Happenings in the Hood: Weave Got a Problem

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If you’ve been following along at all with the insanity that is my life, you’ll have read about the antics of one very umm…”special” woman in this story:

Happenings in the Hood: Entitled Much?

In a nutshell; I was still painting after regular work hours to finish a job one night when this woman that I had never met before saw me through the open window, and decided to make a very rude and ridiculous request…no…demand of me. She expected me to drop what I was doing; a job that needed to be finished yesterday, and paint her bedroom door because it was a beautiful natural wood color and she wanted it white. After arguing with me for several minutes, (actually, she argued. I responded very politely) I didn’t meet her demand and she stomped off cursing at me and calling me things colorful enough to make a street thug blush.

She proceeded to cause such a big stink over such a silly little thing, that the next day found her hurling obscenities across the parking lot at the Assistant Manager. Over a door. She was in and out of the office after that, still yelling and carrying on. My husband, (the Manager) told her that it was not an emergency and we would get to it as soon as we could. That wasn’t good enough, though, and she was still being so obnoxious about the whole thing, outside screaming in the parking lot, trying to attract attention and get other residents involved, that I was finally told to just go paint her door to shut her up. I haven’t wanted to do a job less in my life.

All was quiet after that, though. Painting her door seemed to have appeased her.

For about 2 weeks.

Now, I had already known that after that whole door fiasco we hadn’t heard the last of her. Call it a gut feeling. She just seemed rather…no…extremely unhinged and if she could get that wound up over a door, I could only imagine what would happen the next time something ruffled her entitled feathers.

Believe me, she didn’t disappoint either.

This past Tuesday, as I was engrossed in a new painting assignment, I heard such loud yelling outside that I assumed the closed windows in the apartment had suddenly turned into paper.

So I, being nosier than the cat that curiosity killed, went outside to investigate. I dialed my husband in the office as I went to let him know that a fight was ensuing somewhere on property. He assured me that he already knew and was about to come handle the situation.

The source of the yelling was coming from 2 buildings away. Miss Entitled was yelling obscenities at another woman in the breezeway and repeatedly screaming, “I want my money, I want my money.” So, naturally, I had assumed that this whole argument started over borrowed cash that hadn’t been paid back yet.

Wrong.

Apparently her very loud demand was aimed at my husband, who had still not come out of the office, but she was screaming these words at her neighbor across the hall.

You see, her mother had paid her rent several months in advance and Miss Entitled now wanted a refund so that she could move out. She wanted to leave because her neighbor had ticked her off. Given her recent history of unreasonable anger though, I wasn’t surprised that she was on the outs with her neighbor.

To get the full impact of the ridiculousness of the situation, though, I’ll need to backtrack to the previous Sunday when the fight had originally started. The following information was given to me by my husband as he received it from witnesses in the building and the innocent party that was involved:

Her neighbor went to start her car that day only to find that her battery was dead. So, she knocked on Miss Entitled’s door and asked if she would be willing to give her a jump start. Miss Entitled proceeded to launch herself into a fit of rage over the request. Her neighbor slowly backed away and said, “Nevermind. It’s fine. I can ask someone else to do it.”

It didn’t end there, though. Miss Entitled was relentless and started waging a half-crazed war against her neighbor that resulted in her wielding a knife and threatening to kill her, her kids, and her boyfriend. Her neighbor naturally called the police and was holed up in her apartment out of fear until they arrived, which was just in time to find Miss Entitled out in the parking lot attempting to slash her neighbor’s car tires with the knife that she was brandishing.

Miss entitled was arrested, and spent the next 24 hours in county lock-up. I had heard that her mother had paid her bond, which must have been true because here she was again, right back at it.

I couldn’t make out every word that she was screaming at her neighbor because a lot of it just didn’t make sense, but I’m pretty sure more death threats were wedged in among the stream of continuous profanity.

All of the sudden, I saw her neighbor come flying across the hallway with catlike swiftness and arms flailing so wildly that it looked like she had stumbled into a swarm of bees.

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For the next 3 minutes or so, all I saw was a blur of weave and 3 inch nails. I have to admit, I was highly entertained. If I were a betting woman, my money would have been on the neighbor.

I called my husband back and said, “You’d better get a move on. Things just turned physical.”

He came rushing out the door and yelled to his maintenance man across the parking lot to call the cops and come help him break it up.

His maintenance man was already one step ahead of him, though, and the cops were on their way.

When the 2 were finally separated, Miss Entitled came crawling out of the breezeway, most of her weave dangling off her head by the few strands that didn’t get pulled out, yowling like a cat in heat and screaming “Owwww! Ouch! Owwww!” at the top of her lungs to try and elicit sympathy from the parking lot full of onlookers that were now gathered to witness the event.

