# # Shandeh and Ibuprofen

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

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

Shandeh and Ibuprofen

Shandeh and Ibuprofen by Corey A. Edwards, 2004

Retail records, Jewish guilt, and Russians from Sequim

The ache is in my right eyeball and growing, feeling all the world like a hangover wrapped around a migraine.

Luckily it’s only Saturday night and I’m just working retail.

Three overweight kids in grubby t-shirts are banging around in the poster rack and hollering questions at me in turn:
“Hey, man? How much for the posters?”
“About $6.50” I reply.
“How much are the stickers?” another asks.
“$2.00 even, with tax.”
“What’s it after tax?”
“It’s $2.00, with tax. After tax. Same thing.”
“Oh! I get it, I get it. How much are the posters?”
It is as if their heads are set to private frequencies and thus cannot hear my answers to their friends.

Meanwhile, a semi-stuttering, flannel-clad metal head, mistaking my kind, professional patience for interest, has glommed on to me and is unreeling like a man breaking a decades-long silence.

“So, I’ve been t’to like, five Ozzfests, man. This was the last one though ‘cause Ozzy’s old, man. He can’t j’jump around like he used to. But I seen Metallica 17 times.”
“Man we sat in that h’hot parking lot, on that hot pavement for like hours, just baking hot, so’s we could get front row and what we didn’t know was that the band we wanted to see was already playing on the B-stage but it was cool ‘cause we got to see some other cool bands but we didn’t g’get to go backstage like I done before. I got to see Metallica backstage twice: once with Cliff and once with Newstead. I gotta get back to see ‘em with the new guy, now. I remember the first time they had like c’cases of Heineken to the ceiling –it’s their official b’beer- and of course cases of Jäger Meister to the ceiling ‘cause this was what Hetfield was always drinkin’ back then but C’cliff, man, Cliff: when I was w’walkin’ back there he had this joint like this long and this big around and I was like ‘Alright!’. Cliff was my man before the bus killed him. But anyway we did g’get front row and my friend, he’s a big drinker. We w’were all dehydrated and shit but the guitar player came over and gave us each a big c’cup of beer. The guitar player was gulpin’ that shit and just sprayin’ it out over all of us out of his mouth. It was so cool!”

I am waiting for him to run down, to get distracted, to die, something. My eye is killing me and he has me pinned to the rack with his tireless banter. The filthy trucker-cap perched on his stringy spill of hair is emblazoned with a poor facsimile of a marijuana leaf. It grins down at me, laughing, saying: “Remember when you went to an Iron Maiden concert because you wanted to be more like this kind of guy? Remember when people like this guy actually intimidated you?”

Jesus. Help me.

I am saved, so it seems, by two normal looking, middle-aged women in off the street. One, a blond, has a small note that she hands me, written in a crabbed hand: “They were playing this in a store down the street and said you guys have it.”

I’m only the Saturday guy – and a newish one at that. I’ve worked record stores before but it’s been years. I’m rusty as hell with current popular titles and the one she’s given me is totally unfamiliar.

“Okay.” I say. “Let me check our computer.”
“They told me you have it. They got it here,” she repeats as I duck behind the counter and begin typing in the title.
“Uh-huh. I’ll just check that.”
“No.” she says. “You have it.”

I’m not even sure what I’m looking up, to be honest. There are two names on the paper and both come up as artists and titles of albums – regardless, the computer tells me we have nothing of the sort in stock. I offer to special order either one but she demurs.
“They assured me you’d have it,” she says again. “They got it here.”
“Well, maybe we did but we don’t now. If they got it here maybe they got our last copy. ”
“Very funny.” she says to indicate that I’m not. “They’ve had it for a long time. I could tell.”
“Well, I could certainly order it for you.”
“No. I want it now. What else do you have like it?”
“Well, uh, I’m sorry but I’m not familiar with the album. Why don’t you check the section and see what else looks interesting?”
“You’re not familiar with this? But it is fabulous! How could you work here and not be familiar with such an album?” she is looking at me as if I have been grown in a petri dish.
“Sorry.” I smile, eager to help but still unable to magically read her mind.
“Well, where do you keep this kind of music?”

It is the question I have been dreading. Now my pure ignorance, like a pair of blushing buttocks, can be revealed for the world to see.

“Erm, ah. Well, what kind of music is it?”
She doesn’t answer, just huffs in exasperation and walks annoyed from the counter.

“Hey mister,” one of the pudgy pre-teens calls from the poster rack “how much are the stickers?”

Before I can answer Mr. Marijuana Hat hoots aloud. “Dude! Why didn’t you t’tell me Van Halen was touring! Jesus! Lookit them ticket p’prices! I can’t afford that! They got Roth with ‘em?”

“$2.00,” I say, rubbing my temples “no –Hagar.”

“Shit! I wouldn’t pay THAT m’much unless they toured with Dave! That’s the real Van Halen. Diamond Dave, man, Diamond Dave.”

