Public Service Addiction

[Ed. Note: This customer was one of the drunkest I’ve dealt with to date, so when reading anything he says, slur it up in your head and mix the consonants around to get the full effect.]

Customer: “What’s the biggest bottle of lube you have?”

Me: “Sixteen ounces.”

Customer: “That’s the biggest bottle you have?”

Me: “Yes.”

Customer: “I need bigger.”

Me: “The biggest we have is 16 ounces.”

Customer: “Bigger.”

Me: “This is the biggest.”

Customer: “BIGGER.”

Me: [shrug]

Customer: “Okay.” [whispering] “I’m a slut.”

Me: “No kidding.”

[five minutes later]

Customer: “What’s the biggest bottle of lube you have?”

Me: “You just bought it.”

Him: “Just checking. How much is in this other lube?”

Me: “Sixteen ounces.”

Customer: “How much does it cost?”

Me: “$28.”

Customer: “WHAT?! Open it.”

Me: “I can’t do that.”

Customer: “$28?”

Me: “Yup.”

Customer: “BITCH.”

Me: “Still $28.”

Customer: “I hate you.”

Me: “That’s cool.”

Customer: “RUDE. It’s RUDE to charge so much.”

Me: “Then don’t buy it.”

Him: [slowly counting out 28 dollars] “Rude…”

A number of sober acquaintances were horrified appalled filled to overflowing with brimstone and judgement very concerned when I started working at the Forge. “If you hang out at the barbershop, you’re going to get a shave,” they chanted, while placing bets on how long it would take me to guiltily slink into a meeting and collect a new desire chip. But despite their hopes the odds, I’ve done remarkably well at both the store and in the bar where it’s housed, and customers like the guy above are major contributors to that.

Even after five years in recovery, I still get triggered occasionally. I can think of maybe one or two times when this has happened at the Forge, but it’s mainly occurred during stressful moments at my day job, or when I’m at a family gathering watching relatives polish off a couple of bottles of wine, or in the middle of a hurricane. Thing is, if a craving hits, all I have to do is look to a customer spending an additional $30 on personal lubricant because he’s forgotten how much he’s already purchased, or getting unnecessarily excited about the painfully obvious, or repeatedly smacking into a display case to remember why it’s best to keep alcohol out of my system entirely.

Novelist Catherine Aird once wrote, “If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” I definitely don’t think every single dude who ties one on at the Ripcord is a certified (or certifiable) alcoholic, but as a card-carrying rumhound myself, I am grateful for the humility provided by these semi-regular portents of what my life could go back to resembling.

It’s actually more like Scruff, but you get the picture.

Customer: “What are these?”

Customer’s Straight Female Friend: “Duh. Those are bandanas.”

Me: “Those are hankies. For the Hanky Code.”

Customer and SFF: [blank stares]

Me: “The Hanky Code was basically Grindr before there was Grindr. Each color represents a specific sexual preference or fetish, and the hanky itself is worn in either the left or right back pocket to indicate top or bottom.”

SFF: “Oooh, like those bracelets we wore in high school!”

Me: “Wait… what?”

SFF: “Yep, just like them.”

And then they left, and a) what the hell kind of bracelets was she talking about, and b) what the fuck was going on at her high school? I mean, we had slap bracelets when I was in school, but those just meant “I am dangerously close to severing an artery.”

Oh, and in middle school, we had those handmade friendship bracelets that I could never figure out how to weave. One of my teachers used to call them germ catchers. I don’t judge, but it kinda sounds like this chick was wearing germ catchers, too.

ETA: Mystery solved. (Thank you, Jessie! You’re a fuzzy peach.)

AromAversion Therapy

Customer: “What’s this?”

Me: “That’s leather-scented lube.”

Customer: “Yeah, the smell of leather has kind of lost it’s appeal.”

Me: “Has it?”

Customer: “The first time I got fucked, we used my friend’s mom’s hand cream. That’s the scent that does it for me. Ha ha!”

Me: [weakly] “Ha ha…”

Customer: “Ha ha ha!”

Me: “Um…”

Customer: “AH HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAA!!!”

Me: “…”

And right as he doubled over with maniacal laughter, the bar’s jukebox kicked on and started playing “The NeverEnding Story.”

I wasn’t really using my childhood, so it’s probably okay that it just got ruined.

