humour

#566: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

GETTING MORE TALE #566: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

1998. I had just moved in with the legendary T-Rev. Two Record Store managers under one roof. Can you imagine the CD collections? We used to marvel at the wall of discs. Two CD towers, massive ones, side by side. We’d boast that nowhere else in town would you find two copies of Metallica’s Garage Days in the same place. Same went for many of our rare singles and imports. Finding one was difficult enough, but with our combined collections we often had two. You could come over for a drink and end up spending hours just going through our collections.

Collection samples

T-Rev and I had a lot of fun, although as it turned out, I wasn’t the right guy to have a roommate. I’m a real early to bed, early to rise kind of guy and our wake/sleep cycles didn’t really work out. Having said that, I wouldn’t trade those months for the world! I’d never fallen asleep on the floor before, but we had some pretty epic parties. It was also the first time I’d woken up to find girls in the apartment! Yeah, we had good times. When we weren’t partying, we’d be playing video games on the good old N64. Goldeneye was a staple. Duke Nukem and Top Gear Rally were regular go-to’s.

Another thing we had fun with was our answering machine. We couldn’t just have a normal answering machine message. One weekend, Trevor went out to see a Britpop band who I can’t remember. Supergrass? One of those. They met the manager Andy who kept on hitting on the girlfriends. So Trevor came home and did an answering machine message with a British accent. “You’ve reached Trevor, Michael and Andy! Leave a message after the beep!” That confused a few people. “Who is that British guy who is living with you?”

T-Rev was also a big fan of Jerry Springer. I’d never really watched before, but T-Rev was into it. The fights, the yelling, the chanting of “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”…we found it all terribly entertaining. In particular, I liked Jerry’s “final thought”. That’s the part of the show where he somehow simultaneously agrees with all parties on the episode.

Our enjoyment of the chaos of the Jerry Springer show led to a couple tributes.

T-Rev came up with a sign idea, and I wish he was able to put it up in the store. It was a “no shirt no shoes no service” sign that said:

Because highschool is free,
And Jerry Springer does not work here,
Shirts and shoes must be worn in store.

Yeah, shirts and shoes were an ongoing summer issue. When I once asked a guy to put on a shirt, his answer was “Why, are you serving food here?”  I just didn’t want to watch that bead of sweat dripping off his nipple ring.

It only made sense that we should honour the mighty Jerry Springer Show with a new answering machine message. I did it up:

“Thank you for calling the offices of the Jerry Springer Show! If you’re a white trash mother who’s pissed off at your little white trash daughter, press one! If you’re a white trash daughter who can’t stand your bitchy mother, press two! For all others leave a message after the beep!”

People were used to bizarre answering machine messages from us by now.

The best response to it came from the boss at the old Record Store. He called one evening we were out, and left a message asking if one of us could cover a shift. And he ended the message by saying, “Oh, and I’ll take option two. Thank you.” He was a good sport.

Advertisements

Sunday Chuckle: Get Pierced!

I found this crate, pictured below, at work amongst a pile of old tools.  I thought I worked in a steel mill?!  What the heck kind of work do we do around here anyway?!

#559: Hotel Hobbies

GETTING MORE TALE #559: Hotel Hobbies

For a lot of people, the greatest day in their lives is the day they got married. Perhaps it can only be topped by the birth of a child. I don’t have any kids, so for me, the greatest day of my life really is the day I got married: August 31 2008.

I thought it was going to be tough competition though. August 30 2008 was a pretty fun day, so much so that I honestly didn’t think the wedding day itself could top it.

The 30th began early. The wedding was in Mississauga Ontario, an hour’s drive away. My best man Peter picked me up in his silver Camaro kit car, with a Corvette engine. Peter doesn’t own it anymore (it became a money machine) but my God did we have some good times in that car. That thing ran so low it felt like your ass was scraping bottom.

