Thursday, March 31, 2011

Charge It

One afternoon Fernando has just opened for business and is restocking his sodey pop fridge with Cherry Coke and Mountain Dew when the young woman who visited the day before enters. “Oh, it's you!” she says.

Er,” responds Fernando, “it's never anybody else. Sorta run the place by myself.” He rises to his feet and assumes his customary place behind the counter, carrying the leftover bottles with him. “What can I do for you today?”

Oh, nothing. I just wanted to know if you had in You Again.” Sort of paradoxial statements when taken together, but who can claim to fully understand the thought processes of another human being?

Fernando nods. “Yep. Just got back a copy that was rented yesterday.”

She digs through her female plastic money-clam-wallet-thing. “Oh no. I only have five bucks, and I still need to get gas.”

Fernando shrugs. “If you really wanted, you could charge it.”

REALLY?” she gasps as if the concept of charging things had never dawned to her before. “You'd let me do that?”

Fernando shrugs again. “Well, yeah. I let people charge pretty regularly so long as they don't already owe me money. It's no big deal. You can just stick the money in the case or whatever when you return it tomorrow.”

“Wow, thanks!” She beams as Fernando fills out the rental slip, writes CHARGED in big letters near the top, and retrieves the movie.

“Er. I do need you to sign at the bottom,” he says when she about skips out without aforementioned signature. After she scribbles something hastily upon the line, she does skip out of the store.

It is said that acts of kindness never go unpunished. This statement, Fernando concedes, is correct.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


One sunny Monday afternoon Fernando is milling about online when a high schooler enters the store. This high schooler had visited irregularly at times in the past, always in the company of its peers.

Ignorant of the consequences that would follow from engaging her in harmless conversation, Fernando says, “Hello,” when she passes the counter.

She immediately slumps upon the countertop and buries her head in her folded arms. “I'm really bored.”

That's good news for me,” says Fernando, “considering I'm in the home entertainment business. You looking for something in particular?”

She giggles even though Fernando had said nothing particularly humorous. “I don't know.” Then, out of nowhere: “I wish I had a beard. That would be cool.”

Fernando scratches the side of his face, upon a portion of his own Obligatory Nerd Beard. “Erm. They're actually sort of annoying to properly maintain. But with the hormone therapies available today I'm sure if you really, really wanted one badly enough you could attain your goal.”

She giggles again. Poor, ignorant Fernando. “How much for a pop?” she asks.

Dollar-fifty after deposit.”

Oh. Okay.” She fishes out one-fifty in change and dumps it on the counter, then retrieves a Mountain Dew from Fernando's sodey pop fridge. “See you later!” she chirps.

Adieu,” responds Fernando before turning back to his internet.

So it began.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Conversational Threads

One evening at around 7.30 Fernando is doing all the things he generally does around that time, like updating the late list and cleaning. One of his regular customers comes in and rents a couple of movies. As she retrieves her money to pay, Fernando makes a comment about her money-holding-clam-female-wallet-thing. “ that the Cheshire Cat from American McGee's Alice on there?”

What?” she says. “Oh, yeah. Yeah, I got this for Valentine's Day.”

Oh? Hot Topic?”

Spencer's, actually. They actually have a lot of stuff like this.”

Oh, yeah, sure. There's all kinds of stuff like that, or the...shit...I want to say Seth MacFarlane figurines but I know that's not right.”

Todd McFarlane. Seth MacFarlane is kind of a little different.”

Well, Todd has much better artistry in his projects. But it's all corporate moneymilking anyhow. It's like how Invader Zim stuff is plastered everywhere so Nickelodeon can get their royalties but the actual cartoon? Psh. Canceled after a year and a half because most of the viewers were college-aged people and Nick didn't like that fact.”

You know about Invader Zim?”

Know it? I own the DVDs and have been a fan ever since I accidentally stumbled across, by pure chance while channel flipping in the dorm room at college to procrastinate studying for some exam, the one time they aired the Christmas episode back in 2002.”

