So I was looking back over some old stuff today, stuff I wrote in the little notebook I used to carry in my backpack when I lived in NYC. It’s a little leather notebook that I used to write in while riding on the subway, or while I was drinking a cup of coffee in the coffee shop before work, or while I was sitting in the park, killing the rest of my lunch hour. It’s strange to think about those times, strange to remember.
Living in New York is like a strange dream. I might have actually mentioned that to you before, I’m not quite sure. Like you’re there, you’re living, and it’s all real. As soon as you leave, your mind flips over to real-world thinking once more, and you suddenly wonder where those two years of your life went. Because once you get out, it doesn’t seem like you were ever there. It’s just like in those stupid stories and TV shows and movies or whatever, where the main guy falls asleep and dreams he’s running all over the place, having all sorts of wild adventures, escaping from all sort of monsters, all that. And then he wakes up in his bed, and it was all just a big crazy dream. Except, for then he reaches under his pillow, and there’s the locket that the good fairy witch gave to him in the forest. So it was all real.
That’s how living in NYC was for me. It’s all just one crazy dream, but then I keep finding things that I got there (a cell phone, subway maps, dry-erase markers, my princess) and I realize that it was all real.
Anyways, so I was looking over some stuff that I wrote while living there, just to pass a little time, actually, while deciding if I was going to stay up and write tonight or not. And I realize that I was a naïve little thing while I was there. I know you’re all wondering, “What? Ray, you’re not naïve at all, and you’re for sure not a little thing. I mean, I think once you pass mach-3 of fat like you have, the only thing about you little is your self-control.” Why are you always teasing me about being a fatty, huh?
But, yeah, I saw some entries about right before I moved down here to Austin. You want to know one of the main things I didn’t like? The people were dicks. And here’s the funny part: I thought that once I got out of the City, once I got away from the uptight northerners, I thought people would be nice. I thought I would get down here to Texas, and everyone would be smiles and politeness, just like I remembered.
Yeah, man, I’m laughing, too. I realize now that it’s not necessarily location. I think people just suck. Not all of them, of course. I met some pretty cool people in NYC, and I’ve met some really cool people down here in Austin. But people are selfish, people are rude, and people suck.
It’s just one of those things that you have to accept. Most of the time, you see people hiding behind the facades of politeness, you see them living up to the social standards that they’ve been raised to aspire to. Except at customer service. At customer service, there is no need for social graces, there is no need for politeness. It’s like a miniature Lord of the Flies scene every time a new customer walks up. No rules, unless you’re the poor bastard behind the counter. And then you don’t even get to use curse words.
Anyways, so I thought that once I got out of New York, I would calm down, get back in the groove of humanity, find my love for people, whatever. I didn’t. I hope that when I get out of customer service, I will finally be able to let go of some of my negative feelings towards others, but if checking through my little notebook has taught me anything, it’s that I shouldn’t really expect to be liking anyone in the future.
Trey put forth a question the other day, what with him being on one side of the service person/customer line and me being on the other.
He described a situation where he was in the grocery store, and the cashiers were all engaged in a conversation. Of course, they were all ringing up groceries, so in order to have the conversation, they had to yell across the checkout lanes to each other. The problem wasn’t so much that they were having a conversation, or even that they were all yelling back and forth, basically just screaming into the faces of the customers. The problem was that as they spoke, they gradually slowed down: as she got particularly interested in bits of the conversation, the cashier that was helping Trey actually just stopped ringing up his groceries.
He was basically asking if, in my opinion, he had a right to be angry. To which I respond, hell yes. If I was standing there after a day of work, waiting for this chick to ring up my groceries, and she’s just over there talking, I will make sure that she gets back on the ball. But there’s no need to be a conventional asshole about it. Keep in mind, we’re talking about New York, where screaming and ranting and raving is sort of the acceptable norm. I mean, people there yell all the time, man.
“Hey!” One guy on the street will yell.
“What?” Another guy will scream back. “You talking to me? What’chu want?”
“That’s a nice fuckin’ duwawg (that’s dog, in case you never heard how these freaks talk, and it’s all one syllable, if you can believe it), that’s alls I’m sayin’!”
“Say, thanks, fella!”
My point is, screaming doesn’t matter. Oh, here’s another thing, just in case you’re not from around there—no bag boys. If you buy groceries in New York, you almost always have to bag that shit up yourself. The entire time I lived there, I saw one place that had bag boys, and I couldn’t get in because I didn’t have a tie. It’s not really important to the story, I just wanted to throw it in there because it’s not like these girls that Trey was telling me about had to do anything but scan groceries. I know it’s boring as hell, but if you can’t hold an object in you hand, move it slightly across a pad, and talk at the same time, you need to do something else with your life. Like end it.
