Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
CVS Cashier: Ooh, you got a coupon.
Me: I always seem to get coupons for products I don’t need or a vaguely insulting amount of coupons for shampoo.
CVS Cashier: Well, today you have a buy three Cadbury Creme Eggs get one free.
Me: One free shot of insulin?
CVS Cashier: No. We double the price of insulin between Valentine’s Day and Easter.
Me: And in November.
CVS Cashier: No, we triple the price in November.
Kind Of Our Thing
A couple walks into the store and heads directly over to the Neil Gaiman section. After few seconds the man asks “Do you have Sandman #1?”
"The first issue or the first collection?" I ask.
"The first collection."
I walk over to where he’s standing and pull out the book with the #1 on it.
"No." He says. "I’m looking for a first edition."
"Ah." I say. "Those are long gone. They reprinted and recolored them a couple of years ago. And I’m pretty sure the ones they replaced were a second or third pressing. At least."
He scoffs at me. It’s been many months since I’ve seen anyone scoff. “OB-viously. So where do you keep the first editions?”
"We don’t." I say.
"Well, what do you DO with them?" He asks.
"What do we do with them?" I ask.
"Yes. It’s a simple question. You obviously HAD them. Where did they go?"
"I SOLD them." I say.
A man behind him starts laughing.
"But you held on to a few of them, right?"
"No." I say. "We don’t hold on to copies of trade paperbacks of hardcovers. They don’t have much value."
His eyes go froggy. “So you just. Sell them all?”
"Yea." I say. "We’re a store. Selling is kind of our thing."
He stares at me. “Weird.” Then laughs. Then walks out the store.
A Slush River Stagnates Through It
I’m a comfortable shoes guy. I usually only own one or two pairs of footwear at a time: sneakers and shoes just classy enough to get me into places that require formal attire; not dress shoes, per se, but skirt shoes.
For the last few months I’ve been rocking a pair of green Vans pretty much everywhere. Before that, stonewashed denim Chuck Taylors.
Saturday, I was on my way to work when the sky started falling in cold, wet, chunks. Every time I needed to cross the street, I was greeted with several inch-deep puddles of slush. The sharks printed on my socks (you know you’re jealous), kept breaking the surface of my Vans to shout “This water is cold, yo. Maybe it’s time to get boots.”
It was definitely time to buy boots.
Luckily, there is a boot and boot-related clothes store within a block of the store, so I made my way over there
"Feet wet?" asked the guy standing by entrance.
I’ve been talking with one of my old high school friends quite a bit this year, and we’ve had a few conversations about how overly-nice I am to people working in service industry jobs. We were out for dinner last month, and a commercial for 47 Ronin came on. I was just starting to talk about the ridiculousness of having dragons in a classic, supposedly based-on-a-true-story samurai tale, when the host walked by our table. “I’m definitely going to see that movie.” He said, answering the question that nobody in the restaurant had ever even considered asking. “I really like Keanu Reeves.” which is somewhat telling. “And comic books.” Uh-oh. “Did you see The Avengers movie?”
Down the rabbit hole I went, smiling falsely all the way. About twelve? forty-five? seventy-three years, he made a bold, tactical conversation move. “I thought that movie” which one, I disremember “was okay. I really hate Latino stereotypes, though.” Fair. “I’m Puerto Rican, and I hate it when people identify me as Puerto Rican because Puerto Ricans are terrible.” Uh-oh. “I’m not racist or any—” RED FLAG RED FLAG “—thing but, you know all the Puerto Ricans down here have annoying pride about it. They all spend so much money on their cars getting fancy rims and stereo systems to listen to their awful music.” Dude, did you not notice my fake smile is gone? Stop talking. “I mean, I’m Puerto Rican but I was born Connecticut.” Great, now I’m embarrassed that we were born in the same state. “So instead of a Puerto Rican flag in my car, I took the emblem from the Connecticut flag with the Puerto Rican flag in the background.” which is a cool idea, and would be pretty admirable if not for the self-hating prelude. “That way people know that I come from one terrible place, and one fantastic place.” Dude, as someone originally from Connecticut who still has family there, whose current roommate is also from Connecticut, NOBODY has ever said Oh, you’re from Connecticut? I’m soooo jealous. I hear it’s one of New York’s top ten suburbs. I have so much more respect for you now that I know you’re from the same state as…the Whalers used to be? ”Anyway, I’ll let you go back to eating.”
I’d like to say that our conversation caused me to lose my appetite but I definitely kept eating, mainly to keep something between my constantly grinding teeth.
"Most people would have found their way out of that conversation MUCH earlier."JBoB said.
"But then I wouldn’t have that story." I said.
"Yes." I told the man in the Boot Store. My feet are wet.
"Need any help?" He asked.
"Not yet." I falsely smiled. "I’m going to look around for a bit."
"I recommend boots."
I cocked my head, thinking, maybe if I found the proper angle, he would disappear from my sight. It did not work.
I picked up several different pairs of boots, and each time, he either offered to get me a pair in my size from the back or, after I told him I was “Fine.” he strained to keep himself from offering to get me boots from the back.
