somehow, how are you?" you reply.

"I'm doin' just great, boy," he starts, pointing to a button on his shirt. This button features a painting of a young lady with long black hair. "I've got my sister with me - that's her on this pin, I keep her close to my heart - see she died two months ago..."

The man tells you a story of how through God's will and God's will alone he just so happened to visit his sister the weekend before she suddenly died without warning.

>say "I'm so sorry about your sister"

You tell the man "I'm so sorry about your sister," and continue ringing up his purchases. The man goes on to tell you about how this has prompted him to start singing.

>I thought you didn't understand this "ring him up" >:(

I do not understand this "I thought you didn't understand this "ring him up" >:(."

>ask about singing

You ask the man about his singing, and he identifies himself as "THE VOICE." THE VOICE wants to sing for you.

>let him sing

You don't have any other customers in the store and your friend is fronting and facing product to stave off boredom. You let him go ahead and sing. The man informs you that he'll just sing about twenty seconds of a song he wrote a week or two ago, and proceeds to start singing gospel. Twenty seconds in, he sounds absolutely awful. What do you do?

>Smile and let him continue

The man appeared to only have a frog in his throat, or perhaps he should have warmed up a little beforehand, because now he sounds great! But now he's staring you straight in the eye and grinning a maniacal grin as he sings what amounts to a dirge. What do you do?

>Smile and let him continue

The mans eyes are now wild like those of a rabid dogs, and you notice just how long and yellow his teeth are. He still stares you directly in the eye, but you can't help but look away every few seconds, trying to make it look like you're just trying to concentrate on his singing. The stare is starting to terrify you and it chills to the bone. what do you do?

>Smile and let him continue

The man sings another couple verses and, without warning, stops and turns for the door looking insulted and angry. What do you do?

>snap fingers and tell him he's good

You snap your fingers repeatedly like a beatnik and complement him on his skills. The man thanks you, promises you a demo CD that he will bring by sometime in the next week, and leaves. Your friend returns from fronting and facing and looks at you standing there. No one is quite sure just what happened. What do you do?

>die a little inside

You die a little inside.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Woman With No Voice

Another graveyard shift. No matter how clearly I lay my schedule out in front of my manager, (And it's not particularly complicated, unless you think 9-5 mon-fri is complicated), he just doesn't seem to understand what I ask of him.


An friend who doesn't seem to sleep swung by for the last four hours of the shift. He had the distinguished privilege of witnessing The Woman With No Voice and her daily routine of wandering into the plaid, demanding everyone's attention literally all the time, moving things around and waiting for someone else to take the clerks attention so she can steal as much as she can. She likes to bring us clerks presents, though she doesn't seem to understand that returning stolen matchbooks doesn't count.

I saw her walking up to the store this time and had a moment to prepare. I moved the key to the beer coolers out of reach and behind the counter, and moved to a spot where I could see all the mirrors in the store.

GUNG-GUNG-GUNG. She was rapping the window with the tattered remains of a small cardboard box, waved it at me as if to say "Hey I have this and I'm going to leave it here so you don't think I stole it," and set it down on top of a news stand.

Then she came in, talking the whole way. I swear to god, she didn't shut up for a single second the entire time she was there.

"hhhaannnhnhnnnhhhhnnnn-HA HA HA HA HA!" she would say.

"Cans to return? OK. I'll be right over, gimme just a sec," I said, moving over to keep a better eye on her. Another customer came in. A young lady, the kind of girl who eminates an aura of impatience.

"nnHHhHheeehhhrnrnkcchhhs," she growled in a wasted attempt to make words. Her voice sounds a little like rocks in a grinder with a leaking air hose. Without vocal cords there's no way to understand this woman, and she's too far gone to understand anyone asking her to slow down her speach. This is the same woman another homeless woman said she was glad wasn't there. The one who she wanted to make jealous by claiming she, with her whole four teeth, could eat pussy better than. Even the other bums around here regard her as insane. Honestly, I like the male bums around here more. At least they aren't quite as foul.

"I need to take care of someone at the register, I'll be just a second," I told her. The young lady came up to the counter and was already giving me the evil eye. She looked rich, like the kind of girl who's pissed that Bush is out of office. Ugh.

I got my friends attention, pointed with one hand at my eyes and then at The Woman With No Voice, hoping he would watch her and make sure she didn't shove something into any of her myriad pockets.

I imagine he thought I wanted him to watch for something funny, 'coz within five seconds he was checking out some jerky. Dammit, man. Yeah, I know you're reading this. Haven't you ever played paintball or anything like that?