And from there Fernando and this customer discussed many topics under the sun and the moon. Roughly in order: Invader Zim, how Invader Zim will never be uncanceled, the uncancellation of Family Guy and how most of the newer episodes are crap, Adult Swim and its role in the uncancellation, how Adult Swim started sucking right around 2006 because every show became random-access stoner humor and all the good shows like Moral Orel or Korgoth of Barbaria were either ended or never allowed to blossom in the first place, how most TV shows that are genuinely good are canceled by networks that apparently hate viewers, Firefly, Fringe, Lost and how the series finale was “narrative blue balls,” American media consumption being driven by passivity on the part of the viewers instead of provoking an engagement in the narrative, Snakes on a Plane, movies that are so bad they embrace their badness and become awesome, how most modern horror movies go for shock value above ambiance, how Rosemary's Baby is probably the creepiest movie that either of us had ever seen, how the Nightmare on Elm Street series is not horror but actually very very very very very black comedy, Little Miss Sunshine, Stranger Than Fiction, how the aforementioned movie is in Fernando's opinion Will Ferrell's best, The Other Guys and how it breaks the Will Ferrell curse of bad movies, how weird it is that Fernando has been in a conversation for over an hour, how Fernando maintains a strict divide between his personal and his business life, agreement that Fernando keeping his “dorkiness” hidden from most customers is probably a good idea, how this customer has a “gorgeous” female acquaintance who exclusively dates geeks, Fernando wryly predicting that this acquaintance is by necessity not single and then being proven correct in that assumption, online dating, the confirmation biases inherent in people who utilize online dating, the silliness of people who proclaim “true love” after having dated for about six months, accidentally making babies, teenage pregnancy, people refusing to obtain some reliable means of birth control despite having just accidentally made a baby and then ending up with a litter of four or five of them, common sense, Fernando reminiscing about how he thought he was “hot shit” at milestones in his past but later learning he was just as ignorant as ever, kids these days and their iObjects, fourteen-year-olds who look and dress like they're in their twenties, Gumby, how most animation nowadays contains some sort of parental bonus or is geared to older viewers anyhow, Invader Zim.

By the time the circle had been closed, it was quarter after 9. Fernando usually closes at 8 on Wednesdays.

Fernando supposes time does fly when one is having fun. And Fernando watched The Other Guys that night once he got home and it was actually not bad at all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Faulty Goods

-Ring ring ring-

Hello, Dominion of Movies.”

Yeah, I wanted to let you know that the copy of The Social Network I rented isn't working.”

Peculiar,” responds Fernando, while he is rifling through his rental slips to find out who has out what copies of The Social Network. Turns out there's only one copy out at the moment, and three guesses in which pile the slip is located, and to top it all off the person in question is one of those people who constantly tries to wheedle for the tiniest of benefits to himself.

Yeah, so I wanted to know if I can get like a free rental or something.”

I think we can work something out. Come on down and we'll haggle this out.” This seems to satisfy the man, and the guy hangs up.

Twenty minutes later, he comes to the store and drops the movie onto the counter. “So, free rental, right?”

Fernando grabs the movie and inspects it for scratches and other obvious forms of damage. “Tell you what: you get a free rental, and you pay the nine dollars in late fees you've racked up while keeping at home this movie that didn't work.”

Uh...I didn't bring any money with me.”

That's fine. You can take care of it next time you're in.” Fernando smiles.

Erm....uhhh....” the man hems and haws. Then he leaves the store at damn near a jog.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Child Proxies

One evening Fernando is minding his own business and reading Fark when a beat-up truck pulls up. Normally this does not arouse Fernando's focus overmuch, since most vehicles hereabouts are beaten up to a greater or lesser degree, but this one piqued his interest because he espied the driver.

This particular driver owes Fernando a total of $18.50 in late fees on six different rental slips. He was one of those people who would rack up eight dollars, pay off three, and then gain eight more when the newly-rented movies went unreturned. The last time he'd come in to rent, Fernando asked for more to be put down than the paltry $1.50 he offered so that headway could perhaps be made. If that for some reason sounds unreasonable, he was paying for about $7 in rentals with a twenty.

He returned those movies late, and ended up with $18.50 in late fees total. Fernando was going to put his foot down most firmly this time, oh yes.

So when the chimes on the door tinkled, what did Fernando see but the man's 13ish-year-old son, who has always come in with him before and was, put charitably, a brat. He saunters in like he owns the place and grabs a pair of rental tags and throws them down on the counter. Then he places his palms on the glass countertop and pulses his body up and down in some vague mockery of a push-up. “Do you have any popcorn?” he asks.

I'm afraid not. Today is Thursday. Popcorn's on weekends,” Fernando says. He selects one of the pens resting upon the countertop and asks, “How much did you guys want to put on your late fee?”

Nothing. My dad sent me in here to rent for him because he doesn't want to pay his late fees.”

Well, at least he's forthright. But still a moron.

Huh,” says Fernando, who has stopped writing because he is about to have fun now that this guy has made it crystal clear he has no intentions of dealing with his late fee.

What?” asks the lad upon noticing, except in the tone of voice that makes it more a demand.

