You are walking toward an open checkout lane when you spy another person coming the other way with items in their hand. You aren’t exactly sure if they are heading to checkout, but you don’t want to take any chance they get there first. So you quicken your step, but try to cover it by casually glancing at nearby displays. When you get there first, keep acting casual by thumbing the magazines or looking over the gum selection.
The office supply store staff was unusually upbeat for a weekday morning, just a few minutes after store opening. I sensed a “visit from corporate” was under way. Everyone on the floor was scurrying about.
My instincts were right. I saw a man in a three-piece suit patrolling the area between the service desk and the computer printers. As I came into his line of sight, he stepped toward me.
“Good morning, sir,” he said extra loud and assertively. “Can I help you find anything?” As he spoke, I could see him surveying the staff to see if they were watching him.
“Do you have any of those Velcro loop strips? Like for bundling cable? The heavy duty kind – with the deep hooks.”
“Yes, sir! Right this way!” he shouted.
I followed as he strutted between the aisles toward the back of the store.
He made a grand gesture to the office supplies wall. “Right here, sir! Is there anything else I can help you with?” he asked, looking around to see if there were any employees in the area who could learn from his skills.
“Cool, uh no, this is good. Let me look over what you have here. Thanks.”
He was gone in a flash, and I turned to the Velcro products on offer.
For months, I have been looking for more heavy duty Velcro loops. I had about 15 of them, and used them all the time. They gripped like iron, and I used them everywhere. It’s like having Duct tape you can use over and over again.
But I couldn’t find the super-gripping, extra-sticky, heavy-duty kind anywhere.
And I didn’t see any in the office supply section, either. Sure, they had Velcro loops, with a tapered end on one side and a hole in the other end, but they were “normal” Velcro.
I walked back toward the exit on my way out.
The manager saw me and talk-shouted, “Did you find them??!!”
“Oh, thanks, yeah, I saw the loop things. I was looking for the heavy-duty kind.”
“Those ARE the heavy-duty kind, sir,” he said with some exasperation.
“Right, I hear ya, I mean the REALLY heavy-duty kind. With the deep hooks.”
“Sir, are you sure you found the RIGHT ONES?” he said, like I was shirking my job.
Was he going to give me a 30-day warning?
“Yes, the product you have SAYS ‘Heavy Duty’ on the package, but those are really ‘Light Duty.’”
“Sir, I KNOW the products!” He was starting to turn red.
“Well, I consider myself an expert on Velcro,” I said laughing. “I’m the Velcro king of California!”
He didn’t smile. Not a grin.
“I want the kind with the really DEEP HOOKS. The kind that can lift a bowling ball off the ground,” I said. “the good stuff – the kind that, had Michael Corleone had access to it, he would have attached the gun to the back of the toilet in the bathroom with it — you know, when he takes out Sollozzo and McCluskey. Velcro so strong that when you pull them apart, you really have to tug, and they make a tearing sound like, ‘Kkkkkkkkkkkkkkqqqqqq.’ The brand you have a has a soft, muffled noise that sounds like, “fffffffffftttt.’”
His face got flush and he paced faster, adding a slight stomp to each foot step that echoed in the empty store.
“You know what I mean?”
He didn’t answer, turning to walk away, saying over his shoulder, “Sir, thank you for shopping at our store.”
I wonder if I am on probation?
Mr. Derrin cleaned the glasses one more time. The store was new, shiny and smelled of linseed oil. For two days they wiped down the bar, counters and stools with that linseed oil. They also rubbed the brass fixtures until they shined.
Now it was opening day. People walked by outside but the didn’t come in.
“Why aren’t they walking in,” Mr. Derrin said.
“We need to advertise,” said his son, Alex. “We need a big sign out front. Tell the people what we got for ’em.”
“I don’t have any money for no sign,” Mr. Derrin snorted.
“Well, then,” said Alex. “I spose we can wait on each other, cause no one is coming here.”
Amazon said the deals on Prime Day would rival Black Friday. Some people were underwhelmed with the deals offered.
Either way, there were some crazy things on sale.