Before checking into the hotel, we had to take part in a bachelor ritual, that being lunch. Wings at Hooters! It was my first and thus far only time at a Hooters and it was pretty much everything I expected it to be. All the clientele inside were male. The waitress took our order with her leg up on our table. The wings were greasy goodness, not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly worth the stop at Hooters. That’s the real reason people go to Hooters, right?

Peter warmed up his GPS and we headed off to the hotel. We didn’t have anything special planned. We wouldn’t need a dinner – the wings and leftover wings took care of that problem. We didn’t need to go and buy anything for the wedding at the last minute. But we did have some work to do.

Peter had a hockey bag with his PS2 in it, and all the accessories needed to play Rock Band: Two guitars, microphone, and drum kit. I brought some of my favourite wedding related movies: Old School, Wedding Crashers and more. We had a fun night planned for when Jen and her maid of honour Lara arrived. We just needed to set it all up.

We hit a snag right away. Those hotels really like to make sure you have to pay for all your entertainment. They don’t want you to be able to bring your own. Remember back in the good old 90s, Peter and I rented a VCR to record American TV shows in a Frankenmuth hotel room? It wasn’t as easy as that anymore.

These new hotel TVs didn’t have any RCA jacks, or anywhere we could plug in the PS2. We sat there baffled, two guys (one an electrician!) who had spent decades hooking stuff up to TV sets, and we didn’t know how to proceed. Admitting defeat was not like Peter.

We needed an RCA to coaxial adapter. Unfortunately finding such a thing on a holiday Sunday in Mississauga wasn’t going to be easy. We began making phone calls: Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. Nobody knew what “RCA to coaxial” meant so we once again warmed up the GPS and headed down Dixie Road looking for stores.

As predicted, Best Buy and Circuit City had nothing, and the staff there looked at us as if we had stepped out of a time machine asking to use their telegraph machine. Our best bet wasn’t going to be one of those big chain stores specializing in HDMI. We ended up finding the adapter (for around $50) at a small mom & pop style tech store, but we did find it! Back in the Camarovette, back to the hotel.

Problem #2: those hotels really, really don’t want you to hook up your own entertainment. We couldn’t easily disconnect the coaxial cable. It had a protective metal sheath on both ends protecting it from tampering. You couldn’t even unplug it. Not without some tools, sweat and effort. I was ready to give up, but as turns out, Peter just doesn’t go anywhere without his tool kit.

He had that cable ripped out in no time and protective sheath removed. Before too long we had beaten the system and were playing PS2 right there in the hotel. Perseverance!

Jen and Lara arrived, as did Jen’s whole family from Ottawa. They all went out to a nice dinner together, but Peter and I were still recovering from our Hooters wings coma so we stayed in. I think Jen’s cousin Joey would rather have been playing Rock Band with us!

When they came back from dinner, our night really began. And it was an absolutely blast. Four best friends in a hotel room with chicken wings and video games and movies. We are simple people with simple needs. Those needs involve pretending to play drums to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” while someone else pretends to play guitar. Song after song, we had so much fun that night that my sides hurt from laughing.

By the time we all realized we needed to call it a night or be too tired to get married the next day, it was a completely successful evening. I wasn’t at all nervous. I was so hyped that I was strangely calm. I couldn’t wait to get married. No cold feet here, not when I knew so many awesome people had my back. I went to bed that night thinking, “This has truly been the most fun night of my life. There is no way tomorrow can top it.”

Of course, the wedding day did top it. The only thing better than a party for four was a party for 100 of our closest family and friends.

Planning on a road trip involving a hotel stay? Then be like Peter and come prepared. If you can’t hook up your Playstation to a hotel TV like we did, then you might need some tools!

#558: Easter Eggs

GETTING MORE TALE #558: Easter Eggs

“Easter eggs” – Hidden content that you have to really search to find.  Often refers to hidden DVD/Blu-ray bonus features.  The first DVD Easter egg I heard of was on the original “steelbook” version of Terminator 2.  If you go to the right menu and punch in the exact date of Judgment Day, you can access a super-extra-extended version of the film, only visible in this specific way.  Another great DVD Easter egg was on Fellowship of the Ring.  Click around, and you will find a clip from the MTV movie awards where Jack Black has pierced his own wiener with the One Ring.

