Tales From The Thrift Store: Full Moon Rising.

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When we last left our heroine (not the drug, people, the Superhero Thrift Store Manager, otherwise known as me) it was a thousand and fifty degrees in the shade and yours truly had come the closest I’ve ever been to melting into a big, fleshy puddle on the ancient cracked tile. I think maybe I actually did melt a little; one leg seems to be slightly shorter than the other and my face feels somewhat…droopier.

Needless to say I’ve been finding ways to keep cool in the store now, like keeping the air conditioner running despite the fact that most of it escapes out the huge roll up door, or setting a box fan under the desk. Sometimes I’ll go back into the kitchen for a few minutes when there’s a break in customer traffic, and sprawl across the packages of frozen English muffins, Italian sausages, and lunch meat in the large chest freezer. Global warming, folks; a girls gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Not all days at the store are completely off the charts when it comes to the heat…or the level of crazy in the customers brought about by the heat.  This Friday happened to be rainy off and on, and the slightly cool rain and breeze that would roll in with it brought a welcome respite from the sweltering temperatures that I had suffered through the past few weekends. There was no relief from the insanity, though. There seemed to be an abundance of that.

Now, I never actually did any research into the matter, but I have it on pretty good authority that we can expect to see a full moon within the next day or so. Due to the fact that it wasn’t as hot as usual, I can only surmise that the promise of this lunar delight right around the corner is what led to one of those weekends…you know, the kind that leaves you sitting there wondering if the level of erratic behavior that you just witnessed really happened, or was it merely a figment of your imagination?

Let’s start out with a small level of nuttiness, such as my first customer of the day on Friday. Then we’ll work our way into the grand finale of madness as my Twilight Zone of a day wore on.

I sat at my desk in the corner as usual, laptop open in front of me, fervently typing up the next dose of whatever babbling drivel I deemed worthy of serving up to my adoring fans (yes, this means you, the ones basking in the glow of your ultraviolet monitor lights as you read the newest installment of my raving absurdity), when in walks a fairly normal looking woman of about 60. She pokes around a bit and comments on how clean and well organized the store is. I have OCD, silly, of course it’s clean and well organized. I omit this fact, though, and simply say, “Thank you. It keeps me busy.”

She suddenly spies my impeccably displayed rack of die cast collectibles, complete with sign above it explaining that they are, in fact, limited edition collector’s items and are priced accordingly, and sign on the front of the display that reads, “pricing available upon request.” There was some question on my part as to whether or not grams could actually read, though. She plops a mint condish 2001 limited edition #5 Terry Labonte Monsters Inc. car still in its unmarked, unbent original packing down on the desk in front of me, and proceeds to pull a couple of wadded up dollar bills out of her change purse.  I give her a quick raised eyebrow glance and say, “Alright, give me just a moment to pull up my pricing guide,” to which she replies, “Pricing guide?  Aren’t these a couple of bucks in Walmart?” Friends, Amazon lists this very car for $24.99. “Well you see, ma’am, this is a collector’s edition. It’s already 12 years old, and if kept in its original packaging, the value will keep increasing.”   “Oh I don’t care about all that,” she says “it’s just for my grandson to play with.” She plans to tear it open. Rip it right out of the pristinely preserved packaging… along with my heart. I die just a little on the inside. After a few more minutes of haggling, I wearily concede and let granny walk out the door with the deal of the day for 2 bucks.  Meh, I have another one in the stock closet anyway. I replace the doomed collectible and go back to my blogging.

An hour or so later, enter the stocky young gent with the fiery red “Flock of Seagulls” hairdo. You may think I’m exaggerating, but I found myself hoping that my jaw hadn’t visibly dropped when I saw it, it was that strikingly sculpted.  Had a unicorn walked by in front of me at that very same moment, I don’t think that it would have struck me as even half as amazing as this guy’s hair. He and his cohort, a thin, muscular, manly woman with closely cropped hair and glazed over eyes, start perusing the belt rack. From where I’m sitting at least 15 feet away, I can smell the reason for G.I Jane’s glassy eyed stare. I was getting a contact high just from their closeness in proximity. Seagull man selects a studded leather belt from among the 30 or so prominently displayed on the hooks in front of him, wraps it around his hand several times, points to the 10 or so inches on the end without studs, and says, “Now if we cut off this section here,” …he gives me a quick sideways glance… “It’ll be perfect for what we need.” Whoa there. Okay. I discreetly grab hold of my phone placed several inches away on the top of the desk , pull it closer, and load the numbers 9-1-1 up on the display screen…just in case.

