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I was off work the other day, so of course I had to go into The Store. It is, in fact, my goal to spend every single day of my existence at that place, no matter how much I loathe it. I’m talking with my wife on the phone. She’s giving me a list of things to buy: eggs, bread, cheese. That sort of thing. And then the following exchange took place.

Wife: “…oh, and get a gallon of milk.”

Me: “Okay… is that all?”

Wife: “Make sure you buy the latest date.”

Me: “What?”

Wife: “Umm… make sure you check the dates on the milk and find one that –”

Me: “I know how to buy milk!”

Wife (laughing): “I know…”

Me: “We work in a grocery store!

Seriously. For a dozen years, I’ve worked in the grocery business, and I’m quite familiar with the concept of putting the freshest milk in the back of the case. They stock it from the back. Not that everyone doesn’t know this, already. You always see people digging through the milk looking for that one gallon that has an expiration date that lies 2 or 3 months into the future, when the rest of the surrounding vile plebeians will have to contend with their milk going out of date a mere 24 hours after they buy it.

You’ll notice I didn’t say, “go bad”. I believe milk is already bad when you first buy it. It was never that great of a drink to begin with. And even though I don’t agree with this particular liquid being used as anything more than an ingredient, I do know, for the love of God, how to buy the freshest milk.

I’ve spent the last 6 years struggling to convince my wife that I do, after all, know how things work.

So, I’ve got my items, and I’m proceeding towards the self-checkout machines. I get in line behind a large man and his wife who start checking out their order. When he is finished and ready to pay, he starts rummaging around in his pocket with a frown on his face. He turns to me.

“Hey man… you got seven cents I can borrow?”

Borrow? You are a complete stranger. Should I also give you a self-addressed stamped envelope so you can mail my seven cents back to me? I don’t like to carry change, but I instinctively put my hand into my pocket anyway, just to make it seem like I would give him seven cents if it weren’t for the fact that, sadly, I had no change at all —

Just then, to my shock and horror, coins rattled in my pocket. I was stuck now, and so retrieved the change from my jeans. Two quarters. Saved!

“Sorry, man. All I’ve got is a couple of quarters.” I said, the conversation being ended in my mind.

“Lemme see that quarter,” the man said, stretching out his hand toward my quarters. Then he added, “I don’t want to break a twenty.”

Confused, I closed my hand over the two coins. Break a twenty? This man had given me the impression that he was seven cents short on paying his bill, when this entire time he had a twenty dollar bill just waiting to be spent? I wanted to shout into this man’s face, “I have FIFTY CENTS! You have TWENTY DOLLARS!”

Instead, I did the honorable thing: I lied.

“Sorry man, I’ve got to… buy a soda.”

He grunted, broke his precious twenty, and left. I checked out my few items, and walked out the door. Then I saw them in the parking lot, still getting groceries packed into their car. They looked at me. Sighing to myself and rolling my eyes, I made a clumsy 90 degree turn and used my two quarters to purchase a Coke out of the machine.

I wasn’t even thirsty.

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There is not a word in the English language strong enough to fully encompass my utter loathing of Gamestop. I can’t stomach them. I can’t stand their upper management, their store management, their stupid employees, or anyone who has at any time willfully had anything to do with this chop-shop of video game retailers. This is one of the things that has been hard-wired into my DNA over the last few years. It is Pavlovian; mention Gamestop and my heart rate increases, the adrenaline flows, and I’m ready to bite someone’s head off. If I woke up tomorrow to find out that there were no more Gamestop stores anywhere on the face of the earth, not only would all life on the planet positively benefit, but then those storefronts could be used for something that had less of a negative impact on our culture; like a crack house.

I know this, logically. I understand this about myself. That’s why I have no idea what came over me the other day when we were at this unfamiliar mall and I spotted a Gamestop. In what could only be described as not only a lack of reasoning – but a full-on bout of temporary insanity – I turned to my wife and said, “Let’s go in here for a second.”

And God help me, we went in. Against every fiber of my being and my wife’s pleading. Perhaps it was the Gamecube I recently acquired. I wanted a cheap used game for it. I was getting to the end of Super Mario Sunshine, and my wife wanted something else that looked like a game she would watch me play. How could I turn that down?

