#575: The Chris Cornell Obsession

GETTING MORE TALE #575: The Chris Cornell Obsession

A retelling of a portion of Record Store Tales Part 6:  Year 1

One of my very first lessons at the Record Store came courtesy of a customer whom nearly everyone loathed dealing with.  Nancy was her name, but she also had a very politically incorrect nickname back in 1994-1996.  Some people have no filter, and Nancy was one of those people.

What I discovered during our very first interaction was that she liked Chris Cornell from Soundgarden.  A seemingly innocuous interest.  But she liked Cornell a lot.  More than the average bear.

I was new at the store and had never seen her before.  The store owner had, and with a little mischievous intent, sent me over to ask her if she needed help finding anything.  Little did I know, he was sending me into the lion’s den.

“Hi, can I help you find anything today?” I asked as I approached.

“No thank you,” she said before adding, “Do you have any Soundgarden?”

Of course we did!  It was the summer of 1994.  Superunknown was one of the biggest CDs of the season.  Badmotorfinger was still hot too.  I showed her what we had new and used, but she wasn’t interested.  She just wanted to talk.

She saw the copies of M.E.A.T Magazine that we carried on the front counter.  M.E.A.T (“Metal Events Around Toronto”, or “Metal-Alternative”) was an excellent publication made all the more impressive since it was full-colour, on glossy paper, and free.  Chris Cornell was on the cover that month.  Nancy saw that and went crazy.

“Do you like Chris Cornell?”  That was the question that sucked me in.  I should have answered something neutral, like “He’s OK” or “I don’t know.”  Instead I answered something far more enthusiastic, thus springing the trap.  Once she knew I was a fan too, she wouldn’t stop.

“He’s sexy!” she began.  “He’s so sexy when he wears his Doc Martens.  Are there pictures here of him in his Doc Martens?  Do you know the Doc Martens I mean?” she asked as she flipped through M.E.A.T Magazine.  “I love Chris Cornell when he wears Doc Martens!” she continued.  “He used to have long hair but now it’s short.  I liked his long hair better, which do you like best?”

At this point, I realized I was in the thick of it and the boss had sent me in, intentionally.  He continued going about his business as I tried to extract myself from Nancy’s conversation.  He ignored my sidelong glances appealing for help.  However I was new, brand new in fact, I’d only been there a couple weeks and had no idea what to do!

“Did you know that the original bass player from Soundgarden was Japanese?  I’m Japanese too.  Did you know there are not many Asian people in rock and roll bands?”  I’d never thought about it before.  Now I wished I never had the chance to think about it.

Throughout the 20 or so minutes that I was stuck with Nancy talking to me, she had much to say on sexy grunge rockers, the members of Soundgarden, Doc Marten boots, and Asians in rock.  And of course, she asked my name.

“Nice to meet you Mike, I’m Nancy.”  And I would never, ever forget that name even though she periodically forgot mine.

When Nancy finally left without buying a damn thing, my boss said to me, “That’s your first lesson.  Don’t get into conversations with customers.”

Nancy was one of the most regular of regular customers.  As we expanded, she visited all our local stores.  She came in year after year, and many staff members became trapped in her spider-like snare of conversation.  But she had a nasty side, she wasn’t easy to deal with.  I was “lucky” she was in a good mood during our Cornell conversation.  On other occasions she called one of our guys “retarded” and made work unpleasant in general.  After Soundgarden her next obsession was classical music, and she stalked our classical sections for years.  She had a husband who liked to wait outside, but once or twice he had to come in and calm her down when she was upset about something.

To me she’ll always be Nancy the Chris Cornell fan.  I thought of Nancy when Chris died.  What happened to Nancy?  I used to see her around town, but it’s been over 10 years since I last spotted her.  Probably still haunting records stores somewhere and providing “interesting” conversations.

 

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30 comments

  1. “That’s your first lesson. Don’t get into conversations with customers.” That’s a harsh stance… I’m assuming he meant conversations with Nancy. One of the things I really liked about some of the old record stores was that the staff would converse about music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not really. A little conversation was ok with them. But not the full on discussions that we get into. I’ve been scolded for having the exact same discussions we are taking about. Don’t talk — clean the windows! Lol. Of course there were exceptions.

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      1. A bit of music chat is always good. There was a great place I used to go to were I’d walk out with a bunch of new music just cause I’d get talking about this, that, the next thing…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s interesting. A few people here have said they really wish they had people to just chat about music with.

          I wonder how many mainstream stores have staff that can converse about music?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. It’s the problem with the younger music store employee, I think. A general sweeping statement no doubt, but the Foo Fighters generation aren’t passionate about much.

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  2. I have been to record stores that the second you walk in, the staff want to yap. Sometimes I’m in thr mood to talk and sometimes not. I often like searching for records and listening to the tunes.
    I prefer to start the conversation, and it’s often about a song being played in the store. Especially if it’s obscure, or I don’t know who it is.
    These are the kinds of things that generate sales.
    I think your old boss was both right and wrong.
    I am guessing he cared.only about the losd.of sales.
    The best approach may be feel out your customers.
    If they want to talk music, and are buyers, talk away.
    If they are sort of crazy, and don’t buy, walk away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was never the type to jump in with unwanted conversations. You can usually tell when people want to be left alone.

      But I built lasting relationships with customers too. Just by chatting about music. That went unappreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Unappreciated by the owners and management, but not by the customers.

        I enjoy music talk. Especially when you are a regular, and the staff know your likes, and they point out stuff you like. Then we chat music. That is all good. That was you Mike. I know myself anf James, and all your readers would enjoy chatting with a guy like you.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The Bully and her cohorts didn’t like my regulars very much. It was easy for them to criticize my work by painting my customers in unflattering light. “Oh that guy is a dick.” Then all my work on that customer becomes null and void. None of my customers left when I quit, but that didn’t mean my work was appreciated by that bully.

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  3. That is some kind of fate that Chris Cornell happened to be on the cover of M.E.A.T magazine at that time.

    I know you were new, but I would have excused myself from her a few minutes in.

    “..blah blah. Chris Cornell is sexy with Doc Martrns blah blah…”

    “Yeah. Umm. I think my boss is calling me over. Good talking to you.”

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  4. It is clear that Nancy definitely suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s a clear cut case in my professional view. Hopefully, the reason you don’t see her anymore is that she got the support she needed. Still that was very mean of your boss to do that to you.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That was probably the problem. One of the guys I work with who is very similar to Nancy is hooked on many things, musically its the Andrews Sisters but lots of other music from that era. One time, when my mobile phone’s ring tone was Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock,” it sent him nuts. I had to change that tone when I worked with him.

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  5. I get customers like that at my work, some days. They wanna talk about some book or album or some experience with such. One wants to talk hockey – all the time. Every hockey book on the shelf, he has a story or a comment that could go hours. Ah, I love seniors day. I’m respectful, as you were, but my out is that I’m busy shelving books and when the cart is empty sorry, I gotta go get some more books. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

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