The List Goes On Without You

Customer: “I have a question.”

Me: “Okay.”

Customer: “So, the color codes.”

Me: “Yes?”

Customer: “Light blue?”

Me: “Oral.”

Customer: “Dark blue?”

Me: “Anal.”

Customer: “Got it. Thank you!”

[He leaves. The store is empty and silent.]

Me: “I know the rest of them, too…”

I Should’ve Trusted My Instincts and Bribed Him with Burnt Offerings

[Rok and I have opened the bar store early in preparation for LUEY Weekend. We’re bustling about when a customer slinks in, places his elbows on the counter, rests his chin on his hands and regards us dolefully.]

Me: “Hello!”

Rok: “Welcome!”

Customer: [limpid gaze]

Me: “…”

Rok: “…”

Customer: “Do you have a large?”

Me: “…”

Rok: “…”

Customer: [limpid gaze]

Me and Rok: [in unison] “A LARGE WHAT?!”

Customer: “Shirt.”

Not a specific T-shirt or leather tunic, mind you: just… y’know… “shirt” as an archetype. Rok can normally keep himself composed when facing even our most abrasive customers, but I honestly kind of thought he was going to punch the guy.

Okay, I kind of hoped he was going to punch the guy.

Fine, I prayed for him to punch the guy. But he never did.

Conclusion: Rok is abysmal at answering prayers. I will be taking my future requests for prompt succor elsewhere.

Today, matching earrings. Tomorrow, the WORLD.

I walked into work a few minutes ago, and Tank (Rok’s partner; our other owner) handed me a package that had been delivered to the Forge but addressed to “Marjorie Thomas.”

Remember when I had that meltdown and refused to be GLUE Weekend run captain without a tiara? Well, I legitimately have no clue who sent it, but I owe one of you monsters a whole mess of tacos.


I’m Sexy and I Stoic

Customer: “How’s your boyfriend doing?”

Me: “Oh. We broke up, actually.”

Customer: “I’m so sorry to hear that!”

Me: “It’s okay. But thanks.”

Customer: “What happened?”

Me: [shrugging] “It just didn’t work out.”

Customer: “Was it the distance?”

Me: “Nah. It just didn’t work out.”

Customer: “Did he meet someone else?”

Me: “It just didn’t work out.”

Customer: “Did you meet someone else?”

Me: “It just didn’t work out.”

[Somewhere between five minutes and three weeks later…]

Customer: “Did he have weird fetishes that you couldn’t deal with?”

Me: [still impassive, but with a noticeable facial tic] “It just didn’t work out.”

Customer: “Wait, was it you? Were you the one with weird fetishes?”

Me: “It… just… didn’t… work… out.”

I don’t know if he ran out of probable causes, or if he got uncomfortable when I started visibly twitching, but he eventually accepted defeat and wandered away, leaving me with my scruples and serenity intact. Although I was ringing up another customer an hour or so later and couldn’t figure out why the lube he was buying was so cold to the touch, then glanced down and realized I was trying to scan his beer.

Apparently, my first trek up the moral high road took a heftier emotional toll than anticipated.

PS: I told my sponsor this story, and he was like, “You deserve a medal for not bending. But you also missed the opportunity to say that you broke up because he has the clap. Medal revoked.” And that’s fine. I’ve always been more of a participation ribbon kind of guy anyway.

Faster Than a Speeding Jurat

My friend Paul: [to his husband, David] “Okay, so now that we’ve both signed the written instrument, all we have to do is to get it notarized, and then I can file the paperwork.”

David: “But where are we going to find a notary at this hour?”

Me: [bounding into the room] “I’M A NOTARY!”

Paul and David: “HOORAY!!!”

I have waited my entire adult life for this moment.