The young lady left, and shortly after the woman with no voice came up to the register and got a whole quarter for bottles that we could accept. She was apparently deterred from theft this time, but she always comes back. I'm unsure as to whether she sleeps at all.

She left the half cardboard box. I walked outside and lit a cigarette.

I tossed the box in the trash.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Challenger Appears!

The past several days have been soul-crushingly dull. Beyond greeting each customer with "Happy Obama Day!" yesterday, very little of interest has happened. Come to think of it though, I did have two bigots come in. One complained about "Why did they put two black guys next to each other? Just get it all over with on one damn day," regarding Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Inauguration being on consecutive days.

The other guy came up with the gem "I-Nigger-Ation." Wow. Just... WOW.

Then I met my first villain.

Enter, SodaMan!

Well spoken and well dressed, (save the hair-net, one of those fashion statements that I'll just never understand), this man stood at a rack of 2-liter soda bottles for literally fifteen minutes deciding which one he wanted. He compared the bottles, inspecting each for maximum fizz potential, possibly divining the future through the bubbles.

After fifteen long minutes of watching him, (that's unfortunately a high theft area), he came up to the register with some Mountain Dew and asked if we had any 7-Up. I directed him to the primary pop area where he... proceeded to inspect each and every single bottle of soda there. There's a lot more soda over there and as a result it took him closer to twenty minutes this time.

Another fun note is the high volume of burn victims who come to that specific Plaid. Now, I work at a couple Plaid locations, and this one is the farthest from hospitals, yet... well... You know Ghouls from Fallout?

I have to try real hard not to call these guys Harold or Gob.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Very Thought Of It

I've just now realized that this is the first time I've sat down in ten hours. Ow.

Early in the morning, perhaps somewhere around 4am, an elderly black gentleman came into the store. Being the middle of the month, like myself, he was almost entirely out of money. We spoke at length about this and that, and eventually he cut to the chase. He needed rolling papers, but he had nothing to pay with. We tried his card, but it was declined.

After about fifteen rather vulgar minutes of trying to find a way for him to afford them, checking the ground for loose change, trying different cards he ultimately tried to borrow money from me. This of course failed. I'm just as poor these days. We went on to talk about cigarettes, work, the weather and eventually somehow the conversation turned to my degree.

I have an Associates of Applied Science in Multimedia, which essentially means that I've sat down at a computer. That diploma is absolutely worthless, and if not for the contacts and friends I made while going to college I would deeply regret the entire two years and over thirty thousand dollars I spent there. In fact, thanks to a deplorable, awful fellow teaching the poorly named "Portfolio" class, I failed a single final and had to retake that one class. One class. That single, worthless, pitiful class was priced at $1,400, and sur-fucking-prize, I didn't learn a single thing from it the second time either.

I've not since been able to afford that, and as such still do not actually have my diploma and hold a deep seated loathing - nay, hatred - of that unnamed school that I will likely carry in my heart until the day I die.

But I digress.

The man was astounded that someone with a degree was working a job such as mine. Of course, in this economy, one has to take whatever job they can get, right? Finally, that's when things got interesting.

"You should be making use of that degree, son! What the hell are you doing here!?" He asked.

"Actually I am. I help run a little print shop downtown." I said, and gave him a quick summary of why it's done and over with at the end of the month. He started to ask about contracts, hoping to give me an idea how to come out on top in the whole situation, but I cut him off. "I don't actually do that paperwork stuff. I'm production, so I take orders and print stuff. [co-worker] does that, and she's really good at it, so I'm pretty sure she's on top of it."

"[co-worker's name], huh? She a black girl or a white girl?" He asked. This didn't surprise me at all, and in fact I saw it coming. My co-worker has one of those names white girls just don't have.

"She's white, why?"

"You fuckin' her?"

"HA. No. She and our other co-worker are like sisters to me!" I bellowed, then broke down into a fit of laughter.

"Good!" he laughed, "It's better not to do that stuff in that kind of situation isn't it! Bad for the business!"

I laughed harder.

And with that, he let himself out the door.

I continued laughing for at least another half minute, snorted loudly, (and painfully!), and continued laughing.

I probably shouldn't have laughed quite that hard. She'll probably smack me upside the head for this post.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blessed are the Maintenance Workers

Around 1:30am last night, a friendly couple came by to repaint the yellow lines on the parking lot. It's been getting pretty damn cold out as of late, what with the whole winter thing and all, so they had what appeared to be a large torch. I was pretty pleased at the prospect of getting to watch people torch the parking lot.