I have never seen such a pathetic display of drama in my life. It was clear that she was nowhere near injured except for maybe her pride, but she carried on as if every bone in her body had been broken.

It was about that time that it was made known that the police were on their way, which resulted in Miss Entitled switching gears and now walking around the parking lot yelling, “I ain’t goin’ back to jail. I just got out. I ain’t goin’ back!” I remained the innocent bystander, of course, but I wanted to yell back at her, “Then stop doing stupid stuff!”

I half expected her to take off knowing that the police were now en-route, but she stuck around and stood her ground on the false assumption that her neighbor would be the one being hauled away this time because she had thrown the first punch.

She spent the remainder of her time in my husband’s face screaming, “I want my money!” again until the cops came.

When the police finally showed up and got the story from the parties involved and several witnesses, they cuffed Miss Entitled and loaded her up in the cruiser again to the tune of her admonitions that it should be her adversary in the cuffs instead of her.

They booked her again on harassment charges though, and deemed that her neighbor was merely exhibiting self-defense because she, her children, and her family were once again being threatened by Miss Entitled.

She was released on bond paid yet again by her mother, (I’m seeing a pattern emerge with this entitled behavior here) and my husband received a call that night from the after-hours emergency service, informing him that she didn’t have her keys to get into her apartment. After asking the service to let her know that it was a $20 charge to go unlock her door, (as stated in the lease) he never heard back from her again that night.

The next day I showed up to work to find her back at it a third time. She was stomping back and forth between the office and her neighbor’s apartment, beating on her neighbor’s windows, screaming obscenities and calling her colorful names. I even shot some video on my phone of her carrying on. Fortunately, her neighbor wasn’t even home this time, though.

Come to find out, the night before, her apartment door had been kicked in and her TV was stolen.

This somehow became my husband’s fault, too, as she stood out on the sidewalk cursing his name at the top of her lungs, and screeching the accusation that he worked together with her neighbor to break in and steal her TV. Somehow the price of the TV went up with each accusation she hurled, too, until she decided that $2000 dollars was a reasonable price that my husband owed her for the 50 inch flat screen Wal-Mart special that everyone already knew her boyfriend broke in and took the night before.

We’re all fairly certain that she herself even orchestrated the theft. She was just trying to cause another scene now for whatever reason. Maybe somewhere in her delusional mind she actually though that she’d receive some sort of settlement cash from the office for her missing TV.

She was more or less told to take her complaints elsewhere by the Assistant Manager, though. She then busted out a window of a different neighboring apartment in her anger, and that’s when the police were called. Again.

They didn’t book her this time, though, probably because they were just as sick of listening to her as we all were, so they told my husband to just hand her walking papers right then and there.

The usual procedure is that he gives problem residents like this is a 7 day notice “without opportunity to cure”. This basically means they have 7 days to pack up their crap and be gone and there’s nothing that they can say or do about it, or else he starts eviction proceedings that will go on their permanent rental history. They’ll then be lucky to have anyone rent to them again if it goes to eviction.

However given the recent antics of this off-the-rails ghetto princess, the police told him to make an exception. He gave her written notice that she had until the end of the business day to get a U-haul and go.

So she did; relatively quietly, too, much to our shock. We all stood and waved goodbye with smiles on our faces as she and her U-haul drove off that afternoon. I did a little happy dance and went back to work.

My husband had 5 different residents come in and thank him for her removal that afternoon.

She hadn’t made any friends during her less than 2 month stay in the hood it seems.

I still wish her best of luck, though, and some much needed medication wherever she goes.

Tales From the Thrift Store: Chapter Closed

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A few weeks ago I made a tough decision, but it was one that needed to be made for the sake of my own sanity.

I asked a group of ladies at church if they would be willing to take over the thrift store for me.

They accepted the challenge, and I passed the torch off to them. This will now be the second week in a row that I am thrift store free.

The day I packed up my personal effects and took one last look around the place was a bittersweet day for me. I was relieved to get my weekends back and rid myself of some of the stress of taking on too much, but sad to see it go nonetheless. My daughter and I had set everything up and gotten it running ourselves. We built the clothing racks, moved in all the shelving systems, organized and priced it all, and maintained it for a little over a year and a half. I had a lot of hard work and time invested in it, and it was like a baby to me. I shed a few tears as I said goodbye.

You see, In addition to trying to keep my house in order (being a neat freak is hard when you’re already exhausted), and have a little extra time to write and, well…breathe, I was essentially working 3 jobs and it wasn’t working out well for me. I was painting apartments Monday through Thursday, teaching my art class on Tuesdays (which I needed time to pick up supplies and prepare a project for), and then running the store on Fridays and Saturdays. More often than not I was finding myself having to leave an apartment unfinished over the weekend to go off and run the store.