I was not the only person in the store. In fact, there were probably twenty or thirty people in the store, but I was wearing the Please Annoy Me Retail Employee Pheromones.
Eventually, I found a pair of boots in my price range that I liked. Nothing special, classic brown boots. “What size would you like?” Boot Guy asked.
"Ten and a half." I replied.
He shook his head at me. “They don’t make half sizes. I’ll get you a ten.”
This was new information to me, but it has since been corroborated by The Internet. “Actually, I’d like to try the elevens.”
He sighed. “They run big. I’ll get you the tens.”
I smiled. “I’d like the elevens, please.”
He left for a leisurely jog down the Appalachian Trail, only to return with a pair of Size Tens of the boots I wanted. Ugh. I tried them on and, as I suspected, they were cramped and uncomfortable. “Yea, these are too small. Could I try the elevens, please.”
He sighed again. The kind of sigh I suppress when I’m at work and dealing with a moron. If I were a different person, I’d have asked to speak with his manager, but after two decades of retail work, I am certain he WAS the manager. “I’ll be back.”
This time he went snowshoeing in the Arctic. When he came back, he dropped the box of boots next to me and watched me with more focus than seems necessary when trying to sell someone footwear. “You’re putting that boot on the wrong foot.” He said.
"I am NOT." I said, with no trace of a smile.
"Are you sure?" He asked.
And I actually looked to see if, somehow, after thirty-three years of putting on my own shoes, I had somehow miscalculated which boot should go on which foot. I had not. “Yes, actually.”
Now I was debating letting my feet stay wet and cold to keep this bag of sighs from making a sale. I tried to think of where else I could get footwear. Unfortunately, I forgot there was a giant outdoor clothing and supply store nearly across the street.
"I’ll take these." I said with half a smile.
"You’re sure? We don’t do refunds."
I was pretty sure that was bullshit but it didn’t matter. “Certain.” I stared at him.
I paid the very reasonable price for the boots and walked outside. I couldn’t wait to cross the Slush River between The Boot Store and The Comic Book Store. And, sure enough, I walked through it without an ounce of slush coming in direct contact with my socks or feet flesh. I let out a very happy sigh. And that’s when the passing bus sprayed the Slush River directly into my face and all over my hoodie. Right, it’s about time to get a new jacket.
I’m always nervous when someone comes in with a large tupperware container. Not the kind you could store a terrible casserole in. Not even the kind you fill with ugly sweaters and the bones of your enemies to store under your bed. This kind of tupperware is used for three things: an assemblage of winter coats you will never wear again, butterscotch pudding for ‘Rasslin Night at The Strip Club, or comic books collected during the 1980s and 1990s that no store or human being has any interest in buying. Given my occupation in a comic book store, that the container happened to…well…contain…the latter is unsurprising.
"I’m here to sell some comics." The fairly friendly man said while his three kids frazzled into the store like drunk gazelles released from a zoo into an open field full of starving lions.
"I’m sorry." I said. "Our buyer is out to lunch. What type of —"
"—comics do you have?" asked our buyer, lunch in hand.
"Mainly stuff from the 80s and 90s. None of it is in very good condition."
My boss, aka the buyer, nodded, flipped through the pile. “Yea, sorry. There’s nothing in here that interests me.”
And this is where it usually gets weird. The guy thought he was going to make a couple of hundred dollars and gets irritated and pleads for the owner to reconsider. But this guy seemed to know he had the comic book equivalent of a box full of vomit covered Beanie Babies, and closed his container. “Ok, kids, I’ll be right outside.”
Thirty seconds later there was a commotion. “IT’S NOT REAL COMICS YOU PUSSWAD!” screamed the kid who had clearly been exposed to too many 1980s coming-of-age movies.
"Yes it is, you—"
And the first kid ran past his father and out of the building.
The dad’s head made a return appearance in the store. “What was that about?”
"I don’t know. He’s still mad." The second kid said.
"Still mad about what?"
"i DON’T KNOW." The second kid shouted. "He’s being a dick."
"Well," the dad asked. "what is he being a dick about?"
"I DON’T KNOW." The second kid shouted. "He’s just being a baby."
"Ok." The dad said. "Which is it? Is he being a dick or is he being a baby?"
"He’s being a dick baby!" The second kid shouted.
The dad waved the remaining kids to him. As he walked up the stairs, he said “Look, you can be a dick, and you can be a baby, but you can’t be a dick baby.” And then their voices trailed out the door.
My boss turned to me, “That’s going to be my next children’s book ‘You Can’t Be A Dick Baby’.”
I nodded. “It should be narrated by Morgan Freeman or Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. ‘My father always taught me that you could be a dick or you could be a baby but you could never be,” my boss joined in, “a dick baby.’
I think I may need another vacation.
"All The Jews Are Rats"
"All the Jews are rats." A guy says.
I’m about to turn around and escalate my glare when he says “And cats are Nazis.”
A synapse fires.
"And the Americans are all dogs."
Oh, he’s not, necessarily, racist. He’s describing the characters in Maus.