The term “Easter eggs” is common vocabulary today, and has expanded to include secret cameos or information in films too.  Recent examples:  The appearance of the droid Chopper from Star Wars: Rebels in the new film Rogue One.  Or brief glimpse of Lexcorp trucks, in Man of Steel.  They’re designed not to be immediately noticed, but only detected by die-hard fans after repeat viewings.

The old Record Store has Easter eggs too, so secret that I don’t think anyone who still works there even knows about them.  But they’re still there.

When I first began Record Store Tales, I made a decision to never publicly identify the name of the store.  For that reason, I’ll remain vague.  Back in the olden days when everybody more or less got along, at least two Easter eggs were hidden somewhere on the store website.  They were nods and winks at two employees:  myself, and one other guy who had been there a long time.  They are still there, hidden unless you know where to look.  They were never removed even after both of us left.

There is one more Easter egg, that only two people know about:  Tom (co-founder of Sausagefest) and myself.   Tom owned a franchise at the time.  When he eventually moved on to something else, he asked me to do him a favour.  He wanted to leave his mark in some way on the place.  I can understand that.  Tom, T-Rev, a couple others, and I put our blood, sweat and tears into that store.  It wouldn’t be right to call us “original members” or “founding fathers”, because there was only one owner who started it all.  T-Rev and I weren’t owners, we had no stakes.  It was all just pure passion.  We were there in the very early days as we made the baby steps.  We contributed all our energy to that place, helping to build it and make it grow.  I can’t speak for Tom, but I personally am very proud of that.  Tom pushed to be the first one that carried vinyl.  T-Rev helped actually build the stores, putting up shelving and all the works.  I trained dozens of people and came up with the idea of a store newsletter.  It’s not as if they have a “wall of fame” with our pictures on it.  Tom leaving his mark seems pretty justifiable.

So, he asked me to sneak something in there, and I did.  Tom’s little tribute is still on the website.  Only he and I know where to look.  His franchise was always kickass, and he personally supplied me with plenty of great rock from there, including autographed Helix records, some Foo Fighters singles and a rare live Judas Priest.  He had a 25 cent bin of vinyl that always had good stuff in it.  Let’s all raise our Romulan ale to a true rock and roll animal, the mighty Tom.

#557: Just Joking

GETTING MORE TALE #557: Just Joking

Ever heard a joke that made you almost too uncomfortable to laugh?

In my second year of university, I was in a history class and one of the students missed a previous lesson.  He asked if he could borrow some notes, so my friend Tim offered.  “Thanks!” he responded, and then added jokingly, “Hey, who says white people never help out black people?”  Yes, he was black, and Tim and I were white.  We laughed, but a part of us felt like laughing at that joke was taboo.  It clearly wasn’t, he was obviously just kidding, but it hit that grey area of discomfort.

Here is an example from the Record Store.  One of our regular customers named himself “Richard the Indian”.  Super nice guy, usually easy to deal with.  Loved heavy metal.  He had a native status card proving he’s indigenous and entitling him to a tax discount, but he also absolutely looked it.  He had long straight black hair, and wizened eyes.  Even though he referred to himself as “Richard the Indian”, I didn’t like calling him that to his face.  It didn’t seem “right” to me.  So, he was usually just addressed as “Richard”.

He listened to his music on a CD Discman.  He was always have problems with it, and I saw pieces falling off it once. It was “a piece of junk”, according to him.  “This thing must have been made by Indians!” he joked, playing on the stereotype that all Indians are drunk and lazy.

Do you laugh?  I let out a slight uncomfortable chuckle.  Some of the staff felt uncomfortable too.  “I know he’s just kidding, but it makes me feel weird when he makes Indian jokes,” someone told me.  “I feel like I should laugh, but also shouldn’t.”