So we went in, and we eventually settled on a copy of Luigi’s Mansion for $14.99. It was a rip-off, I know. This particular game had probably been sold by Gamestop already 3 or 4 times. But we were on vacation, dammit. Something weird happens when you are on vacation. You make bad decisions with money. Not that I’m justifying anything here.

Anyway, I take the game up to the counter, and pull out a twenty. The counter monkey rings up the game, and then pulls a different game package out from behind the counter. I notice this package has a price tag of $12.99 on it. The counter monkey quickly rips off the sticker and tells me “$15.89 with tax and everything”.

“Wait a minute,” I tell him, jokingly. “I saw the $12.99 sticker on it! You can’t fool me.”

“Yeah, well that one was behind the counter,” said the moron.

“Well…” I’m a bit confused now. For one thing, why would the price go up on a used game? “I think you should give me the game for $12.99, since you’re selling me the copy behind the counter.”

“Yeah well,” this asshole started getting that snarky, Gamestop Smirk on his face now. “We don’t change the prices of the games behind the counter.” I was getting angrier. My synapses started firing correctly and I was beginning to remember why I hated this place.

I blinked. “Why don’t you change the prices of the games behind the counter?” I asked.

Here’s the kicker: “‘Cause it’s like… a pain in the rear.”

I wanted to strangle this moron. Slowly.

“Why would you even increase the price on a used game?” I asked.

The moron shrugged his shoulders and just stood there. “That’s bullshit,” I said as I grabbed my money and walked out of the store.

Later, my wife told me, “If at any time in the future, for any reason whatsoever, you walk into a Gamestop ever again, I will physically drag you from the store.”

I love my wife.

Epilogue: I purchased the same used game on Amazon for $7.89 (plus $3.49 shipping) when I got home. And there was much singing and dancing. Screw Gamestop.

I was watching the Local News this morning, where the following conversation took place on television:

Desk Anchor: “So, Bill… looks like we are going to get some snow today, then?”

Weather Minion: “Yeah. How much snow we get depends on how much stuff falls out of the sky today.”

Really. And here I was assuming that the City came by with trucks and spread the snow all over the ground. I see those trucks driving around, spraying white stuff all over the road, and then I wake up the next day, and there is snow on the ground! I just assumed that was one of the many services we got with our tax dollars. You mean the stuff just falls out of the sky? For free?

* * *

I go into my job today expecting to work, which is actually out of the ordinary. There’s a Snow Scare. A big, nasty Alberta Clipper is coming. That’s one of those weather terms that become part of the common vernacular during weeks like this. Like when your co-worker gets called for Jury Duty and uses terms like “preponderance of evidence” and “ex parte” in normal conversations for the next six months.

I was not disappointed. I did, in fact, work my ass off today. I bagged groceries for a while. Back to my roots. I have not worked as a bagger in over 11 years. But let me tell you, I put some of these other kids to shame. I never lost the touch. I’m fast – and that’s important – but the one thing that sets me apart from any of the 16 year old morons putting your groceries in paper or plastic is that I treat the customer’s groceries like they are my own.

One lady asked me to help her out to her car. I only had my hoodie on, but I’m not going to make this woman wait while I run up to my office to get my coat and hat, so off I went. I followed this woman outside to her car – a gigantic Mercedes SUV.

“Put them in the back seat,” she said flatly, while opening the back door. I looked at her parking job. She was parked crookedly in this spot, and only about 8 inches from the car next to her. I could barely get myself between there, let alone this cart of groceries. Luckily, I was saved by her husband’s negligence.

“Oh shoot,” she frowned. “He has his… well, the back seat is out of the question then,” she stated, making a sweeping hand motion towards the back of the Mercedes. “Put them in the back, then.”

I opened the hatch on the back of the monstrosity, and began loading this huge order into this vehicular pornography. I could no longer feel my nose or cheeks. The woman got in the front seat and immediately started her car. So now I’m standing there – hands and face frozen – loading this woman’s fucking arugula into her $60,000 planet-killing piece of crap, all the while being heavily bombarded with exhaust fumes while she sits in her heated leather seat and turns the radio onto the Sean Hannity Show.

