I really did mean to pay the ticket on time, but when both extensions I’d requested were granted, so much time passed that I marginalized its importance. When I finally faced the music, the Traffic Commissioner was happy to suspend my hefty fine in exchange for 50 hours of community service at a local Goodwill Donation Center. This is the second in a series…
Day one’s “Top Five Items that Qualify as Most Disgusting.”
- Food-encrusted plates and utensils
- Matted stuffed animals
- Crumb-sprinkling toasters
- Hairdryers and curling irons
Three hours was all I could do. I thought for sure I’d be able to push it to four, but both the headache and the pre-judgment I’d arrived with had worsened. And yet, even failing to scratch the surface of my commitment, I began to appreciate the septic funhouse I’d entered.
I made friends with an older black lady named Doris, and together we shelved newly priced items from carts that were rolled up the ramp from the receiving area. After those came roller-racks of clothing, mostly women’s. The minute each rack came to a stop in front of us, three Asian women descended like muted pigeons: silent but jittery. They yanked what they appraised to be the best stuff before dispersing back into the store, lapsing into a calm browsing mode until another rack came banging through the double doors.
There was also a huge guy, maybe in his 60s, who went through just about every lady’s garment there. Samsung Galaxy in one hand, notepad and pen in the other, he jotted notes on certain labels and made phone calls about others. He was looking for newer, more viable designer stuff in good enough shape to resell – at least that’s what it looked like he was doing. He and the Asian ladies each walked out with about 10 bags of clothes. They probably had a knife fight in the parking lot.
I found myself feeling old enough to find my own concept of thrift store bargain hunting quaint. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention or was watching the wrong people, but it didn’t seem like very many were on the lookout for that one unique prize that can make someone’s day. But then my training grounds weren’t filled with so much stretchy material. (Not that I’m un-glad it exists, especially in the case of suit shirts.)
An old couple who looked like escapees from a Bulgarian village council wandered in and took up positions on separate couches, where they stayed for an hour. The wife stood stock still, but her eyes followed me like a painting of the revolutionary Raina Kniaginia. Whenever I glanced her way she’d sense it, turn her head, and stare me down.
The husband wandered around a bit, at one point returning to his couch with one of those stupid, metal, faux-vintage Coca Cola platters – the kind you can’t give away. I guess he liked it, though, ’cause every few minutes he’d gaze down at the tray’s Victorian lace-wearing porcelain lady. God knows what it reminded him of: his first date, his mother, whatever the Serbian-killing sniper on the opposite couch used to look like… Yet when they got up to leave, they did so empty-handed.
Replacing them was a rather large Filipina who talked to herself a lot and tried on several pairs of high-heeled shoes. She left empty-handed, too.
Imelda’s replacement was a 50-something beatnik lookin’ guy, complete with black beret and a salt-and-pepper goatee. This one whipped out his magnifying glass to inspect framed artwork I wouldn’t hang in my garage long enough to toss a Molotov cocktail at. When I made the mistake of asking what he was looking for, I got a lecture in how much money the guy’s made by reselling prints and lithographs that people don’t realize are valuable. It was old news – until he added (with a straight face) that he’d once found a Picasso print something-something. He may have, but borrr-rring! That’s when I went back to stocking shelves and trying to decipher the difference between a blouse and a top.
I failed to ask Julie for my copy of that rules sheet, in part because I just wanted to get out of there after the three long hours. But then I wondered if I was trying to avoid saying hello to the guy with the skin condition. To prove I wasn’t, I readied myself to stick out my hand just another rack burst through the doors. Of course I had to go with it. I’ll have to try again with him on my next shift.
It was the slowest three hours I’ve spent in a long, long time, and I have 47 more Court Referred Community Service hours just like ’em to look forward to.
So let me end with the “Five Most Frequently Asked Questions Thrown My Way So Far:”
- (Thrusting popcorn popper in my face) This a good one?
- When you gonna bring out more shoes?
- (Thrusting soiled, leave-behind shoe, minus mate, in my face) Where’s the other one?
- (Thrusting random tchotchke in my face) What is this?
- You only got 50 hours!?
Next Up: Cocaine Double-talk at Breakfast