Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
My Boss, Literal Statement: "Wow. The roads look clear, we should actually make it in early today. Should we stop for bagels?"
My Boss, English Translation: "Wow. There is very little traffic. We should make it to the store early. How can I make us late?"
Every three years, bartenders have to take a certification course. It's $40 to watch horribly acted videos, followed by quizzes that are poorly worded, and frankly insulting to be asked. Then you take an exam where they, thankfully, pretend the poorly worded scenarios never happened and focus on really dumb, insignificant shit that no one who has tended bar for more than a week doesn't know.
My favorite example, they say that, due to average size and body fat ratios, women tend to get intoxicated faster than men. Fine. Then they ask, "Which one of these people will become intoxicated more quickly?" and show a woman in a dress looking wasted, and a big, burly guy with a beard who seems stone cold sober. And, somehow the answer isn't "Gender is a lie. Neither of these people are cisgender. You're going to need more context clues to determine who You Think will become intoxicated 'more quickly'."
They also had three paragraphs explaining why drugs increase the rate of intoxication when drinking. I assumed the next page would have two pictures: one would be a reasonable person politely sitting down and asking for a drink, the other would have a cocaine mustache, wild eyes, and a joint behind her ear, asking for some moonshine. Instead, one was a person saying "I don't need to take my allergy medicine right now." and the other was a woman with a pill bottle, reaching across the table saying "Emily, it's time to take your Allegra and get schwasted you irresponsible bitch!" (That's a slight paraphrase.)
Also, the photos of the actors playing servers are hilarious. This "server" needs to be fired. Out of a cannon. Into a cement wall. Covered in metal spikes. Which have been doused in kerosene and set on fire. Never make that face at a customer, even if she is face down in a plate of cheese fries, a cigarette smushed in the ranch dressing, demanding (through her cheese-fried face) to get her "another apple fucken tini".
5: Karen yells at and kicks out a guy who blatantly takes a bottle of Jack Daniels out of his backpack and starts drinking it five feet in front of the bar. His excuse? "I bought one drink. And I even tipped! But I couldn't afford another one."
4: Kimberly Hyphen-Surname refuses to serve a clearly intoxicated guy who tries to sneak in through the back door. During the open mic, both Emily and Kimberly have to approach him as his drug-fueled enthusiasm is bothering the people sitting around him. As the last poet takes the stage for the open mic, the guy comes to the bar and asks me for a beer. I say no. So he asks for a ginger ale. As I turn to get a glass, he grabs a bottle Jack Daniels and starts to pour it into a plastic cup. I yell. Very loudly. Dude, who was hella high, jumps up, drops the cup, first tries to run into the ladies' room, then the mens' room, then the doorman leads him up the stairs and out of the venue. He hasn't returned.
3: Having driven all the way to Providence to pick up the night's feature, Zuzu expected to be able to read on the open mic. She is denied by the host, so she orders food (remember when there was food at the Cantab?) and a drink. When she pays for her bill, the server gives her incorrect change. Like, change that doesn't even make sense. Zuzu and the waitress argue quietly, and Zuzu goes next door to what is now Tavern On The Square but was then...something else, and gets deeeeeerunk. She re-engages with the waitress after the night's slam (which was a regional bout). The waitress who keeps repeating that she is from Revere and she will "fight a bitch" and all hell breaks loose. I don't think there were punches thrown, but the room cleared out entirely. Apart from the host, even the other emplyees got the fuck out of that basement. The waitress continued to shout that she'd "fight a bitch", Zuzu kept shouting "where's my nineteen dollars?", the host soft-voice shamed everyone still in the room, and the bartender did a lot of shouting. Zuzu was banned. When I interviewed the bartender for a project I was working on, she admitted that the waitress had almost definitely stolen the money, as she "had a history of taking things from people she didn't like". Independently of this, Zuzu was unbanned.