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After a few more minutes of wandering around the store picking up and commenting on random items, they head to the desk to make their 50 cent belt purchase. Seagull man hands me a dollar, and waits for his change, as his partner in crime points to an old patch of dried up paint splatter on the floor and says, “Hey look, its Lady Gaga.” I give her a puzzled and slightly nervous look as Seagull man says, “Hey, yeah, wow. Look at that, that’s way cool.” He then looks at me and says, “Come here, you gotta see this.” Ummm…I do? Not in the least bit out of curiosity but for the sake of my own safety, I grip my phone just a little tighter, get up, and walk around the desk to see just what the daft duo is going on about. They point to the paint spot in unison and say, “See, look. It’s a flaming high heeled shoe just like Lady Gaga’s.” I’m completely lost. All I see is faded paint splatter, but I feign enthusiasm and exclaim, “Oh yeah! Look at that! I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before!” They both smile and nod, and after a few more moments of staring mesmerized at the paint spot and paying silent, reverent homage to the floor tile, they decide to make their departure. Phew. I relax a bit and go back to typing.

I could not make this stuff up, folks. I’m neither imaginative nor mentally unstable enough to think up madness of this magnitude on my own.

Sometime shortly after lunch, a woman and a girl of about 7 or 8 walk in, exchange pleasantries with me, and proceed toward the housewares section in the far back corner of the store. Fifteen minutes pass…then 20. They finally emerge with armloads of random dishes, plop them down on the desk, and smile as I proceed to ring up the pile of discount goodies.

We interrupt this purchase to issue a public service announcement.  Having OCD while managing a store comes with a nice mental rolodex feature, in which you’re able to store every little detail of all merchandise incoming and outgoing, what price you put on that merchandise, when it came in, where it came from, and even whether or not the price tag is in your own writing.    

We now return you to your regularly scheduled purchase…

As I start to add up the items, I immediately notice that something is off. Take the nice, unscratched Teflon pot with the glass lid for example. Just that morning I had priced that pot at 3 dollars. A little on the cheap side for the condition it was in, but hey, every dollar made is a dollar more than we had before. It now had a sticker on it for $1.25, a sticker that I recognized as being from a half missing set of Rubbermaid storage containers. I dig a little deeper and notice a few other gently peeled and reapplied price tags that were cheaper than the original prices on some other items, too. I have to admit, she did a good swapping job. No wonder she was back there so long.

I try to explain to her that these aren’t the right prices for some of the things that she’s handed me, to which she responds by pretending she doesn’t speak a word of English, even though she seemed to speak it pretty well when she greeted me as she came in. Crafty, this one. But even the most linguistically lacking folks when it comes to the English language know the word, ‘no’, and fortunately, I know enough words in Spanish to communicate on the level of a Kindergartener. So, I would point at a wrongly marked item, say something along the lines of, “No. Tres”, and shove it aside to ring up something that still sported the right price tag. She would respond with, “Oh” and then quietly say something to her daughter in Spanish. In the end, I was not willing to fall for her trick, and she seemed to want the items badly enough, so she pulled out her wallet and reluctantly paid the original prices for the items in question. Now, I’m more than willing to negotiate prices, if you just ask, but don’t try to play dirty pool with me. I don’t enjoy that game.

The cherry on top of my lunacy Sundae came about 20 minutes before closing time, when in walks a woman trailing 2 young offspring behind her. She heads straight for the desk, all the while stuffing handfuls of potato chips into her mouth from the Ruffles bag in her left hand, occasionally dropping one or 2 on the floor as she walks. Maybe she’s leaving a trail so she can find her way back out? I’m no psychic, but I sense a broom and dustpan in my future. She looks at me, sitting behind the desk all by my lonesome, without another person in sight, and says, “You the manager?” Oh boy. I’d better buckle my seatbelt.  This promises to be a bumpy ride.

Now, had my 11 year old son been at the store with me that day as he usually is, it might have crossed my mind to point at him and say, “No. He is.” No such luck today, however. I was flying solo on this trip. “Yes ma’am, what can I do for you?” I ask. She says, “Well, I’m fixin’ to have a yard sale this weekend and I was wondering if I could have it right outside your store in the parking lot.” I quickly stifled the urge to laugh out loud. I’ve been down this road before, and the idea was vetoed fairly quickly. If we open up that world of possibility to one person, we’d have to do it for everyone, and before you know it, our parking lot will have turned into a circus sideshow.  No. Thank you for the offer, but I think I’ll have to pass.

She didn’t appreciate hearing ‘no’ as an answer, though, and after the words, “I’m sorry ma’am, we can’t do that” came out of my mouth, a barrage of distasteful dialogue came out of hers. I was called a few choice names and told that I was stupid for not wanting to make the extra money that her extraordinary event would have brought into the store, before she finally gathered up her offspring and made a hasty retreat.

I ran my hand over my exhausted face and looked at the clock. It was 10 minutes before closing time. I closed anyway as a reward for surviving this deranged day…and to sweep the crushed potato chips up off the floor, too.

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Until next time, readers…stay sane.

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