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A new innovation

Usually there are dozens of executives on the eighth floor at work, but today the only executive was Babs, and my mouth probably flopped open as she explained why. “It’s a new innovation, we’ve never tried this before…”

That's not something you want to hear from management.

Beginning today, Babs explained, and all through the Christmas shopping season, most of the company's executives are being required to spend two days a week in the stores. Working. As sales staff. And almost all the execs worked in the stores today, because it’s Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving, when the annual orgy of Christmas shopping and American capitalism gets underway. 

That's an innovation, yes, but it sounds like a Hindenburg moment to me.

Sales is work, and the executives — with all due respect, which is none — don't know squat about either sales or work. Our execs are not former salespeople who worked their way up the ladder — this company has no ladder. Our executives are hired directly out of college, as executive trainees. Being an executive is all they know.

And now these executives are in the stores, selling neckties and nylons and making gift suggestions for Uncle Eddie in Rancho Cucamonga? Executives don’t know how to work a sales desk, ring up customers, or explain the exchange policy. After you try on a blouse but decide not to buy it, executives don't know how to hang it up again on the right rack.

They'll be rookies at every sales-related task, basically new hires — on the busiest shopping day of the year. The only difference is, new hires want to make a good impression, but the execs will only want to get back to their desks.

Sounds stupid to me, so it was probably Babs' idea. It's going to piss off the shoppers, and the sales staff will hate it, too. Just imagine working with people who know nothing about the job, but outrank you.

Why weren’t office workers like me moved to the sales floor, too? Yeah, I’d be great in ladies’ lingerie. Maybe the janitors could work in home furnishings, and a cook from the cafeteria could be selling high heels.

We weren’t ordered to work in the stores because even management understands that the janitors and cooks and me and my co-workers do actual work that actually needs to be done. The executives don’t do anything that matters, so sure, send 'em to the stores, to clog up sales two days a week during the Christmas shopping season.

♦ ♦ ♦

Leaving the building at last, end of the day and on my way to a week’s vacation, I stopped to use the men’s room, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Santa Claus!

Father frickin' Christmas himself stood beside me at the urinal, wearing so many little bells sewn into his costume that he jingled as he shook the last few drops from his North Pole. 

Wish I could write that he was gruff and stank of whiskey, but he was downright jolly, smiled at me, and even gave me an unwarranted Ho Ho Ho when I said something wise about his balls. I suppose, since this is the downtown San Francisco store, west coast flagship of the chain, we get the best Santas. The whisky Santas must be working at the suburban malls.

♦ ♦ ♦

Wasn’t sure what to expect from the Roxie’s tribute to Tod Browning and Lon Chaney, but I took a chance and bought a ticket for tonight’s double bill. I’ve read that both of them, the director Browning (most famous for Freaks) and the actor Chaney (“Man of a thousand faces”) had a taste for bad taste, and tonight’s movies were both beautifully bizarre. I’ll probably be back for the whole week’s retrospective. 

The Unholy Three (1930) is the only talkie Lon Chaney made, and he died before it was released. He plays a ventriloquist who quits the carnival, taking a dwarf and a strongman with him, and together they start using their powers for not merely entertainment purposes. With the dwarf dressed as a baby, Chaney in drag, and the strongman just being strong, they open a pet shop, where Chaney the ventriloquist makes the parrots ‘talk’, and his two cohorts rob customers while making deliveries. 

This is a remake of Browning’s 1925 silent Unholy Three, but directed by someone else, and I wonder, could Browning’s original version have been any stranger? The talkie remake is damned peculiar and worth catching, if you can. It's one of the oddest non-John Waters flicks I’ve seen, marred only by a very fake-looking guy in an ape suit, which yielded unintended laughs from the audience.

The Unknown (1927) is insane. It’s set in a circus, and this time Chaney plays a man with no arms, who falls in love with Joan Crawford. She’s been damaged by life, and can’t stand to be touched by any man’s hands, but Chaney has no hands, so it’s a perfect romance, right? Wrong. 

After that it gets complicated, but I can’t say much more without saying too much. With the possible exception of Waters again, or maybe David Lynch, there is nobody making movies today with plots so outlandishly twisted. Chaney drinks tea with no hands, and gets into fistfights despite having no fists. If the movies all week are as weird as tonight’s, I’ll need a bigger thesaurus with more synonyms for ‘lurid’.

♦ ♦ ♦

Got home from the movies at about 10:00, turned on the typewriter, and reached into my pocket for some notes to myself I’d pounded out at work. Often at the office, I e-mail myself about things I want to remember to write about. There's no e-mail at home, of course, so I print the e-mails at work, and put them in my pocket.

My pocket was empty, though, and I knew immediately what I’d done. I’d printed the e-mail at work, but forgotten to take the printout from the printer. This meant that some very personal and probably inappropriate stuff might be sitting in the shared printer at work, with my name on it.

Uh-oh. Luckily, I live only a block from work, and I’m on decent terms with the building’s overnight security guard. Within ten minutes I was back in the office, all alone. My printout wasn’t on the printer, but I found it in the recycling bin, near the top. 

Had I written anything incendiary enough to be worth that walk to work at 10:00 PM? Yeah. There are two embarrassing lines.

One says, “Cynthia — new girl in Accounting, sexy, Rubenesque.” Since the pretty lady in question isn’t actually named Cynthia, I suppose it was only mystifying to whomever read it.

Another note on the same page says, “Carlotta wore a scoop-neck sweater. ‘Nuff said about that." Only I used Carlotta’s real name, and my real name is at the top of the page, in a very big font, because it’s my e-mail.

Someone saw that printout, presumably read it, and tossed it in the bin. I hope it wasn’t Carlotta, but if it was, well, c'est la vie. Which means, that's life. It'll be embarrassing, but there's nothing I can do about it except maybe not do it again.

Time to go back to writing notes to myself with a pen, on a piece of paper, and putting both pen and paper into my pocket.

From Pathetic Life #6
Friday, November 25, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Pathetic Life   

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