I was admittedly spreading myself too thin, so something had to change. I weighed my options and decided that the store would be the easiest job to let go of because it was the one that wasn’t bringing in any much needed income.

I had waived off any offers of a paycheck when I opened up shop for the church in February of 2012. I just couldn’t, in good conscience, take money from them when they were already struggling to make ends meet because we had to close our daycare in November the year prior. The daycare had been sustaining the church for many years, but with the economy being what it was, we had started losing money. So we closed the daycare doors and it was suggested that I start a thrift store, because I had already been doing bi-monthly rummage sales with a decent amount of success.

Running the store was basically volunteer work that I was doing for my church. I wasn’t being paid, but my kids were being kept in clothing that fit, so I considered it a fair trade.

I loved the work despite the lack of a paycheck. I loved to help the homeless with a fresh change of clothes and food during the busy summer months.

I had regular customers that I will miss a lot, too. Like deaf Dave, with his wild animations and loud noises. My daughter would lean over to me and whisper, “He scares me” every time Dave would come in. I’d say, “Who? Dave? I like him. He doesn’t know he’s being loud. He can’t hear himself. Why are you whispering, anyway?”

I’ll also miss that 85 year old guy that buzzes through the parking lot every single day with a shopping cart. He wears an Australian style hat with a feather in it. I like his hat. He moves pretty fast for 85, too. I knew he was that age because he stopped and talked to me once while I was sweeping out the entryway. “You want some wine?” he asked as he offered me a swig from his paper bag. “No thank you,” I replied. “Do you know Chico? He’s my son. He’s a chef. Do you know Chico?” he asked as he beamed with pride. “No, I’m afraid I don’t know Chico.” He then rambled on about his life, age, and of course, Chico for a few more minutes before making his departure. I would smile and wave from across the parking lot every time I saw him after that. I just love the elderly. They’re so entertaining.

I’ll also miss the crazy antics of those that inspired my “Tales from the Thrift Store” stories. They supplied me with some great writing material. I’ll miss writing the tales almost as much as I’ll miss the store.

As this chapter of my life and the tales that came with it close, though, another chapter is opening. There’s plenty of crazy stuff that goes on at the apartment complex that I paint for during the week to fill and entire book. Maybe I’ll write one someday. For now just stay tuned for the next dose of insanity inspired by a fresh batch of unhinged people:

Happenings in the Hood.

It’s a Man’s Job So Some Woman’s Gotta Do It

1175005_608687255820204_1173494709_nI always thought that gender stereotyping was a thing of the past. I mean come on; the women’s lib and feminist movement has been huge and only grows stronger with each passing decade since what…the late 70’s? Sure, we don’t burn our bras in protest anymore, but we’re living in a day and age where mothers raise their daughters to firmly believe that they can be and do anything in this wide, wild world if they just set their minds to it.

I wasn’t necessarily raised as one of those women; the ones that are encouraged to get out there and grab life by the short and curlies. I can’t recall a time when I was ever told, “Honey, you can do anything that a man can do. Go get ‘em, girl.” As a matter of fact, in my household, there was a distinct gender division in that there were mom chores and dad chores. I haven’t seen my dad wash a dish, touch a vacuum (unless it needed fixing), or do a load of laundry in all my 39 years on this planet. In turn, though, I’ve never seen my mom fix a fence, install an in-ground sprinkler system, fire up the grill, or hop on the riding mower. My parents have always had their gender specific roles firmly in place, and it works for them.

Yet no one ever told me it was entirely a man’s world, either. I grew up blissfully oblivious to any knowledge that there might actually be a distinct difference in the career paths that males and females are expected to follow. People were just that to me; people. I had never truly thought that having breasts made any woman less of a man.

Flashdance paved the way for this line of thinking. Jennifer Beals starred as Alex Owens, a welder in a steel mill by day and an exotic dancer by night. You can’t blur the line dividing what is or at least what was perceived to be two completely gender-based roles in the workplace much more than that, right? Women had come far enough by that time that they could wear a hard hat or a welding mask without anyone giving it a second thought. At least it made sense in my mind that things had become that way.

So at 18, fresh out of high school, I found myself working on an assembly line in a fire alarm factory. To me, it was a job, plain and simple. I helped build and create. I operated heavy machinery.  I learned to work a soldering iron until I became so adept at what I was doing that the job required little to no thought on my part. I was clearly doing what probably would have made every member of our once gender divided society elicit a collective gasp 50 years prior. Yes, we had definitely come a long way. Or had we?

After 10 years of factory work, I moved out of state. I eased into the role of what was once expected of a woman; being a stay at home mother and housewife while the man of the house shuffled off to his 9 to 5. These days, though, no one even bats an eyelash at those roles being reversed. A man sitting at home changing diapers and watching soap operas while the lady of the house heads out the door with briefcase in hand isn’t all that unheard of anymore. That line hasn’t just been blurred; it seems to have been erased altogether with the turn of the century.

