Saturday, July 12, 2008
Embarrassing Moments: The Precocious Teen
In the late '90s, the video store I worked at moved to a new location and the stock was distributed differently throughout the store.
One night a teenage boy came into the store and started looking around.
"This place has changed since I used to come here!" he said.
"Yes, everything's been moved."
The boy walked around a corner and came back. "The Russ Meyer section is with the other sexploitation films now."
"Well...it was always with those films, only now they're labeled."
"No, those sections were always apart! I know because I used to come here all the time!"
"I WORKED here, and I'm telling you that they were always together."
The boy huffed and walked to another section of the store, then came back to the counter again. "I notice you finally got the Nick Kern videos."
"We've had them for years."
"No you didn't! You didn't have them last year!"
"We DID have them last year."
"I've been coming here for YEARS and I've NEVER SEEN THEM."
This kid was obviously worked up about something so I stopped arguing and let him spout his incorrect factoids, which he continued to do for another half hour.
The next night I came to work and told my boss the story. "You should have seen this kid! He was such a freak! Kept on babbling about how he used to come to the store, as if anybody cared, and insisting on describing 'how the store used to be'...and getting it wrong every time! It was embarassing to listen to him, he was such a brat, you would have loved making fun of him."
Suddenly, out of a crowd of people who were standing near the counter, the boy pushed his way forward. "THAT WAS ME!" he yelled, then ran away.
We stood there, stunned. The boy's mother came to the counter and said "He's been in the hospital for a while, he's clinically depressed. He always loved this store because he said that people here respected him and took him seriously. This was the first place he wanted to visit when he came home."
I felt terrible. The boy came back and started crying, yelling at me while the mother stood in the background. I pulled a rationalization out of my butt.
"We make fun of EVERYBODY here," I said. "Are you telling me you've never heard us make fun of customers before? That's what we DO. If we didn't care about a person, we'd never talk about them. Seriously."
This was partially true -- we DID always make fun of customers -- but we genuinely disliked the people we mocked. Fortunately the kid was so desperate that he grasped my rationale. By the end of the night he was happy again. Whew.
I learned a crucial lesson that I try to apply every day (and should apply more often in this blog): don't mock people in public places, and try to remember that annoying people are sometimes covering up a deep fragility. You must not drive them to suicide in front of their mothers.