Two nights ago at B&N, I felt so casual and comfortable that one of the store managers had to ask me in hushed tones to button my shirt because I didn't appear professional.
And I confess. I was strutting my stuff. I was feeling mature, secure and masculine. I love my night job. The same way I loved working at Starb's in the city. I love the atmosphere and the cast of characters. What's funny is the fact that there's a new book published that my day boss told me about, which was discussed on one of our New York public radio stations. Starbucks didn't exactly save my life, but it is a massive stress reliever, if that makes any sense.
At any rate, I want to introduce you to the cast of characters at my night job.
My Supervisor, "Attention Deficit Annie" She's a dynamic woman who finds it hard to communicate with me without speaking at hypersonic speeds, and at that about two inches away from my face. She's the closest I've ever gotten to considering being inappropriate with, but she gets SO CLOSE, and she talks about SUCH NOTHING, that I ALWAYS wonder what would happen if I ducked in real quick and snatched a kiss to see what her tongue-stud tasted like.
"Undercover Emo" Tall lad who doesn't like to admit to any feelings at all, and would like for all of us to believe that he's got it all under control. One day he'll strangle a customer.
"Snapper" WAY too eager to please and cannot stay still to save his own life. If we ever got held up at gunpoint, his head would get blown off just because he'd make the robber WAY too nervous. I gave him this nickname because of what he CONTINUALLY does if he doesn't shove his hands in his pockets. No lie. I threatened him the other night with mittens.
"Gentle Giant" Consummate worker with a nice smile and serious closing-the-cafe-quickly skills. Needless to say, he's my favorite.
"Drama Queen" WHY did I tell this white girl that I once knew another white girl who pulled off the Ebonic term "Up in here" successfully? Because now DQ wants my approval of her every attempt. And it's not working. See, there are white people like Justin Timberlake, and there are white people like Steve Carell. I'm just saying.
"Vacuous" The less said the better. She just is. Bless her heart.
"Jabberjaw" She's mostly harmless too.
Customers (these are the customers who show up every day during my shift, and sit for hours. I said EVERY. DAY. For HOURS.)
"Won't-Go-Away Girl" She's adopted me into her family. God help me. It took about a week before I got well and truly sick of her face. I like to invite my own friends into my own life. The ones who impose will be sorely disappointed. I'm just saying.
"Carmine Macchiato" This is a strapping forty-something hero of a man who has a bashful, awkward approach to life, and two years ago, ordered Caramel Macchiatos exclusively. Tanned Italian that he is, he was dating a woman of color, but last week when he came in, he both ordered a different drink, and was without a date. I wanted to give him a big ol' hug.
"Little Tea Guy" He orders two ice teas, both large, every single time. Every. Time. But he himself is little. I suspect kidney trouble, ala Gary Coleman.
"The Profane Evangelist" This guy would hold a conversation with the stone lions at the NY Public Library. But just tonight I realized why he talks so much to so many strangers. He is evangelizing. No, really. The Bible. Tonite I overheard him tell one hapless, docile victim--"The Big Bang? It's bullsh!t!" Then proceeded to browbeat the lamb into admitting that God made everything, starting with light.
"Too-Many-Words Woman" She can't just order what she wants. She's got to second guess the damn things into the ground and ressurect them back up again. "Do you have non caffinated tea? What kind is it? Oh I don't know if I like that kind. Is it sweet? Well, I can sweeten in myself can't I? How much is that? Is that with tax? I don't know--I like coffee. Do you make non-caffeinated coffee? Oh of course you do. Okay, I'll have the tea. Is it decaffeinated?" Actually, this is a gestalt customer. She comes in about a dozen varieties. And usually when there are 27 people on line behind her.
"Monosyllabic Man" He wants a tall cup of coffee. Always.
"Mr. & Mrs. Korean Clippings" Every night they come, order a drink, then spread out their two shopping bags full of Asian newspapers across two tables, and clip coupons and articles and whatever the hell else until 10:55. We close at 11:00. I have no idea.
"Asian Nation" Our B&N is situated behind a sizable Korean church. The kids are dropped off at B&N. I don't know where the parents go, but I'm crediting them with church attendance. Which leaves the kids to sit with their SAT study guides and drink Frappaccinos and drink Tazo teas until the sugar finally transforms them into giggling, hyperactive alien hybrids from Alpha Centauri. They make me wonder--child cruelty? Is it worth losing your childhood to have a financially superior adulthood? Because when I tell you every night...I mean every night they are there. An assorted microcosm of Asian youth (and by Asian, I mean Korean), numbering about twenty to thirty of them, studying exams or textbooks, or flirting with the boys, or cellphoning, iPodding, or Sidekicking. If they're our future, then our future is going to be manga.
I will update as I recall more of them ...