I'm sorry. I can't rent these to you.”

What?” Now his voice is getting high-pitched and whiny. “Why not?”

These movies are rated R and I can't let you have those without explicit parental consent. You're not seventeen, are you?”

Now he's becoming petulant and starts babbling. "You rent those to other people!"

"Well, their parents have given me the okay before. Tell you what,” says Fernando, “howsabout you go get him and bring him in and we'll hammer out the problem with renting these movies. This way I'm not legally at fault for allowing restricted material to come into the hands of a minor.” And Fernando flashes a big grin.

The kid leaves and opens the passenger side of the truck, and Fernando can clearly see an argument brewing. Then he climbs in before the truck peels out in a final, feeble, act of defiance.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Jackassitude Four

Time passes, and it becomes quarter after seven. Fernando's other copies of Jackass 3 have all been returned, and they have all gone out again because people inexplicably want to watch that dreck. But the one set aside for Mr. Salami lingers on Fernando's desk by its lonesome. The Walking Dead has already been collected, as has The Next Three Days. Fernando is not optimistic it will even be collected, as that is how things tend to unfold when someone absolutely must have a particular movie set aside for him or her.

Then a car pulls up and the two girls from earlier reenter the store. “Yeah, we're here for Jackass 3. Do you have it?” asks the one with the voluntary nasal disfigurement.

Of course,” Fernando replies, flashing the case and moving to the counter. He sets about filling the rental slip out and asks, “Can I get your name?”

Alister Crowley.”

Why is that name familiar? thinks Fernando, filling out the rental slip as he peripherally checks out the late list. Is it...?

As Fernando shuffles about looking as if he's doing something meaningful, he positions himself to get a closer view of the late list. And there it is: Crowley, Alister. 2/20/09. $1.50.

Uh, turns out you actually have a tiny late fee--” begins Fernando before he is rudely interrupted.

What? How? From when?”

From February of 2009. A buck fifty.”

You're serious?”

Fernando allows a bit of snark to enter his voice. “I generally find it is bad business sense to create late fees out of whole cloth.” He goes to his desk and withdraws the Tiny-But-Not-Really Binder of Late Fees, A-M, then flips through it to the C's. And there it was. He shows her the slip inside the book and she shrugs in mute acceptance.

Fine. I'll pay it.”

It'll be five dollars altogether.” She hands over a wad of singles and departs.

And so the saga of Jackass 3 came to an anticlimactic end.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jackassitude 3

About forty minutes later, around 3ish on that same Saturday, Fernando had just reached the part with the paragraph starting “Fernando resists the urge to sigh in frustration,” when the phone rings again. (Fernando is not a slow typist or one who finds it difficult to place words next to other words in a narrative. It's just that he has to help customers in a timely manner).

Hello, Dominion of Movies.”

Yeah, it's Sammy again. Has it gotten in yet?”

Fernando closes his eyes and thinks happy thoughts and says, “No, unfortunately, it hasn't yet. But you're still at the top of the list.”

Ok, cool. Uh, could you try calling me at this number instead of the other one? My phone doesn't get good reception out here.”

Fernando peers at the caller ID, which reads CELLULAR CALL. “If you could give that to me, it'd be great. The caller ID isn't showing me the number.”

Oh. Well, it's 011-0011.”

Got it,” says Fernando after scribbling out the first number and scrawling the second next to it.

But if nobody answers at this one, call the other one.”

Fernando frowns at his Notebook of Infinite Might and Justice and the illegible jumble of ink that was the first number. He can just barely make out the numbers that existed before the defacing. “Will do.”

Ok. Bye.” And Sammy hangs up.

An hour later, someone finally returns a copy of Jackass 3. And Fernando calls up Mr. Salami at the second number he gave and, after a few rings, a voice at the other end that is definitely not Mr. Salami says, “Hello?”

Yeah, this is Fernando from the Dominion of Movies. I'm calling to let Mr. Salami know that I just got back a copy of Jackass 3 so he can come by to pick it up.”

Oh, ok. I'll let him know.” And the mystery man on the other end hangs up without another word.

To Be Continued....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jackassitude II

Around 2 PM that same day, a pair of sixteenish-year-old ladies enter the Dominion and approach the counter.

Hi,” says one of them, who has a nose ornament that dangles below her nostrils like the lead on a cow. “We were wondering if you had any copies of Jackass 3 in yet. Our friend said that you had one waiting for him.” mean Mr. Salami?”


Um, that seems to be a miscommunication. I actually don't have any of my copies back yet.”