I went inside to get my heavy wool jacket, gloves, hat and muffler. Now fully protected from the cold, I went back outside. People came and went, hurried as ever. Mean as ever. Self-absorbed as ever. Honking at pedestrians to hurry across the street when they are in a heated luxury car, talking on their cell phone. Almost running into one another with their cars and carts. Yelling. Screaming. More honking. I don’t know why people overreact like this every time snow falls from the sky.

It’s not like they have to pay for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday morning is when our Ad Change happens. All of the crap that was on sale last week is no longer on sale, and I spend most of my morning putting up new little stickers on everything. Bleary-eyed and hours before dawn, I schlep up and down the grocery aisles and look for tiny little expiration dates printed in about 2 point font on each and every one of the quarter-million items in my store.

The good part of Sunday is that the Store is mostly deserted. There are employees milling around, changing displays, unloading trucks, stocking shelves. But very few customers. There are usually only two types of people who shopping in the Store that early in the morning; Idiots and Thieves.

The Idiots are those people who forgot that they don’t have any more diapers for their baby, and furthermore, that Pampers do not clean themselves out and are not reusable. The Idiots are those people who have stayed out all night causing trouble and driving under the influence, and decide that it would be really fun to go to the grocery store and stumble around, knocking over displays, while looking for Twinkies. The Idiots are annoying, bumbling miscreants, but at least they probably mean no harm.

The Thieves, on the other hand, are those assholes who get out of bed in the morning, with the sole intention of ripping you off. They are not in the Store to shop… they are in the Store to steal things from us, either by running out the door with it, or – my personal favourite – walking up and down the aisles behind me, waiting for me to miss one of the myriad expiration dates on these tiny little tags, just so they can run up front and get it free. They skulk up and down the aisles, just ahead of me, looking for signs and displays that will be wrong… but only until I get to them. They know they only have about a 20 minute window of time, because I’m right behind them. But I can’t simultaneously change every display that needs to be changed all at once. After all, I’m only one man.

Thieves look for display signs that have been taken down (but not destroyed) by the stock crew, and put them back on the wrong display. Thieves lurk near the Pepsi and Coke vendors, waiting… just waiting… to see if Pepsi builds a display of 12 packs ($2.99) under a huge signboard displaying “99ยข” that use to hang over Coke 2-Liters just minutes before. Thieves slink around displays for special promotions that ended last week, scrutinizing every square inch to see if there are any stray tags left on these products that would cause the item to ring up “wrong”.

I’ve always wanted to go up to one of these assholes and ask them where they work, just so I could follow them around at their job, waiting for them to screw up something so that I could take advantage of it.

Yesterday, I’m going about my business, pulling down expired tags and signs, when I see one of these assholes. I recognise him. He is here every week, looking for something wrong. He is lurking through the back of my store, around a large pallet of Coke 24 packs, stacked high and placed there temporarily while the Coke guy brings the rest of his order out of the back room. He’s going to take these 24 packs to the back, I realise. They were last week’s sale.

“Hey,” said the Thief.

I try to ignore the asshole. It works for a few seconds. Unfortunately, I’m heading his way, squinting every stooped step of the way, looking for tiny little out-of-dates.

“You work here?” asked the Thief again. This time, there was no way I could pretend. I was too close.

“Yeah,” I mutter.

He looks the pallet of pop up and down; a layer of Regular Coke, a two layers of Diet Coke, a layer of Sprite, so on and so forth. “What’s the price on these?”

“I don’t know,” I said, even though I did.

“Well,” started the Asshole, sucking his teeth, obviously deep in thought. “Why don’t you go an’ find out fer me… ‘Cos there ain’t no sign on this display here.”

I looked straight at the Thief. “Well… sir… that’s not a display. The Coke guy is getting ready to take them away.”

And – as if on cue – the Coke man did indeed come out of the back room with a pallet jack. Excusing himself, he said to the Thief, “let me get these out of your way.” He then promptly hoisted the pallet of product to the back, safely behind the doors marked “employees only”. The Thief looked as if he had missed a great opportunity. And, in a way, he had. I smiled, energized all of a sudden. This asshole wasn’t going to get one damn thing free this morning. I smiled, content with my little victory.

The big victories are hard to come by anymore.

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Public Discourse

The Humans in the Wa… on Detached
Jonathan Woolbright on Preparing For War
Jonathan Woolbright on Amateur Hour
Jonathan Woolbright on Suicide in the Morning
Craig on Unfaithful
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