Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"All is quiet on New Year's Day..."

It’s been seven years since I left the record store, but I still find myself shuddering involuntarily at least once during the week leading up to New Year’s Day. It’s only after I’ve had a good shudder that I remember that I no longer have to curtail my New Year’s Eve celebrations, because I no longer have to be at the store at 5 a.m. on New Year’s Day to do inventory.

Yep. 5 a.m.

For twelve years I dragged my sorry arse into the store on New Year’s Day at some ungodly hour for our year-end inventory stock-taking. There were times I went in hung over, and there were times I went in having had the barest minimum of sleep, but I always made it in. It was the one day of the year The Sav treated us to free doughnuts, as if that would somehow make it all better.

Inventory usually took all day. The Sav would divide the staff into teams and give us a section of the vinyl and CD alphabet to inventory. Usually Reynolds and I were paired up together, partly because we were quick and efficient, partly because The Sav knew we worked well together, and partly because our banter made everyone laugh and kept spirits high.

There were also the usual bets. Before inventory began, we’d place our bets as to which artists had the most product left over from the holiday, which artists had sold the most during the holiday, which artists had sold the most all year, and which titles hadn’t moved at all, all year. There were a few titles that hadn’t moved in YEARS. Why The Sav kept them in stock is anyone’s guess, but we suspected it was because he harbored a soft spot for the artist in question. Crystal Gayle’s “Nobody Wants to Be Alone,” for example. We knew The Sav had a thing for Crystal Gayle, but that album was a real stinker, and it languished in the bin for Christ only knows how long. I’m willing to bet it was still there when the store closed permanently earlier this year.

Likewise The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards “Amazing Grace.” Oh sometimes we were lucky and had sold a copy of it during the year (usually to some poor schmuck looking for something with bagpipes), but sometimes it gathered dust for a year or two before we could unload it onto some unfortunate soul. And The Sav always reordered it. It was a given that the store would never be Dragoon-less, be it tape or CD. Crystal Gayle we could understand, because she was a looker, but why in the world The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards?! It was one mystery we never solved.

Another item that never sold was the 7” single of Yoko Ono’s “Touch Me” (flipside “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand in The Snow)”). It’s a damn good thing that single never sold—and honestly, what self-respecting music fan was ever going to buy that piece of shit?! But it was a good thing nonetheless, because it was our secret weapon. Whenever we found ourselves with a store full of customers at closing time, we simply walked over to the singles bin, rummaged to “O” and slapped that baby on the turntable. It was guaranteed to clear the store in under 30 seconds. Occasionally one of us got carried along in the stampede toward the door, but it was our own fault for being in the way of the exit.

Then there were the Orion albums. The Sav had long since stopped keeping an inventory card for “Reborn” and “Sunrise,” but we still knew they were there, and would always be there. I remember when I first started working at the store and The Sav pulled those two albums out of the rack and told me the “legend” that Orion was supposedly Elvis. It was quite obvious that he believed the hype, or at least had believed it at one time and liked perpetuating the myth.

The Sav liked his myths. He also kept a copy of Klaatu’s first album in the racks, murmuring in hushed tones that it was really an anonymous effort by The Beatles. He also tried to convince us that The Dukes of Stratosphear’s “Psonic Psunspot” was a long-lost Brian Wilson effort, but I set him straight by immediately recognizing Andy Partridge’s voice and clueing him in that it was actually an XTC effort. He didn’t like the album nearly as much after that.

Another album that we always seemed to keep in stock was an import 12” Samantha Fox picture disc. Yes, she had her tits out. I have no idea how many of those The Sav actually had, because the inventory card always indicated we had one in stock, but sometimes we sold it and then the next day it would be back in the rack again. I know The Sav had a large storage locker somewhere, and I can only assume he had an unlimited quantity of the Sam Fox-gets-her-tits-out picture disc.

I’m sure that picture disc aided quite a few young men over the years, but none so much as the chubby, pimply faced Asian kid who used to come into the store to browse while waiting for his mom to come and pick him up after his bi-weekly visit to the Rec Center across the road. I happened to be inventorying the albums--this wasn’t the big year-end inventory, but the twice-weekly stock taking of the Billboard 200, which we did every Thursday and Sunday evening—and the kid was idly flipping through the “F’s” when he hit the jackpot. He stopped in mid-flick and stood stock still for a full 90 seconds. He turned to look toward the register to make sure the staff hadn’t noticed—never bothering to check behind him, which is where I was standing—and then slowly leaned closer to the disc for a good, nudie ogle. After a few minutes it was obvious that he wasn’t going anywhere for awhile, because he had his junk pressed up against the wooden rack in a vain effort to disguise his raging boner. Naturally, at the height of stiffydom, his mom decided to show up.

Poor kid never stood a chance.

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