What are those movies there?” she asks, pointing to a pair of cases resting on the desk behind the counter, near Fernando.

Those would be The Walking Dead and The Next Three Days. I'm holding them for someone else.”

Well, how come those are in but Jackass 3 isn't?” she demands.

Um...I can't really control when people choose to return the movies they'd rented the day before. The only stipulation is that they have to be back by seven PM to avoid late fees.”

She tilts her head in a way that exactly mimics Quizzical Dog. “Only what?”

Stipulation. Constraining edict. Rule.”

Oh,” she says, seemingly content in her vocable ignorance. Then, after a moment, she continues, “You should call the people up right now to tell them to bring the movie back.”

Fernando scratches the side of his face. “I mean, it's basically theirs until seven. I could call people up to ask for them to return things early, but that's kind of a—pardon the pun—jackass move for me, wouldn't you agree?”

I don't see how it's not,” she sniffs. “My friend wants to rent the movie. You'd get money for it.”

I understand that. But I'm not going to call up and harass a customer who is allowed to have possession of my property until seven PM in order to make an extra three-fifty off it.”

Well, when are you expecting it to get back?”

Fernando resists the urge to sigh in frustration. “Again, I don't control when people choose to return the movies they have. If I had the power to snap my fingers and have one of my copies materialize on the desk in front of me right now, I would. But I don't. Rest assured, Mr. Salami's at the top of the list for this thing and I will be giving him a call the minute I get one of my copies back. There's nothing more I can do.”

What if none of them get returned?” she asks. “What if you get one back and don't call?”

That would be idiocy on my part because I'd be negatively impacting my income. And to answer your first question, that's why I have late fees.”

So you'll have one back before seven?” she asks, something vaguely resembling comprehension alight in her eyes even as her words reveal she's not at all following the words Fernando had been saying..

Odds are pretty good I'll have one back before seven. None of my copies have been returned yet. But it's possible that I won't have any back before seven. In which case those people would be responsible for late fees. Like I said, I can't control what other people do.”

Oh. Well, don't forget to call then!” she says, then leaves with her silent companion.

Fernando shakes his head and turns to his computer screen and opens the OpenOffice document in which he records his Chronicles. And he proceeds to write the very tale that has just been in part related.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in part.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


One Saturday the phone starts to ring about an hour before opening as Fernando is sorting his returns. Normally Fernando ignores phone calls, especially those that read CELLULAR NUMBER, that long before he's officially “on the clock,” as it were, but on this day he feels subconsciously extraordinary and picks up.

Hello, Dominion of Movies.”

Yeah, I was wondering if you had Jackass 3 in.”

Um...I don't have any copies in at the moment, but if you wanted to give me your name and number I can give you a call as soon as I get one in.”

Uh. Ok. It's Sammy Salami, and 101-0110.” Fernando jots this information down in his Notebook of Infinite Might and Justice and reiterates to the young man that he will contact him once someone returns one of Fernando's copies of that godawful movie.

They exchange good-byes and Fernando resumes his lonely vigil in the empty store, keeping entertained by reading Fark and consuming coffee.

A little more than one hour later, at around quarter after twelve, about fifteen minutes after opening....

-Ring ring ring-

Hello, Dominion of Movies?”

Yeah, have you gotten back Jackass 3 yet?” It is the same man as earlier., no I haven't.”

Well, do you know when you'll have them back by?”

Not really. I've only been open for about fifteen minutes and have only gotten back maybe a quarter of the movies that were rented yesterday. All my copies are due back today, though, so odds are pretty decent that I'll have one in at some point in the nearish future.”

Oh, ok. You're still giving me a call when you get them in?”

Absolutely.” And the young man hangs up, and Fernando resumes his wait.


Thursday, March 10, 2011


Fernando is helping a customer one evening and goes to retrieve the movies she has requested. When he collects them and brings them to the counter, the woman says, “I just wanted to tell you that I love your sign.”

Sign?” asks Fernando, “Which one?” Fernando has a number of signs proclaiming different things, for example the rules for his weekly drawing or his Name Your Price shelf, strewn throughout the store.

That one.” She points at a printed notice affixed to the archway leading from the foyer at the front of the store to the area housing all the rental cases. The sign reads “THIS IS NOT A DAYCARE. KEEP YOUR CHILDREN UNDER CONTROL,” in crimson ink.

Fernando chuckles. “Oh, yeah. Thanks. Yeah, that one got put up after an unfortunate incident about a year and a half ago.”

The woman produces a dainty and nevertheless impressive snort. “You're telling me. I used to work for the state. You wouldn't believe the 'parenting' some of these kids had,” she says, utilizing the awesome power of air quotes in full.

