So, this guy walks into the store on Saturday night. He’s a semi-regular customer, a white, twenty-something, heavy-set, wannabe gangsta who moved to Maine from South Boston, Massachusetts about eight years ago. His accent is atrocious. It’s so thick I can barely understand him half the time, and it’s made even worse by the fact that he is what Jerry Seinfeld would call “a low talker.” Oh…and he fucking hates Maine. I know this because he always makes it a point to subtly sneak this fact into any conversation he has with anybody he meets.
“Nice weather we’re havin’ today, eh [Boston Guy]?”
“Maybe, but I got bit by a mosquito today. I fucking hate Maine.”
“Is that a new car you got there?”
“Yeah, but the salt and potholes will kill it before winter’s done. I fucking hate Maine.”
“Hey, [Boston Guy], what do you think of Maine?”
“I fucking hate it.”
So, he walks into the store on Saturday night, crankier than usual. I made a point not to mention the weather, his car, or my favorite state. I just nodded to him, rang up his milk, Kahlua and Absolut vodka, and–after properly ID-ing him–took his credit card from his pudgy, outstretched hand. That was my cue to speak:
“Debit or credit?”
When he answered, all I understood was, “[mumble]-it.”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“I’m sorry…which ‘it’?”
Not wanting to irritate him further, and really wanting to get him out of the way so I could wait on the other eight customers in line, I made a wild guess. I had a fifty-fifty shot, after all. I chose cred-it. It meant not having to ask him to enter his PIN, which was a huge plus–the less interaction I had with this guy the better. Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of people forget their PINs, and since the guy’s card was signed (and I knew who he was) I wasn’t worried about the thing being stolen. It seemed the safest and most logical “___it” choice to make.
Unfortunately it was the wrong one.
I handed him his slip and a pen. He grabbed the slip, then looked at the pen as though he’d never seen one before.
“What the fuck is this for?”
“Um…you have to sign your slip.”
“Didn’t you hear me, you fucking idiot? I said [mumble]-it, not [mumble]-it! You fucking Mainers are all the same! A bunch of fucking retards, every last one of you. If I put you all together in a room you wouldn’t have half a brain between you. You’re all–“
“Then why don’t you just move your fat ass back home, you stupid Masshole.”
Yep. I said it. I said it out loud. In front of witnesses.
And he said nothing in return. He just signed his slip, grabbed his bag o’ booze, and stormed out. None of the other customers said anything, but they were all smiling as I rang them up. I smiled back. And when the place was cleared out I noticed that Masshole had left his card on the counter.
I will admit that visions of revenge danced in my head. Not the max-out-the-card-by-filling-my-gas-tank kind; that would have been illegal, as well as immoral. Nope, I’m talking about the cut-the-card-into-seven-hundred-pieces-and-throw-it-away-then-toss-the-bag-into-the-dumpster kind. Although slightly immoral, I don’t think that would have been illegal. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) However, sanity prevailed, and I put the thing where we put all of the left-behind cards. (No, I’m not telling you where that is.) Then I finished my shift, drove home, and penciled in “Search For New Job” under my list of Things To Do Next Week. Because, surely, calling a customer a stupid, fat-ass Masshole is a firing offense. Even if the guy really is one.
Imagine my shock, therefore, when Masshole walked into the store on Sunday afternoon and mosied on up to the counter, as chipper as he could be…which is to say that he wasn’t scowling, snorting, or baring his teeth. I took a deep breath and managed:
“What can I do for you today, sir?”
“I need a pack of smokes.” For once, his words were clear and direct.
I grabbed his usual–Newport Lights–and rang them into the register. He handed over his ID without me having to ask. He almost smiled while he did it. That made me nervous. Still, I was brave enough to say, “You, uh, left your card here last night.” Then I fished it out from [still not gonna tell you where] and handed it over. He looked at it as though he’d never seen it before. Then he said:
“I was in here last night?”
“Well…yeah.” [very long pause] “You don’t remember?”
“Nope. I was so plowed last night that I don’t remember a thing.”
Have you ever had a Moment Of Realization that was actually about 100 realizations at once? Well, that’s what happened to me as those words–again, clear and direct–left his lips. Here are a few of the realizations I had.
1. He’d forgotten the fact that I’d insulted him. My job is secure.
2. With this guy, mean = drunk.
3. Ditto the mumbled speech.
4. Until that moment, I’d never seen the guy sober.
5. He’d always driven himself to and from the store. Drunk.
6. The next time I see him he’ll probably be drunk. And mean. And I’ll have to refuse to sell him more alcohol.
7. I don’t make enough money to deal with this kind of bullshit.