The ins and outs of retail are labyrinthine.  There have been jokes that flat-out were not funny.  One guy thought he was hilarious with this joke:  Q: What does Marvin Gaye have in common with one of his records?  A: They’re both black and have a hole in the middle.  That joke got no laughs because it wasn’t funny at all.  In other situations, I have laughed and then realized too late that the customer wasn’t joking.

So what do you do?  If you work in retail, when in doubt, don’t laugh.  Do not.  At worst you’ll appear humourless, at best you’ll avoid the wrong reaction!

#555: How to Be Annoying

GETTING MORE TALE #555: How to Be Annoying

Nobody really liked working with Dandy.  What Dandy did was decide who he liked and who he didn’t.  If he liked you, he wouldn’t annoy you repeatedly.  If he didn’t like you, then he just didn’t care – he’d do whatever he wanted, the more annoying the better.  One or two higher ranked people never saw his annoying side.  For the rest of us, he’d act like an idiot on a dime.

One of his most annoying habits was dancing at work.  He’d put on one of his favourite bands – the Dandy Warhols, or the Toilet Boys – and dance around the store.  And when he danced, his white belly would pop out from his too-tight black T-shirt – not a pretty sight.  I’ll admit I’m not the most svelte of specimens but I keep my white belly under ample amounts of shirt!  I’ll never forget the sight of him belly dancing when the Toilet Boys came on.

He also liked to embarrass other people as much as possible.  For example, when Joe Strummer died.  Customers were jumping on the Clash bandwagon, but I really didn’t know anything about the band.  I knew the hits from having heard them in the store, and there were songs that I like. I know one of the drummers (Terry Chimes) was briefly in Black Sabbath.  But I knew next to nothing else about the band members.  Due to his name (Strummer) I assumed Joe was the guitar player.  To this day I only own one Clash album (London Calling).  It just wasn’t my background.  My youth was a heady mix of British and North American classic rock and metal, and I never even bought a punk rock album until the mid-90s (Never Mind the Bollocks was my first).  Once Dandy realized I didn’t know who Joe Strummer’s was, he made sure to tell everybody.  Loudly.

“Hey get this!  We were listening to the Clash – Mike thinks Joe Strummer is the guitar player!  HAH HAH HAH!  He doesn’t even know!  HAH HAH HAH!”

But then the next day he would be nice as pie to me, and picking on somebody else.  Usually the infamous Spoogecakes.

Spoogecakes and Dandy weren’t exactly two of a kind.  She liked Lord of the Rings, Finger 11 and the Showboat soundtrack (we’ll talk about that one another day).  He liked drugs, makeup, and whatever was on-trend.  The only thing they had in common was annoying me.  Like for example, one time Spoogecakes hid my hat somewhere in the store and thought it was freaking hilarious.  I found out later on that she had a crush on me and this was an attention-getting game.  Kind of like something you’d do in grade school, annoying the girl you like for attention because you didn’t know what else to do.

It was Dandy who coined her original nickname:  the Angry Walrus.  His opinion was that she had that kind of face, and always seemed angry.  (She did definitely always seem angry.)  Apparently the name stuck immediately.  It was like a freight train that could not be stopped and I was the last one to hear about it, because I was the manager and nobody wanted to tell me.

Dandy:  “Damn, you have me scheduled to work with the Angry Walrus tonight.  That sucks.”

Me:  “Who the fuck is the ‘Angry Walrus’?”

I was so frustrated with both of them that I really didn’t even give a fuck anymore.  Thankfully I was soon transferred over to another location, and I never had to work with either again.  Thank fuck!

