Category Archives: What Was I Thinking?

the Only Anniversary I Actually Know

It may not be one of my finest moments, but it was one of my proudest.  By this time, so many years later, which, to be honest, feels even longer than it is, it really doesn’t matter.  The woman in question is probably dead and unless she cried out about the experience on her deathbed, which I find unlikely, never gave what happened a passing thought after that day.  On the afternoon of the Fourth of July there are many more things to be concerned with, and as I assume she was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, I’m sure she had other things of greater importance than rude young men with fantastic spiky rockstaresque hair.

Fun Fact: Buttloads are an actual unit of measurement.

Fun Fact: Buttloads are an actual unit of measurement.

In my defence, I was having a rough year.  I’m not sure I am removed enough from it, even now, to maturely write about the circumstances of that year.  Suffice it to say, I would not be where I am now if things had turned out differently.  In much the same way that an earthquake in 1812 caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards, the events of the better part of 2006 could have disrupted the course of my life.  I survived that year reasonably in tact due, in no small part, to good friends and a buttload of Jameson.

I was having a rough year.  Tack onto that the fact that my friends mostly worked a nine-to-five schedule with weekends off and a plethora of floating (paid) holidays, a luxury that I, working in retail, still cannot grasp the concept of.

It was the Fourth of July, and unlike my friends, who had gotten out of work at five the previous day with the promise of a day off, I mostly likely had to work… and then be back bright and early on the fourth.  Now, I don’t remember, but given that July 4th, 2006 was a Tuesday, I’m willing to bet a couple of those douchebags took Monday off as well.  This would have pissed me off.

So I went to work, weighed down with the knowledge that all my friends are having fun without me.  At least it was in the days before we were beholden to Facebook status updates for proof of our unique existences (which is actually what spawned my sudden desire to tell this story—thank Vic for asking for the backstory) and I wasn’t reminded via staged yet spontaneous in-the-moment photos what I was missing.

I probably went to work hungover as shit.  No, I’m trying to be honest here, I probably went to work drunk from the night (morning) before.  I told you, it was a rough year.  So by the time I got out of work I needed to procure three things: beer (to go with my whiskey), pizza, and solitude.  The first two were easily accomplished with a brief stop at Tops on my way home, and third, as cranky hermit luck would have it, had taken care of itself.  My friends were all going down to South Buffalo where in true drunk Irish fashion, residents promised to blow a ton of shit up in the middle of the street.

I don’t know if I was ever excited about fireworks as a child, probably only so much as a typical little kid is, I suppose.  I remember sparklers and those popper things you threw at each other’s feet.  I don’t remember much about fireworks as a child other then fragments of sitting on the grass at Riverside Park, and to be honest, I could just be thinking of the time I went there with my high school girlfriend.  As an adult, or the nearest approximation of one I’ve managed so far, I don’t recall an affinity for fireworks shows.

As my friend and her family no longer live in South Buffalo and the chance to witness this epic fireworks display my friends still talk about today, I do regret hiding away from them.  I wish I had taken hold of the events of my life rather then brood and allow the events to build swaying drunken walls around me I’m still trying to tear down.  Sadly, I’ve only recently realized I’m capable of doing so.  Instead, I’ll have to enjoy the stories I hear from that other life that occurred that night, and hope I have enough sense to learn from my mistakes.

And so I went home to drink heavily and play the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which to this day I still have not beaten.  But first, a stop at Tops for frozen pizza and a case of High Life, neither of which would survive the night.

I tell this story as though I were the victim and the old lady the aggressor, but really, Us Weekly and poor timing is to blame.  Goddamn their flashy covers and utter lack of substance or passable writing!  The real victim here is that old lady, taken in by the promise of secrets about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes… or maybe it was Johnny Depp… you know what?  It doesn’t matter who was on the cover.  The feature articles could have been written by throwing a handful of magnetic poetry letters at your fridge.  I imagine the employees of these magazines to be the girls from middle school who always had a Mad-Libs book with them on bus rides.  Insert celebrity name, insert adverb, insert noun.  That’s your article on how “Halle Berry shamelessly exposed a hippopotamus tea party last Orange” gets on the cover of In Touch.  Orange was supposed to be a day of the week.  The author of that article has a little trouble with those still.

But there she was, little cart and all, that fucking old lady reading her Us Weekly while standing at the edge of the 10 Items or less line.