In many households now, though, the male and female adults both have to work, and with the economy having taken a dump, this soon became the way it had to be in ours.

So, I found myself unable to continue sitting on my fat duff eating potato chips, drinking Mountain Dew, and watching Netflix all day while my husband went out and brought home the bacon. It was time for me to either rejoin the workforce or go hungry.

Fortunately, though, I didn’t have to look far for a job. My husband is a property manager with plenty of work opportunities around the 96 unit complex that he runs for a guy to make money. This guy started painting apartments for him a little over 3 years ago.

So, among the many titles that I already held, such as Mother, Wife, Lover, Homemaker, Bunny (my husband’s pet name for me, don’t judge) Superwoman, and God’s Gift to Mankind (too far you think?), I also now held a new title; Commercial Painter.

I quickly found that I was amazing at this new venture. Maybe it’s the artist and perfectionist in me, or maybe I’m just a natural, but either way, the apartments that I paint look far better than the rest and are rented out at a much quicker rate. Potential renters will even comment on the amazing paint job when they view a finished apartment, and my husband will beam with pride as he explains that it’s his wife’s handiwork that they are seeing.

I leave work every day a complete mess, though. There will be paint in my hair, on the backs of my arms and legs, and all over my clothes. Rather than ruin every t-shirt and pair of shorts or sweatpants that I own with paint splatter, I simply reuse the same 5 or so shirts and pairs of pants until they either get holes in them or are so caked with paint that they’re stiff enough to stand up on their own. Even then, whether or not they get retired to the trash can is debatable. It is, however, safe to say that I’m never a totally gorgeous sight after a long hard day of painting.

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Once in a while after work, I’ll need to make a quick run to the store or my husband and I will stop for a bite to eat at a fast food place or even an extremely casual sit down place like Denny’s. I’ll enter these public places amidst the stares, glares, and disgusted looks from other patrons and think to myself, “What? It’s just paint people.” Then I’ll hang my head in shame, and silently wonder if I should maybe think about retiring the work clothes that I’m currently wearing and opt to destroy something else in my closet.

Recently, though, when I was out and about running errands, I came across a couple of guys in paint spattered work clothes walking through one of the stores that I had stopped at. I smiled a knowing smile at them. These were my brothers in battle. My kindred. They, however, had something that I didn’t:

Man parts.

I realized the full impact of that fact when I looked around and saw that no one in the place gave these guys in all of their paint smeared glory a second thought. They were just a couple of men in their work clothes; the same work clothes that I often wear as people stare and glare in my direction everywhere that I go.

Why did it matter that they were men and I wasn’t? Did people automatically assume that these guys could accomplish a task better than I could because what we do for a living is somehow predetermined by society to be “man’s work”?

Then it hit me. Apparently we haven’t come as far in this equal rights day and age as I had assumed. Gender stereotyping is still alive and well. I get “the look” because many people’s one-track minds aren’t completely ready to give in to the idea of a woman doing a man’s job.

So in protest to this injustice, I’m not going to wear makeup. I’m not going to get my hair done. I’m not going get a manicure or a pedicure. I’ll walk around in shorts and a t-shirt. I might not even shave my legs for a while.

In other words, nothing’s going to change.

Still, though, I am WOman.

You won’t hear me roar, but you might see me steal your job.

A Ray of Artshine

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So, after wracking my brain to come up with a fun, low budget idea for my art class tomorrow, I came up with this. My mom made something similar many years ago and I sort of stole her idea.

You simply cut paper plates in half and paint them whatever color you like. Once they dry, hot glue them in a circular fan pattern. Then paint an uncut paper plate and hot glue it in the center. You can draw or paint a face on the center plate if you like, or leave it plain. Then attach a piece of yarn to the back and you have a super cute and creative wall decoration.

Not only was it an inexpensive project because the paints only cost 57 cents a bottle at Wal Mart, and the only other materials needed are paper plates and glue, but it’s also a great lesson in color mixing for the kids. I intend to supply them with only the primary colors plus white and black, and they will need to mix them to create oranges or purples or whatever colors they decide on.

Hopefully they’ll have fun with it.

Tales From The Thrift Store: Carnival of Chaos

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It was just your typical Saturday in Ghettoville, and things were rather slow at the store. So I was off elsewhere in the building doing what Super Heroes do; sweeping up dead cockroaches in the pantry while I microwaved a breakfast burrito.

I peeked around the corner and then did this ninja-flip, Chuck Norris style kick move across the kitchen. The remaining roaches scattered. “And don’t come back.” I said firmly with a nod, fully satisfied with myself for a job well done. I then slid slowly up to the window in the swinging kitchen door to spy on any potential crime going down in the cafeteria. All was quiet.

