Tales From The Thrift Store: Step Into The Sauna

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If you’ve been following the saga that is my life, you’ll remember my mention of the fact that I run a thrift store on the weekends out of the church I attend. As promised, I have come to regale you with tales of the awkwardness that comes with the job thanks to some slightly (okay… majorly) unhinged people. I call them my regulars. As my tall, practically glow-in-the-dark (because she’s just so white), ethnically challenged teenage daughter might say, “people be actin’ cray-cray.” That’s ghetto slang for, “pardon me, sir, but the local Homo sapiens seem to have become rather unpredictable in terms of their mental capacity and ability to soundly reason.”

Anyway, this thrift store happens to be in an unsavory area. Okay, in the interest of full disclosure…it’s in ‘the hood’. What qualifies as ‘the hood’ you ask? Well, it’s a place where you wouldn’t care to be after dark while carrying a wallet, if that helps at all.

It’s Saturday. I’ve been sitting here for 4 hours now. Four down, two to go. If I make it out alive, I want ice cream. Not to eat, just to roll around in like a wallowing pig. It’s hotter than Satan’s Spandex in here. The heat index today is probably not helping the instability level of the locals. I’m suddenly inspired by ‘The Little Engine That Could’. I think I can, I think I can…

Sue is here today. Sue was here yesterday, too. Sue is the homeless lady that I met last Sunday when she came to our church service and stayed for the potluck dinner. Sue picked a good Sunday to come to church. Every time there’s a 5th Sunday in a month, we all bring a dish to pass and converge upon the cafeteria like a pack of starving wolves as soon as the offering envelopes hit the collection plate. Hey, who doesn’t love a free home-cooked meal, right?

Somehow, out of the few dozen people that attended church that day, it was me that Sue talked into giving her a ride downtown to the homeless shelter afterward. Not a terrible or impossible request in theory, but I spent the entirety of my Sunday afternoon stuck in bumper to bumper  traffic moving either at a slow crawl or not at all thanks to the fender-bender on the interstate. I don’t blame Sue for this. I blame the maniacs that don’t know how to drive in this town.

This act of kindness seems to have earned me a new bi-polar best friend. At least, I think she’s bi-polar. I have a tendency to dabble in psychiatry as a hobby by diagnosing other people’s mental disorders. Needless to say, I can’t seem to follow along with Sue anymore; she’s all over the page. One minute I think she’s asleep, then the next she’s crying, and then the next she’s on the phone yelling at some random person on the other end of the line. From what I can make of the conversations, I think that it’s her mental health specialists that she keeps calling and yelling at. Should I be concerned? This is after she’s greeted each new customer Wal-Mart style and formerly introduced herself with her full given name and a hearty handshake. My last customer scooted out of here so fast that she created the first breeze I’ve felt all day.

Sue has settled herself onto one of the couches that I’m trying to sell, along with a book that I’m also trying to sell. I guess I can always tell the customers that it’s a “live demonstration”, right? She’s falling asleep and is starting to drool on the pleather. Please, Lord, not the pleather. I can see the value of the 10 dollar couch rapidly depreciating. Do drool and sweat stain?

She’ll sit here until closing time and then ask me to drive her somewhere. Yesterday it was Wal-mart. I don’t know exactly when my free chauffer service opened for business, but lately, business has been booming. Ah well … it’s my job to serve. I have the gas, I have the time, and I couldn’t very well say, “no, I have to get home” without knowing that it’s just an excuse. Excuse is a fancy deep fried and rolled in sugar term for big, fat, stinky LIE. I’ve heard it through the grapevine that God doesn’t like those.

I see a lot of homeless people in the store during the summer months. Mostly men. They usually slur their words and struggle to stay upright all the while smelling strongly of whatever cheap adult beverage they’ve spent the rest of their money on and most of the afternoon consuming. My nostrils continue to burn even after they’re gone. Apparently, there’s a flashing neon sign in the window that says “Drunken people welcome.”  I can’t see it, but they can, like the Emperor’s New Clothes. I give them a free can of food and a clean outfit when they come in. I guess one could argue that it’s my own fault for “feeding the strays”, but what can I say? As I believe I’ve already mentioned, it’s my job to serve. This isn’t without its rewards, though. There are a few people that come in that are in genuine need. It’s those people that make sitting here in this sauna all summer long worthwhile.

Sue isn’t the nuttiest person that I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing company with during a day at the thrift store. Not by a long shot.

I once had a mother and her young son come into the store. Now, understand that in the building that houses the store, there are 4 separate bathrooms. That’s four distinct opportunities to properly relieve one’s self, including 8 individual toilets. Mom of the year didn’t let that fact deter her, though. After ignoring the pleas to ‘potty’ from her tiny charge who had been systematically destroying the store one item at a time up until now, her young offspring of maybe 5 or 6 years of age proceeded to pull down his pants, and happily urinate on the floor in front of the toy rack.

At this point, as a mother myself, my face would have turned about 50 shades of red, I would have apologized profusely to the manager (hey, that’s me!)…and asked if I could help clean up the mess, all the while eyeing the door wishing I could slink away with whatever dignity I could still manage to muster.  Not ‘Ironmom’, though, with her nerves of steel. She proceeded to step over the puddle with disdain as if she was actually offended that I would allow it to remain there, and continued shopping. If I recall, she ended up spending 75 cents in the end. This didn’t even begin to cover the trauma inflicted upon my fragile psyche as I proceeded to clean up the ‘boy spill’ on aisle 3.

Trust me, all of this nonsense is completely true. The stuff that seems to happen to me on a regular basis is far wackier than anything I could ever make up.

I think the heat is finally starting to get to me. My pants are too tight. I should lose a few…several…50 some odd pounds. I have a heat rash that I can’t scratch. Not now, anyway, I have a customer.  Don’t ask me where it is. Sunlight doesn’t venture there; your mind shouldn’t, either.

There’s a deaf guy that comes in every weekend. Let’s call him Dave…he looks like a Dave. I like him. He grunts and points. I nod and smile. Then I think to myself, “Now this is a level of communication I can handle.” Dave bought a box of nails yesterday. This led me to wonder…if Dave hits his thumb with a hammer by accident when he’s pounding those nails, would he keep quiet or would he scream or perhaps shout some form of distorted expletive even though he wouldn’t be able to hear it?  That’s one of those ‘If a tree falls in the woods’ type of queries. The world may never know. Good old Dave. I wish him luck with his nails.

Husband number 2 breezes in from time to time and promptly disappears elsewhere in the building. Can’t say I blame him. Why should he sit here and bathe in his own sweat if he doesn’t have to? I can’t bother with the air conditioning when it’s just going to escape out the roll up garage door that serves as the shop entrance.  It’s probably 175 degrees give or take half a degree behind this desk. Of course, the Hubster does suffer from A.D.D. He wouldn’t be able to sit still anyway. I diagnosed him myself. Saved us a medical bill. I made this assessment based on the fact that he tends to…oh look, a squirrel.

Hallelujah…would you look at that. Closing time already and it only took a decade to get here. I might just wander down the street to Wal-mart and stick my smoldering head in with the frozen vegetables for a few minutes before I make the pilgrimage home.

Until next time, readers….stay cool.

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