GETTING MORE TALE #601: Can I Get a Witness?
I owe the Jehovah’s Witnesses a debut of gratitude. I developed my cat-like stealthy ninja skills thanks to them. I was able to take this talent into the Record Store a decade later. How? Read on.
If you’re not familiar, Jehovah’s Witnesses travel the streets of everyday neighborhoods, going door to door to preach the word. They have a little magazine called the Watchtower that they distribute. Every kid in my day was taught “don’t answer the door if a Jehovah’s Witness comes knocking.” You could see them walking down the street, in formal wear, usually in pairs. I would hide behind furniture and watch them through the window. You could see them ring a doorbell, get no answer, and move onto the next house. That’s how you’d know. Sometimes we’d even phone neighbor friends. “Jehovahs are coming down the street! Don’t answer the door!”
It’s not that Jehovah’s Witnesses are bad people. Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s just that nobody really likes an uninvited religious sermon in their homes. As kids it wasn’t a good idea to open the door to strangers anyway. And I had some good hiding places to watch for them. Our big front bay window didn’t offer much cover, but I could spy from other strategic places. I’d sneak downstairs silently, and get a closer look at their faces through the blinds. Once, I think I was spotted. If they rang the doorbell more than once, I assumed I’d been noticed and took deeper cover.
This worked like a charm, until one day I let my guard down. It was my OAC “Grade 13” year. I was working on a major project and I needed an audio recording. I called up my buddy Bob to come over for an hour and help. He said, “Sure no problem. I’ll be there in an hour or two.”
An hour later the doorbell rang, and I ran down the stairs excitedly. I was able to leap an entire staircase in one jump. I loudly hit the main floor and ran to the door. Opening it, I saw a kindly little old man in a blue suit and hat. It was not Bob and I instantly regretted my haste. It was my first Jehovah’s Witness.
I smiled and let the man speak, but after a few minutes I had to stop him. “I’m sorry but I’m in the middle of a school project. I really have to go.”
The man was fine with this. “Education is very important,” he said, “I’ll come back another time.”
“Sure, sure,” I said, “Have a nice day.”
I got back to my project, but the next week, the old guy came back. This time my dad answered the door.
“Is the young man available?” asked the Jehovah’s Witness. I don’t know exactly what my dad said to him, but he never came back again. I actually felt bad. He was a nice man, and I’m sure my dad let him have it with a few F-bombs!
Clearly, my method of ninja-like avoidance and surveillance was superior. I never rushed to answer the door in haste again.
Now, how does this all relate to the Record Store? Well, I’ll tell ya.
As discussed in Record Store Tales Part 190: The Early Bird Drops the Discs, I hated when people would bang on the door before we were open. It wasn’t like our hours were a mystery. There’s one store in town, Orange Monkey Music, that doesn’t really have posted hours. It was a day to day mystery. Whenever they showed up, they’d open. Some days they wouldn’t open at all. Not us! It was the same schedule every week, posted on our front door for easy reference. It was also on our website.
I’m not sure why some people felt entitled to get in the store before we were open. I’ve never presumed that a store should let me in just because I was there 10 minutes early. If I’m there 10 minutes early, that’s my 10 minutes to kill. It’s not some store employee’s responsibility to let me in because I showed up before the posted hours.
Every Record Store employee had to show up 15 minutes before opening. This allowed us to vacuum and set up for the day. If I showed up earlier than 15 minutes, it was because I was the manager and had other things I wanted to get done before opening. I didn’t get paid for being there early so there was no way I was opening early.
Sometimes I’d be in the back room looking at inventory, when I’d hear banging on the door. Maybe it would be a boss who forgot their keys, or maybe it would be a customer. Using my Jehovah-honed ninja skills, I’d skulk behind counters and displays so I could get a clear look. If it was indeed a customer, they’d usually be carrying a bag of crappy CDs to sell. Early morning booze money! I’d stay hidden until they fucked off, then I’d get back to work. Ninja skills: maxed out!
The owner of course would let people in early, even though it was me who had to serve them and not him. I remember one time, local weather man Dave MacDonald showed up early. The boss let him in well before opening; they seemed to know each other. But because he was in, that meant everybody else was welcome too. And I wasn’t even supposed to be on duty yet. Fuck me, right? I hated when he let people in early. Another effect of this was, if you do someone a favour once, they expect it next time. “The owner lets me in early…”
I’d like to thank every Jehovah’s Witness who ever took a stroll down my street. You taught me skills you didn’t even know!