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Four minutes to Van Ness

Today's a day off work, yet work is still on my mind. At the second-hand shop where I wear the crazy cape, I like the owners, LeeAnn and Stevi. They're always nice to me, it's a fabulous shop. They're passionate about it. They've told me that running a shop like this has been a dream of theirs for a long time, and they do a marvelous job keeping the shelves stocked with great stuff. I sincerely recommend the place, and if you're in the Castro or Upper Market area, please stop in, spend some money, and tell them Doug sent you.

But I don't see how the shop survives. Sometimes an hour goes by without anyone even coming through the door, and they've had whole days selling next to nothing at all.

They're in the perfect neighborhood for a shop selling colorful clothes and oddities from another era and ladies' garments big enough for men to wear, but they've chosen a disastrous location. It's a low-rise neighborhood with lots of storefront shops, but they're on the second floor. From the sidewalk or street, other than me wearing the cape and pointing people upstairs, the only clue that there's anything on the second floor is a wordy A-frame sign that has a big arrow pointing up, and says "collectibles, clothing, accessories, drag, jewelry, art, statuary, books, baby boomer nostalgia, furniture, gifts & more."

There's only one similar shop within a mile — and it's right below, on the first floor of the same building. Our competitor has a full window display and a neon sign, and they couldn't be more visible. When I get people's attention and they turn and look toward our shop, what they see first is the other shop, the Brand X shop at sidewalk level.

That's why "Upstairs!" is half my vocabulary when I'm wearing the cape. I say "Upstairs! Upstairs! Hey, mister — go up the stairs!" thousands of times every day, and maybe one out of a hundred people passing by on the sidewalk actually turns and looks. And when they look, what do they see? Our competitor's shop. 

In our upstairs shop, drag is the best-seller, so I've suggested that we should stress drag more. Me wearing the green cape and insect hood is weird, and maybe weird gets people's attention, but we're not selling capes and insect heads. I think they should put me in a dress and make-up to hand out the flyers — there's a yellow chiffon skirt I'd look great in, especially with my pale chubby legs and beard.

But Stevi says no, because the ladies' clothes for men are too expensive, and they're afraid of the wear and tear on the garments. In the wise words of Michael Nesmith and Linda Ronstadt, I think she can't see the forest for the trees.

They have me vacuum the shop every morning, but not until they're open. They often have me unload and carry stuff through the store and into the backroom, to be cleaned up and priced and put out for sale, but again, I do this while the shop is open. So there I am with a big 50-pound box in my arms, waiting for shoppers to get out of my way, or vacuuming over their toes. It's basically saying, "Hey bub, could you quit thinking about buying that expensive rocking chair so I can vacuum in that corner?" 

It would make more sense, I think, to juggle my hours and have me do the stocking and vacuuming before we're open for business, or after we're closed. I've said that to Stevi, but she says no. She doesn't want to come in an hour earlier, and she doesn't want to give me a key.

On Sunday nights, the place closes at 6:00, but yesterday at about 5:45 I hit a hot streak on the sidewalk, and started sending 2-3 people up the stairs every couple of minutes. By 6:00 there were nine people in the shop, wandering the aisles and oohing and ahhing and trying on shoes and putting merch into their baskets... until Stevi said, "Sorry, folks, we're closing. Please come back some other day." 

She rang up a few people who were ready to buy, but scooted everyone else out the door, said good night to me, and at 6:03 the second floor was darkened and empty.

It's their shop, not mine, but I think LeeAnn and Stevi should've stayed open another fifteen or thirty minutes, and let the people shop. When I said so to Stevi, though, she did what she usually does when I have a bright idea. She shook her head no. She's running the shop her way, thank you very much. I just work there.

♦ ♦ ♦

After work I checked the mail, and then had a crazy ride back on the #14 bus. I was waiting at the stop across from the Transbsay Terminal, but when the bus came, the driver didn't pull over. The light was red, so I walked between cars into the second lane and knocked on the bus's glass door. The driver rolled her eyes and opened it, muttering what a fool I was to be standing in traffic.

I climbed aboard and agree with her, "Hell, I've always been a fool." She laughed and dropped her attitude, and explained why she hadn't stopped.

"I've got four minutes to get to Van Ness," she said, "or I'll be late. And I do not want to be late, so I'm not stopping until Van Ness."

OK by me, since I was going further than Van Ness — if we're going express, so much the better. But does anyone expect Muni to stick to a schedule? Jeez. I saw some Muni timetables on a bus a while back, but they're not a common sight. I prefer non-fiction. Muni on schedule is an oxymoron.

True to her word, though, tonight's driver drove past the stops on every block, cackling like the Wicked Witch about all the people hollering for her to stop, waving their bags, briefcases, and arms, trying to get her attention. From inside the bus this was plenty funny, but less so if I'd been one of the unlucky schmucks standing at any of the bus stops where the bus didn't stop.

We stopped only for traffic lights, and I was the only passenger on the #14, a route that's usually standing room only by Powell Street. After Van Ness, when she finally let passengers board the bus, she snapped at them to, "Step up! Step up! We haven't got all day!"

It was like riding the bus to an alternate universe. She must've been a rookie to care about being on-time, but she has the Muni arrogance down pat already.

♦ ♦ ♦

The rest of the evening went toward trying to rescue the March issue of this zine. It's not as good as the December or January issues, but guess what? It'll still cost the same three bucks. Cash only. No checks.


From Pathetic Life #11
Monday, April 3, 1995

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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