This is Greenpoint, not Burger King
(Or, You’ll get it Miss Heather’s way and like it.)
Last December Sammy, a neighborhood fixture and all-around nice guy died. He was only in his fifties, and at first the was talk was that he committed suicide. This was later disproven: Sammy had a heart attack. A number of you may have made his acquaintance at the Salvation Army as he worked there for a number of years.
In this capacity he had to deal with some of the biggest SHITHEADS god has seen fit to create. I’m not talking about coworkers either; I’m talking about customers. He treated his clientele with the care and respect they so richly deserved: none whatsoever. When, for example, two women were fighting over a ceramic figurine, he grabbed it and threw it to the ground, smashing it into smithereens. Problem solved. The customers were what killed Sammy, not his less-than-spectacular personal habits, of this I am convinced.
I wrote the previous (woefully) belated obituary because this week of I have had the misfortune of interfacing with some seriously annoying— if not batshit crazy— people. Many of whom were ‘customers’. Follows is a selection of the worst offenders for your Shaudenfreud-fueled entertainment. Enjoy!
Crazy Old Broad
Location: Meserole Avenue
Crime: Being a crazy old broad on Meserole Avenue, which was where I also happened to be at the time.
As a general rule I avoid making eye contact with the old ladies that grace my neighborhood. A very short time after I moved here I learned that acknowledging their presence— much less SMILING at them— is effectively an invitation for them to waste the next 15-20 minutes of my precious existence. That said, accidents do happen. As I was looking both ways before I crossed the street I made visual contact. And just like the psychological vulture vampire she was this lady rushed right on over. Blathering indecipherable gibberish the entire time. It was Polish.
Woman: (entreating me in Polish)
I have learned that saying “WHAT” in a very loud tone anytime someone jabbers at me in Polish to be the quickest and most effective way to convey that I do not speak Polish. Until now.
Woman: You do not speak Polish?
Me: No, I don’t.
Woman: But you spoke to me in Polish a week ago!
This broad then commenced trying to argue with me about my alleged command of Polish and my unwillingness to share it with her. I walked away muttering “What the fuck is HER problem?”. It should be noted that have never laid eyes on this woman in my life.
Location: The Salvation Army on Manhattan Avenue
Crime: Being a fucking creep
Eddie is a fixture in my corner of the ‘hood. A number of you who live in north Greenpoint have seen him: a tiny little Polish man, always smiling, who wears thick plastic-rimmed glasses. I know Eddie’s name is not because I am friends with him; he is a former coworker on one of my best friends, Rachael. Former. Coworker. Eddie was fired for stealing merchandise and grabbing my friend’s tits. Little Eddie is a big fucking pervert.
I recently remembered that I almost forgot that The Mermaid Day Parade is coming up soon. In the interests of showing solidarity with my fellow oppressed Brooklynites, I have decided to attend. Being the Dog Shit Queen of Greenpoint, I realized that such an affair of state requires proper attire:
- A shit gown
- A shit crown
- A shit orb
- A shit scepter
- Shit shoes
- Shit accessories, etc.
After unsuccessfully searching a number of stores in the area for proper(ly hideous) Greenpoint apparel, I went to the Salvation Army. I noticed Eddie as soon as I entered the store. I tried to ignore him, but it was pretty difficult given he decided to peruse their selection of skirts and dresses. I found a particularly choice dress and pulled it from the rack so I could give it a thorough inspection.
- Will it fit? Yes!
- Is it really fucking ugly? Yes!
- Does it look like something a woman who has had a nervous breakdown would wear? Absolutely!
- Hmm… there appears to a blood stain on the front of it. SOLD!
As I was mulling over the previous pros Eddie decided I needed some help and started pulling dresses he thought I would like in. I told him in no uncertain terms to FUCK OFF. He did.
“But what about troublesome customers,” you ask? The previous two peeps are just a warm-up. I left the best worst for last. Here they are: the newest inductees into Miss Heather’s Crappy Customer Hall of Shame.
Before I continue, let me tell you a little bit about what I do. My primary responsibility is to sort and price jewelry. This is an enjoyable, but physically demanding task. The owner of the store gets most of his wares at storage facility auctions and estate sales, so when I get jewelry it is in boxes measuring 2′x3′x1′. That’s a whole lotta jewelry, folks. My standard mode of operation when given a new box of jewelry to sort is this:
- First I pull each of the individual bags out of the box and look them over in order to get an idea of what I have.
- Next, I pull anything that appears to be of real value, e.g.; gold, silver, antique, etc.
- Thirdly, I separate/disentangle the nice stuff from the hideous crap.
- The good stuff goes in the showcases, the shit goes in the $1.00 bin.
- Any vintage necklaces that are broken are placed in goodie bags for the local crafters to purchase and cannibalize.