Until around 11:45 a.m., that is. That’s when all hell broke loose at your local neighborhood Baptist Church.

Now, before I get to this installment of crazy, I need to explain what went down last year around this time.

You see, I used to keep several chairs and a coffee table that I was trying to sell near the thrift shop door, and each day after I rolled the big door up, I would pull them into the entry area in an effort to get them noticed and potentially sold faster.

This became problematic when the local area homeless, who I, of course, didn’t mind coming in to see me for food and a change of clothes, started to view this as an invitation to hang out for most of the day; smoking, eating, drinking beer, cursing profusely, and fighting with one another. It was like an episode of ‘The 3 Stooges’ meets an episode of ‘Cops.’ For the first time ever, I had to throw people out on a regular basis. This didn’t always go well. I am not, after all, fit to be a bouncer. There are mosquitos that are tougher than I am.

So, to alleviate this problem, I planned to do some rearranging when I got the chance. Okay, fine; when I wasn’t feeling lazier than a blood gorged tick on a dog’s rear end. This rearranging was going to entail moving the chairs and tables to the back of the store. It was a big job. Might have taken me all of 5 minutes if I applied myself.

It was the day that the “Jacksonville Caribbean Parade and Festival” happened, that ultimately pushed me over the edge enough to finally put that decision into effect, though.

The day started like any other warm, humid Florida day. I had opened up shop and set my tables and chairs in the doorway.

As I straightened up around the place, 2 guys carrying huge tin foil trays came in and said they had a food delivery for some lady that I had never even heard of. I assured them that they had the wrong address. They argued that this was where they were told to bring their delivery.

We went back and forth in that manner for a couple more minutes. I finally did a little air karate move that made them nervous. They high-tailed it back out to their van as they made a confirmation call on their cell phone.  They then decided to just sit in their van in the parking lot for the next 20 minutes. I monitored the situation and wondered if they would eventually leave. They might be some of my crazed stalker fans. They could have just come right out and asked me for an autograph. No need to beat around the bush…

About 30 minutes later, a couple of young ladies came along with bags that they proceeded to plop down onto the coffee table in the doorway. They then settled themselves into the chairs that I had set up there. They pulled wigs, weave, and face paint out of the bags, and started doing each other’s hair and makeup like they were in the dressing room of some low budget Las Vegas Showgirl Review. I stared at them quizzically. They didn’t even glance in my direction. As far as they were concerned, I wasn’t there. They were joined a few minutes later by a couple more ladies that started doing the same.

It was then that I noticed all of the vehicles now parked down at the far end of the parking lot. I peeked around the corner. Much to my surprise, people were setting up a tent and chairs in front of the side entrance to our building. I, being a very non confrontation person… okay, chicken… a big, fat, hide under the coop like I just saw a fox, chicken… had to man up and go find out what was going on. So I slid past the women in the doorway who apparently thought ‘Thrift Store’ now meant ‘Salon’, and went down to try and find the person in charge.

Upon asking around a bit, I found out that they were setting up for a parade. Some Caribbean thing that would leave the parking lot at 1p.m, and travel down the street to a place where they were hosting activities and entertainment afterward.

Well then. I assumed at this point that they had maybe talked to our Pastor or Administrator, or someone that had given them the green light on using our property to set up for this event, and that person had just failed to let me know. Yep, that had to be it. So, I contacted my Pastor in an effort to clear things up.

He had no idea who they were or what was going on, either. They had never called for permission to use our property.

By this time, the parking lot was starting to fill up; a couple of large trucks with speakers on the back, some vehicles with bass thumping music that was so loud it drowned out the sound of the radio that I keep on in the store, and people with tailgates open passing out food. I went to try and find someone in charge again and was rerouted several times until I finally found someone that, while not the “head cheese” of this operation, was at least able to function as a liaison.

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I put her on the phone with Pastor. She assured him that this whole set up was merely a “children’s parade”, and that they would all be off the premises by 1 that afternoon. That, folks, was a big, fat, stinky, steaming pile of lie.

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Since they had convinced him that it was a children’s parade, however, and since they vowed to be gone within the next hour, my Pastor agreed to allow them use of the parking lot to set up. THE PARKING LOT.

Things went south pretty quickly. The handful of people loitering in the thrift-store-turned-salon doorway quickly doubled. They started asking to use the restroom. Seemed harmless enough, right? Plus, as you may already know, I have a problem saying no. I’m a floor mat to the point that there’s permanent footprints across my backside.

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Little did I know that the restroom had been converted into their own personal dressing room until I saw the first of the barely covered, glitter-coated females come back through the store. I did a double take and tried to process what I was seeing.  I reasoned that maybe they were making another Twilight movie and I had just warped onto the set. “Twilight VI: Bella’s Gone Wild” or some such nonsense.