The blond woman’s companion, bespectacled and plain in a not unpleasant way, approaches the counter.
“Do you haff any of de women feedle players who played at the feedle festival thees sommer?” she asks in a somewhat off-putting Russian accent.
“Well, we might.” I reply, wishing to God I knew any of their names. “Let me show you the two compilations they’ve put out from the years prior.” I lead her back to the section she was in and show her the CD’s, thankful they’re actually in stock.

I turn to see the blond woman back at the counter.

“Do you have any Tracy Chapman in used?” she asks.
“Well, let me check.” I say, not adding: ‘since you won’t.’

We keep the used rock and rap discs behind the counter, separate from their cases, for security reasons. It is a matter of debate whether this is because fans of the genres are less trustworthy, or just the general population’s sentiment that it is the only music produced worth stealing. I suspect a combination and it still bothers me that more people don’t steal jazz.

I thumb through the sleeved discs and find one: New Beginnings.
“Yeah, here we go.”
She begins to scrutinize the disc with interest so I go back to the used rack to find its case.

The used CD’s sit spine up in the rack, loosely organized by genre and alphabet –a through c, d through f, and so on- but are often a jumbled mess. I begin to poke through the front of the rock section, my throbbing eye protesting as I force it to sweep over varying styles, sizes and colors of text. The poster rack is at my elbow and one of the kids, big and chunky, blocks my light and backs into me again and again, oblivious.
“Dude!” says one of his companions. “You need to use your deodorant!”
“Shut up!”
“You do!”
“I do not! I used it yesterday when I showered!” then, sniffing his own pits “Oh. Huh. You’re right.”

I make a mental note to mouth-breathe until they leave and continue the search but Tracy’s case remains elusive. After a few minutes I am certain it is not there but I keep hunting anyway, preferring the pain and futility to disappointing the woman again.

I can’t hide forever, though. Summoning my courage I turn and, ignoring a question regarding the price of the posters, walk back to the counter.

Both women stand there, now, the Russian having found a ‘feedle’ CD to her liking. The blond woman slaps the Tracy Chapman CD down on the counter and says: “We’ll take these.”
“Well … I can’t find the case.”
“The case?”
“Yeah: the Tracy Chapman CD case. I can’t find it – I’m sorry. It happens sometimes. People move them around back there. I haven’t checked the whole rack yet, just the rock section.”
“Well, we are starving. We must eat.”
“Yes” agrees the Russian. “We are hungry! Starving! We must eat!”
“I don’t want to wait around for you to hunt the thing down,” the blonde continues. “We’ll leave these here and pick them up after we eat.”

Determined to serve, I pull the new copy of the Tracy Chapman CD to use as a legend for the case’s spine, scan the entirety of the used rack, then the periphery of the racks around it. I check around behind the counter in case someone asked to listen to it and it wasn’t put out. I check the hold bin. I even check behind the used rack – nada.

The fat kids continue to jostle and putz around with the posters.
“Hey,” one asks, “how do we ask for the stickers?”
“There are numbers next to them.” I answer without stopping my hunt. “Just tell me the numbers.”
“Oh. Hey –does this one say 26?” he asks.
He is pointing to a sticker whose corresponding number –quite obviously 26- has somehow gotten turned upside down behind the protective plastic of the rack.
“Yes. That’s . . . 26.”
“I thought so,” says the kid “It’s upside down, though, so it looks weird.”
The tallest kid seems to be in charge and he asks his two friends to memorize sticker numbers.
“You remember 26 and 53.” he says to the stinky friend.
“26 and what?” asks stinky.
“53. And you,” he says, thrusting his finger at his less odoriferous companion, “remember 50 and 42.”
“50 and 42.” repeats the other friend.
“And I’ll remember 20 and 16.” he finishes.
“Waitaminute!” cries stinky. “What did I have? 23 and forty what?”
“I had 43, not you” replies the other.
“No! Not 43, 23 –I mean 26!” corrects the tall boy.
“I didn’t have any twenties, just fifties and forties.”
“Not you, him! He had 26 and 50 and you had –oh darn it!”
I try to ignore them but it is hopeless. My head is really beginning to hurt.

I leave the used rack and walk back to the counter, the trio of twits one step behind me and still quarreling about whom had what number. Before they can even ask I have the sticker box out on the counter.
“Okay, you wanted 16, 20, 26, 42, 50 and -what? 53, right?”
“Yeah! Wow! How’d you know that?”
“Magic.” I reply.
“Oh, dude! They come in different colors?!? Guys! Guys! Which ones should I get?”
My heart sinks.

After the boys leave, I write out a note for the regular crew regarding the missing CD case, stick it to the bare CD in its sleeve, and put it in a conspicuous place behind the counter.
My inexperience and lack of hours at the store puts me in the position of knowing almost nothing. Any one of the regulars here could –and I am certain will- find the CD case in a matter of seconds. Probably I am staring at it as I write the note.