I was a lot happier when I discovered that thing was modified into something more like a flame thrower.


Flame erupted from the nozzle reaching easily three feet before it petered off into a shimmering wave of superheated air and exhaust. Its color was the deep blue of a clear summer sky and the sound alone betrayed it's nature to the point that the countless neighbors they no doubt awakened were likely all aware of the veritable pyromancy occurring below.

The remains of a not even half smoked cigar laid on the ground before the torch. As the summer blue flames passed near it it ignited and vaporised in no more than three seconds.

I just about needed new pants at that point.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"I've Nothing to do but fuck"

For some reason, the mad folk tend to think that Plaid Pantries are the place to hang out. One such woman speaks as though she had her voice box removed, and manages sound by doing what most of us consider clearing our throats. This would explain the constant, yellowish spittle and mucus dripping from the corners of her mouth.

While she's mostly just insane and a pointless waste, the Vietnam Vet knew about her already and warned me to keep an eye on her. It seems he might be good to have around. She brought up some coupons from the other side of the counter, set a cordial cherry down and brought some newspapers, and tried to say... something. I couldn't figure it out. I had to ask her several times, discovered that her spittle can fly pretty far with deadly accuracy, and learned that glasses are good for more than just improving eyesight. Fucking. Gross. Watch me catch SARS now. It turns out that she thought she was being really nice by bringing these to me... as a gift! No, of course she didn't want to buy them! She just wanted me to have them because she's a dear.

Or perhaps it's because she's stark raving mad, perhaps a distraction so she could steal something. As I understand it, it was the latter.

The real fun began when her 'friend' appeared and started hitting on the male customers. They had to have been somewhere in their mid twenties while this lady's got to be old enough to be their mother.

"Heeeey how ya doin'. Nice hair cut. It looks reeeaaaal good on ya." she said, making her best attempt at impersonating an even remotely attractive human being. Then suddenly...

"I'm a pretty kinky broad! There's not a whole lot to do once you get old other than have sex! Yeah I like the kinky stuff, it keeps it fun! Oh man it's a good thing I'm in a good mood right now, and it's a good thing [No-Voice] isn't here, or else I'd make her really jealous by telling her I eat pussy better than she does! HA HA HA!"

Everyone is silent, even the vet. I can usually take this kind of talk, but I've never heard it from someone as skeezey and foul as her. Then she started with some of that talk directed at me. This brought me to the point of actual nausea. I just had to roll my eyes. I guess she thought that was me flirting back or something.

Fucking. Gross.


On the first day of the gauntlet my customers gave to me: A fattie digging in my trash can.

He just so happened to be standing right on the other side of the window from where I was standing, so I calmly tapped on the glass and pointed to the sign reading "DO NOT DIG IN TRASH"

"FUCK YOU I DROPPED MY PHONE IN THERE DICKHEAD!!!" the man roars. It's maybe 5am, and there are residences adjacent to our lot.

" the f... how did it fall in there?" I ask, but I receive no reply. The man just glares at me and starts storming towards the door and, finally, enters.


"Well, you were digging in the trash." My frown started to fade away. Finally, after a boring night, something interesting.


"Ok, alright, well you have my sincere apologies," I smiled. The other customers watched, not moving.

Tubby stomped towards the back of the store, grabbed a small bottle of milk and, gigantic man boobs jiggling, stomped back to the counter where he proceeded to slam it down. That was a lot of glaring going on. This man was PISSED that I would EVER try to enforce any rules upon him.

"Will this be everything for you today?" I beamed. This confused him. I could see it in his beady, pig-like eyes.

"Yeah... I guess."

"Awesome. Debit or credit? Alright. Aaaannnd... You're set! Hey thanks much, man. You have yourself a good one!" One spoon full of sugar... two spoonfuls... Oh fuck it, 6.2 metric tons, please.

"uh... k." he muttered, his squinty little pig eyes turned to the floor as he took his milk and left. This man was completely transparent. He had no justifiable reason to be angry with me. Even after I spoke my first words, sounding like I didn't care that he just yelled at me, it was readily apparent that he was starting to feel like a real bastard.

By the time he left, though? I think I ruined his entire day, thus constituting a small victory on my part.

