Thursday, June 02, 2005

"I have become comfortably numb..."

I am actively attempting to overcome my aversion to thong-style sandals.

I bought a cheapie pair at Target two summers ago to try to remedy this quirky malady, and have worn them maybe five times. I am wearing them today. They are celadon suede with glass beads sewn on top.

When I was a kid I wore thong and flip-flop sandals a lot. They were easy to slip on and off, and the rubbery ones were cheap enough to buy in a multitude of colours. They were perfect for poolside or a trip to the beach. They were also a staple in the locker room showers after P.E. class, because who knew what sort of fungus creepies lurked on the tiled floors?

The trouble with thongs began for me in the late 1980’s. One summer day Jenny, Shelly and I were all working at the record shop together. Our shifts overlapped somewhat on Fridays because The Sav liked to mark in the weekend restocking order with a bevy of young, petite blondes buzzing around him. He was pervvy like that. We tolerated him, however, because it was he who had hired us; me in early1986, Jenny in early 1987 and Shelly replacing the blonde Tamara a few months after Jenny was hired.

The Sav wasn’t completely stupid. He knew nice looking college girls would lure in male customers, and he had been in the business long enough to know that guys, rather than girls, spent the most money on music and paraphernalia. The Sav also made sure to be extra friendly and accommodating to the disturbed and mentally unstable who wandered through the door, because he’d hit upon the fact that they could be easily suckered into buying just about anything. He offloaded a lot of un-saleable garbage that way.

Pat was one of those customers. He was of indeterminable age, although Jenny remembered seeing him around her high school and reckoned he was probably only a few years our senior. He was what you would probably define as mentally challenged. He could operate a vehicle, and he held down a job as a fry cook at McDonalds, but he wasn’t very good managing money, didn’t understand big words, spoke very slowly and with vowels drawn out to the point of collapse, and he still lived at home with his elderly parents. He’d also never had a girlfriend, which he would discuss at length with The Sav. Pat looked to The Sav as something of a mentor, however flawed, while The Sav looked at Pat with dollar signs dancing in his eyes.

Pat loved Pink Floyd. Let me rephrase that: Pat LOVED Peeeeeeeeeeenk Floooooooooeeeeeeeed. He thought Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaw-ger Waaaaaaaaaaaaw-ters was a genius. He bought any and everything Floyd related: LPs, CDs, videos, t-shirts, posters, buttons; you name it, he had it. He spent his entire weekly paycheck on supposedly “rare” imports that The Sav had ordered especially for him, marked for maximum profit. It wasn’t just Pink Floyd either, it was anything remotely related to the band. If Pat was informed that David Gilmour played guitar on a Kate Bush album, Pat had to buy it. When he learned that Nick Mason had produced The Damned’s “Music for Pleasure” he ordered it on the spot. Yes, Pat was a virtual goldmine in the eyes of The Sav.

Pat was also something of a pervert, which is probably another reason he and The Sav got on so well. One of the highlights of his week (or so he informed The Sav) was cashing his McDonalds paycheck on Friday afternoons and heading to our store, because he knew the Blonde Trio would be working behind the counter. He especially enjoyed requesting Pink Floyd cassette tapes from us girls, because we had to reach up really high to pluck the tape from the shelf, and sometimes he was lucky enough to see a sliver of exposed flesh beneath our shirts as we stretched upwards. Jenny worked out an ingenious solution to this, however, by placing all the backstock Pink Floyd cassettes on the bottom shelf, easily reached by one and all. That way Pat got nary a glimpse.

On this particular summer’s day, we’d taken receipt of a new t-shirt order and had just finished pricing, folding and placing them into the glass showcases at the front of the store when Pat walked in. He always made sure to remove his McDonald’s uniform before leaving the restaurant, although the sour reek of Cargill fry oil had permanently permeated his hair and skin, which hit the olfactory as soon as he entered the store. He kept a change of clothes in his black, beat-up Chrysler LeBaron, consisting of a wrinkled white Pink Floyd t-shirt, red boxer shorts with sagging elastic waistband, and a pair of rubber thongs. It was the same year round. Even in the dead of winter, with freezing temperatures and snow on the ground, Pat still wore the same nasty threads. And thongs. Always thongs.

Which was nearly enough to put me off of thongs as it was.

Pat walked in and immediately homed in on the Blonde Trio. He leaned over the glass showcase to admire our feet. As usual he was sweaty, and left greasy marks all over the glass. I made a mental note to haul out the disinfectant later. “Aaaaaaah seeeeeee ya gaaawt yer tonnnnnnnnnngs on.” He always called them “tongs.” He had trouble with the “th” sound. Jenny glanced at her feet, then to mine and Shelly’s.

We were all three wearing summer thongs.

“Yep, good summer shoes,” Jenny said, forcing a tight smile. Shelly took off for the back, saying she needed to use the ladies, which left me, Jenny and The Sav at the front to deal with Pat. Jenny grabbed an armload of albums to file and took off toward the back as well. I caught her eye and shot daggers. Pat continued to lean over the showcase, grinning at my feet. I swear I could see a shiny bead of drool in the left corner of his mouth, and a wave of nausea washed over me.

“Hey Pat, didja see the new Pink Floyd t-shirts we got in today?” The Sav never missed a chance to shill merchandise, especially to a good, pliable customer like Pat. “MK, why don’t you get them out so that Pat can see them up close?”

Somewhat reluctantly, I bent down and opened the curtain attached to the back of the glass showcase, Pat grinning all the while. I stuck my head inside and reached to pull out the shirts.

Which is when I caught sight of the massive erection Pat was sporting in his saggy red boxers.

It was official. Pat had gotten a woody by looking at our feet.

Thonged feet.

My feet.

I wanted to hurl.

Instead, I was forced to continue showing Pink Floyd t-shirts to him as he and The Sav bantered back and forth. He kept his wad pressed firmly against the glass, so that no one could see. No one but me, every time I had to remove another t-shirt from the showcase.

I never thought he would leave.

Later in the evening after Pat had gone, suitably drained of his paycheck, I told the other girls how he’d gotten his jollies. After much grossing out, we made a pact to always keep a spare pair of socks and sneakers in the office. Any time we saw Pat pulling up outside in his beater LeBaron we girls would dash to the office, pull off our sandals and throw on decidedly unsexy shoes.

After the boner incident, I had a hard time even looking at a pair of thongs, let alone wearing them.

Whenever I saw them, in my minds eye I saw a massive erection in red boxers, saying: “Aaaaaaaah seeeeeeee ya gaaaaaaaaawt yer tooooooooongs on.”

I’ll probably never wear my celadon thongs again.

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