Not a bad system, if I may say so myself. It is methodical and exploits every possible opportunity to make money by giving my clients what they want at a reasonable price. I work at a thrift store, after all and the purpose of such an establishment is to sell dry goods at low prices.
Despite my incredibly reasonable prices and bulk discounts there are people who doth protest too much. They say my prices are too high, I say they’re assholes. To use the word “chiseler” or “haggler” would infer that these people possess a level of intelligence they do not have. These wannabe thieves are some of the stupidest sons-of-bitches I have met.
Which brings me to the gruesome twosome I dealt with yesterday…
PREFACE: A week ago I found a small cultured pearl choker in a box I was sorting. While not exactly Princess Grace (or Lady Di) material, they were quite lovely. The clasp was sterling silver and had a number of high quality Austrian crystals inlaid in it. While such an item is not my cup of tea, I knew that I had something nice-ish on my hands that someone would really like. I priced it at $10.00, put it in the showcase and called my coworker over.
Me: See this, Chad?
Me: This is a pretty nice little pearl choker.
Chad: Is it real?
Me: Yes, but the pearls are not of outrageously fine quality. It is, however, a nicely crafted piece of vintage jewelry and I have priced it at $10.00.
Chad: So the price is non-negotiable?
Me: Exactly— and believe you me, some ASSHOLE will come in here and try to chisel down the price. Don’t let them.
In hindsight, I should have said the previous. I had cashed a check with my mouth that my ass I was not prepared to cash. Kismet saw fit to plague me with two assholes for the price of one.
Customer(s): Parental Units visiting their son who lives in Williamsburg (!)
Origin: South Africa
Source of dispute: the price for a pearl necklace
Crime(s): Being cheap, devious, clueless, making the (erroneous) assumption that I am rock-ass stupid (like they are) and insulting my home: New York Shitty.
Cheap: When this couple came in I immediately got suspicious. They wore giant smiles and were being very polite. No one here (in Greenpoint) behaves in such a manner (or if they do it is probably because they are fucking INSANE); these people were up to no good whatsoever.
The wife proceeded to have me pull a number of very cheap items from the case: a $1.00 bracelet here, a $2.00 necklace there, you get the idea. It has been my experience that most people who do this sort of thing seek to confuse me into losing track as to what I have brought out. That way they can pocket a piece or two without my noticing. It doesn’t work. I may not remember what year it is sometimes, but I know damned well when a piece jewelry is MIA.
After five minutes of fuss and much tut-tutting this bitch went in for the kill: she asked to look at the aforementioned pearl necklace. Whispering silently under my breath, I showed it to her.
Upon noticing the outrageous price of TEN WHOLE FUCKING DOLLARS the first words that exited her piehole were:
Why is this so expensive?
I took a deep breath and replied:
Because the necklace you have in your hand is comprised of cultured pearls and has a very nice sterling silver clasp. It is an exceptionally well crafted piece of vintage jewelry.
Devious/Underestimating Miss Heather’s Grey Matter: Her first attempt at haggling quashed, she decided to take a more subtle approach and talk me up a little. She told me that she and her husband were from South Africa and they were visiting their son who lives in Williamsburg. She said the necklace was going to be a gift for her daughter back in South Africa, etc. She was really laying it on really thick thinking I would care. (I didn’t: this broad can afford the airfare from South Africa to New York Shitty, a $10 necklace should not be an issue to her.) The whole time she was rolling the beads between her fingers and giving meaningful looks to her husband.
I think I forgot to tell you something, dear readers: the reason I was hired to handle jewelry. I possess what they call a “good eye” when it comes to sorting the shit from the Shinola. I was not born with this ability; it was acquired after attending jewelry trade shows for over 15 years. This woman didn’t know it at the time, but I knew what she was doing. She was verifying that these were cultured pearls. Unlike cheap plastic baubles, cultured pearls will warm to the touch. This is because the centers are made of glass.
She asked me is I could be more flexible with the price and I said no. She then proceeded to complain that it was an awfully small strand and it may not fit her daughter. At this point I tuned them out and started detangling necklaces. If there is anything positive to be said about having 110 Green’s pile driver slog away for weeks on end it would be this: I have acquired the ability to concentrate under the most cacophonous of circumstances. This broad wasn’t shit compared to being awakened at 6:40 or 7:00 a.m. in the morning, day after FUCKING DAY, by window-rattling pounding. Nietzsche was right:
What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.
Or at least give me the wherewithal to put this bitch in her place, sort of.
Clueless: After (finally) figuring out that I was not about to budge on the price, my new friend decided to see if my coworker Chad would give her one more to her liking. She did this when my back was turned. All because I had ceased to acknowledge her presence doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening: I was.
I jerked around and looked them squarely in the eye.
RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM, less that TWO FEET AWAY I said:
Chad, I cannot fucking take these people anymore, you deal with them.
Then I walked off and went back to sorting jewelry.