They were in a church, but they obviously either didn’t realize it, or didn’t care.

Customers wouldn’t even pull into the crowded parking lot to shop, and the ONE that did, gave a disgusted huff and made a hasty exit when one of the stripper wanna be’s pranced through the store. Not to mention, they had starting pulling the store chairs that I was trying to sell all over the place. A couple of them had been drug halfway across the parking lot.

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They finally got their show on the road at about 1:30. The mess they left behind in the bathrooms was like the aftermath of an explosion at Hobby Lobby. There was glitter and feathers everywhere. The sinks were caked with makeup and stray weave.

These people that hadn’t even asked for permission to be here in the first place, just showed up and left me with a huge mess. Was I being punked? I peeked around the corner to see if Ashton Kutcher was standing there laughing.

To top it all off, “gone by one” apparently hadn’t included their vehicles. They took up all of my customer parking. I really had no choice but to just close up for the day at that point. So I did, and took the next hour afterward to clean up the mess that they had left behind.

Pastor wasn’t happy when he found out that they had lied to him, and when all of their vehicles were still sitting there in the parking lot that night, he got into contact with someone in charge and firmly requested that they be removed.

And that was it.

I had thought that whole mess was just a distant memory.

Until today.

When I saw the truck with big speakers pull into the parking lot and start setting up, and a young lady with a glittery bra in her hand came around the corner and asked if she could use the restroom, I froze.

Oh no. No no no no no. I’m not going through this again.

So I called my husband.

“Do you know anything about these people having permission to be here this year?” I asked.

“I highly doubt it. Call the cops.” He replied.

Now, revert back to the part where I said I’m a huge, non-confrontational chicken. I really didn’t want to call the cops. I honestly didn’t want to deal with the situation again at all this year. I mean seriously. Again? They were gonna pull this…this taking over the place without permission stunt again?!

So I went and talked to one of the ladies that was helping hook up speakers on the bed of one of the trucks.

“Setting up for the Caribbean Parade?” I asked.

“Yes ma’am.”

“You know, you don’t have permission to be here right?”

“We don’t? Let me call the facilitator and find out what’s going on.”

She played dumb after she got off the phone.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I’m from out of town.”

“There’s a vacant lot right across the street. Ya’ll can’t move over there?” I asked

“No, we need to be on this side of the street.”

I was clearly going to get nowhere so I went back inside. The situation wasn’t out of hand like last year… yet. There were only 4 vehicles in the lot so far. No tents were set up, and no half naked people were running around the store or flopped in various chairs playing beauty parlor.

My husband kept urging me to call the police, and I kept stalling and making excuses. Then, a cop car pulled into the parking lot with lights flashing. Good, I thought. Either my hubby or Pastor must have done the dirty deed for me.

I peered out the window behind the desk and waited for the police man or woman to step out of the vehicle and handle the situation. And I waited. And waited. Nothing was happening. Then, while that nothing was happening, more people were starting to arrive. A truck pulling a flatbed trailer with huge speakers on it had pulled in and parked across the middle of the lot. Barely clothed, glittered and feathered women were pouring out of vehicles. Bass was bumping and drowning out my store music once again.

So, I heaved a sigh and headed toward the police car. The officer rolled down his window as I approached.

“Let me guess. Escorting the parade?” I asked.

“Yes ma’am, I am,” was his reply.

“Well, I just wanted to let you know that these people don’t have permission to be here again this year, and they hadn’t asked permission before just showing up and using our facilities last year, either.”

“Well, I haven’t heard anything about that,” was his reply. “You’ll either have to talk to their facilitator and clear it up, or talk to Officer Grant who will be arriving soon.”

I said, “Look. Last year, they came in and ran my customers off and created a huge mess for me in there. We really don’t want them here.”

He suggested that I just go close the store to keep them out while they set up. Seriously? Helpful much? Welcome to Jacksonville.

He then pointed out Officer Grant arriving on scene, and suggested once again that I go talk to her…and so I did. She was very understanding and even looked slightly horrified that they had never bothered to call and get permission first. Finally, I’m getting somewhere.

She assured me that the entire entourage would be moved out to the street right away, but as she started to herd them out, they started multiplying like rabbits. I don’t think she ever fully got them all out of the lot before the parade started.

I was grateful for the effort on her part, though, and grateful that I didn’t have to keep dealing with them wanting to come in and trash the bathrooms to get ready. Or so I thought.

After their glittery bodies, clad in less material then I usually see covering folks at the beach, shuffled off down the road to the beat of the island music thumping through several sets of enormous speakers, I heaved a sigh of relief and headed off to use the restroom. I had been holding it for so long at that point that my teeth were starting to float.

When I got there, I found that the decorative candles had been knocked off the shelves and were now laying on the floor, along with glitter, feathers, and an empty panty-hose package. There was makeup smeared all over the sink. Apparently, some of them had snuck in while I was out trying to get the police to handle the situation.