Oh, and I arm wrestled a Vietnam Vet who's covered in more scars than I've probably seen on all the people in my life combined up to this point. You damn well better believe he won, but I put up an ok fight. I'm still pretty impressed an old man like him could so soundly trounce a whipper-snapper like myself, though. That man is strong.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Gauntlet: Prologue

The print shop is still open at this point. It won't be for much longer, unfortunately. Not throwing in the towel, just setting it aside to start again later. I think of it being like a power cycle on a router or modem, just one that takes a few years.

I look forward to the day we restart.

What I don't look forward to, however, is this coming week.

Here's my schedule. Please bear with me for a moment as I use this to plan my week. Sort of like thinking aloud at the dinner table, ya know?

Day shift, graveyard shift, day shift, sleep. Day shift, graveyard, day, graveyard, day... then I don't know what happens friday afternoon, 'coz Plaid doesn't schedule more than one week ahead.

What this means is that to start The Gauntlet, I get to start 'slow' with just 36 hours without sleep or rest. Then I'll sleep until round two of The Gauntlet, and maybe get away with just 60 hours without rest or sleep.

I'm gonna go get a bottle or two of no-doze. I guarantee you I'll be poppin' that shit like candy. I'll try to keep up with this over the next week, but I might just take notes and write it after each round.

Wish me luck. I'll keep in touch one way or another.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Alcoholics, Stamps and Disrespectful Nicknames

Sorry, I had to get that sad bit out of the way.

So I've noticed that almost everyone near my store either smokes or drinks heavily. Within ten minutes of the state allowing me to sell alcohol this morning, I had sold six cans of malt liquor (to the same man) and three bottles of wine.

Somewhere around 9am, a Chinese man walked into the store and asked if we sold stamps. I told him that no, I'm sorry, we don't.

"you have stamps?"

" No we don't."

"uhhhmmm... Stamps. Stamps. For mail. You have?"

"No. No stamps."

"I sorry my english not very good do you have... stamps. STAMPS," he repeated as he held up an envelope and tapped the corner, "STAMPS."

"No. We. No. Not. Have. Stamps. We. Do. Not. Sell. Stamps. I. Do. Not. Know. Where. You. Could. Find. Some."

"I sorry one second" he stammered... then... "you sell STAMPS?"

This went on for well over five minutes before he gave up, apparently SURE something was lost in translation and that we in fact had stamps. Or maybe he thought I'm dumb. Either way, I could give a shit. For the record, no, we really don't sell stamps. least I don't think we do.

Noon rolled by, and I was pretty pleased that the psych ward vets hadn't shown up today. I'm starting to believe in all that synchronysity crap I keep hearing about, because five minutes after thinking this, -BLAMF!- there they are.


I'm starting to think up nicknames for them all. I've got so much time on my hands, what else am I going to do? Hell, I tried playing Bejewled on my cell phone earlier today - and ten moves in I lost. Given that how far you can proceed in that game is based largely in luck, that kind of killed the fun for me. The one who likes to pick out his own cigar I hereby dub "Scrambles." Today I'm just glad "Mumbles" isn't around.

Soon enough I'm ringing the whole lot of them up, and I notice that the same supervisor girl from yesterday is with them. She looks a lot better today, like perhaps her ass hadn't been pinched nearly as much as usual this morning. We manage maybe a half minute of small talk while I ring her up before a veteran barges in-


"Oh, yeah ok man here you go," I said, handing him a little Plaid Pantry book o' matches. Then the whole lot of them crowded around the counter.

"I want matches too"

Ok, so matches all around. I'm not sure how good an idea this is, but since they all seem to smoke a pack a day I suppose they'll be too busy with their smokes to burn each other's hair off.

Finally the day ended and my co-worker arrived to take over for me.

I'm starting to think he has anger management issues. Before I left, I heard him scream "QUIET!" obviously furious with it's incessant ringing and smash the door-bell thing. I'm not sure if he broke it or unplugged it EXTREMELY loudly or what, but holy shit.

Not all fun and games

Some times people come in from the near by hospital. Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they're intolerable jackasses, but most of the time it's just heart wrenching.

They come in, realize that, assuming it's not busy, I'm willing to listen to their woes and just pour it on. Today I was told about this one man's wife turning into a vegetable.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Exploding Candy, Disappearing Russians and Psych Ward Patients

Now is not the time to start at the beginning. Now is the time to start with today.

This morning I had the distinct pleasure of opening the only plaid that seems to ever close, which meant I was there at 5:50am. I am a night person. I am not at all a morning person. In fact, I am so much not a morning person that I seem to need the threat of immediate termination of employment hanging over my head to get myself to work on time at all.

