So, the other night I was out late (keep in mind that in my world that means [and I’m not shitting you here] that it was 845) working on a rather large editing project with my friend Nick when we ran out of beer. This was hardly surprising, as the only beer we had at the office was a single bottle of Corona, the last survivor of an ancient six pack that we’d purchased over the summer back when this project first got underway (it survived so long due to the fact that it’s been cold and only perverts, dangerous psychopaths and wealthy, hulking, oddly shiny black dudes drink Corona when it’s cold out) and a Heineken that Nick pilfered from his mom’s refrigerator before coming to the office. Editing is long, hard and tedious work, and there’s pretty much no way to get through it on just one Dutch beer and one Mexican beer, so I volunteered to make a quick run to the store across the way.
Well, it was cold and the store was closed, but at this point I’d already committed, so I got into my car and drove down the block to a liquor store that I knew for sure was gonna be open.
It was Sunday night, really cold and really dead. The only other person in the place was the swarthy north African/middle eastern looking guy behind the counter. He had a buzzcut that extended seamlessly into his stubble and he was wearing some sort of Areopostale zip up situation with one of those little mock turtleneck pop collars. He had on what I can only imagine were very expensive jeans and though I couldn’t see them, I’d bet nine inches of my large intestine that his shoes were a bright primary color and extremely fast looking.
This dude was dressed pretty nicely for being a clerk at a liquor store, but in my travels, I’ve come to realize that only the American white, black and latino population really just gives up on appearance once they start working as a cashier. And if we’re really being honest, it’s the white folk that drop off first. You can still go to a Taco Bell in downtown Cincinatti and see a nineteen year old girl with her shirt knotted to the side, a fresh weave in and long, bright red nails, a Monroe piercing and super red lips sitting there chatting with her girl who’s got new braids, nice lashes and diamonds all over her phone…all while you just want either one of them to grab you one of those gross burritos so you can get the fuck out of there. You can still find that without too much trouble.
Definitely if you’ve got a young black cashier (even dudes!), the chances are at least 50% that they’re dressing for the job they want (young millionaire who can indulge whatever goofy ideas about fashion might just pop up at any given moment) not the job they have (“would you like to super size that?”) and that’s a pretty cool thing.
You can also find Latina women dolled up behind the register. This is burned into my memory due to the preponderance of gorgeous Latina women that various friends of mine, upon seeing behind the counter at the movie theater/711/Burger King/grocery store have all talked about going back to ask out, just due to her massive hotness to which I reply “um…that girl was seventeen at MOST,” to which some joke is usually made that has no place in polite society but let’s just say it involves skirting the finer points of the law and snug fits. Usually, the Latina girls have painstakingly constructed makeup situations that seem to require no less than three autonomously functioning minds/hands to apply and huge tits. Pretty good combo. And that’s pretty much where it ends in America.
The rest of the clerks…the vast majority of them, are dressed like Mark David Chapman. I mean, if we’re talking ANYONE over the age of 30, you can bet that they’re nothing but oversized t shirts, jeans, slack jaw, hair that’s never been combed, vacant stare of the damned, a small teenager worth of unsightly neck and belly flab dangling off them and a general sense that they hate themselves and by extension you…even though, actually it’s probably the other way around. You know what I mean. If you live in the US, or you’ve even spent any time here, you’re well aware of these cashiers, people who barely look like they did anything at all between getting out of bed and glaring at you for wanting a pack of cough drops, but that’s not how it is everywhere.
No, most places, and even in the states when you start dealing with non-American clerks, people dress nicely and maybe they’re not NICE (because, frankly, expecting someone that works at a liquor store or a fast food place to be nice is kind of asking a lot) but you get the sense that they’re not just ready to fall over dead or commit a crime. You don’t get the feeling that they cry at night. Sometimes, like my guy in the liquor store, they’re spruced up pretty fucking impressively, even. This is particularly true of the younger north African/middle east guys, and there’s something else about those dudes…
A few years ago, I went into a convenience store in Prague to buy a bottle of water. When I walked in, the dude behind the counter (Indian) said “hey boss, how’s it going” with the exact same accent, inflection and attitude that the guy at my corner store uses. And of course. English is the Esperanto of right now and the dude in Prague and the dude in Chicago could have come from the same town…why would their delivery be any different. But it struck me as wild that the experience was identical, even in another country where everything else is different, that convenience stores with foreign clerks are the great cultural portals here in the western world. They’re all the same. It’s the same English, the same clerks, the same items…it’s like a tiny little outsourced embassy, no matter where you go. You will be called boss or buddy and you will be able to get a coke and some peanut butter cups.