I huffed irritably and went to find the broom.

At least all was quiet until closing after that.

I closed 15 minutes early anyway, and went home to nurse my throbbing headache.

I hope that the Caribbean crew at least learned a lesson in asking permission first this year, but I doubt it.

Until next time, readers: stay clothed.

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Tales From The Thrift Store: A Member in the Hand is Worth a Guy in the Bush

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As I, Superhero Thrift Store Manager, arrived in Ghettoville Friday morning at 10 a.m. to open up as usual, I happened to glance off to my right and see something curious in the bushes. This was just after I finished cutting through the front door lock with my laser heat vision. Okay, okay, fine. You got me. I only turned the key. I did notice something off to the right that caught my attention, though.

Back in the corner, behind a series of bushes, I saw what appeared to be…a human head. It’s okay to freak out at this point. I did. Screamed like a girl and peed myself a little. Upon further investigation, though, the head happened to be attached to a body, and this body happened to be passed out across the top of a sleeping bag.

Yes, it was what it looked like. A squatter was camped out in our church shrubbery, clearly loitering, trespassing, and well…judging by the mess of trash that lay around him, littering, too.

So, I did what any red-blooded American would have done when faced with such a situation. I called the local law enforc…

Oh, come on. No I didn’t. I run a charity here. I went inside, grabbed a couple of bottled waters, a pop top can of ravioli, 3 Slim Jims, a Nutri Grain Bar, and went back out to rouse sleeping beauty. No kisses were doled out in this version of the story, though. I’m not THAT charitable.

He was a skinny Mexican gentleman. Or maybe Puerto Rican, I don’t know. I’m bad with nationalities. I once thought Michael Jackson was black. All I know is that this guy was maybe 5’7, dark haired, brown skinned, mustachioed, and weighed about 95 pounds soaking wet. He had his shirt and shoes off and was lying on his back across the top of his navy blue sleep sack, with his hand crammed firmly down the front of his pants and a death grip on his manhood.

I puzzled at his chosen slumber position for a moment before waking him. Was that for protection against any knife wielding maniacs that might happen upon him asleep there in the bushes, or was he merely having a pleasant dream? I gave a whistle to try and rouse him. He didn’t stir. Heavy sleeper, this guy. I yelled, “Good morning. Hey. Hello.” Loud enough that his bloodshot eyes finally started to open at a pace slow enough that one would have thought they were stuffed with peanut butter.

Now, you can call me stupid for approaching a sleeping homeless man all alone, but I think we’ve already established previously that I’m not always in the habit of thinking things through. Where others see danger, I simply see opportunities for charity. Yes, it may get me killed one day, but no one lives forever. If I’m going to go, I may as well go out giving.

Anyway, imagine his surprise when he opened his eyes to find a short, fat, white woman hovering over him. He quickly released his member, yanked his hand out of his pants, and proceeded to rub it across his sleep palsied face. Yeah. Eww. I caught the hint of panic in his suddenly fully awake and animated movements, so I said, “Whoa, whoa. It’s okay. I’m not about to call the police. We already knew you were back here.” Which was the truth, we did. Well, not him specifically, of course. One of our Deacons had discovered his belongings in the bushes a couple of weeks prior, and was going to speak with whomever the items belonged to about the litter around the little hidden campsite.  He never showed up that day, though, so that conversation was never had.

I handed him the food that I had brought him and said, “Here’s something for you to eat and some bottled water. You’re alright. Please, just clean up your litter, okay? If you want, you can come see me in the thrift store and help yourself to a change of clothes.” He responded with, “Okay. Thank you.”

He never came in to see me, and made himself scarce for the rest of the day.

So I went about my business parked lazily behind the thrift store desk, laptop open in front of me. Hey, I have no internet at the store, so writing is what I do to wile away the hours.

An hour or so after opening, a woman of about 70 came into the store to peruse the discount fodder. She was about my height, 5’2, with a chunky build, shoulder length white hair pulled back by a headband, stretchy black yoga pants, a grey t-shirt with the name of some charity foundation on it, a Rasta colored bracelet, funky beaded necklace, and tennis shoes. I looked down at my own stretchy black yoga pants, t-shirt, and tennis shoes, and back up at the lady who smiled at me from the back of the store. It was like I was looking into some crazy time lapse mirror. When she turned away, I elbowed my daughter and said, “I think I just caught a glimpse of my future.” She agreed that she had been thinking something along those lines, too. I gave a nervous laugh.

I went back to pecking at the keyboard with all the swiftness of a dying tortoise.