2: The first of two entries which could be subtitled "When Emily's Not At The Bar, The Crazies Take Over". In 2007ish, somebody great was featuring. This was before fire code, and I don't even want to consider how many people were crammed in that room before the doors were locked. Rudy snuck in through the back and nodded at the host. The host nodded back. Rudy's nod meant "I want to read tonight." The host's nod meant "Hello." The open went way over time (again, no Emily), and Rudy, who'd showed up forty-five minutes late and never actually used verbal communication or written communication to express his desire to read, didn't get to read. So, in a crowded room, he went up and started shouting at the host. Asterisk got involved. And thenthe bartender. The bartender was annoyed enough that she got out from behind the bar, leaving me behind it for, I think, the first time. In the midst of his tantrum, Rudy decided to leave, and threw an elbow at someone who was in his way. Someone who happened to be The Owner's Granddaughter. The bartender yelled at and banned him, which, in the long run, probably saved his life.
Rudy would also appear on a list of the Top Five People Thrown Out Out Of Tuartas By An Angry Bar Staff. I think he's even show up on that list multiple times. Perhaps, he would be all five. We're a bit stricter about the kind of people we let back in.
1: A Poet Who Shan't Be Named Because Fuck Him Getting Any More Attention came to the bar on yet another night that Emily wasn't around. Apparently, he had started a fight with me at Seattle NPS in 2001. I have no memory of this. But he was in a bout with the team I was on that year. Flash forward to 2010 and the guy buys three drinks from me, and seems amiable. He's loud, but he's not obtrusive. Then, during the feature, he starts talking during a few of the poems. Asterisk approaches him to be quiet. I don't know if he got quiet, but I didn't hear him. As the slam starts, he is loudly talking nonsense to a friend. Asterisk, again, approaches him, this time snidely. The guy starts yelling that he "read at The Nuyorican" and is "allowed to be loud" (He was not FROM the Nuyo, he was just letting us know that he'd been there once). He then tries to order a drink, and I refuse. He responds by offering to fight me, Asterisk, and Wiz. Wiz laughs. Asterisk gets enraged. The featured poet tries to subdue things. I go upstairs to get Cowboy, the bouncer. The upstairs bartender asks why I'm getting Cowboy, and when I say "I'm throwing somebody out." he joins the party. All of this is taking place WHILE the slam is happening. When the upstairs bartender, Cowboy and I get downstairs, The Attention Glutton is still yelling about himself and how he's not going to leave the bar. One look at Cowboy changed that. (Cowboy is....6'5? 400 pounds? Not to be fucked with.) As he was being led up the stairs he shouted at us that he was a former Mass Poet Fellow (Turns out he shared the title with another individual because he helped design a website for poetry. Using Angelfire. Remember Angelfire sites?) and we would never be as important as he was. He then stood outside and took video of poets, asking them why I was crazy. By the time I got home, he'd sent me four e-mails calling me pejorative terms for female genetalia, and asking me to call him so he could help ME be less crazy. He also claimed to have helped book our show (translation: he'd been on an e-mail chain wherein poets were invited to participate in a regional), and has since claimed (falsely) to run another reading that I've gone to.
He has not returned.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: All y'all pillowhumpers who won't stay off the fucken stairs, or who think you're cool enough to go into the back room. There's probably fifty of you on my FB page. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
1.) Ask who Alan Moore is.
2.) Inform the complete stranger who, at this point, doesn't know you're about to ask for a job, that Alan Moore once attacked you on the psychic plane while you were trying to establish a psi-link with Neil Gaiman.
3.) When asked what your name is, say "What's your name?" and then offer to change your name so that it matches.
4.) Suggest which coworker should be fired so that you can take their job.
5.) Suggest that Alan Moore psychically raped you when you just said ten minutes ago that you didn't know who he was.
6.) Laugh maniacally when asked what your phone number is.
7.) Inform the person you think you just met (but whom you have actually spoken with twice before) that you once dropped off a rock you painted to the store (he knows, he's the one you gave the rock to) and that he should hire you because painting rocks takes time and by giving him a painted rock you were showing him your dedication to getting a job.
7a.) Ignore #7 if you are applying for a rock painting job. Or an arts & craft instructor.
8.) Insist that you once dreamwalked to an alternate dimension where the apocalypse was taking place, and you saved the life of the person you are talking to.