Did this faze them? NO!!!
It was like Dawn of the-fucking-Dead and I was under siege by two SIMPERING cheap-ass zombies. I could have doused them with gasoline and lit a match; they were going to get that fucking bracelet for UNDER TEN DOLLARS if it killed them. And I wanted to oblige them regarding the latter.
Thankfully, Chad defused the situation. After TWENTY MINUTES they relented and paid the asking price (and then only because he tossed in a book for free).
Did their onslaught of ass end? No way, Jose!
You see, they had just gotten done visiting their son in Williamsburg and were checking out the local points of interest. They wanted to know how far Long Island City was from our store. Chad said it was probably about 20 minutes walking distance from the store. I (foolishly) suggested (in the hopes that they would GO AWAY) that they take the G to Court Square and proceed west. To wit my nemesis said:
No way, it’s too dangerous.
*A-hem* Let’s think about this:
- These people hail from South Africa.
- South Africa (though not on par with D.R. Congo, Sudan or a number of other troubled African states) is not a very nice place:
- Unless my memory fails me, the odds of being raped there for a woman are near 50/50.
- The AIDS epidemic was left to flourish because this country’s leader (until recently) didn’t believe a relationship between HIV and AIDS existed and blocked the import of retroviral medication.
- As with any other place that has a deep division between rich and poor, violence is not uncommon there. In fact, it’s commonplace: that’s why the more affluent folk live in fortified compounds.
And these people have the temerity to say the G train is dangerous!?! UGH. Lest any of you harbor thoughts about calling me racist, let me tell you this:
- These people were not black.
- I am of the opinion that most of (South) Africa’s problems stem from the actions of white people.
So there have you. NEEEEXT!
Customer(s): Two brothers
Source of dispute: none that I can think of
Crime(s): Coming in after the previous couple left, patronizing me, leering at me
Picture the Festrunk Brothers. Now imagine the Festrunk Brothers as a pair of Septuagenarians. POLISH Septuagenarians. One of whom has Alzheimer’s Disease. Uh-HUH.
Contrary to what you are probably thinking, the brother with Alzheimer’s was not the issue. Even if he was, I wouldn’t pick on him. That’s mean. Miss Heather’s heart is as big as the turds she assiduously photographs. And I have beheld some mighty big ‘uns.
This dynamic dual epitomized the crisis one faces when (he or) she has to balance compassion against his (her, MINE) NO BULLSHIT rule. While:
- I really feel for the one brother who has chosen to take care of his afflicted sibling. My grandmother had to do the same thing with her older sister. It’s hard.
- I think it is wonderful that this gent takes his brother on walks and tries to keep him active instead of just dumping him into some “home”.
- I am really touched by by how much this man cares for his brother.
- I do not mind the odd things this individual says/does. He can’t control his actions.
- I do mind being patronized by a horny old geezer that is capable of self-control.
O.G. (looking at me): Welllllllll, I see we have a lady working here now.
Me (to Chad): There’s a lady in here!?! Where the hell is she because I didn’t see her come in.
O.G.: I am talking about you.
Me: I ceased being a lady a long time ago. I’m married now and don’t give a SHIT.
Last, but hardly least.
Customer: Old woman
Source of dispute: Unintelligible
Crime(s): Insanity, being really fucking loud
Sometimes you can look at a person and just know something is really, really wrong with them. Such was the case with this woman. I had bent over to pick a box up and lo, there she was smiling at me. Uh-oh.
This woman was probably in her eighties. Unlike a number of the cute little old ladies that visit the store on occasion, this woman did not have a command of make-up (two circles of pink rouge with bright pink or red lipstick). She looked like a cross between a Babushka and Baby Jane. She behaved entirely like the latter.
After hassling me to look at several necklaces she started asking me about other items shewas looking for. Or at least I think that was what she was doing; I couldn’t understand much of what she was saying. She spoke a form of Polish-inflected English I had yet to learn. I do not speak “Batshitfuckingcrazy”.
She asked if we had pajamas. Chad explained to her:
- We had clothing.
- Pajamas are a form of clothing.
- Clothing is located in the back of the store.
- She should look for pajamas in the back of the store.
This got her out of our hair and I proceeded to help another customer. Ten minutes later, she starts shouting. Chad ignores her. She continues yelling. Chad slowly walks back to see what her problem was. This is when she started SCREAMING. She sounded just like a toddler. An eight-something year old toddler that was on fire.
Was she hurt? No.
Was she having a heart attack? No.
She wanted to know the price of a men’s button-down shirt. Uh-HUH.
Chad quoted her $1.00 for this item. After some thought (this is a serious investment, folks) she purchased it and left.
I turned the customer I was helping and said:
And some say Greenpoint is the next hip hood. It won’t be as long as there are people like that living here.
Customer (sarcastically): But Time Out New York said…