Then, later that afternoon, Queen Sneezy came in. I have never in my life heard a person sneeze that many times in a row. I stopped saying, “bless you” after about the 15th one. My daughter swears she lost count after 40. I was wondering if I was going to have to call the paramedics. If I did have to, what would I tell them? “Yeah. I have this lady here sneezing herself to death. Mouth to mouth? I don’t think so.”

I think the whole thing was Ray’s fault. Ray Darr. The world’s worst excuse for a pet rabbit. Now he’s trying to kill people with his dirty rabbit dander. We recently found out that he’s just a baby bunny because his little…okay enormous rabbit jewels finally dropped. We’re all still puzzling over that one. How could he be a baby when he’s bigger than some of the Great Danes in the neighborhood? Seriously. The earth shakes when this guy hops.

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See? This is what happens when we bring Ray to the store. He tries to kill people.

Anyway, that about sums up my Friday in the land of crazy.

Stay tuned for Saturday’s tales of Insanity.

Until next time, readers…stay out of the bushes.

Happenings in the Hood: Entitled Much?

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So there I was, still painting at 8:30 at night when I normally wrap up my work day no later than 6. There was a rush on this particular apartment, however. It needed to be move-in ready by tomorrow morning, so that meant a full day of getting to know brushes and rollers on a deeply personal level. I got a few phone numbers and a date next Tuesday.

Anyway, I was diligently plugging away at the last room that needed to be finished, the bathroom, so I could clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I had just started thinking about rounding up some of the roaches so we could break into a can-can chorus line number and toss some confetti, when I heard a snarly, snappy voice come through the open kitchen window like a dark cloud rolling in to ruin my sunny day.

“Hey. You. Come here.”

I turned to peer through the bathroom doorway toward the kitchen at the perfect stranger that had just brazenly barked an order at me that I wouldn’t even tolerate from my immediate family.

There, at the open window, stood a dark skinned woman of about my height (short enough to walk under the bottom rung of a ladder without having to duck, in other words) possibly in her mid to late twenties, wearing nothing but a tiny bikini top, shower cap, and cut off shorts so small and tight that I could see pink…and curlies. She stabbed an angry finger at me, and reiterated her command.

“Yeah. you. Come here a minute.”

My first instinct was to place the hand that wasn’t currently holding a paintbrush on my hip, raise one eyebrow at her, and rather irritably say, “Excuse me?”  Being the non-confrontational person that I am, however, I put down my brush, wiped my paint smeared hands across the front of my t-shirt, and proceeded to take the dozen or so steps from bathroom to kitchen.

“Yes ma’am. What can I do for you?” I asked.

“Yeah. I live next door. I want my bedroom door painted. It’s just plain wood, but I want it painted. I pay to live here, so I paid good money for it to be painted, and it aint.”

Now… not only am I already there 2 and a half hours after my normal work day, busting hump to try and get this job finished, but I am contracted by the job.  I don’t blow my nose because a resident asked me to without clearing it with hubby-manager guy first.

Then there’s the other problem with her request; we normally don’t paint the doors to which she’s referring if they aren’t already white to begin with. They look quite nice in their natural wood color, so they don’t need to be painted. They shouldn’t be painted. She wishes to ruin a perfectly nice door.

So I actually had to suppress my laughter at this woman that is all but snapping her fingers at me wanting me to step away from the job that I’ve already stayed late to finish, and go paint her bedroom door. Right now. At 8:30 at night. When most people are…oh I don’t know…at home in their jammies shoving fistfuls of popcorn into their faces while they watch some over-hyped reality show.

Even were I able to decide to take on the task myself, there’s no way on earth I’d have tackled that junk that late, and I was fairly put off that Princess Demanding-pants was expecting me to.  I was tired. My feet were killing me. A hot shower sounded be more appealing than a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Never mind, let’s not go that far.

I wanted to snap back with some snarky comment hurled at her in the same tone with which she was addressing me, but that’s just not who I am. I’m usually a doormat to the point that welcome will regularly appear in big letters across my forehead.

So, I responded with, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to put in a work order for that tomorrow when the office is open, and then I’d be happy to do that for you.”

“No. I tried that before and it dint get done. I need it painted.”

She needs it painted?

What she needs is a lesson in manners.

“Well, I really can’t do that without permission, but the office opens at 8 and you’re welcome to…”

She grunted and mumbled something under her breath as she stomped away. I’m pretty sure I caught an expletive or 2 and quite possibly the “B” word somewhere in there.

I grabbed my brush and went back to work. I wanted to get out of there now more than ever.

I stewed over the encounter for a few more minutes as I wrapped up for the day.

I’ve seen small children behave with more tact.

I thought to myself, “What a pleasant woman, and what a fitting end to an already delightful day.”

I shouldn’t really be shocked, though. I’ve learned to expect nothing less out of many of my fellow Americans over the course of my lifetime.

Welcome to the land of the free, and the home of the entitled.

Salute.

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