Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Fear and Loathing in the Service Industry

Josh writes:

At least I can laugh about it. Sometimes I have to pull my lips into a rictus grin, peel my tongue off the roof of my mouth and punch myself in the solar plexus, but a laugh is a laugh.

Some people make a point of reading The Lord of the Rings once a year; I read True Porn Clerk Stories. I've mentioned Ali Davis' long-discontinued journal* before, but I really must emphasize that it is the best thing you'll read online. Good, honest human drama, as Ms. Davis recounts her experiences with the regulars, the addicts, the freaks, the "two and a half people" she drove out of the store, all while offering insightful analysis of why people do the bizarre (and perfectly normal) things they do. And she talks about porn a lot -- tee hee hee!

Makes me nostalgic for my time in retail**, where the most I had to put up with was the occasional Generic Asshole. In three years there, the number of problem customers I encountered I could count on one hand, and even then the problems paled in comparison to coming into contact with another's coagulating fluids.

The worst customers tended to be flustered mothers shopping with kids, and they all went down to the women's or kids' section, so I almost never bore the brunt. I do recall one woman who interpreted "sorry, you can't return kids' clothes here -- the folks at the kidswear counter might be able to help you" as "fuck off, bitch -- not my problem" and reacted accordingly (when what I actually meant was "you're probably not going to be able to return that at all, but I'll fob you off on the kidswear manager who I know is at the counter right now so I don't have to turn you down myself, and hey, she might even bend the rules for you.")

There was the one guy who actually made a member of staff cry, but A) she was only 16 and B) he was quite obviously not right in the head. Not actually dangerous, but impaired enough to make his social interactions trying.

Or the mother who repeatedly swore at her young children (and I mean swore at them -- I don't believe adults should say "fuck" in the presence of their children, let alone at them) and clipped them around the ear with more force and less justification than I would consider appropriate. What do you do? "Lay your hands on that child one more time and I'll call the police, you horrible excuse for a mother," I thought silently as I sold her stuff and got her out of the range of my conscience as quickly as possible.

All in all, though, a fairly pedestrian foray into the service of the Dirty Public. Sometimes I find myself wishing I'd led a more messed-up existence, so I'd have more to write about. Then I read True Porn Clerk Stories, and tell myself to shut the fuck up.

* "Journals" are what we had before blogs, back when petrol cost a five doubloons a firkin and you could leave your doors unlocked at night without being throat-raped by Johnny Foreigner in your beds.

** Menswear counter, Farmers St. Lukes, operator ID 128, and that's all you Commie bastards are getting from me.

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