It’s A Hundred And WHAT?

What a sweater.

I haven’t perspired this heavily since I was almost caught by park rangers on the Blue Ridge Parkway in camos and green face paint, and the

-Sorry. Wrong direction for so short a blog. Besides, I was only nineteen and things were more laid back then. I’m not exactly sure how hot it was today. The thermostat at the store only goes up to 99. I can tell you that I was surprised by the number of folks who think that 100 degree temperatures make for THE perfect shopping weather -especially when shopping is done in 100 year old buildings with no air conditioning. Conveniently enough, it’s also just the right temperature for customer Madge to inform us that “it’s hot in here”, which helps us to comprehend what all that sweating business is about. Madge’s blouse has cloyed to her skin like a lizard on a hot Arizona boulder, not that that’s a Freudian thing. She wants to know, amidst the daily chaos of doors and windows being measured, trucks being unloaded, and kitchen sinks being purchased and shoved into suvs already overloaded, where the second floor is.

Last time I heard anything about that, it was, um, upstairs. There was a furniture sale awhile back, apparently, and Madge wants to know if we still have wingback chairs manufactured in 1958 by guys named Fred, who no doubt were every bit as sweaty as I am today, while building furniture proudly made in America before ring tops on beer cans were outlawed, and lead in gasoline was a good thing. It seems that she wants something that will look “real cute” and will fit in with the decor of what is considered the creme de la creme of the homes in her neighborhood.

Last week, Madge was a bit perturbed because we don’t sell used tires. “They look real pretty when you cut ’em in half, wire ’em together around your yard like a fence, and paint ’em white.” Apparently, she wasn’t too thrilled with the forty feet of used redwood fence someone donated last week. Too pedestrian, I suspect, for someone as avant garde as the lady whose bumper sticker boasts, “My kid beat up your honor student”. By the way, I meant to answer Madge’s question regarding whether or not we had window unit air conditioners in stock at present, but in all fairness we were interrupted by her friend Charlene who, as you might expect, is somewhat heavy and sporting a delicately colored muumu. Charlene is complaining about the poor customer service at Lane Bryant. “They’re always out of size six”, bemoans puffing, wheezing Charlene, attempting to light a Marlboro and giving me an entirely hateful look because I reminded her that the store is a smoke free building. The lady clad in what appears to be a chartreuse cover for a Hummer is on the verge of a nicotine fit, which motivates me to wander off in search of other customers who might need assistance.

Coworkers Gary and Brent (my manager and all around good guy) have returned from their mission of receiving four sliding doors still in their frames, two bay windows weighing three hundred pounds each (and will prove interesting when it comes time to shoe them into a customer’s truck), and five or six cabinets, approximately half of which are too deteriorated to sell. This means we get to take them outside behind the building and smash them  by picking them up, dropping them, and letting themselves break apart under their own weight. This is done all too frequently, which should inspire my frustration for our driver who just can’t bring himself to say no to any donation, but in fact makes me happy since it allows me that much more upper body exercise. Those guys went out on an especially nettlesome pickup this morning: some mean woman accused my manager of having a “bad attitude” due to his refusing to let her steal merchandise being donated to Habitat. In hundred degree weather, I’d have looked the other way if he had decided to extend the courtesy of expanding her worldview by introducing her to the reality that greed isn’t defensible. Probably the high point of the day, other than the mercury maxing out the thermometer, was one of the authority figures who works in the office taking a phone call from little miss Nancy of Nancy’s Charm School about the alleged “bad attitude” expressed by my boss. Betsy, who’s the chief authority figure in this paragraph, listened to ol’ Nancy rave on for a few seconds and then told her to “call Channel 10” with the profound news.

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Mike and Paul, The Guy With Funny Ears.

Paul came into the store today to do a little window shopping, although with his raspy voice and tendency to run all over the store, it was a little hard to get a word in edgewise. Paul is, apparently, aware –painfully aware- of his short stature and even shorter hair, but even those features don’t come close to his ears, which stick not only way out, but way up.

Paul, you see, isn’t like most shoppers.

Paul is a Rat Terrier.

