Friday, December 29, 2006

"You don't have to go home but you can't stay here..."

It had been a busy Saturday evening at the record store and I was, as usual, working with Reynolds. It was nearly closing time and we were scrambling around, trying to finish up our allotted chores so that we could get the hell out on time.

Reynolds had already unplugged the OPEN sign and I’d jumped the gun a little by cashing out the back register, so we busied ourselves with wiping down the showcases and straightening up the racks to run out the final minutes of our shift.

I asked Reynolds if he had already locked the door, and he shook his head and said that he’d gotten sidetracked by a phone call just after he’d helped that final customer, so I volunteered to go back up to the front and lock up while the last strands of Pink Floyd’s “Outside the Wall” drifted from the speakers.

As I passed the front register the door opened and a couple of young guys in olive drab jackets walked in.
“Hey guys, we’re getting ready to close,” I said, but they ignored me. They brushed past and my eyes followed as they walked straight to the back of the store and began to browse. Reynolds, who was still straightening up the racks in the back, looked up at me and spread his hands in an exasperated display of “What the fuck?!” I gave an exaggerated shrug that he would be sure to see, and then turned to lock the door.

Which is when another group of people—a much larger group this time--came through the door. I tried to stop them, tried to block their way, but they continued to surge forward and I found myself walking backwards, telling them that the store was closing up for the night. They acted as if I wasn’t even there! I heaved my way through them, like a salmon swimming upstream, to get to the door, but just as my hands reached the handle the door jerked open again and still more people piled in. It was like a stampede, and I pressed my back against the singles wall to keep from getting overrun.

By this time Reynolds had fought his way to the front and with a steady stream of obscenities we locked the door—me fumbling with the deadbolt while he struggled to hold the door closed, as those on the outside tugged with all their might to get it open.

Having locked the door, we turned to face the heaving throng—it was like being on the floor of a sold out rock concert. People where everywhere, elbow to elbow. Reynolds and I looked at each other, eyes wide with wonder and terror.
“How are we gonna get rid of all these people?!” he exclaimed.
“I know,” I said, “Grab the Yoko Ono single.”
“Shit, it’s not here!” he cried as he flipped through the O’s, then the N’s and the P’s, in the fleeting hope that it has been misfiled. It wasn’t there. We were royally fucked.

I climbed onto the front checkout counter and stood up so that I could be seen, taking care not to bump my head into the heavy wooden sign bearing the words “Check-Out” hanging overhead.
“Hey! Hey! Can I have your attention!” I bellowed through cupped hands. The crowd paused to look up at me.
“Please bring your purchases to the front counter RIGHT NOW! We are closing!”

They continued to stare, momentarily, and then simply went back to flipping through the racks and yacking away with nary a care in the world.

I climbed back down and tried to convince Reynolds to give it a go, but he wasn’t very eager. Said he didn’t want to look like an ass. I set my jaw and shot him a look, then took another quick look at the mob. Folding my arms, I leaned back against one of the t-shirt showcases, trying to figure out our next plan of attack. Reynolds seemed to be out of ideas and pulled out the little yellow sticker-covered stepstool and plopped down, chin in hand.

I glanced at the digital LED display on the credit card machine and did a double take. It read 1:18 a.m.! Holy hell, I began to panic. It was two hours past closing time and the store was still swimming with people. I turned around to give Reynolds the news, and saw that he was zipping up his black wool jacket.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m outie” he proclaimed, and walked over to the door.
‘Dude! You CANNOT leave me here alone!” I spat at him, dread filling every pore of my being. “Just look at them!” I flailed my arms, gesturing toward the back of the store, where towering piles of albums and CDs teetered precariously in their hands. Reynolds didn’t care. He turned on his heel and walked out, giving ten more people time to slip through the door before I managed to race around the counter, pull it shut and flip the deadbolt.

I woke up gasping for breath.

This was my recurring nightmare, suffered at least once a month for as long as I worked there. Sometimes I was with TC, or Shelly, or Tom instead of Reynolds, but it always started out the same, and ended the same, and my panic always hit its zenith when I glanced at the digital clock and saw the teal blue 1:18 a.m. winking at me.

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