Anyways, so don’t yell at them. If this has any effect at all, it will probably just start some stupid argument that you can’t win, and further delay you getting home with your groceries. What you do is, you plan ahead. While you’re shopping around, keep your eyes open for the most disgusting thing they sell in a glass jar. Around here, it’s probably something like pickled pigs feet or pieces of cow intestine, but in the City, they have even more disgusting things than that on the shelves. I remember walking around my local grocery store wondering if this shit was legal.
So get a jar of that, whatever it is, and keep it in your basket. If things go well, you’ll get to the end, you’ll still have your jar of nastiness, and you go, “You know what? I’ve changed my mind about that one—I don’t want it. Sorry.” And the cashier will go, “Whatever,” and then tell you your total.
But if she starts talking, not paying attention, turning around and talking to the girl behind her, that’s when you get your jar of nastiness and you roll it across the little counter to where it falls right beside her feet. Two key things at this point:
1) It has to look like an accident! I can’t stress how important this is. It’s one thing to accidentally knock a grocery off the counter and onto the floor. It’s another matter entirely if you’re throwing glass jars at the cashier. It’s a matter of perspective, you see.
2) Make sure it splatters all over the cashier. This is also vital, but if you screw it up, at least you won’t be going to jail for attempted assault or whatever. You want it to soak her shoes entirely, since shoes aren’t something you generally wash. Also try to get the bottoms of her pants, and probably her socks, too. This ensures that the rest of her work day will be spent in disgusting misery. You ever stepped in a puddle on the way to work or something, and just had to walk around with soggy socks all day? It’s freakin’ miserable, man. I hate it.
I can’t imagine how bad that would ruin my day if instead of water it was pureed gall bladder from a goat or something. Plus it would smell awful.
So does this solve anything? Not really. Does it make you feel better? Yes, as a matter of fact, it does. Unless you’re some kind of wimp or something that doesn’t believe in screwing up other people’s lives—then you probably won’t like it much.
Now maybe you’re saying something like, “Dang, Ray—that’s fiendishly clever, and a superb idea, but I’m really just wanting to get my groceries and get out of the store. Seems like if I’m breaking glass on the help, that might actually make things go even slower.”
If you’re saying something like that, stop it right now. I can’t hear you, and people around you think you’re nuts (yeah, it’s an old joke, and not a terribly funny one, but sometimes I just can’t help it—I apologize for nothing).
Okay, here’s the backup plan, made just for keeping the cashier focused. Get some ramen noodles, right? And do the same thing. She starts talking, just knock a pack of noodles off the counter to where it hits her leg. She’ll turn around, probably a little startled, and you apologize. Every time she starts turning around or whatever, do it again. If she’s actually just slowing down, but not actually turning around, it gets a bit more difficult. In this case it’s better to start throwing cherries at her face as hard as you can, or lean in close and quietly mutter that you’re about to soil yourself and you would rather do it outside than in the checkout lane.
I prefer the thing with the cherries, because I love to throw things at people’s faces, but it can get you in a bit of trouble unless you know how to handle it just right. The key is, you have to deny it completely, and believably, and you have to deny it while you’re still doing it.
“Sir, Tammy here is saying that you were throwing cherries at her face.”
“No, sir,” you say, and you throw another cherry at Tammy’s face. Don’t just toss it, either. I mean, you have to burn these things, like you’re Nolan Ryan and shit. The manager, he’s going to be amazed.
“You just…I saw you throw it right now.”
“What? No, sir, you must be mistaken.” Throw another cherry at Tammy.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to either stop that right now, or leave the building.”
At this point, you really have to sell it to him—you have to make this guy completely believe that you have no idea that you’re throwing cherries. And throw them at him, now, too.
But, yeah, the soiling thing works pretty good, too, if you don’t care about being known as the “poop-hisself guy” at your local grocery store. I always had enough trouble in my local grocery store, without adding in the poopy pants thing.
So that’s about it. One thing before I go, though. I called the chatty little cashiers female tonight. I’m not trying to stereotype or anything—it’s just that when Trey was telling me the story, they were all girls. Plus, any time I’ve ever seen guys working as cashiers in the grocery store, they were the kind of guys that nobody ever talked to.
Yeah, man, if you’re a guy and you’re a cashier, I think it’s time you know—people don’t like you, bro’. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not because you’re a cashier. It’s because of the type of person you are. I’m sorry, man, but you have no friends, and you more than likely never will. Just remember—you can always turn to alcohol to solve your problems.
Oh, yeah, and when I shopped at that store, the manager was a guy—that’s why the manager in the example was a guy. The real-life manager, you could tell that he worked his way to the top, all the way from being a bag boy to a cashier to whatever other steps you have to work up to become a manager of a grocery store. Because of the way that he didn’t have any friends, that’s how you could tell. And no one liked him at all…not even his parents.