That’s short for Paul Bunyan. Yes, I joked with his stonyfaced, as-stoic-as-The-Old-Man-Of-The-Mountain owners, who looked a bit ratty themselves, where Babe was hanging out these days. Apparently, in their neighborhood, owning a Rat Terrier is serious business. None of this having a sense of humor nonsense will do when guys like Paul Bunyan the Rat Terrier are busy investigating the floors of Habitat, hot on the prowl for some small rodent who might be lurking around the construction room looking for scrap pieces of two by fours to take back to Verna (that’s Mrs. Rat to you) for their own home improvement projects.

I love Paul, and so would you if you saw him: despite his sensitivity about being a small guy (at 11 1/2 inches in height, he often feels the need to bare his teeth at bigger people), his nose, which is always hovering about one quarter of an inch above the floor/ground, and his ears, which are so tall you just know he sometimes picks up am stations in Tampa late at night, Paul looks for all the world like one of those rubber spikey balls used for lawn sports, due to his nose pointing straight ahead juxtaposed against the upward direction of his ears. Perpendicular. And Paul sports a big, black spot on the left hand side of his back, which strongly tempts me to paint a number on it on it and enter him in a race.

Mike is having a bit of bad luck these days. I really feel for the guy; the day after he changed the locks in his home, some lowlife broke in by removing the window air conditioning unit, sliding the window open, and, seeing that he’s almost as poor as I am, apparently felt sorry for him and left. Wish the would-be burglar had at least put the ac back in the window. Mike wonders, like I do, why so many people ask if we “work here”. Our shirts proudly proclaim that we do, in fact, “work here”, which correlates positively to the two of us loading one sofa, one hutch top, two commodes, nineteen cabinets, three doors, one used tv set, five gallons of paint, fourteen sheets of plywood, and nine switch plates into Jerry’s beloved 1977 Ford Econoline van, brush painted proudly in Sherwin Williams finest dark blue house paint for all of Salem Avenue to envy. Mike, who prefers smoking polite cigarettes like Newports to sweating profusely like I do (you should see my shirt when I wring it out on really hot days; the result is a company shirt that looks like subdued tie-dye), often has a terrific eye for spatial relationships. “Oh yeah, you can get another sofa in there” says my battle-hardened coworker, “if you slide those fourteen boxes of tile over to the right -no, not next to the wheelwell, but right next to the jumper cables and the canoe paddles purchased from Edna’s yard sale last November”. Mike knows more about football than anyone I’ve ever met this side of the NFL. He’s the one who teaches me things like “if the guard checks down, it’s a run play -if he stands up, it’s going to be a pass”. Those are things I love to talk about whenever business is slow.

This afternoon I learned a lot.

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Do What?

You can fit four televisions, one sofa, a desk, two patio chairs, a four by nine picture frame, a filing cabinet, and twenty-one bags of grout into a truck if you do it right.  I discovered that this afternoon when Yuri, a transplant from the former Russian province of Georgia, asked me, in his best broken English (that’s okay, Yuri. I’m not a big fan of definite articles either) if we might “please to put items in truck for good job”. Well, heck yeah, friend. We’ll do that and even toss in a jacuzzi or two if it will help you master a few adjectives.

(Political incorrectness of the evening is sponsored by Mountain Dew Throwback. MAN this stuff is good!)

Mike was off today. That meant Jimmy had to step up -and step up he did. In fact, when we were loading a sliding door and frame into Yuri’s truck, Jimmy stepped right up into the door with his left leg, thereby hopping around holding his shin and doing his part to summon up much needed rain clouds for the valley. Now, I couldn’t make out what he was muttering while putting on the best floor show we’ve had since the time I dropped a thirty six by eighty inch exterior door on my right foot in spring of 2008 (ask me about the toes on that foot -now they splay out like political action committees desperately seeking slush funds) , but let me tell you I thought I heard something regarding volcanoes and a virgin named Conasatta. Then again, my hearing has been acting oddly lately, so who knows?