Have I mentioned it was mid afternoon on the Fourth of July?  With day drunk poor party planners scrambling around and clogging up lines with carts of food they just realized they needed?  Have I mentioned I had only a case of beer and a frozen (that was thawing as all this occurred)?  Can you imagine the sigh of relief that collectively escape the Jews who glimpsed the Promised Land after wandering the desert for forty years?  The noise I made when I saw the ’10 Items or Less’ line with only two people in it was better.

Except for Old Lady Us Weekly who had parked her empty cart across the entrance to this cash-line so she could take a moment out of her, clearly, oh so busy freakin’ day to catch up on the latest made up news of Tom Cruise or Captain Jack or Aaron Spelling’s ugly son.

I waited.  I waited as along as one should in this situation.  I clearly wanted to get into this line.  I needed to get into this line.  I had just spent eight hours dealing with people when I was in no condition, physically or psychologically to be anywhere near people, and then what did I do?  I went to a supermarket.  On a holiday.  I waited as long as one could in this situation.

“Excuse me.”

She looked up.  She glanced up from her magazine.

“Excuse me,” I said again, nodding so sweetly, so innocently at the line behind her.

She rolled her eyes and with what may have been one of those upper lip curls of disgust, pushed her cart out of the way.

I moved forward victoriously, a smile in her direction, and perhaps inward a bit too for my winning the right of way I did in fact deserve.

And then , with all the snotty snootiness of a spoiled high school girl Old Lady US Weekly says, “And you’re welcome.”

Under normal circumstances, I may actually have said ‘thank you’ before being prompted.  But that would have been a sign of weakness, a sign that I was in the wrong for simply asking her to move when she was absolutely and without a doubt in the way.  I apologize when something is not my fault, and I say thank you when I have given something up.  It’s a major character flaw that’s been lost to the idea of politeness that few believe in anymore.  No one understands what it actually means to be polite and so we overcompensate with apologizes when we, in fact, deserve them and thank you’s when we should be compensated by others with a simply thanks for our patience, or kindness, selflessness , a smile or offer of help.

Nope.

She had to say that.

So I slammed my case of High Life on the conveyor, turned back to her and said clearly and with great feeling, “Yeah, well fuck off,” and turned around.

How did she react to this?  I have no idea.  I reacted by paying for my pizza and beer and leaving, and then going home to drink half a bottle of Jameson and wallow in the fact that the video game character Link, with his pointy ears and magical sword, was more of man then I’d been up until that point.

That lady?  I don’t know what happened to her.  How she may have told that story later, with her as the victim, just as I’m telling you mine in the same way.  She may have been the sweetest old lady and my reaction made her finally snap, after years of taking shit from other people.  Maybe that was the last straw and she ended up driving her car into a restaurant in Amherst in revenge for my vicious attack on her decency, since old people were doing that pretty frequently for a while.  Not necessary for that reason, I don’t know why they were driving into buildings so much.  I swear, she was the only old lady I yelled at, that shit was not my fault.

No, she probably forgot about it.  She probably didn’t even hear it.  Or didn’t care.  Whatever.  Life can suck sometimes.  You let all the garbage pile up like I did, you try to keep it all to yourself because you’re scared or embarrassed or whatever else you claim to justify being afraid to ask for help, eventually it’ll find a way out.  And it’ll find a way out in any number of ways, some productive, some aggressive, some destructive to yourself or others.  And sometimes, you just need to tell someone to fuck off, even if it’s not the person that deserves it.

Like I said, it wasn’t my finest moment…

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Coaxing Salinger to Come Out and Play

Store ClosingsThings have gotten a little weird at the ol’ bookstore.  Now, I’ve joked with friends about the bookstore being the new bus station, but lately that really hasn’t been far off.

From the loungers, the loiterers, the grazers and the panhandlers, to those who come in simply to have someone to talk to; it seems every time another store closes that would service a particular variety of “shopper” we get a new influx of customer.

Media Play was the start of it in 2006 and then, to a certain extent, with movies and music when Circuit City bit the dust in 2009.  It wasn’t until Borders went under in 2011 that the true decline of—well, let’s borrow a phrase from Syms (which also closed in 2011) and refer to our client base as—the educated consumers became clear.

For a while the most puzzling thing was that once a week a customer would come into the store between open and let’s say eleven o’clock.  He would go into the men’s room and read a paper in the handicapped stall.  And eat half a banana.  I know this for a fact because there would be the remnants of not only a Buffalo News in the corner, but also half a banana.  Who does this?  Who decides that the best place to have their morning paper and half a banana (HALF!) is the handicapped stall at your local bookstore?

