Monday, March 13, 2006

Car batteries versus hot dog wieners

I was scanning the shelves at the video store the other day, looking for A History of Violence and feeling very confident that it must finally be out by now. It's still not, of course. I ended up with Nicolas Cage and Lord of War instead. But while hope was still swelling within me, while I marched back and forth between the 'A' and 'H' sections, sure each time that I must have missed it at the 'other' section, I heard a loud male voice across the store proclaim that he was about to "...kick your little ass!"

I was immediately alarmed, thinking for some reason that a pea-brained red-neck customer was reaming out one of the poor little teenagers who worked at the Blockbuster Video counter. But I saw no man in line who looked like the unpalatable sort who would do something like that. I next assumed that one of the poor little teenage workers had reamed out an even littler teenage customer. Not so. Then I saw a man hulking over his wide-eyed, trembling-lipped little son and realized it was just a simple domestic dispute. One of those occasions when a child becomes a little over-stimulated being thrust into an environment just teeming with all his favorite things - video games, movies, candy - and all a parent can do of course, is threaten him with absurd physical violence and a moderate measure of vulgarity. What else can one do?

It reminded me of the time I watched a woman correcting her small wayward son while ordering lunch at McDonald's (yes, that's right. I frequent McDonalds. I'm a loser, okay? Let's not dwell on this). So the woman - she first placed her own order with the counter-boy and then asked kiddo what he wanted. He rather politely looked up and told counter-boy what he wanted. So mom raised her hand and smacked him in the back of the head.

I was thoroughly stunned.

"They don't have that here!" she wheezed at him. I became worried for my safety. Like Kiddo, I too thought it was an item they served at McDonalds and felt fortunate I'd never been beaten up by anyone for this heinous error.

Turns out that dear old Mom was wrong. Counter-Boy, looking as uncomfortable as ever I've seen a person look, gently informed her that they did indeed serve the item.

"Actually, we have that," he practically whispered. Not that this prompted Mom to apologize to her kid - or the one behind the counter, for that matter - nor to offer her child the opportunity to smack her back across her own head.

If I had been the counter-boy I hope I would have had the balls to tell her that I would go find someone else to serve her.
'Sorry ma'am. I need to leave for a moment. I'm a little shocked and overwhelmed by what I've just witnessed. I need to go somewhere alone and try to collect myself. Someone else will be right with you. Excuse me.'

Oh, I hope I haven't offended anyone with the phrase 'would have had the balls...' I wouldn't normally use such a callous expression but it's been lurking in the back of my mind the last couple days. A lively program on CBC radio called As it Happens delivers alternative type news stories by interviewing the central figure by telephone. These are usually mildly sensational stories that don't quite catch the headlines. The other day they were interviewing a man running for office somewhere in the States. What particular office, I don't recall. Mayor perhaps. The catch was - he was very old. He was Ninety. At one point he said something about 'having the balls' to do what he's doing. Then he apologized for using that expression, realizing suddenly that he was addressing a foreign country who's primative peoples would surely be shocked and confused by such a bizarre new expression. The interviewer immediately assured him that she "got the idea" but he still felt compelled to fully explain the meaning behind "having the balls" and in doing so used the word 'balls' for a third and fourth time.

I found myself wondering - wouldn't it be amusing if he were running against Arnold Shwartzenegger and there were no other choices in that riding. What kind of hell might that be for a constituent who must vote either for a pretend action hero or a 90-year-old man with an obsession for talking about his testicles? Wouldn't that be a kick in the pants?

Dear me. I've really gone off on some tangents here. Let's head back toward the point, shall we?

I think the reason I first assumed that the outburst at Blockbuster was some kind of customer rage aimed at an innocent clerk has to do with the experience I once had in Huntsville, Ontario. I was vacationing at a cottage with very dear friends Professor Plonk and Captain Vino (not their real names by the way) and, as we like to do now and then, we made a little day trip to the nearest community of significance to explore the charming, unique and idiosynchratic shops that you find in such remote towns.

So there we were at Canadian Tire, near the automotive service counter when a half-demented red-neck customer began chewing out the counter guy in a very rude way. He went so far as to invite the counter guy outside so he could be beaten up. Counter Guy was very professional and handled the situation well. Mr. Red Neck eventually cooled. Counter Guy then reported, off-handedly, "By the way, you're new battery is ready."

Mr. Red Neck, aggression not entirely dispelled, replied, "It better be. Or I'll shove it up your ass."

A car battery - up the ass.

Now that's an impressive statement. I would have to see it with my own eyes to believe that this man had the capacity to climb the counter, overcome the counter guy and any applicable nearby co-workers, restrain and divest him of pants and shorts, summon forth the yet-available car battery and insert it in his quarry's - um - posterior. That is one tall order. That is some kind of Quintathlon. One that will never make the Olympics, I assure.

Mr. Red Neck finally left the building. Professor Plonk and Captain Vino then gave Counter Guy their support and sympathy and congratulated him on his cool handling of the encounter. They're good folk, you see. Compassionate types.

We left the Canadian Tire and headed toward our next stop when we were arrested by the scrumptious 'waftings' of barbecued hot dogs. Naturally we zeroed in on the vendor and hopped in line.

"What am I, a magnet for freaks?" blurted Captain Vino suddenly, in obvious distress. I was confused. I looked around. Oh dear. The man right in front of us paying for his hot dog while taking a big bite - was none other than Mr. Red Neck. He obviously hadn't interpreted that he was the freak being alluded to.

"They're delicious, boys!" Mr. Red Neck remarked to us cheerily.

"Yeah, I bet they fit better too," replied Captain Vino - right to his face. Captain Vino has some of the sharpest wit in town, you see. You don't want to mess with Captain Vino.

Wieners fit better than batteries - in the bottoms of uncooperative retailers - was the insinuation. Mr. Red Neck didn't get it. Professor Plonk and I did. We fell apart laughing.

It's a fond memory.


Dave said...

Ah, yes. I remember it well. The worst part of the whole ordeal is that the guy behind the automotive desk was working his last shift that day. What a way to end your working career and enter retirement.

Cpt. V.

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

The amusing thing is - Mr. Red Neck's invitation to step outside was surely an empty gesture - knowing very well that employees can not do such things without being fired.

But being Counter Guy's last day on the job...

Wouldn't it be a shock to Mr Red Neck being dragged outside by Counter Guy and getting the snot kicked out of him.

That would have made for a fine day indeed.