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.

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.

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.

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.