So that was thing that happened.  And for a few years I thought that was the worst of it.  Then the shit started.  It was on the walls, on the floor, on every surface of the toilet except within the toilet itself.  It was even on the carpet, leaving a trail across the entire store like a sick imitation of a Family Circus comic, before erupting within the bathroom on the aforementioned walls, stalls and floor.  It was even on the uppermost portion of the stall-wall.  That could only have gotten there by someone picking it up and smearing it.  I know that.  You know that.  Whatever excuses you may try to make for the previous poop-splosions throughout the store, feces on the stall wall was not accidental.

Sadly, now we have reached a new level.  Every once in a while there would be a nudie magazine in the men’s room.  This is pretty standard stuff, to be honest.  It is.  It is to the point that the people who run our magazine division recommended that for adult magazines that arrive in plastic wrap one copy be opened and left  on the shelf, as this was going to happen anyway.  More so, when we returned magazines to our distributor, back before magazines were simply recycled, we had a log to keep track of copies found in the men’s room.  So you see, there was a separate accounting of magazines we were no longer able to sell due to prior (and no doubt) vigorous “test drives.”

This brings us to the latest escalation.  The other day I opened the store and was greeted by a magazine in a plastic bag that had been found in the men’s room and needed to be disposed of.  Again, pretty standard stuff.  The next day when I opened I was greeted by a sex book that had been found in the men’s room as well.  Pretty normal restroom reading material.  What wasn’t so normal was the accompanying retelling of how it was found.

365 Sex Positions

and really, this is what you’re jerking off to?

Apparently, not only was this book stuffed into the fold-up baby changing station in the men’s room, but along with it, as the cleaning woman described it was, “That dude’s excitement all over wall.  I saw that [book], and went ‘ew!’ and then saw his stuff on the wall, and was like, “EW! Oh no!  Oh! No!’

This woman has been working for us for a while now, so she’s seen some shit.  Literally and figuratively when it comes to clean up.  We’re not the only store she works for, but I’m going to say we’re one of the most traumatic janitorial experiences she’s had.  This was a little much for her.

When her pregnant daughter-in-law, who works for her from time to time, complained about having to pee before they started cleaning the bathrooms, she responded with, “Well, stop being pregnant then if you’re gonna complain so much.  It’s your own dang fault.”

She takes it all in stride, she tells it like it is, and somehow remains a pretty cheerful person.  That’s saying something considering how disgusting this store is able to become on a day by day basis.

What people do to those restrooms between the hours of 9AM and 11PM is unimaginable, and a lot of it falls on the staff to clean up; I’m talking minimum wage bookstore employees mopping shit off walls kind of clean up.  And she has to deal with worse than that.  She is no-nonsense and delightfully hilarious about it.

But finding a sex book in the baby changing station with some dude’s “excitement” sprayed all over the wall?  No, that takes it to a whole new level.

What kind of person are you that you’re doing that?  I can’t even take a shit in that bathroom without six people coming in and out, usually one of them is whistling, another is talking to himself, one’s on their phone, some little kid is talking to his dad about going oopsies-poopsies, and another really needs to get his prostate checked because he’s grunting and wheezing just to squeeze a few drops out.  That makes it difficult for me to take a shit.  It does.  I like my privacy.

But you?  Apparently you can rub one out even with all that going on.  And without any of those people parading in and out of the restroom being any the wiser.  You didn’t just argue with Henry Longfellow, no you blasted your manhood all over the wall.  Part of me is surprised you then just left it dripping there, but that was just my initial reaction as a human being with some level of self-respect.

Really, if you’re the kind of scumbag to cook up a big oily batch of Victory Gin in a bookstore bathroom then yeah, you’re going to leave it right there for everyone to see, aren’t you?

and then Mother Nature Played a Halloween Trick

East Village New York City, Avenue C and 9th StreetOver the last day or so, I’ve seen a lot of people bash those making jokes about the effects of Sandy in New York City and the surrounding areas, and rightfully so.  The loss of life as the storm evolved and swept from the Caribbean Sea up along the Eastern Seaboard, as well as the millions in damage and thousands of people and businesses severely affected by the storm is certainly no laughing matter.

More importantly, let’s keep in mind that the first kid that dresses up like a pirate and steals a rowboat from Central Park is going to clean the fuck up trick or treating.

Come on, they already bought the candy…

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