Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
At around close tonight, we had a standard style frustration: a kid who wanted to sell stuff but didn't know what he wanted to sell or what he wanted to buy, but was definitely going to be in the store ten or fifteen minutes after we'd closed. That's fine. It's a kid. Kids are allowed to not fully grasp social contracts.
But as he was nearing what I imagined was the end of his transaction, I flipped the sign to closed, and went outside to get the sandwich board. As I did, a woman in her forties came in, made eye contact with the kid, and then stayed in the hallway for a bit. His mom, I thought. So I didn't tell her we were closed, or shoo her away. It actually only occured to me now that I don't think she was masked, but the rest of our interaction was so Harvard Square that I didn't even process it.
****TENSE CHANGE BECAUSE IT GOT TENSE****
As the completely unrelated child walks out, and my coworker moves to the back room, she starts jumping up and down and shouting "YES!!!! YES!!!! OH MY GOD!!!! OH MY GOD!!!! WOOOOOO!"
"You're a fan of Berserk?" I ask, as that is the book she is holding on to and jumping up and down with.
"I usually don't come in here because .... because it would be so bad, but tonight is a treat. It's really a treat." She hugs the book to her chest.
"That's great! Volume one hasn't been available to us for a while, but I ordered some last week, and we should have them in a few days. Did you want me to set one aside for you when it comes in?"
"I would normally never buy myself something like this." Uh-oh. That doesn't answer my question. "But I DESERVE a treat. I got fired today."
"Oh, I'm so sorry."
"No. No, it's GOOD. They never gave me forty hours and there was pffffffffffffffffft nothing to do. Nothing. I'm going to treat myself tonight."
"I'm sorry. I'm a little" she mimes drinking, which was fairly apparent. "you know. Glug glug. Shhhhhh."
Oh dear. She learned how to be drunk from lazy sitcom writers.
"OH!!!!!!" she picks up another book, and just sort of leaves Berserk on the table. "Grrrrl Scouts! Grrrl Scouts!!!! My daughter was in the Grrrl Scouts." Ok. "She would love this. She's bi. She doesn't know it yet, but she's totally bi. I should get this for her. Not that she would read it. She thinks ... she thinks she's ... she doesn't like me ... she thinks we're SO DIFFERENT but I've seen her grades, we are the same THE SAME, you know? Do you have kids?"
"I do not."
"They just don't know how much they are their parents. But they're so great. Amazing. You should have some. GRRRRL SCOUTS. WOW! Maybe I'll get this for her. Oh, I wish she'd talk to me. WOW, I am talking too much, aren't I? Shhhhhh. Sorry."
She is basically a monologue assignment from an acting class in the 1990s. Trust me.
"I have two kids. HAD. Had two kids."
"My daughter. She's the one who's alive." OH NO. "She doesn't talk to me. She went to go live with his father. You know what HE'S LIKE."
I do not.
"My best friend in high school, the one I SHOULD have married. He just got divorced, and his wife looks like Kim Kardashian, and my ex-husband looks like Pete Davidson, so they should just FUCK ALREADY, right? So my daughter, WHO'S FUCKEN ALIVE, she won't talk to me, but her brother, who died." She points to the ceiling, and hugs the air. "He always speaks to me. You know? He's always the one who's been there." Fuck me. "He said I should just be happy, but when is it my turn, YOU KNOW? When will my amazing person show up? I'M RIGHT HERE MOTHERFUCKERS!!!!!"
I begin texting my coworker about getting ready to leave.
"OH, Jamie Foxx and Jared Leto are absolutely 180 from each other, you know?"
I don't know how this subject comes up. We have no Jamie Foxx or Jared Leto merchandise anywhere in the store.
"They're so different, but I would fuck either one of them. Just, like, show up in my driveway, and I'm yours, YOU KNOW? Today's Wednesday. Jared LOVES Wednesdays, so why doesn't he just come to my driveway and get some, right? I deserve amazing things."
"Sure. We all deserve amazing things."