Looking around I realize I am alone. The clock says I’ve a mere hour and a half ‘til close. Sighing with relief, I fill my cup with cool water and fetch three ibuprofen. They slide down with ease.

I pass the time resting on the stool behind the counter, alphabetizing DVD’s and records, straightening the CD’s in their racks, and nodding to the few quiet customers as they arrive and depart – a nice, low key, gonna close soon, retail sort of thing. My eye-ache fades in such a way that, by the time I remember it, it is gone. The evening cools as fall rolls in off the water. Crisp, salty air wafts in from the street spiced with good music. Yes.

A voice startles me.
“We have some tings on the counter I would like to buy.”
It is the Russian woman.
“Yes. Okay. Here’s your CD. I couldn’t find the case for the Tracy Chapman CD, I’m afraid.” I point to the benoted disc propped up on the shelf behind me.
“No case?” asks the Russian. “You have no case? Then CD should be deescount or geeft.”
I smile.
“Well, I don’t own the store, otherwise I might do something like that.”
“Eet should be geeft!” she states. Now that I am closer to her I can smell the alcohol. Apparently she drank her dinner.
“No! I want thees for my friend! You should geev deescount.”
“Well, the case is undoubtedly around here somewhere. If I sell it to you, then we have an empty case floating around, then someone will try to buy that, and we won’t be able to find the disc and this whole mess will start over again.” I explain. “I’ve put a note on it for tomorrow’s crew. They’ll look for it and I bet they’ll find it.”
“Should be geeft.”

The blond sweeps in, ebullient in her inebriation.

“He weel not sell me CD.” the Russian says. “No case.”
“What?!?” the blond cries.
Three strikes and I’m out. This is why I should have gone to college; instead of serving self-important, pushy ninnies, I could be one.

I put my placation into high gear.

“Yeah, I couldn’t find the case. I’m sorry. Look, the guys who come in tomorrow –they’ll find it. They probably know right where it is. I just work Saturdays. I don’t know anything. I’m sorry.” I show them the note.
“You weel call her?” asks the Russian. “Eet ees hers eef you find eet?”
“Yes! Yes! Certainly!” I cry, grabbing a pen and scribbling her number upon the note.
“There should be deescount. Geeft.” the Russian woman reiterates over crossed arms.
“Just sell me the disc” says the blond. “I don’t want the case anyway. I just want the fucking disc.”
“I suppose I could do that, then call you when and if we found the case.”
“Alright then,” she agrees, “fire it up.”

But when I tell them the total, the blond becomes irate.

“You’re charging me full price for this disc?!?” she asks, holding up the Tracy Chapman CD.
“Well, yeah. Full used price: $8.”
“But there’s no case! How can you charge me that much for a CD without a fucking case? And there’s no price on here. I don’t see any price on here!”
“Well, but we were going to call you when and if we found the case. I can’t give you a discount. It’s not my place. If you want to buy it now it’ll be $8 –that’s the normal, used CD price.”

In the back of my mind a little voice says: ‘Call the boss, get this worked out for the customer.’ But another, stronger voice says: ‘I’m not gonna pester the boss on one of his rare nights off for two swaggering drunks.’

“Should be geeft,” the Russian says again, attempting to glower.
“I can’t. I really can’t. I’m so sorry. I’m helpless here. Really. I’m just the Saturday guy, just a hapless clerk.”
“Okay. Fine,” the blond gives in. “But call my cell phone.” She grabs one of our business cards and writes down yet another phone number in a swollen, loopy cursive.
I delete the used CD from their total and swipe the Russian’s credit card to finalize the sale.
“You are from Israel?” she asks.
“Huh? No.” I say, confused as to where that would have come from.
“This music.” she waves vaguely over her head “Eet ees Jewish.”
A track – the most ethnic sounding one – from a collection of artists covering the music of a Jewish jazz group called Masada is on.
“Yes, this music is most definitely Jewish.” I chuckle.
“And your shirt – ees Hebrew.”
I am wearing a Bullmark t-shirt. Bullmark is a long since defunct Japanese toy company and people are forever confusing the Kanji in the logo with Hebrew – but it still surprises me when it happens.
“No, that’s Japanese.” I say, pointing at the characters. “Bu-Ru-Ma-Ku.”
The Russian is perplexed.
“Looks Hebrew.”
“Nope. It’s Japanese.”
“Oh. I am sorry. I thought you were Jewish.”
“Well, actually I sort of am.” I say, trying not to laugh. “My mother is Jewish.”
“I knew eet!” the Russian says, triumphant. “You should not be ashamed. Eet is not a thing to be ashamed of.”
“I’m not ashamed, but you asked if I was from Israel. I’m not, I’m from Colorado.”
“And I am from Sequim,” she taps her chest, “but I am Russian!”

cae 2004

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply