Do You Need a Receipt?
An Inconvenience Store Retrospective
He was here before me, you know. Already lashing out like nobody•s business. James MacLaren. All I still know about him is what his bio claims:
A lifetime resident (despite having traveled all over the damn place at one time or another) of Central Florida, James MacLaren took a four-year degree in death thrills riding giant waves on the North Shore back in the ’70s. Wound up in the inconvenience store following a lay-off from the Cape, where he was involved with the construction of the Space Shuttle launch pads, among other things. Father of best son in the world.
Well, that doesn•t seem too scary now, does it? Not much anger on display here. In his first column, way back in 1998, though, his mission was laid bare in no uncertain terms.
So ok. So I’ve got a fabulously shitty job. Behind the counter at a convenience store. Of course it sucks, and sucks hard. What can I say?
I’ll tell ya what I can say. I can say that without exception, every last one of us is an asshole! Big time! The size and scope of the assholery that waltzes into my little store each and every day is truly breathtaking.
This, in a peculiar sort of way, is fortunate for me.
Cause I’m some kinda half-assed writer.
I get to write about all these assholes.
And so he did. Columns would arrive almost weekly, full of rage, venom, and some of the best, honest humor you could run across in the online medium. James was so angry that it almost seemed like the Travis Bickle graphic we chose to adorn his column came off as a cop-out. Like a deranged anthropologist, MacLaren cataloged the typology of idiots that crossed him at the Inconvenience Store. He ended every field report with, •Fuck Off Asshole.• Around the year 2000, James decided to change direction a little bit. He was no longer working in the original Inconvenience Store, and he wanted to try out some new writerly styles. He turned in some cracking book reviews, music reviews, food packaging reviews, even a last meal review for a certain condemned drug dealer. Yet MacLaren couldn•t help but return to form with some excellent Goofiness and Idiocy Reviews, as well as a Discussion Group Review where the verbal violence was finally turned on Ink 19! Anyway, he•s still going strong, calling it like he sees it. Consider this a •Best-Of• primer, with some added commentary here and there. Take it, James•
This goof don’t know from ten zillion types of cigarettes. All this motherfucker knows is what HE smokes and to hell with the rest of the world. Which would be alright, I suppose, except for one small detail.
The dumb sonofabitch thinks YOU should know what brand he buys too.
We hate him. We hate his little cell phone. We hate the moron on the other end of the line that he’s talking to. We hate the TV commercial that drove him over the brink. We hate his designer shoes. We hate his bubble-headed wife. We hate the real estate company he works for. We hate his yuppiemobile. We hate everything about him.
Into the store we go, and start rummaging around all over the damn place, plucking all manner of junk food, sweets, and all the rest of it. Oftentimes they’ll get so fucking much stuff that they’ve gotta make little intermediate stops at your counter to drop a load of it off, before continuing the search for even more of the crap.
And then the piece de resistance: A two-liter bottle of DIET coke!
Waddicus lists out the door, and starts scritching and scratching at his brightly-colored paper right away. The dumb sonofabitch is lucky somebody didn’t throttle him then and there, but he remains blissfully unaware of it. You apologize to the line standers for causing them to wait still longer, as you return the orphaned beers to their proper places on the cooler shelving. You consider Waddicus outside the door, with thoughts of figuring out how to apply cyanide to scratch off tickets without killing yourself in the process. Waddicus scratches away.
No, Billus, you’re not going anyfuckingwhere till I create a little order from this pile of chaos you were so kind to hand me.
Why do total strangers think they can act like one of your best friends just because the damnfool managers insist on placing one of those damnable name tags on you?
Lookey here, Taggus. The only reason I’m wearing this motherfucking tag is because the idiot manager has threatened to fire me if she catches me without it one more time. It’s for sure as hell that I’m NOT soliciting your friendship, pal. In fact, I think you’re one of the biggest idiots I’ve ever met in my life and would rather die than be caught hanging around with a jerk like you.
Joe Muscle. Short guy, natch.
Weirdo red complexion and a sorta zitfaced look about them despite the fact that they’re entering middle age. Steroids. Gonna die from the shit but they’ll look good when they do. Or at least they think they’ll look good. I think they look creepy as hell. So does everybody else.
Always dress to show of those manly muscles. Look like something out of an anatomy textbook. Yeech. Funny stiff movements about them. Probably couldn’t hit a ball pitched by your grandmother from ten feet away.
Lookey here, dearie, it’s not MY fault that you are no longer able to manipulate guys (myself included) by leaning over the counter and showing off your wrinkled cleavage and winking at me.