Woah. (What if C-A-T really spelled ‘dog’ bro?)
Anyway, so I’m cold from my trek to get the beer, and by this point it’s creeping towards 850, so I’m in a hurry to get back so we can get some more shit done and I can get to bed at a reasonable hour, and I decide that, because of the weather, I’m interested in some dark beer. I like a stout or a brown ale when it’s cold, and I was especially interested in this sort of stylistic weather synergy because I’d just choked down that unseasonable Corona.
So, I’m standing there trying to navigate the baffling world of beer that’s kind of expensive when this guy walks in.
He’s about 6’4,” he’s got the body of a big, sloppy refrigerator and he’s wearing a red knit hat that slides down and doesn’t fold back up, like the kind that snowboarders wear. It’s got some wacky grey design dancing back and forth across it. That part isn’t that weird. His coat, however was pretty questionable. It was black, floor length, with a perma-popped collar and zippers all over every inch of it. It was something that Marilyn Manson would have worn fifteen years ago or Jared Leto would wear now. It was skin tight. The bottom of the coat parted to reveal his combat boots with big, lift soles. The guy, in short, was a total clown.
He sashayed in and swept past me, giving me this look like I was spontaneously sprouting dicks from every pore in my face (although it should be mentioned, in fairness, that I was just kind of staring, open mouthed, at this dude and his skin tight floor length coat [which was in no small way acting like a girdle, holding the waves of processed formerly-filet-o-fish meal-fat rolls]) and stopped briefly in front of the cooler with the shitty beer. He grabbed a sixer of PBR and strode back towards the well dressed clerk. Again, he shot me a shitty look.
I followed with my purchase (a sixpack of Newcastle) and after this dude pranced off into the night, I gave the clerk some kind of knowing glance, kind of a ‘how bout that turd, eh?’ kind of look, to which the clerk responded by giving me a look that clearly said “um, you dildos are all the same to me, bro.”
So, yeah. I got my beer and walked out, and there, waiting for the bus right by my car was the prince of dark zippers still giving me the evil eye and clasping his PBR like a dainty little purse up by his chest.
I think he may have just officially ruined PBR for me. I know that it’s already the domain of all sorts of deesh and the hipster kids have brought it back from the edge of the grave due to its cheap irony and all that, but I can deal with a bunch of mustachioed fruits covered in sweatbands and antlers that think they’re way cooler than me…I can handle those fucking guys. It’s the complete dorks that flummox me.
There’s irony and genuine enjoyment and there’s a third thing…a thing where you just can’t deal with being a fan of something that certain other people like. It’s a delicate thing…it’s the people that are one or two clicks away from you socially.
You can like Ke$sha and ICP with impunity because it’s so far from your perceived taste that you can just kind of say “yeah, fuck you…that shit’s dope” and feel iconoclastic or like you’re bucking notions of stereotype or whatever. You CANNOT, however like Hoobastank. Even a good hoobastank song (bear with me) is just uh…you gotta pretend, man. Because there are dudes that look like me who DO like hoobastank, and I don’t want to be confused with those guys. People KNOW I’m not a juggalo or a teenybopper, but the day that I get mistaken for one of those San Diego dipshits that wears the punk-appropriated-by-nu-metal-and-von-dutch style, well, that’s too far. I know, this goes against everything I’ve ever said…life’s full of paradoxes and contradictions, man. It’s a many splendored flower, bro. Uh…woah.
That’s kind of how I feel about this fat zipper prince and his PBR. And here’s the weird thing: I don’t even buy PBR. I just can’t bear that me and that guy are into anything approaching the same thing…for any reason at all. Well, we obviously both like ketamine and whacking off. So maybe I’m turned around on the whole thing.
I don’t know. It’s only 830am. I don’t have it all figured out just yet.