Mardi Gras Float – $650,000
Big Fountain – $10,000,000
Large Clock – $2,500,000
Owl – $250,000
Dome – $15,000,000
Light Bulb Cowboy – $140,000
Personal Fireworks Show – $15,000,000
“Woah! That milk smells bad,” I said to the dog as he stared at me expressionless. “I just bought this dang milk. I hope they take returns.”
The store opens at 6am so decided to walk over in the early morning to ask if they would take a return on the bad milk. The store is down the street, and I saw it as an opportunity to stretch my legs.
I walked in just after 6am. A lone cashier looked up with disinterest.
“Hi, I just wanted to check first — I bought some bad milk — can I return it?”
“Yes. Just bring it in.”
“OK, I’ll be back.”
I walked home and grabbed the milk and walked back in the dark. The store was still empty. I saw the same cashier.
“OK, here is the milk, where do I go to return it?”
“Oh, you have to talk to the service desk. They won’t be here for another two hours.”
“OK. Any way you could have told me that when I was here 30 minutes ago?”
“Well, you can leave the milk on the service desk. So you don’t have to carry it back.”
“How will they know it’s my milk?” I asked. I was starting to wish I had just poured it down the drain.
“Oh, they will know.”
I came back in two hours and there was a long line at the service desk. I finally got to the front.
“Yes, I’m the guy who left the milk here and I’d like to exchange it for a new gallon.”
It’s about four blocks to the grocery store from where I am staying with relatives. I announce I am walking over to get some bread, milk and other stuff. Requests are made for beer and spaghetti sauce which I add to the list.
Checking out, the lady bagging says loudly, “Sir, do you want your bread bagged?”
“Yes, please, I have to walk four blocks.”
She looked disappointed. I didn’t know if she thought I should carry them on my head, or she wasn’t sure I could walk that far without collapsing.
She eyeballed the 12-pack of beer and again asked loudly, “Sir, do you want your beer bagged?”
“Sure, that would help. I have to walk four blocks.”
She began to walk away, gesturing to the checker guy to finish bagging duty, saying loudly to him as she turned on her heel, “YOU’RE GOING TO NEED FOUR BAGS!”
I was walking down the aisle at the grocery store. At the other end of the aisle, a store employee was coming the other way, coughing loudly, not covering her mouth. I realized she was coming all the way past me, so I did a quick stop and scan of the candy on the shelf, as if I was close to finding what I want, turning my body to shield the impending viral hurricane.
I was wrong. She didn’t pass me. She turned to the same section of candy, checking prices or something, coughing into the air the whole time next to me, like a T-shirt cannon at a baskeball game, firing germ bombs toward me.
If I have German flu the next time you see me, now you know why.
I waited patiently behind a lady at the grocery store today. She is one of the characters at the store who have to talk to the cashier like they are two neighbors sharing a leisurely coffee.
“I’m 53 and my husband is 54,” she said, taking all the time in the world. “At this age, I don’t want to see his sorry self all the time. We have separate beds like Luci and Desi, but we went one better. We have separate bedrooms!”
After a long pause to dig through her purse for change, she said, “Separate rooms are perfect. Except once a month we meet to do MR. NASTY!”
Everywhere I go people ask me one thing: “Excuse me, do you work here?” It used to bug me until I decided to have fun with it.
Last year an old lady stopped me in the aisle of a home entertainment store. She said, “Excuse me, do you work here?”
I walked her over to a nearby TV and said, “As a matter of fact, ma’am, yes I do. Let me show you this Sony Trinitron right here. It’s regularly $3500. Today we are letting it go for 100 bucks.”
“And if you give me 5 twenties right now, I’ll help you carry it to the car.”
Since them I have created many answers to the question, “Excuse me, do you work here?”
At the appliance store: “Yes, I do. Let me show you this new refrigerator. The crisper doubles as a garbage disposal. This is for those times you are kidding yourself and decide to eat healthy and buy 3 heads of lettuce and a bunch of vegetables and then two weeks later you haven’t touched a single carrot. The crisper/garbage disposal eliminates the need to remove the vegetables to throw them out.”
At the Sears tire store: “Yes, I do. Ma’am, your car is ready. I outfitted your Honda Accord with 5 feet high truck tires. You need a ladder to get in but now you can roll over the kid’s bikes laying in the driveway.”