9.) Tell the employee which medications you currently aren't taking because the fairies told you not to.
My coworkers are no longer allowed to leave the store on Sundays. Because just as that crackpot left, My Buddy Greg came in, and I left my flamethrower at home.
I have found myself getting more and more aggravated at my waiting tables job. Often, when I’m growing bored of a service industry job, I make little contests for myself to keep me from walking out mid-shift.
Today’s contest, and not for the first time, way to see how many people I could convince to buy ginger ale.
I made the mistake of mentioning this to one of the managers who scowled at me and said “Ginger ale? We make almost no profit on selling ginger ale. Try upselling smoothies or pasta or something. Ginger ale? Ugh.”
One of my friends, Liam, was sitting at the bar and overheard the exchange. The next time I walked by him, he said “I’ll take a ginger ale.” and smiled.
I opened the soda cooler and found we were all out of ginger ale. I was on my way back to storage to see if we had any, when my manger saw me, and hid her hands behind her back.
"Are you hiding something?" I asked.
She let out a loud sigh. In her hands? The last can of ginger ale.
My mistake, today, was in opening early. It's ten minutes before I'm even supposed to be giving the stink eye to the heroin addicts when a guy comes in with one of our plastic bags, throws it on the counter and says "How much for these?"
I am in Qughincy, so I can barely muster an eye roll. "What are they?"
"A bunch of old comics I found in my attic. They were my dad's. He says they're worth fifty bucks."
I open the bag, a little suspicious that his dad has one of our plastic bags up in his attic. Sure enough, the comics he has found in his dad's attic include such antique titles as Brightest Day #4, The Return Of Bruce Wayne #3, and Batman #700, which came out back in the dark ages of June 9th, 2010. "I think your dad is playing a practical joke on you. These comics are about two weeks old. We already have plenty of these items in stock, and no interest in buying more."
"That other guy who works here. The chink. He usually buys my stuff. It's valuable."
Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd we're done. "You're welcome to come back when he's working. His name's Tom, by the way. I'm not buying these from you."
And I walk over to the children's section to straighten out the books.
While I'm doing that, he meanders over to the dollar section, and starts picking up books at random. "Hey, buddy. How come these books ain't got no ratings on them?"
I am not getting roped in to this conversation. "Because they don't."
"They safe for kids? I got a nephew."
"Depends on the age, and the kid. Some of them are violent, some of them may have strong language and adult themes."
He giggles when I say adult. "So they nudie books?"
Eyeroll. "No. None of them have any nudity."
"Because I got a Superman book here once where Lois Lane puts a dildo in Superman's butt."
"Well," I say. "I tell you what. You go home right now, get me the DC comic of Lois Lane putting a dildo in Superman's butt, and I'll give you five thousand dollars."
The guy stares at me. "Really?"
"Yea. The dildo issue is one of the rarest comics in the industry. So you should go home RIGHT NOW and get it."
"Five thousand bucks?"
I walk toward him. "Six thousand if it's in mint condition. But you have to get it now, I'm being relieved in an hour, and the other guy will probably try and rip you off."
"I don't know where it is."
"Well go find it. It's worth FIVE THOUSAND dollars. Isn't that worth going through some drawers? An attic?"
Me: "How was the anime convention?"
Customer: "Oh god, I ended up not going. I was in the subway car, on the way there when this weenus in a giant blue Tetris L-shape kept bumping into me and arguing with some poseur in some kinda...tinfoil space pirate outfit...about which Pokemon master was cooler Ash or...whoever isn't Ash. I haven't heard that level of annoying geekiness since I gave up playing D&D when they released" he shudders, "Fourth Edition."
Random Loiterer On The Other Side Of The Store: "What's wrong with fourth edition? You have something against balanced game play?"*
And the two of them proceed to spend fifteen minutes arguing about D&D, oblivious to how many times I inch the volume up on the music.
* - Less than twelve hours previous, I heard three drunk poets have the same argument, all most verbatim.
A couple walks in three minutes before the store closes, and the woman announces that she is going to walk around and point out all the things she didn't know were inspired by comics. She mentions From Hell, V For Vendetta, The Tick, and then she stops and asks, "There's a Buffy The Vampire Slayer Comic Book?"
