# # A Penny For Your Thoughts

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog

A Penny For Your Thoughts

It is difficult to say what the exact cause of random stupidity in young men is but a good, general suspect is boredom. More windows have been broken out of boredom than hate, revenge, or any other reason.

In the early 90’s, I was employed at a mall record store and was frequently confronted by the twin specters of my own boredom and stupidity.

Most of the time our store was active with browsing adults, shoplifting teenagers, whining children, and sarcastic employees but certain times – say around 10:30 am on a Wednesday during the off-season – contrasted sharply with this otherwise boisterous environment.

It was on such a morning that I reached a personal zenith in boredom related stupidity.

I and a young redheaded woman named Nikki, who had recently been promoted to the position of assistant manager, were the only two employees on the clock at the time.

A lone customer, bald and bearded, was in the back, left corner of the store, perusing the wall of rock and pop cassette tapes, which, though on their way out as a medium, still held a large enough share of the market to justify our carrying a wide and diverse selection.

Nikki was at the poster rack, not far from the customer, refreshing the stock. I was at the front of the store, doing a scan of the rock cds.

“Doing a scan” involved taking an inventory of certain titles – usually “hot” sellers – that the home office felt merited closer, manual inventories on top of the numbers generated by the computerized POS system we used to ring up and track our sales.

I enjoyed doing scans, if only because so much of retail amounts to standing around desperate for something to do to pass the time and keep management out of your hair. The act of doing a scan itself was joyless, however; a drab, often maddening task that entailed little more than walking down the racks, looking for titles indicated on the printout, and then checking to see that the count on the sheet matched the quantity in the rack. Were it not for the inability of customers to browse the racks without leaving them alphabetically disheveled, it might not have been such a trying task but such was the scanning employee’s cross to bear.

The scan that morning was short and, reaching the end of it, I reflected upon how dull life could be. Outside, though I couldn’t see it, I knew it was shaping up to be a beautiful day, yet here I was, in a dorky green apron, a clipboard with a completed scan in my hand, and nothing left to do but pretend I was busy until some customers came in.

I sighed and looked towards the back of the store where Nikki was putting out the posters and the customer browsed. I looked down and there, some three feet away on the carpet, sat a penny. Out of habit, I walked over and picked it up, feeling the cool metal of its shape in my retail-softened hand.

I fingered the coin and sighed again as my mind flicked over all the cds I wanted to buy and the new releases that would come in next Tuesday that I was even more excited to buy. This penny would be of little help.

Out in the mall, a couple of the aged mall-walkers staggered by our storefront as they went through their daily ritual. Around and around the mall they went, in groups or alone, walking slowly and mindlessly, buying nothing, blind to their surroundings, their crinkly, decrepit bodies draped in track suits that would never know the sweat or friction of true physical exertion. I didn’t feel much more purposeful, standing there with my clipboard, my slacks, and my new found penny.

While this penny was not the most money I’d ever seen on the floor of the store – I once watched as a coworker artfully concealed a $20 bill with his feet while mock-commiserating with the spoiled and distressed child who had dropped it – it did turn out to be the most enlightening.

I turned back towards the rear of the store and, on a sudden whim, cocked my arm and whipped that penny like a frisbee, as hard as I could in the direction of the country & western cassettes; the far opposite corner from where Nikki and the customer were absorbed in their respective distractions.

I knew that the coin would make a rather loud crack when it careened off the cassette wall so, immediately after throwing it, I began walking purposefully back towards the office with plans to look as innocently surprised as they when the sound of impact came.

What I heard caused my reaction of surprise to be more genuine than I had expected it to be, though I continued to remain devoid of innocence.

Instead of the cracking sound of copper-plated zinc impacting plastic, there was the raw, smacking sound of a hard-thrown penny on flesh, followed immediately by a loud, surprised “OW!”

Before throwing that penny, flat and spinning like a miniature metal discus, I hadn’t hesitated to take the potential of physics into account. Hey, I was a retail clerk throwing a hard, metal object with all his might in his place of business – what do you expect, brilliance?

Instead of flying in a straight line towards the right corner of the store, the penny described a wide arc and veered for the opposite corner, ricocheting off the hapless customer’s bald head before colliding with the rock cassettes, not country & western as I had intended.

“What the hell was that?!?” cried the customer as he turned towards Nikki, his hands clasped to the back of his head.

“I have no idea!” Nikki replied, just as stunned. Then she caught sight of me, eyes down, face red, and making a beeline for the backroom. Pursing her lips she returned her attention to the customer who was now scanning the floor for whatever had caromed off of his skull.

I ducked quietly through the door, then turned to peep out at the horrible scene through the door’s two-way mirrored window, my breathing fast and shallow. Nikki handled the situation beautifully, calming and distracting the man, even managing to save the sale.

After the customer left, one hand still occasionally rubbing a bright red spot a few of inches above and behind his left ear, I cautiously stuck my head out and gave Nikki my best guilty smile.

“Did you lose this?” Nikki asked, holding up the penny.

“I swear to god, I threw it at the other corner.” I said, hoping this would somehow redeem me.

“He never figured out what hit him.”

“That’s great. Thanks.”

“And will you ever throw anything in here again?” she asked, both of us very aware that I was at least five years her senior.

“No ma’am.” I replied.

“Then this can remain between you and me,” she finished, slipping the penny into her apron pocket.

I tried to continue looking contrite but couldn’t hold it for very long. When I looked up again, Nikki was laughing, too.

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4 Responses to “A Penny For Your Thoughts”

  1. KJT says:

    Hilarious. What a goober.

    I still love the story of the guy looking for a particular song that was popular at the time and you walked over to ask if you could help him and he looked up at you and simply said, “Damn I wish I was your lover.” (which was the name of the song – which you knew full well) And you jumped back in mock surprise and said loudly and indignantly, “Sir, I don’t even KNOW you!” I swear I about herniated myself trying not to laugh as the guy sputtered and stuttered and tried to explain. A true classic. Comedic Genius. Ahh… good times.

  2. cae says:

    I’ll never forget the time I was over adjusting the video titles when this big, younger, western fellow walked over to me and said: “I’m either blind’re stupid but I caint fahnd yer Garth Brooks tapes t’save m’life.”
    So I led him over to the c&w cassette rack where we had, oh, I dunno, an average of 20 or more of each Garth Brooks release (“Ropin’ the Wind” had recently been released and Garth was hot, hot ,hot) dominating the c&w rack.
    I pointed them out to him and then casually waved my hand in front of his eyes, saying: “Well, you’re not blind …”
    Luckily he hyuked good naturedly at this instead of beating me to a pulp, which I would’ve deserved for being such an ass.

  3. KJT says:

    I also love the time we (you, myself, especially Jamie) decided that we were going to ABSOLUTELY refuse anyone a refund that tried to bring back a Milli Vanilli album after their Grammy fall-out happened. We were so militant and self-righteous: if they were stupid enough to buy it, then they could stick it up their ass if they didn’t like it after they found out it was all lip-synching and bullshit. We surely made a more than a few people leave the store in tears.

  4. cae says:

    I think nearly all the best anecdotes involve Jamie. I’ll never forget when we had stands of both Metallica’s Black Album and Garth Brooks’ “Ridin’ The Wind” at the front of the store, as they shared not only a release date but also “the hype”, and Jamie would REFUSE to sell anyone both at the same time, telling them, in effect, “choose a side.” Total balls. Insane. I wish I remembered more about those years! Maybe I should pick some brains and work on more stories about that time …

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