Care to guess how many customers I had before 9:30am? Four. Just four. None of them spent more than $2, except I think one guy bought lotto tickets... but I doubt those profits go to the store at all. Like usual, they spent more money having me there with the lights on doing absolutely nothing for two and a half hours than they made. Su-fucking-prise!

An attractive young lady around my age came into the store, bought some water and left. I sat down on the counter and turned up the volume on the barely functioning cd/tape cassette player and stared at my reflection in the window. Now locked in a staring contest with my own reflection, I proceded to make faces at the window for about ten minutes. This is how I entertain myself once I've run out of magazines to read.

I would have continued making faces at myself and bobbing my head to whatever awful music I had playing at the moment, save I heard something crack, then pop. I dismissed this as the usual sounds the ice maker, uh, makes. Then it got louder.

I turned my head just in time to see the entire display of boxed candy leave it's post at the side of the Coke cooler.

Damn thing smashed another display and splayed about 250 pieces of merchandise across the floor, not counting the lollipops that thankfully managed to stay within their plastic tub-jar-things. It took about 45 minutes to get it all cleaned up, put in boxes and the rack moved across the shop.

Later I would discover that most of the time when something like that happens, Plaid employees will just leave it there for the manager, claiming "I didn't know what to do with it I'm just a clerk man I ring people up, that's it. Hurf-a-durf." I guess this is why they want to promote me to assistant manager after just a month, an idea that frankly makes my skin crawl. An one dollar an hour pay raise is nowhere near enough to convince me to give half a shit about the store, or be on call to fix things like this for idiots who don't want to do it themselves. I guess the two shits I don't give about the store is already more than other people care about it. Either that or most other clerks must have trouble dressing themselves.

Shortly later, a Russian woman came in, cut in line and stated "MARLBORO LIGHT ONE HUNDRED." I paused, blinked and raised an eyebrow at the person who was next in line. They shrugged, so I grabbed them thar smokes off the rack, and asked "These 'uns?"


"Right on. Six dollars please."


"What? S'cuse?"

"YOU HAVE MATCHES." the look in her eyes was... I can't think of anything to compare it to other than concrete. Cold, dull, lifeless, and fucking hard. I handed her those fucking matches right quick, took her payment and before I could look up to hand her her reciept - POOF. She and her friend were gone. They weren't even outside! Just... gone.

Shortly later, a group of ten to twenty veteran psych ward patients wandered into my Plaid with their lovely, yet startled and disturbed looking handler. The poor thing looked like she was probably around my age, and had a look about her that said "my ass cheeks are black and blue from pinches. I won't be sitting for a month after this."

The first man came up to the counter.

"Hhhhhhhh. Hh. hueemmmememmmmmmurrrfl blermermermermmruuuurg." he muttered. He was saying something, and definitely speaking in English... but was mumbling so heavily that there was no way to decipher a single fucking word.


"Murfcgla ber murmurmurmurmur," he muttered as he handed me his payment




"Mrugha! Heh heh heh heh heh!!" he chuckled, taking his whatever-the-fuck-it-is he bought with him outside and lighting a cigarette.

Most of the other psych ward patients were pretty manageable, except one man who kept trying to cut in line and was behaving as though he was on a nice big dose of speed. I mean, holy shit he wanted to cut in line.

He just wanted to buy cigarillos so much. He wanted them real good.

The only other weirdo was this guy who wanted some "snuss," which is apparently chewing tobacco in a pouch. I was given a free tin of it a while ago and tried it. Surprise surprise, it's fucking nasty! It took a few tries for him to get the word right, 'coz he kept calling it Snuff. As a result I had taken him over to the chewing tobacco rack where the snuff is, and asked him what kind he wanted.

"SOLD COLD SOLD COLD" he blurted, repeating the slogan on the snuss ads. Back to the register we go, and I asked him what kind he wanted. "something not too eeeeeeeehhhhhhhh." Thank you sir. Thank you. Very descriptive.

"We have 'frost' and 'mellow.'" I told him. He picked frost, I rang it up and announced the price, to which he replied "no it's free it's trial offer says right there see look"

"Ohh. I'm sorry man, they're only free if you buy a tobacco product."

"Oh..." he frowned pitifully, "can you just give it to me?"

"I'm sorry man, it doesn't work like that." I replied.

"uhhh... I only have sixty-seven cents can I buy it for that much?"

