Monday, January 14, 2008

"It's the little things we do..."

Another quirk we endured at The Record Store was The Things List. The Sav claimed it was his inherent right to make lists because he was a Virgo, which simply confirmed his ensconcement within the Me Decade’s post-hippie mysticism of horoscopes, garish satin shirts, creepy porn mustaches and white powder-fueled paranoia.

He certainly managed to get his zodiac on every morning writing out the daily Things List for us to follow, putting our initials in a tiny circle next to the chore he wanted us to do. He drew a line next to each “thing,” on which we had to sign upon completion. If by some chance we had indeed done the chore but had failed to sign the line next to the chore, The Sav treated it as an uncompleted chore, and you’d hear about it the next day.

Not that The Sav EVER confronted us to our face. He was too passive-aggressive for that! Instead, he’d scribble a scolding little diatribe on the Things List which we’d all have to initial - to prove that we’d read and understood. It was very bizarre.

Some of the items on the Things List were logical, like straightening the racks, refolding the T-shirts tidily, cleaning the glass showcases and running routine stock checks. Other items were frankly puzzling, especially those that went into great detail on how we needed to accomplish the goal. In particular, he always specified that we were to “use free newspapers to clean showcases & door,” which I suppose is understandable, and perhaps even environmentally commendable, since the shop had racks of alternative newspapers that no one seemed to ever pick up. But then there were gems like “with scotch tape, pick up bits from back of showcases” which just cracked us up.

The Sav was a maniacal penny-pincher and wouldn’t buy paper towels for cleaning the showcases or for stocking the dispenser in the office toilet – apparently the rarely laundered moldy green hand towel was ample - yet he’d instruct us to waste an entire roll of scotch tape pulling up bits of dust and fluff basking in the florescent lights inside the jewelry showcases. It didn’t make sense, and no amount of working the term “mini hand-held vacuum” into conversations made a difference. He could have saved hundreds of dollars per year in scotch tape fees by investing twenty dollars in a mini-vac, but it would have also meant saving the staff some time and effort – picking up bits took a mighty long time, after all – and he couldn’t fathom the idea of us standing around, doing nothing, although nothing is a relative term, because his “nothing” was our elaborate cut’n’paste sessions, overly complicated hacky-sack games, smoke breaks, and general piss-taking and one-upmanship with other local music nerds. Plus it cut into our magazine reading time. Oh, the horror.

Oftentimes he’d try to be sneaky when adding certain items on the Things List, thinking that he could trip us up for not doing what he expected of us. For instance, he’d specify that Reynolds was to go through and re-alphabetize the CDs from A-G, which actually meant “I’ve hidden a stray CD somewhere that needs to be returned to its rightful spot.” Now I’m not saying that things didn’t get mixed up in the racking, because they most certainly did, especially on Saturday nights. But unlike our customers, who hid things they wanted to buy in the hopes that it’d still be there when they got paid, The Sav never wanted to hide anything he thought we might be able to sell. Nine times out of ten we’d find a dusty Nana Mouskouri hiding out somewhere in the racks, usually around Deicide. We can only imagine how relieved she must have been to be rescued and returned to Easy Listening.

Another sneaky Things List nugget was dusting the CD spinners. The store used to sell a multitude of storage units, including four-sided, spinning black CD towers made of wood or (less often) plastic. Because he regularly burned incense right next to them, the towers seemed to be coated with a permanent layer of grime, hence the need for a good scrub every other day. This was habitually one of my duties, since The Sav was sexist enough to deign cleaning a woman’s job - which was fine by me since that meant we girls never had to take out the trash or empty the vile waste barrel outside the front door – and I quickly cottoned onto the fact that hidden somewhere on those dusty spinning shelves would be a small “X” for me to wipe away, proof that the spinners had been cleaned. I never had the balls to go through with it, but I used to fantasize about dusting off the shelf with the “X” but leaving all the others untouched, just to see if it would be noticed.

We could always tell when something we’d done – or more often failed to do – would fire up The Sav, as the number of misspelled or completely omitted words on the Things List would increase tenfold, as did the overabundance of words in all capitals and an exuberant use of exclamation marks. Like the time TC forgot to collapse and recycle the cardboard boxes The Sav had tossed into the back hallway after a stock shipment had been unpacked. The criticism went something like this: “SINCE SOME ONE NOT BRAKE DOWN CARBORD BOX THE BACK HALWAY YESTER AS INTRUCTED, IF FIRE MARSHAL VISIT & SEE BLOCK EXIT WED BE FINE AND FIND WOULD COME OUT YOU’RE PAY CHECK!!!!!” And of course there would be a tiny TC with a circle around it, and a line next to it for TC to sign and admit he’d neglected an important duty.

These diatribes never made us feel hurt or ashamed—which I suspect was the intention— because we were too busy being amused by them. We took great pleasure in fishing a discarded Things List from the waste bin and taking a red pen to it; sometimes correcting the mistakes, sometimes diagramming the sentences to demonstrate the pitiable subject and verb agreement. It wasn’t that he was an uneducated man – he could be quite brilliant at times – but when agitated he morphed into an English teacher’s worst nightmare. Looking back on it now, I suspect that perhaps We were HIS worst nightmare, which makes him all the more commendable for keeping us on the payroll for as long as he did. We couldn’t have been good for his blood pressure.

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