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Archives: Mar 2015

It was a toilet, but it was our toilet

The Toilet is closing, and I’m a little sad about it.

The warehouse-sized Toys “R” Us store in Bloomington, MN – affectionately dubbed “The Toilet” by those of us who worked there in 1997 – was indeed very toilety. Every shelf had a layer of dust and dirt. The musty smell of water damage mixed with cheap plastic created a gag reflex for some customers. The 1970s speckled linoleum floors housed dozens of permanent stains and damage that had become as much a part of the store as the sign out front. The dark blue/bright orange paint scheme of the walls looked the way most employees felt when arriving each morning: Hideous.

When I was 16 years old, The Toilet was the only business that would hire me. They were desperate. The Christmas season was quickly approaching, and the increase in customers meant hiring an additional 15-20 temporary employees over a short period. They would literally hire anyone with a pulse. If you came to the interview with pants on, you got the job.

I think I’m the only person who’s stoned in this art gallery

All I had was a five dollar bill, and I sure as hell wasn’t giving it to this bow-tied asshole. I searched my pockets over and over again, hoping there was a single I had forgotten about. No luck.

The bartender was now watching me intently. If I had simply walked away without tipping for my complimentary beer, he would have been too busy to notice, but I lingered too long. Now my awkward pocket searching was the focus of the entire room. Now I was the asshole. All eyes were trained on me, waiting to see what this unreasonably nervous man would do.

At least that’s how it seemed in my head. It probably didn’t help that I was a little stoned. I wasn’t faded enough to look stoned, but I had to focus more than usual to accomplish things that were normally handled subconsciously. I had to focus on holding my beer so I didn’t drop it. I also had to focus on keeping my eyes fully open, instead of half closed like a stoner. I had to focus on holding my arms at my side in a normal fashion, because was I doing that? How do people normally let their arms hang? Am I doing it right? Sweet Christ, someone tell me!

A bicycle won’t get you laid, fool

It was around the 90 minute mark of our first date when I knew it was coming. That awkward discussion I didn’t want to have, and had been deflecting the conversation away from all night.

No, not politics. I had already creeped her Facebook in search of weird cult-based religions or posts arguing how swastikas are okay to use because they used to stand for good fortune. Not jobs, either. For the first time in my life, I have a job outside the entertainment industry that doesn’t pay me via cheap beer and DVD copies of Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo. Not my police record, either. I’ve only had trouble with the police once, and it was because I drunkenly gave a campus safety officer the finger because I assumed he would find it amusing. He did not.

I could be a recovering alcoholic, and my date wouldn’t blink an eye. Lots of people deal with substance abuse issues. I could have a weird clown fetish where I couldn’t “finish the deal” unless the woman honked a bicycle horn exactly seven times. Many people can be quite uninhibited when invested in another person’s other positive qualities. Yet the one thing few women will put up with – no matter their race, creed or income – is dating a man who doesn’t own a car.

It’s still winter and everything is crappy

January, February and March are the worst months of the year. Everything is colder, darker. Our entire life seems more claustrophobic, as if every drop in temperature moves the walls of our home a few feet inward. We feel like a rat in a cage, or Superman in glasses, or Donny Ness in a mayor’s office.

Even the snow turns filthy and brittle this time of year. The once fluffy and pretty piles of it are now brown and moist, as if Clifford the Big Red Dog accidentally ate a giant bowl of eggs and chose our lawn to unload his mountain of feces. Nothing adds to the bitterness of a homeowner like a brown lawn and the looming threat of taxes in April.

Everything innocent turns sour in these bleak times. The whole world seems to grow older in a few short months. Everyone’s a little fatter, a little more grizzled and beaten down. Snowball fights that were carefree and fun in December are now angsty and bitter, like war. February “snowballs” are jagged shards of ice, and you can be certain that anyone who arms themselves with one doesn’t have fun on their mind. Their heart is filled only with icy cold vengeance. That son of a bitch wants to take out your eye.