Status Update: Currently fixating on the following cover in a bid to clear my palate. The kicky dance moves seem to be helping.

Location Locution Loquation

Customer: “What does your shirt say?”

Me: “Oh, this? It says FoLK.'”

Customer: “FoLK?”

Me: “Yes, short for ‘Fellowship of Leather and Kink.’  It’s a local leather club.”

Customer: “Nice! I’ve never been there.”

I started to clarify that FoLK was actually a group of like-minded individuals and not a seedy gay bar, but then his boyfriend wandered in and was all, “Wow, great porn shop! I love it when these places have porn shops,” and suddenly I didn’t feel helpful anymore. Must’ve been the weather or my sinuses or something.

It was nice to file a claim that didn’t involve me being the one to crash into the shoreline for a change.

Hi from Houston. Let’s do a quick check-in.

The place where I live took in about two inches of water, just enough to destroy the floors and baseboards, but other than a couple of leaks in my bathroom ceiling, there is no other evident damage. The floodwaters themselves covered the street and the front yard and came up over the porch to the door, so we couldn’t leave the house for several days. However, we miraculously never lost power, and we were well-stocked in the non-perishable department, so we were and continue to be okay.

The apartment I sublet to a friend of mine is located in one of the few areas of the city that somehow didn’t flood, so while neither one of us has been able to get over there to inspect it, we’re hoping for the best. My parents (who live in town) are safe and dry, as is their home. Many of my friends made it through the storm without incident, and all of them are accounted for.

My car ended up about halfway underwater and is inoperable, and the office where I work during the day is closed “until further notice.” But the Forge is still standing, so at the very least I am somewhat employed, and for that I am extremely grateful.

In the midst of the whole disaster, I didn’t really pay attention to what anyone outside of Texas was saying about the hurricane or its aftermath, assuming it was all thoughts and prayers or whatever. But then I noticed the following comment on a friend’s Facebook timeline, and I realized that not everyone across our great nation was impressed with Houston’s resilience and can-do spirit:

I find it difficult to sympathize with people who saw a “historic” storm headed their way and chose to stay put. Pure stupidity!

Far more talented writers than I have composed thoughtful, eloquent articles detailing the mechanics of Houston’s extensive bayou and retention systems, and the impossibilities of safely evacuating 6.5 million residents (the most thorough of which can be found here), and I applaud those authors. I myself am neither thoughtful nor eloquent, but if no one objects, I’d like to go ahead and throw in my own $0.02 on the subject.

Here’s the thing, Cameron From Idaho. It’s not that you “find it difficult to sympathize”: it’s that you don’t care, but on some level you feel bad that you don’t care, so you need it to be somebody else’s fault that you don’t care, which is where we Houstonians come into play. And you know what? It’s okay. Really. We all have uncomfortable feelings bubble up sometimes — it’s like the time a friend called me to tell me his partner left him, and all I could think was, “I’ve never really enjoyed your company.”

The point, Cam, is that there are people who do care, and those people are literally saving lives right now, so the pressure is totally off of you. You can rest easy knowing that your dissonant yet self-indulgent lack of compassion has no impact whatsoever on the victims of Harvey, and you can go back to doing whatever it is you do best… which, from what I can tell, is judging people on the Internet from the safety of your parents’ basement.

We don’t have a lot of basements in Houston, on account of they tend to, y’know, flood. But I hear they’re cozy. So stay safe and warm down there, Cameroonie! I’ll bet it’ll make an excellent shelter during whichever force of nature demolishes your hometown every decade or so.

Anyway, back to my hometown. For those who want to help, some of the Misfits are raising money for the American Red Cross, and the Forge is raising money for the Houston Food Bank. You can donate to the Montrose Center, which has started an LGBTQ disaster relief fund, or, if you’re in the area and want to do something in person, you can find a comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities here.

As bleak as the situation seems, there is no doubt we’re going to get through it. And regardless of what you are or aren’t individually able to do, just knowing that most of the country is rooting for us is pretty awesome in and of itself.

So thank you for that. Thank you for caring. I promise that everything up to and including kind words is beyond appreciated. I promise it’s making a difference.

#HoustonStrong
Danny is actually in Dallas, but he definitely says thank you as well.

ETA: I came across this video after watching a tropical storm eat my car, and it gave me a little hope during a moment of insane powerlessness. Just wanted to pass along the encouragement.