As hinted in the past, there are many Record Store Tales that have gone untold. Some I have been asked not to share. Some I’ve waited years to write, in hope that the past two decades will put some distance between the events and the people concerned.
RECORD STORE TALES #966: Crossing the Line
It took time for the world to catch up to my needs. As an introvert, I hadn’t had much luck meeting girls. I said stupid things, I put my foot in my mouth, I didn’t know how to introduce myself. I’d tried going to the bars with friends, I’d been set up on dates, but I had no success. Thanks to the internet, I was soon able to make a better first impression, online. There I could take my time with my words and hopefully make a connection with someone. It was the summer of 1999, when I met a local girl named Jen online (not the one I married, I must like the name). We got along great so she decided to meet me in person. I was not hard to find, working at the local Record Store.
Convenient, yes. Smart, no.
Though I was at the end of my shift and it was OK for me to chat, my boss did not like the looks of Jen. She was exceptionally tall, and worked as a bouncer at Oktoberfest because she could physically handle herself. But that wasn’t the boss man’s problem. His issue was that she had a piercing in her bottom lip.
I know, right? In 1999, a labret piercing wasn’t as common, and my boss absolutely hated piercings. He flat out told us once that he would not hire a guy that might have been fully qualified for the job because he had a ring in his nose.
He warned me against “crazy girls”, and then proceeded to tell one of our customers all about it behind my back.
The customer that we called “Tony Macaroni” was in one day and wanted to check out some newer metal releases. (I was always trying to sell him on Bruce Dickinson who he found to be too “Satantic”, thanks to the Chemical Wedding album.) Tony said to me, “So your boss tells me you’re dating a…” he paused looking for the appropriate words. “A different kind of girl.” He probably meant to say “freak” or “weirdo”.
“Huh?” I responded in confusion. Jen and I never actually got to dating, but I knew what was up. The boss was telling Tony about this “freak” he spotted me with in the store. I guess he found that amusing enough to share.
I really should have spoken to the boss then and there about privacy and overstepping his bounds. But I found him intimidating, and so I said nothing. As a business owner in charge of dozens of people, he certainly should have known better.
The funny thing is that I’m still friends with that Jen. We never hooked up romantically, but she’s a solid human.
The next incidents happened in 2003. Again, he involved himself in my dating life. I had recently turned 30 and for the first time in my life, was getting turned down by girls in their mid-20s for being “too old”. 29 was fine, but 30 was apparently over the top. Unable to turn back the clock, I was not happy when this started happening.
I had one weakness back then. I liked to talk. Some of the other store managers were friends, and I would periodically call them up and ask for advice. The boss absolutely hated when we talked on the phone to employees at other stores. It meant that during the phone call, there were two people not working. I did this too often and got caught. The next day he pulled me into the office for a chat. Then I made another mistake.
The correct course of action would have been to keep my mouth shut and accept a slap on the wrist. Instead, I opened up. I told my boss about how I wasn’t enjoying turning 30, how I just found a gray hair, and how this girl I was seeing decided to break it off because she was 24 or 25 and her parents wouldn’t like that I was 30.
“What’s her middle name?” he asked me.
I could not remember her middle name.
“Well she couldn’t have meant that much to you if you don’t even know her middle name. What are her parents’ names?” he continued.
The meeting ended with him handing me a slip of paper with a phone number written on it. I consider this to be the second time the line was crossed. “Give these people a call, it’s counselling”. It wasn’t an EAP program, it was a piece of paper with a phone number written on it and I felt very uncomfortable. Legally and ethically, no lines were crossed. But I left that meeting feeling pressured. Later on, he did follow up and asked if I called the number. I had tossed the paper out.
The third and final time he crossed the line with me, it was unambiguous. I have no idea what his issue was this time, because I only heard about it after the fact. Behind my back, he had called my parents! My parents! He called them to tell them that Mike was “used to doing things the old way,” and not adapting to the “new way”. I am not sure exactly what he was on about. There were lots of possibilities. Maybe it was the time I did some employee reviews on the “old” forms because I didn’t have any of the “new” ones.* Or maybe it was when I got piercings of my own. Nobody knows anymore, but when he made that one phone call, he went a step too far and my dad isn’t quick to forgive.
Over the years, I’ve been accused of being unfair and too harsh towards the store ownership. I don’t think so. Not when you know the context. Best thing I ever did for myself was quit.
* That was my fault. The copier was right next to the office bully‘s desk so I probably neglected to copy the new forms out of avoidance.