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Thursday, 17 July
Buying Booze Made Miserable

At my local liquor store, the employees are friendly. And colorful. There is the hale red-faced man, who looks rather like a cross between a lumberjack and Gabe Kaplan. I'm pretty sure that for him, working in a liquor store is a lot like a boll weevil finding employ at the Gap; he always looks slightly boozed. Then there is the college-age kid, whose every expression bears the tale "The Boy Who Is Marking Time At This Idiotic Place," and always carries the demeanor of someone who is deeply ashamed at being made to wear a state-issue vest (liquor stores in Washington are, idiotically, run by the state, prompting non-insane people everywhere to wonder why the state government is in the business of booze retailing). There is also the very sweet, very homely transsexual (pre- or post-op I cannot, nay will not, speculate); it kind of cheers me up whenever I see her-not-him, because I figure jobs don't just fall out of the sky for patently obvious transsexuals.

And then there's the other guy. Where the others are all sort of endearing, this guy is emphatically not. He's probably in his late forties or early fifties, with a horrid greasy gray ponytail that sort of screams "aspiring child molester." His posture is notably slumped and weirdly non-Euclidian; when I see him walk, I have a vague urge to fling protractors at him. And he is utterly fireproof in terms of clue-obtainment; no matter how cold I am to him, no matter how insistently I look at anything but him, no matter if I fling myself into a Jim Beam display in order to avoid his approach, he will still talk to me. "Say! You sure fucked up my Jim Beam display! Hey, that reminds me, you ever done peyote?"

I'm only exaggerating a little bit. He really did ask me one day if I had done peyote, and then, before I could answer, launched into an account of his experiences with the divine puke-buttons. Another time, he noticed I was carrying a book with me (Dave Eggers' You Shall Know Our Velocity!, which is pretty much inferior in every way to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), and asked about it. "It's fine," I said curtly. He went on to inform me who his favorite authors were: Robert Ludlum and Louis L'Amour. "They died in the same year!" he continued. "I assume you had something to do with that," I wanted to say. (I have no idea if what he told me was true, because I frankly don't give a fuck.)

It's a statement about how difficult it must be to get fired from a state job that this guy is still around. He is clearly loathed by all the others; I have swapped many eyeball-rolls with them as the odious little shambling man has done things like scream "SHIT!" right there in the store when he drops something. I recently found out that the wife, when buying a bottle of whisky, endured comments to the effect that he enjoyed the idea of waking up next to a woman after a whisky-fueled night. And another time, he pointed out to me another customer whom he obviously disliked, and made jerk-off motions to indicate this. As my credit card transaction was being processed at the time, I managed to hold back the wracking sobs of horror until I finally got outside.

But a while ago, I was able to extract some tiny measure of vengeance. As usual, while I waited for the interminable credit transaction to take place, he was maundering on about something wildly uninteresting: his fellow state workers at the main warehouse and their apparent incapability of filling his stock orders correctly. Like I fucking care. He kept bitching, while I stared emptily at the gaily colored poster informing me about the ridiculous amount of taxes I was paying for this bottle of booze. He still wouldn't shut up, and was still complaining about the warehouse people. Then I had a thought.

"Yeah," I broke in, a genial smile spreading over my face, "State workers. They don't have to care, right? Half-assed is good enough for government work." He looked like I had shat into his yogurt. I grinned placidly.

"Well . . . I . . . you know, I have to take exception with that, mister. I work for the state."

Gee, no shit?

"Oh, hey, nothing on you. I'm just saying. I used to work for the forest service! (This is true.) So I know how it is. Hey, everyone takes their breaks, right? Sometimes for years on end." Here I smiled conspiratorially.

He was clearly offended all to hell. This made me wonderfully happy, because I figured, Great! I found just the right button to push! Like a lot of dumbfucks, he took ridiculous pride in the job that he managed to foully misperform every day! He won't talk to me any more!

I went back a week later, and he was there as I walked in. "Hey, how the fuck are ya?" he hollered happily.

I cannot win.


Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

You want crazy? In Ontario, Canada, the government runs the liquor stores (where you, logically, buy liquor, wine, and recently some brands of beer), and the beer companies run their own private stores (often in VERY separate locations) where you can buy beer. So if you want both, you usually end up driving anywhere from five to fifteen minutes between the two. Now THAT's insane.

Comment number: 001181   Posted by: ambiguo on July 18, 2003 06:46 AM from IP: 199.212.17.130

Damn, don't mess with that guy. He's obviously been drinking the stock and could blow at any moment. Come to Virginia - our liquor stores are state-run too, but we have the happiest, friendliest people. They get so excited that you like to drink!

Comment number: 001182   Posted by: Bet on July 18, 2003 08:19 AM from IP: 12.34.246.37

Hey, is that the liquor store in the Broadway Market? Because the Gabe Kaplan-esque guy sounds familiar.

Comment number: 001184   Posted by: wendy on July 18, 2003 09:58 AM from IP: 199.201.237.2

Hey, is that the liquor store in the Broadway Market?

*cough*

Yeah. I didn't wanna say, but fuck it.

Comment number: 001185   Posted by: Skot on July 18, 2003 10:01 AM from IP: 140.107.120.123

This essay killed me. There's a woman at my local grocery who could be this guy's evil auntie. No matter how long the lines at the other check-outs get, hers is the shortest because no sane regular will let her near our food.

Comment number: 001186   Posted by: alyx on July 18, 2003 10:48 AM from IP: 216.232.155.197

Ack! I feel that I've committed some kind of faux-pas now. Skot, if you'd like to delete my earlier comment, go right ahead. I was just so excited that someone else had had to deal with that creepy fucker.

Comment number: 001187   Posted by: wendy on July 18, 2003 11:15 AM from IP: 199.201.237.2

Nah, Wendy, I'm just being typically paranoid. I doubt my tens of readers include that guy. But if so, hey, there's a better liquor store up on 12th anyway.

Comment number: 001188   Posted by: Skot on July 18, 2003 12:03 PM from IP: 140.107.120.123

Excellent! Another data point for my Skottracking program. Soon I will have all the information I need to travel to Seattle, kill him, and consume his pineal gland, gaining all his comedy strength!

Comment number: 001189   Posted by: Steve on July 18, 2003 03:56 PM from IP: 198.151.13.8

You clearly spend way too much time in the liquor store.
We have one within driving/walking range. I think we go in once a year. Perhaps this is why we are nearly humorless. But get me going about the guy at the Starbucks who moved over to the Tully's and always reminds us that our son once, in much younger days, claimed to be a Martian ...

Comment number: 001192   Posted by: semifan on July 21, 2003 12:28 AM from IP: 12.211.110.33

Our local liquor store is also a market/butcher shop. I'm, of course, on first name terms with all the employees. Every time I go in, the owner tries to get me to eat some head cheese or other such nastiness.

One of these days, I'll have had enough pwim I may actual take him up on it.

Comment number: 001193   Posted by: KOTWF on July 21, 2003 01:37 PM from IP: 65.194.128.58

What's "pwim"?

Comment number: 001194   Posted by: petrol on July 21, 2003 03:40 PM from IP: 12.88.182.145

Petrol, the origins of pwim for good or ill. This one was about the last thing I expected people to remember.

Comment number: 001195   Posted by: Skot on July 21, 2003 03:47 PM from IP: 140.107.120.123

yeah! 12th st winos rool over b'way um... ummm... umm... post slackers!

(dopey hand sign here)

Comment number: 001208   Posted by: mike whybark on July 22, 2003 06:27 PM from IP: 216.173.212.237

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