Sunday Chuckle: Ding Dong


* posted with permission

#553: Jesus’ Lyric

GETTING MORE TALE #553: Jesus’ Lyric

Many record store employees drink.  Record store people are just people, and some people drink.  And some drink, a lot. I was never much of a drinker, not until I moved in with T-Rev in ’98. Then I caught up pretty quickly (Captain Morgan’s and Coke, not beer), but I still couldn’t compete with those guys. (In fact, I still remember when I went out for my 30th birthday. I was accused by the Operations Manager/Bully of “faking” that I was drunk. I’m a light weight, and she was just a meany.)

Like me, some of the younger folks, they just couldn’t pace themselves.  The difference is they’d be drinking while having to open the store the following morning.  A lot of them would be out partying, and then we’d get the inevitable phone call the next morning. “I’m sick. Can you cover for me today?” It happened more than once, not naming names.

One guy, who helped me set up the first store that I managed, came into work hungover so many damn times. The first time, I had to send him home. He was absolutely useless. He was actually trying to work with his head down touching the counter. He was slowing me down, so I sent him home and somebody else came in.

The same guy came in hungover one Saturday morning, later on, after we opened. He had his head down on the counter when a customer approached him. He raised his head.

jasons-lyric“Uhh, excuse me. Do you have the soundtrack to Jason’s Lyric?”

The hungover employee stumbled over to the computer.

“It’s a movie soundtrack,” clarified the customer, seeing Mr. Hangover was struggling.

“No. We don’t have it.”

The customer asked him to check to see if one of our other stores had it, so he picked up the phone.  The customer went back to browsing while Mr. Hangover was making the call.   We only had three stores at the time.   One of them had Jason’s Lyric used on CD!

Mr. Hangover then walked out onto the floor to tell the customer about the CD. Only problem:  he didn’t remember who asked.   Or the exact name of the CD he asked for.  So Mr. Hangover approached somebody who looked right.

Walking up to the unsuspecting stranger he said, “Hey man. They got your Jesus’ Lyric over there.”

“What?”

“They got your Jesus’ Lyric soundtrack CD at the other store that you asked for.”

Overhearing this, the correct customer identified himself, and things got sorted.  No big surprise ending here:  Mr. Hangover was let go soon after!

Sunday Chuckle: When Aaron meant to text his wife but texted me instead

#550: The Toy

GETTING MORE TALE #550: The Toy

The worst thing about running a “family oriented” used CD store was kids.  Not every kid mind you…just the ones that weren’t attended to by their parents.  Toddlers, seven year olds…whatever. They were hell to deal with, because nine times out of ten, the parents would rather scour our shelves looking for John Mellencamp discs than make sure their kids weren’t destroying the store. T-Rev used to say “People should need a license to have kids,” after witnessing the destruction they can unleash when parents don’t give a shit.

So, some typical store activities for kiddies:

  • Taking discs off the shelves and putting them elsewhere.
  • Running behind the counter and grabbing discs there.  This was especially troublesome.  Discs were in numbered slots.  If Junior takes the disc out and throws it somewhere, you have to look it up in inventory to see what slot it was supposed to be in.  How do you do that with a CD that has no title or artist printed on it?  Happened more frequently than you think.  I called those discs “lost soldiers”.
  • Just running behind the counter because why not.
  • Screaming.
  • Throwing things.
  • Spilling food or drinks.
  • Trying to attach themselves to my legs.

Talking to the parents was useless. They’d usually yell something like, “Stop that!” before turning their backs to look for some Tim McGraw discs.

So we came up with a plan to deal with it. A little toy for the kids to quietly play with in the corner! A little hobby center for the toddlers. A few kids did play quietly with it, while others just fought over it. Battles, screaming, with parents deeply immersed in the Bargain Bin looking for MuchDance ’98.

Within two weeks, the toy had developed a gross, slimy coating that you couldn’t clean off. It was disgusting; it looked like kids had been licking it (they probably were). And wouldn’t you know it? The lovely children that used to throw things around the store found something new to throw: the toy and its parts! It could and did end up anywhere in the store. Including begind the counter.  We bought that toy so kids would be occupied and leave us alone. The damned thing was way more work than it was worth.

What a disaster. I hated that fucking thing.