"No, man, it's five ninty-nine." At this point I was very glad he was the last person in line. Even that cute girl supervising them had bought herself a drink before this sorry case. I noticed she was standing with her back to the wall with a circle of psych-ward-ees standing around her smoking. Smart, I'll bet that kept her ass from getting pinched quite as much, the poor thing.

Snuss man gave up at this point mentioning that he'd be back with money.

He returned no less than five minutes later, but not with money.

Instead he approached the counter and extended his arm with an offering. A small, dingy travel pack of kleenex.

"In case you ever get a tear." he said. Aww, that was kind of sweet. I'm glad he didn't say anything about snot or bloody noses. Or wiping ones ass. (Note: Kleenexes make for awful TP)

"Thank you man, but I'm ok. I've got a box of tissues right here. You go ahead and keep that incase you ever get a tear, ok?"

"Oh, ok. I can has snuss now?" he asked.

God damnit, he was trying to barter for the snuss. First of all, barter is not an acceptable form of trade at most convenience stores. Second, the difference in value was just so gre... dude he said "I can has snuss nao" holy shit I didn't even put two and two together whoa.

I had a lulzpsychwardpatient in my store today.

Plaid Lad: The Origin Story

Ah, blogging. The new internetian pastime. Any hero worth his salt needs a hobby, and like any good super hero, I have an origin story. I suppose that's where I'll start. The beginning that is. Well, the beginning of this particular story. The idea of "the beginning" is entirely subjective.

Up until April of '08, I worked in an architecture office with a pretty cushy job making digital 3D models of building designs. Just plop myself down in my seat, crank up the tunes, zone out and suddenly I had made something beautiful and it was time to go home, likely to get plastered or play D&D, (or combine the two and play DD&D, or Drunk Dungeons & Dragons, a personal favorite of mine), with my friends.

Then the economy fell out from under me and the architecture firm's HR lady took me aside and said, with a tear welling up in her eye, that they couldn't afford to keep me on anymore and had to let me go. There were no hard feelings and I still have a warm place in my heart for that firm, although I'll leave it un-named here for anonymity's sake.

I was unemployed for several months, getting checks from the government like any good leech on society. I used this time to relax, update my resume and... discover that I had artists block and couldn't update my portfolio. And with that, away went my hopes of getting an artsy job right off the bat like I did before. I wound up meeting some people through this activism thing that I won't get into quite yet, (oooh mystery! An essential part of any super hero's backstory!), and it turned out that they needed another person to help out around their start-up print shop.

The three of us discovered rather quickly that this was my calling. Even though we weren't turning enough of a profit to pay ourselves, I was as happy as I could be in that shop and kept finding ways to scrape by.
Printing, trimming, swearing, joking, laughing... this shop was my ideal work environment.

You'll notice that's past-tense.

Well, unfortunately all of a sudden I ran out of money and with a few poorly placed $1-$2 debit transactions wound up almost $300 overdrawn which I still haven't recovered from. My car was reposessed, and suddenly I was faced with myriad FINAL SHUT OFF NOTICE letters in the mail. I live in a house with three room mates, and I have a strong sense of duty to them as they're all wonderful people - I can't very well let them down and leave them without internet, can I?

That's when I applied at the Plaid next door to home. I'm overqualified, not a student, actually handle the public well and have an actual work ethic... none of these are attributes you find in a convenience store employee. I needed something more to get the job.

Ah, desperation, yes. Why yes, of course I'll work for five cents above minimum wage as long as you give me forty hours a week. I can survive on that. That'll do just fine. Besides, I've always sort of wanted to work as a clerk for a while, just for the experience. It sounded a little fun, and like I'd meet some meet some interesting people.

The blue apron fit just right over my neck. I cinched the ties under the apron for aesthetics. My name tag clipped effortlessly onto the neck-strap. Then it happened. I watched helplessly as Plaid Pantry mercilessly slaughtered my dignity.

I was no longer a human being to the public. I was now little more than a talking vending machine.

I had become... Plaid Lad.

It's definitely interesting. I've definitely met some interesting people. I've also learned that they don't pay me enough to give two damns or a fuck about the place, much less the company and that it gives me ample opportunity to... do absolutely nothing but jot down notes of the bizarre experiences I encounter there and share them upon my return home.

I've also discovered that it's in my job description that I don't have to take shit from anyone. Not my employers, not my co-workers, not customers. As a result, in my month and some weeks as Plaid Lad I think I've probably swung the Ban Hammer more times than most people do in half a year.

And you know what?

I'm starting to like it.