But we aren’t the only ones to suffer misfortune on the old ranch. No siree. This afternoon one of our customers accidentally backed into a phone pole on the edge of our property and promptly shattered a tail light and wiped out an entire quarter panel. When I clocked in this morning, I never expected to be on the front row at Darlington. >thunk< >snap< aren’t the kinds of sounds you ever want to hear in any parking lot. Meanwhile, Jerry and Vern, smoothly gliding around him en route  to Harbor Freight to buy new lawn mower blades and some beef jerky, slowed to see the carnage, thereby causing Madge (in curlers and a dangling Doral) to shout from her newly purchased ’97 Pontiac OilGlut, “LEARN HOW TO DRIVE!”, which drew the attention of one of Roanoke’s Finest, and which prompted delayed gales of laughter from those of us in attendance.

The latter half of the preceding paragraph was embellished for your reading pleasure, and in no way infringes upon the copyright of the truth. But boy was it about to become really fascinating.

I’m pretty sure more stuff was going to go here, but I decided to sneak out to Taco Bell. See you soon.

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Do You Work Here?

“Do you work here?”

Other than having a woman tell me, “It happens to all guys”, these are the most dreaded words I know. “Do you work here”, to those of us in the service industry, is a red flag for “Hi. I’m a customer who lacks common sense and I’m incapable of determining a price on an item of merchandise, because a price tag is too complicated to comprehend”. Mind you, one of my coworkers had no problem affixing 15 or so price tags to said item so that Mrs. Do You Work Here would, in fact, be able to ascertain that the curtain rod in her sweaty palm is five dollars.

Even  so, it came as no surprise that the lady whose vision somehow escaped fifteen blazing yellow price tags along a curtain rod spanning some three feet would wonder if I “work here”.  

It’s frightening to encounter those whose common sense lead them to ask questions like that. I’m not being mean-spirited, either: I recognize that many folks have varying degrees of diminished eyesight. I’m not referring to those people. Nope, I’m talking about those who look at my shirt that says, “Habitat For Humanity” over one pectoral muscle, and “staff” hovering proudly over the other, and then ask me if I “work here”. Their lips move while they peruse the embroidered letters sewn authoritatively on my Port And Company tee shirt by petite ladies in gray workrooms with no air conditioning and five floor fans constantly reminding them that their lives, devoted to the service industry, will change in two years when the company moves its operations overseas.

It gets worse: we sell used commodes (I know. I agree.) with price tags on both the tank and the bowl. Almost without exception, “IS each piece $25?” is asked by nicotine gum-chewing Nadine, whose waiting suv is loaded  with bargains purchased from Brendle’s in  November 1992. We explain, with heroic calmness, that the whole thing is $25. Well, without haste, Nadine purchases the commode with cash (and a faintly muttered snarl) AFTER both her credit and ATM cards are declined for insufficient funds. Mike and I stand aside patiently while she shoves toward the back of the seat the cube of Coca-Cola which was “best if used before 30 October 2005”, along with the four pairs of shoes (“I was looking for that pump” says Nadine, clutching victoriously her long lost object of podiatric affection), the disassembled patio table (“SO 90s!”), and the Chevrolet alternator Jerry (her husband and the man sitting in the passenger’s seat smoking a Marlboro Light) is going to rebuild “one of these days”.

I love my customers, though. Without them, I might be typing this, but I’d be homeless and hanging out at the public library instead of in my apartment in my shorts, and Baxter the reference librarian would be telling me in his most affected stage whisper to type more quietly. There’s no way I could allow that to happen to myself. Folks, if your name is Baxter, either change your name or tell everyone you’re a cat. Baxter? Please.  Guys with pink ties who stage whisper to type quietly, and who go through life like that after age 30, are kind of scary, but I digress. I love the people I work with. I love a lot of the customers and tolerate the rest. Those who return gallon cans of paint they purchased earlier (because, as it turns out, exterior means it goes on the outside of the house) or think they should be entitled to a free sofa since they were good enough to have purchased twelve sheets of plywood are the ones merely tolerated.

Boy I tell you.

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Hey you. Put down that box of Cheezits and get over here.