Experience, Strength and Dead Hookers

At the beginning of most 12-Step meetings, the chairperson asks, “Is this anyone’s first meeting ever, anytime, anywhere?” Every so often, somebody nervously raises a hand. “WELCOME!!!” shouts everyone else. Should the newcomer not immediately have a stroke, the chair usually announces that the discussion topic will be the First Step: “We admitted we were powerless over [our drug of choice/destructive behavior/This Is Us], and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

The point of a First Step meeting is for people who have been around awhile to explain how they ended up in recovery, and how their lives have improved since that time. In reality, though, things quickly deteriorate into what I’ve come to call a Dead Hooker meeting — that is, people skip right past the messages of hope in favor of the lurid details of their addictions:

“So there I was, in a cheap motel room with a dead hooker.” [dramatic pause] “And that’s when I realized I might have a problem.” [hold for applause]

There is very little one can do once a meeting has gone full metal Hooker, other than grind one’s teeth and pray the newcomer doesn’t bail halfway through to go find an opium den. Occasionally, in a valiant attempt to avoid this phenomenon, the chair will pitch a different topic relevant to the newly sober, my personal favorite being, “Why did you go to your second meeting? What brought you back?” I don’t have quantifiable statistics in front of me, but I’m going to say this tactic has about a 60/40 success rate.

Believing themselves to be warded against exaggerated horror stories, people will talk about the warm, nonjudgmental attitudes they encountered, and the optimism that grew out of that. Unfortunately, there are a lot of hardline traditionalists out there who can’t handle even the slightest of deviations, and when called on to share, they will wrestle away control and steer the meeting straight back to Hookerville (pop. -1):

“I appreciate your topic, but I think it’s also very important that we talk about the First Step. In my case, family members had been trying to reach me for days, but I’d lost my phone after blacking out at a Tijuana donkey show… with dead hookers everywhere.

It’s great that those of us in recovery have a safe place to tell these tales, and it’s a lot of fun to be able to laugh at some of the bigger mangles — we laugh, because most of us have gone through the same awful struggles and survived. And that’s the important part of our narratives, the part that often gets lost in the grime. We survived. And we’re not doing anyone any favors if we only focus on what we survived instead of how we survived it.

With that put to bed, I should mention that a spoonful of Hooker, shared specifically at a newcomer’s prompting, does help the boozelessness go down. Recently, while I was helping clean up after a meeting, a guy I’d never seen before came over and said hello, then admitted it was his first meeting. He was too freaked out to say anything earlier, but he’d heard a lot of good things, even if he wasn’t sure he could stay sober himself.

“Dude, seriously, I used to come to this meeting drunk,” I replied. “If I can stay sober, trust me, anyone can.”

The new guy looked at me warily, as if I’d just extolled the amenities of our marvelous jungle compound and asked if he’d care for some Flavor-Aid. So I hollered to my friend B., waved him over and was all, “In your own words, please recount how big of a train wreck I was when I first showed up here.”

B. looked New Guy up and down with a critical eye. “Well, you’re sober,” he said. “So you’re already ahead of Thomas.”

There was a moment of silence as New Guy stared at me, then B., then back at me again. Finally, he spoke:

“I… am… so hungover right now.”

And then all three of us laughed our asses off.

And really, that’s when things work out best: When the newbie sees people with their shit (mostly) together, who can truthfully say, We know where you’re coming from, but you don’t have to go back there; you can stay here with us if you want to. And sometimes they do, and they stick around and get better. And that is awesome. It is miraculous. It is worth its weight in dead hookers.

Caution: Slippery When Launched at an Armored Car

Customer: [holding up a bottle of lube] “Do you carry this, except as a lube?”

Me: “Um… pardon me?”

Customer: “I’m looking for this product, except lube.”

Me: “That is lube.”

Customer: “It is?” [He stares at the container in his hand, eventually noticing the bright red “Silicone Lubricant” decal that runs its entire length.] “Oh, hey! This is lube!”

Part of me is desperate to know what he actually thought was in the bottle (Antifreeze? Silly String? Crystal Pepsi?), but the rest of me is just glad he didn’t think it was flammable, like the last time this happened.

Unless he thought it was lighter fluid. Or lamp oil. Or a prêt-à-porter Molotov cocktail.

Something tells me I’m going to be printing out some very inane warning labels in the near future.