"Yes," I say, "it's a continuation of the TV show."
"Oh, I never watched the TV show. It didn't have Paul Reubens, which makes the movie instantly better. And my research professor is a big fan of it, and he's just...he's no good. Although," and she turns to her poor beleaguered companion, "she would make a good match for your mother. We should hook them up."
"I think my father might have a problem with that."
"I don't like your father. He's so....unlikable. Anyway, I don't get the appeal of the whole comic book thing. This whole modern serial style of storytelling is so unnecessary."
"Actually," Beleaguered says "serial stories have been around for generations. Most Dickens stories were released as serials. Oh, and let's not forget The Oddyssey."
"Ugh." She says, and points her finger at his chest. "You need to read more. The Odyssey, The Iliad, and The Inferno were a trilogy, not a serial. Like Star Wars."
And I couldn't let that slip. "I'm sorry. Did you just mention The Inferno as being a part of a trilogy with The Odyssey and The Iliad?"
"Yes." She says.
"You're aware that The Odyssey and The Iliad are two ancient texts attributed to a possibly fictional person named Homer from at least 400 B.C., and that The Inferno is part of The Divine Comedy, which is a thirteenth century poem written by Dante, right?"
"I'm not talking about comic books." She says. "I'm talking about literature. Homer was a major character in Inferno."
"No." I reply. "Virgil is a major character in The Inferno section of The Divine Comedy. Virgil wrote the Aenid, which IS related to The Odyssey and The Iliad, though they're not generally considered a trilogy."
"I don't mean in the comic books." She replies.
"Neither do I." And then, mimicing her tone, " I'm talking about literature."
"Whatever. They're not a serial."
"You're right." I say. "They're not a trilogy, either, much the way Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Clerks aren't a trilogy, even though Kevin Smith went on to make Jay And Silent Bob Strike back."
"What do you know? You work in a comic book store."
And with the gauntlet thrown down, I ask "What do you do for a living?"
She puffs out her, admittedly, sizeable chest. "I'm a Mass Art Student."
"And how many times did you fill out an application here, and get rejected?"
Beleaguered snickers again.
And she says, "Can we just...can we go?"
The comic book store has signs like skin has pores. Like an ocean has hydrogen atoms. Like sororities have STDs. Like lazy authors have analogous similes. When our stores have sales, the signs cover the front window, the door, the ceiling, the shelves, the counters, and, in some stores, even the floors.
This is why no one can ever tell when we are or aren't having a sale.
When I was still fairly new to the comic book store, I had a fairly terrible day. I was living in Slummerville, but still had loads to do in Allston (and not the laundry kind). So I got up early one morning, and discovered it was blizzarding. I was in Allston in God May Or May Not Know Who's apartment. I threw on my shoes, trudged through the snow to the Allston store, opened the door, and sleepily entered the alarm code to one of our other stores. Now, I'm sure someone had told me what to do to clear out the alarm so you could enter the correct code, but all I could hear and think of was "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
I tried calling the alarm code company, but the siren was hogging the phone line. So I just kept pressing the code until it worked.
I picked up the Chinese food I'd left in the refrigerator the day before, and hopped on the bus home.
Back at home, I was leisurely (read: naked) updating my Livejournal when my phone rang.
"Hey, Adam, it's Lulu. What are you doing?"
"Oh, I'm just working on some writing. How about you?"
"Aw, nothing. Just working in Harvard, looking for some books. I called Allston to get some transfers but, uh, you aren't there."
It was one o'clock on Not My Day Off, and there was no one in the store that was supposed to open at 11. Crap.
I hoofed it through the blizzard to the 66 fucken bus. Of course, I could have crawled to the stop, as I waited over an hour for the first bus. I didn't get there until three, and my boss was there, not very happy with me. I signed my first You Fucked Up Form, and she left. For the first time since I met her, she did not high five me when she left.
Ten minutes after she left, two women in too much black makeup came in. "Excuse me. I don't mean to be a pest, but..." Anyone who says this phrase is a liar. "one of your signs says 'open', and the other says 'closed'. Which is it? Are you open or closed?"