Take the sonofabitch somewhere else would you? I’ve got work to do.
Finally, after putting on more damn crap than a drag queen, Accessory Guy enters the water. The wind has already switched onshore but that doesn’t seem to make the least difference.
Paddle the nine-hundred dollar signature model into the lineup.
Stroke for a wave.
Pearl on takeoff, face plant into the water, board rebounds and knocks Accessory Guy squarely in the head.
Year 2000: More Stuff To Hate
In California, Sebastian Inlet probably wouldn’t even qualify as worthy of so much as a fricking NAME. They’d just call it “That crappy place over there, next to the real break.” Anywhere else in the world and forget it. Nobody would give it so much as a second glance.
Does ANYBODY read this kind of shit on the back of cheapie food packages? Can the people buying this stuff read AT ALL? What in hell IS “hot cooked chicken, julienne” anyhow? Somewhere, in a large building downtown in some megalopolis, there’s a guy sitting behind a desk who makes a hundred grand a year to come up with this shit.
Knock it off, asshole! Put a picture of a naked lady or something back there. Something somebody just MIGHT wanna see. Instead of a bogus recipe for fancy schmancy shit that nobody in the whole world is ever gonna go looking for on a package of fucked up ramen noodles. Ok?
My favorite posermobile was a bloated Winnebago, with a pick up truck bolted to the tow bar. Inside the bed, under the cap on the pickup were the bikes! Think of it! No, I can’t drive the bike. Might get it dirty. No, I can’t drive the pickup, it’s too small and the drive’s too long. I know, I’ll bolt the whole wazoo to the Winnebago and drive THAT! What a great idea!
Now this thing (the discussion area), and I’m just gonna say whatever the hell comes to mind, starting with, this little text entry box is WAY too small. Something nearer to full page size would be really nice, as would some way to quickly check the text of whatever I’m responding to, even as I write. And what’s up with the silly color, font, alignment, format stuff up there. That little bar (with completely useless options) is taking space away from the larger display window I’m asking for. Font? FONT?!? Is this fucking art class or is it a discussion board?
If you must use heavy things like hubcaps, sometimes it can help if you throw them from a height such as a roof or ladder. Try not to fall off as you throw the object. If you must fall off, make sure your friend with the camera gets a picture of you plummeting in mid-air, as you may be able to tell people that this is you being sucked upward into the UFO! If you get injured in the fall, and you have insurance, consider sticking to the story, because then if the company pays your doctor’s bills, you can say that they “investigated and verified” your story.
Is there anything worse in the world than some drunken crowd of self-important moneyed losers hammering along at sixty miles an hour, fifty yards from the beach, chopping up your waves, murdering any life forms so unfortunate to get in front of their propeller, and moronically waving at the rest of us when they go by, thinking that we all want to trade places with them?
Year 2001: Still Going•
Whup. Not now. Another black and white double full page ad. SAKS FIFTH AVENUE the all caps scream on one page. Across the way, a girl with severe whiplash and muscular dystrophy is wearing my aunt Heidi’s old curtains. I must admit, the threadbare quality of that forty-year old material shows off her butt pretty well but I still can’t really go for the part that says “defining style.” No dice Cinderella. If this was a movie theater I’d be stomping my feet and chanting “movie, movie, movie.” Where’s the goddamn magazine?
Looky here you daffy cunts, if you•re so interested in being able to find that •just right• outfit on the rack, howcum you are completely unable to return said rack item to some semblance of order? A size three junior does NOT belong with the size 24 missy•s, right? Are you TOO stupid to comprehend that if you (or one of your sisters who visited the place a little bit before you) completely mangle the place, then it just might be a TEENSY bit harder to find what you•re looking for in its designated section, when it•s been dropped like a turd halfway across the store?
So what•s going on here, anyway? What the hell was Garza thinking when they asked him what he wanted for his LAST meal?
•Hmm•well Warden, you guys are gonna kill me here in a couple of hours but lookit this tummy of mine, wouldya? Whatta ya say we make it a DIET Coke, how •bout it?•
Did I mention that Garza was no Albert Einstein?
And while the cop was having his change of heart, from out of nowhere a guy comes up with a set of bagpipes (no I•m NOT making this up), stands twenty feet away from my admiring ears, and proceeds to make the sweetest sounds this side of heaven for a full half hour, seemingly entirely for my own personal benefit.
So ok, maybe all the bad shit has run its course and now it•s time for the good stuff to reassert itself?
Check out the complete canon of James MacLaren at http://columns.ink19.com/inconvenience