"HIGH-FIVE" she mimes high-fiving through the Covid Shield that seperates us. I'm grateful that she's content with the air-high-five. "WE DO DESERVE AMAZING THINGS. WE ARE AH-FUCKEN-MAZING my dude! LET'S GO JARED LETO!!!!!!"
I text my coworker that I'm about to politely nudge this person out of the store. Perhaps with a taser. When he texts "Here, I'll set you up." And he walks out of the backroom and asks "Are we closed yet?"
"Oooops." says the drunk lady. "Time to close the office. The office is CLOSED. I'll just ... this place is great. I'm going to come back here. Definitely." And then she lifts the doorstop, checks the lock, and says "It's all locked up. Nobody can get in now. Goodnight." which was ... unexpected.
And my coworker and I shake our heads. I ask if he'd heard our conversation but he says he just heard her Enthusiasm, but not the words.
We close up the store, and I'm telling him the beginning of the story when we reach the gas station to fill up the car for the ride home.
This is where I discover It's Full Moon O'Clock today.
See, there are two nineteen year old guys who work at the gas station. They're nice, they like my coworker, and they hate their jobs, so I relate. Also, they each get stalked by this creepy probably somewhere on the queer spectrum guy in his fifties or sixties who just stands ten feet away from the register and bothers them for hours on end. The fact that their manager hasn't fixed this lets me know they're exactly the kind of unqualified jackass that gets promoted to middle management at a gas station. The guy should be asked to leave, and it's not the nineteen year olds' jobs to figure out how.
So I walk into the gas station's convenience store just as the 19 year old says "and here comes his sidekick."
"Sidekick?" I ask. "I'm the fucken protagonist." and walk to the coolers.
Creepy Dude waves at me. "I hear you work at the Paper Insane Asylum."
"I must have walked by it a billionty times but I don't recall seeing it. Where, precisely is this place I keep hearing about."
I point in the general direction of the store. "Over there. By the coffee shop."
"I don't drink coffee." He says, proudly.
"Me, neither." I shrug.
"What does one sell at a paper insane asylum." What a hoot, he is.
"Oh. I'm not a comic booker. I grew up in the sixties when they were good." Says the guy who doesn't read them. "But just the Batman. I didn't have time to read the other stuff."
"Yea. Batman's great." I grab a soda from the cooler.
"This one here." he thumbs at the nineteen year old "He reads the anime books."
"Manga" the nineteen year old corrects him. "I watch the anime. I read the manga."
"I don't know what those words mean." He smiles. Because he does. "I just know when I was his age --"
"WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CLICKY THINGS?" My coworker comes in, drowning out Creepy Guy. Very purposefully drowning out Creepy Guy. "There aren't any more clicky things on the gas nozzles."
"Oh, yea. We took them off. People used to forget they were on, and drive off with them. I managed to work here almost a year before it happened. I saw it happen in slow motion. So my manager came in and took them all off.
"BUT I LOVED THOSE." my coworker says.
"I might just deign to go this paper insane asylum, does it sell anything else aside from comical books." Cuh-reep.
"Yea, we sell stuffed animals, action figures, pins, button, stickers, pop culture stuff, basically."
"Well, I don't really DO pop culture." Cuh-reep. "But I should come in if I can ever find the time. I just thought it was a stationary store."
"It doesn't move much." I say, paying for my belongings.
"How was it down at your end of the street?" the nineteen year old asks.
"Crazy!" says my coworker. "Adam just had ... I don't even know ...." he manages to not make eye contact with Creepy Guy as he says "It's just All Crazy Everywhere tonight, I guess. Have a good night!"
And we walk out of the store. I mention Creepy Guy, and my coworker says "Yea, he's there bothering them all the time. I just pretend he's not there. He'll ask me stuff, or try and say something funny, and I just keep talking to the nineteen year old like that guy doesn't even exist."
And we get in the car, and drive back to Boston, where I've been sitting in my house with the lights off, pretending that everybody doesn't exist.