At the DMV: “Yes, I do. Let me tell you about our new system here at the DMV. Instead of you waiting in line here, from now we’re going to come to your house. Once there, we will wait one hour and you come out and tell us we’re in the wrong line.”
At the computer store: “Yes, I do. We’ve started a new system in the computer industry. We will give you the computer for free. Then, you send us a check for $5 for any day you don’t have a problem with it.”
At an auto parts store: “Yes, I do, Let me show you this special exhaust system. It plays musical tunes to match your car. The pickup truck model plays Willie and Waylon’s ‘Mamas Don’t Let your Babies Grow up to be Republicans’.”
At the sporting goods store: “Yes, I do. Are you a multiple-sport athlete? As you know, baseball is getting as violent as hockey. Let me show you this combination baseball bat and hockey stick. With this you’ll be able to hit home runs AND have fun dropping it to get in fights with the other team.”
At the restaurant: “Yes, I do. You are lucky because it is ladies day. On ladies day we feature lunch specials for women. We take any meal that you order and smother it with chocolate.”
At a furniture store on trendy Melrose Avenue: “Yes, I do. Let me show you this piece right here. It is designed by famous Italian modernist Enrico Lotsapasta. What is it? Well, I’m not exactly sure. But, we think it is either a loveseat, an end table, or a futon.”
At the ball park: “Yes, I do. Let me tell you about our stadium dogs. Only the best beef lips and hearts go in our dogs. Today we are selling our ‘beer and stadium dog combo’ for half price, only $65.”
Sometimes I just can’t fake it. I was in Starbucks on Sunset Boulevard. A lady asked me, “Excuse me, do you work here?”
“No, ma’am,” I said. “To work here you have to have either an ear ring, a nose ring, or a belly ring so big you can hang dish towels from it.”
I rent a lot of movies. Some are movies I didn’t want to pay $8 to see in a theater. Some I just didn’t have time to see. Some I wish they would have paid ME to sit through.
There are lots of clerks at my video store but invariably I always get the same guy. He has an opinion on every movie I bring to the counter. And he voices that opinion. LOUDLY.
“Let’s see- ‘Friday’. That’s a good flick. Ice Cube plays against type in this one. I thought he would be all gangsta and everything but he plays a regular dude in it with a whole family with a Mom and a Dad and all. Now, Chris Tucker, he’s just his crazy regular self. I think he steals it. I’ll bet they saw him in this movie and said that dude is funny. Let’s put him with Jackie Chan and make a hundred million dollars.”
“Oh, yeah. ‘187’. That’s a good flick. Samuel L. Jackson. That guy is an actor. If you like that guy you should also check out The Negotiator. He’s this cop who is framed, right, and then he and Kevin Spacey have a duel of wits. Crazy. Did you know in ‘Do the Right Thing’ his screen credit name was Sam Jackson. Whatsupwiththat? SAM! Like, hey Sam. How ya doin’, Sam? What’s up, Sam? Good to see you, Sam. It just doesn’t sound the same as SAMUEL L. JACKSON.
“I mean, what if Robert DeNiro was ‘Bobby DeNiro’. It’s not the same, is it? I mean, Bobby was the kid on the Brady Bunch movies, right? You couldn’t have Robert DeNiro in a Brady Bunch movie, could you? I mean, Alice would yell at him for not putting the basketball back in the garage and leaving it laying in the driveway and then he’d say to Alice, are you talking to me, are you talking to me, are YOU talking to ME, and then he’d whack her with her own kitchen knife, am I right?”
He seems disappointed if I bring up a movie that was popular at the box office. “Armageddon? Oh, yeah, sure. Well, it had some good stuff. Great soundtrack.”
I’m just glad they don’t have adult videos. “Oh, Debby Meets the Copier Repair Man. That’s a good flick. We don’t have them all but there is a whole series. Debby Meets the Pizza Man. Debby Meets the Pool Guy. Probably the biggest seller was Debby meets her Evil Twin. Great stuff. You know what they should do.
“They should put Robert DeNiro in an adult video. He could play the Pizza Man. And then he goes over to this house and there’s a girl there who REALLY NEEDS A PIZZA if you know what I mean but then the Pool Guy is there and he really wants to CLEAN HER POOL instead of Robert DeNiro so the Pool Guy says get out of here Pizza Man, right, and DeNiro says are you talking to me, you know, and then he whacks the pool guy and throws him in the pool and then proceeds to deliver the pizzas, what do you think?”