"Oh, sorry." I said, going over to flip the sign. "We're open. I must have missed the sign." Ans I smiled my fakest customer service smile.
"So, do you only get half paid for the day, then?"
Over by the new arrival racks, a customer who knew me sucked in air through his teeth.
"Ha." I ALF laughed. "Is there anything I can help you find?"
She came up to the counter and smiled at me. "Do you have a girlfriend?"
"Are we playing The Question Game?"
"I'm asking because I"m here with Avon Cosmet--"
"Oh, I'm sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry." I said. "So, you could read the 'closed' sign, but not the big sign next to it that says "no soliciting'?"
"Well, we're just here---"
"Your just here to bother people who are working with your cheap products that can't work or be stylish or else they'd be being sold in stores by people hired to understand the product and its customer base, not by some--"
She leaned over the coutner toward me. "Hey! Look,, buddy, if you don't want--"
"I'm not your buddy." I said, leaning into her. If this were a sitcom, we would have started making out in less than ten seconds. "Take your friend and your briefcase full of garbage out of my store. And tell your boss, if they're going to try and push make up on people, they should hire someone who has a sense of fashion."
"GET OUT OF MY STORE."
And, she did.
I knew her company didn't take the product seriously because they'd sent her and her creepily silent, and also creepuly made up friend. They looked like a 1994 Nine Inch Nails video. When a company had a product they believe in, they send two middle aged men or two middle aged women in professional suits, who immediately ask to speak to the business owner or "the man of the house." If the product is mediocre, they send a man and a woman, and it doesn't matter what they're wearing. But if a product is beyond hope, they send two attractive women under the age of twenty-five. If they send two blonde chicks who, like, totally don't even look like they're even, like, fourteen, RUN.
Last week, two, like, blonde chicks bopped into the store. My coworker took one look, and meandered to the back of the room.
"Hi!" Bimbette #1 said. "We're here with, like, Vita Coco."
"It's this totally delicious coconut water." Said Bimbette #2, matching #1's cadence.
"It is soooooooo delicious. We drink it all the time." Giggle.
"It's realy refreshing, and totally good for you, too." Giggle.
I was transfixed. I don't like blonde women at all. Especially not, like, totally stupid and fake ones. But these two were hypnotizingly moronic.
#1: "Like, all we do is work out and drink this delicious beverage."
#2: "And now they totally come in different flavors. Would you like some samples?"
NO. No, I did not want any samples. I just wanted them to leave. I had started digging my finger nails into my palms. And I focused on the only thing in the world that can block out a person when they're trying to hypnotize you.
"Thanks." Giggle. I couldn't even remember which number she was.
"You're totally going to love it."
And they left.
Quentin, my coworker, made his way back to the front of the store. "I wouldn't. I wouldn't drink that if I were you."
I opened it up. "How bad could it be?"
VitaCoco tastes exactly like sperm would taste if sperm could vomit. And vomiting is what I nearly did after drinking it. It was the single most vile thing I've ever had in my mouth, and I've put my tongue in some questionable places.
I brought all the samples out to the bar with me that night, expecting to make horrible drinks for people, but several of my friends clained to love VitaCoco. Some of them even taking huge gulps of it without flinching or making a face.
"But...but...sperm vomit." Was all I could say.
The next day, the Vita Coco Van was parked outside the store. I barely contained myself from going outside and slashing the tires.
So...this just happened:
Thirty-something year old woman walks into the store, and says "Where's your Hannah Montana section?"
Fine. "We don't have one. She doesn't really fall into our demographic. We mainly sell comics. Also some Hello Kitty stuff."
She drops her voice into the obviously not interested octave. "Nah." She wanders around the store for a bit. "Vertigo comics? Is that, like, Coldplay Vertigo or U2 Vertigo?"
"Neither. It's a comic book company that puts out--"
"Look, I KNOW it's a comic book. Is it a Coldplay comic or a U2 comic?"
Dropping my voice to the clearly uninterested octave. "Coldplay."
Giant sigh. "No."
"So U2 then?"