 Hi, and welcome to my blog. Please wipe your feet. As my former Air Force Sergeant might have said, “there are many blogs like it, but this one is mine”! Yeah, I agree that that’s a pretty stupid way to start a blog, but then I’m an old guy who has a lot of stupid things to say, so put THAT in your girdle, LaVerne.

My god. I just noticed that there’s something out there called “plinky prompts”. I’m not making that up, nor could I do so if I had a gun to one side of my head and a hot pizza on a winter night on the other side. Plinky prompts? Is that some cute anime I wasn’t informed about? What do they do, morph from pencil-chewing students into Champions of Writers’ Creative Impulses? And what self-respecting guy would ever admit to using them? “Hey Jerry, I know me and you and Walt there was goin’ quail huntin’ this weekend, but I can’t go because the old lady wants me to help her with the plinky prompts”?

Seriously, I’d be laughed right out of the Burning Rubber Dragstrip Association if I were ever heard uttering such words.

Anyway, this is only a first exploration into the exciting world of blogging and playing solitaire while figuring out what to say next. At least if I had a dog, I could have a good wrestle with him and then come back to tell you about how Boxers really do box when they play, and how red my cheek was going to be when the swelling went down, or something like that.

Oh yeah, did you see that serence picture of the guy plodding along the country road at the top of the blog? Well, that’s me, trying to figure out how long it’s going to take me to rake all those leaves when Gary has my rake!

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Hello world!

Yesterday I tried my hand at blogging for the second time ever. I was confused and a little intimidated: blogging? Sounds like something Sri Lanka does to journalists, but I could be mistaken.

(Anecdote of the week is sponsored by Mountain Dew Throwback. MAN this stuff is good!)

I graduated from high school in 1979, when cars were cars and doctor’s offices still had ash trays in the waiting rooms. Nowadays, most intelligent people don’t smoke and cars are all shaped like jellybeans, because aerodynamics is SO important when you’re driving over to Kroger for sweet potato bread and Fruit Rollups. Unless you’re Chuck. Then you laugh at all those jellybeans all over the road while cruising past in your Honda Element.

Then again, my good friend inevitably has to exit his vehicle. Then, of course, I remind him that he’s out of his Element.

I know. Sorry.  I tried. Several good friends and I from high school often meet for lunch or dinner. We actively strive to speak wisely of current events or the latest in Rachel Rae cookware, but there’s an inner us -an impulse (great word to italicize, by the way)- to belt out, “HEY! ANYONE WANNA SEE ME AIR-GUITAR TED NUGENT?” What Freud calls the “id”, we call refusing to let go of being young. And that’s a healthy thing, because as I reminded them, in just a couple of more decades we’re all going to be meeting in the dayroom for Fun With Macrame Tuesday while I show off my uncanny ability to remember a magazine article I read just that morning about One Thousand Uses For obsolete, first generation nanotechnology, unless I forget, and then the charge nurse will give me pills that make me think I’m Little Orphan Annie’s dog Sandy, in which case you can visit me in the seclusion room once I’m released from the four quarter restraints.

Ah, parsimony.

Sorry if this is coming across as choppy, but I’ve never segued well on Tuesdays. That’s odd, since Tuesday is itself the PERFECT segue between Monday and Wednesday. Think about it: if it wren’t for Tuesday, Wednesday would be very stressful: “It’s WHAT?! Wow, Monday seems like it was YESTERDAY!” Anyway, I seem to be having some difficulty in transitioning between paragraphs here, or at least I would if I had been writing paragraphs rather than these little pamphlet versions of paragraphs.

Once again, I’ve written very little, but in my defense I feel strongly inclined to visit a few friends on www.facebook.com and say hi to a few friends before getting waxed at mahjong online. Hopefully, next time I can tell you about how strange it is that many folks in southwest Roanoke County seem to wear uniforms, like all those middle age ladies who wear those chin length helmet hairdos and drive Lexus suvs so they can posture themselves against all the other ladies who, as it turns out, wear helmet hairdos and drive Lexus suvs BUT with different clored paint jobs.

Take care, and crank up that ac. And don’t forget the brownies.

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