Like everyone in LA he has written a screenplay: “I’ve got my own ideas, right? Like, I wrote a movie about LA called Final Days. What happens is that all the natural disasters that we have in Southern California happen all at once, right? First it starts to rain, then hail, then mudslides, then the Santa Ana winds come in which start big fires.
“Then a typhoon hits which creates a big tidal wave that crashes over Venice Beach and fills the LA basin with 65 feet of water. People are swimming for their lives. Angelyne is floating around on her breasts. Dennis Woodruff is floating down Pico with oars sticking out of his car. Then after 4 or 5 days of chaos Charlton Heston climbs on top of the Hollywood sign and he spreads his arms wide and he says, ‘Do not be afraid, my people, for I will lead you out of Los Angeles and down the 405 into Orange County where you will be free to vote Republican and own assault weapons’. What do you think?”
Finals Days? Yeah, right. Are you crazy, you video-store-clerk-half-baked- film-critic?
It’s going to be a hit.
I was in an office supply store to buy a Quicken upgrade. I passed the digital (still) camera display. While I’ve wanted to get a digital camera for a while, the average prices are too rich for me.
But they had two models that were around $100. I’d pay $100. Even if the thing broke in 6 months. I made a note to return there if I didn’t find anything comparable.
I moved on to a computer store for some software I needed. I checked their digital camera display. Half of the cameras didn’t have price tags. I found two salespeople over near the laptop computers.
“Who wants to make a sale today? I want a digital camera.” In sales this is known as a BUYING SIGNAL. A VERY CLEAR ONE.
They pointed over to the far corner of the store. “Oh, you have to ask that guy. This is the computer section.”
I walked over to the corner section. “Who can show me a digital camera?”, I pointed at the display. “I’m ready to buy. I just want a cheap one.” Another BUYING SIGNAL.
“We don’t have any cheap ones”, he said, not looking up.
Somehow I know it wasn’t going to get better. I went next door to a major discount chain store. I saw a big sign that said “Electronics”. Three salespeople were huddled around the counter talking. I searched for the digital cameras to no avail. I kept waiting for a break in their conversation. None was forthcoming so I started talking over them.
“Do you sell digital cameras?”, I bellowed.
“No”, came the response from the lady behind the counter.
She began to talk again to her coworkers. I looked down between the two salespeople leaning on the customer side of the counter. Hidden between them in the case were about 15 digital cameras.
“What do mean you don’t have digital cameras? There’s about 15 right here!”
“You said ‘video’ cameras”, the one on the other side of the counter said.
“I said ‘digital’ cameras”.
“No, you said ‘video’ cameras”, the salesperson next to me said, still blocking the case which I was obviously trying to look in.
“Maybe we can get some Q-Tips from over there and clean out all ourears”, I offered. They stared at me. I stared at the case until they slowly walked away.
The cameras were all over my price range so I went back to the office supply store that had the two $100 models. I found a salesperson.
“Sell me a digital camera!”, I announced.
This could be taken as a BUYING SIGNAL. We walked over to the cameras. I pointed at $100 camera number one.
“I want that one!”
“Sorry, sir, we are out of stock on that one.”
“OK, sell me the display model.”
“No, we can’t do that.”
“OK, sell me that one”, I point at $100 camera number two.
“Sorry, sir, we are out of stock on that one, too.”
“So, sell me the display model.”
“No, we don’t do that.”
“So you have a display model for cameras you can’t sell because you don’t have any. And the one you do have, the display model, you can’t sell me. Correct?”
“You have to be more positive,” I say. “I’ll bet I can get the manager to sell me the display model.”
The manager comes over.
“I’d like to buy this display model. What lower price can you offer because it has been on sitting out on display?”, I said.
“I can’t sell the display model. It is company policy.”
“But you are the manager. You are empowered to make the customer, THAT’S ME, happy. I would be happy to relieve you of this digital camera for a discount.”
“I’m only the assistant manager. The manager has the day off.”
Take my money… please! Somebody. Anybody.