Definitely,” Fernando agrees. “One or two at a time are reasonable, but piles of kids tend to increase chaos exponentially instead of merely multiplicatively.”

The woman laughs. “So, what happened?”

Fernando sighs as he travels down a trite metaphor to recollect. “There were two different groups of kids in the store with their parents. At one point, they started wrestling among themselves. It ended with about two-thirds of the kids-slash-family section on the floor.”

The woman winces. “Ouch.”

Yeah. Ouch. So, same day, I put up the sign because the parents just stood there while this was happening.”

I could never have gotten away with that at my old job,” she says with regret.

Fernando barks a short laugh. “It's one of the perks of being your own boss. Sure, the signs aren't exactly professional quality, but I get to be my sarcastic self upon them. Makes it all worthwhile.”

The woman laughs again, gathers her movies, bids Fernando a good night, and departs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Civil War

It's Monday afternoon at around 3.30. Fernando had just finished grinding some coffee beans and getting a pot of coffee percolating in the back room when a regular customer enters the store. As he begins browsing the new release rack, Fernando greets him.

What's this Game of Death?” he asks once Fernando has closed the distance somewhat.

Oh, that's one of Wesley Snipes' last movies before his, ah, unfortunate legal troubles,” Fernando responds.

Legal troubles? What happened?”

He decided to not pay his taxes for a couple of years and Uncle Sam paid him a visit.”

That's bullshit. You don't see Uncle Sam doing anything to all the Mexicans who don't pay taxes.”

Whoa. Had Fernando known his innocuous attempt at making conversation would lead to a misguided political screed, he would have omitted the part about legal troubles.

And the man continues: “You know that's all they do? They come here, take all the jobs, them and the Indians (Fernando assumes he meant the ones from the Indian subcontinent and not the ones seven miles down the road), and they never pay any taxes and after ten, twelve years they pick up and go home and we don't see a cent.”

Well, they do pay sales taxes,” Fernando cautiously states. He doesn't want to too thoroughly dismantle the talking-points-laden tirade because people usually get finicky and offended when it's pointed out they're wrong, and finicky and offended people run full-tilt down a death-spiral of stupidity..

Those don't matter. They don't pay income tax. And they get to go to school for free. Some Indian comes over here and gets paid by the gover—by our tax dollars to go to school to be a doctor, but if you,” and here he points at Fernando's chest, “want to go to school to be an accountant you're on your own!”

Fernando isn't sure what he can say in response that doesn't involve being relentless and forever losing, at minimum, one customer to a thorough debunking of the words that had just been said. Apparently this silence is taken as agreement on Fernando's part because the man continues, “What we need is a civil war, something to get rid of all the mooches once and for all.”

That's just the way things go,” Fernando finally says, hoping to sound simultaneously diplomatic and finished with this conversation.

Thankfully, the man gets the hint and leaves.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Time Sinks

Fernando has one particularly vivid memory of being seven years old. It was a Saturday morning and, as with most Saturday mornings in the year 1991, cartoons were of utmost importance to a great portion of the population. Fernando was engaged in a heated argument with his younger brother this morning at around 8.30. His brother wanted to watch A Pup Named Scooby Doo on ABC.

Fernando, though, had done the thing that people simply stop doing, for some mysterious reason, once they reach a certain age: he had gotten up bright and early, incredibly early, something like 5.30 AM early, in order to play the copy of Mega Man 3 that he had leveraged his mother into renting from the local video store for the weekend the day before. For those of you who know the game's geography, Fernando was currently paused on the long ladder in Magnet Man's stage after the disappearing-blocks-over-bottomless-pits-and-oh-here-are-some-magnets-to-make-it-more-hellacious section. Fernando ended up losing that argument and had to turn off the NES. It was heartwrenching.

The above trip down nostalgia lane is one of the examples of Fernando's penchant for video gaming. He was quite an avid gamer in his younger days, especially with regards to role-playing games. About his junior year of college, though, he flagged in his dedication because at that juncture it became necessary to devote more than just a token effort to doing well in his classes (that, and he was finally taking interesting courses pertaining to his fields of study instead of boring required blowoff things like Intermediate College Algebra and Fundamentals of Interpretative Reading).

So Fernando sort of fell behind the electronic gaming curve and, well, he has never really caught up. His most recent console is a PS2 for which he has maybe four or five games total, all RPGs or strategy-RPGs. He has a DS but only owns about four games for that. Most newer PC games are right out because he's too stingy to upgrade his computer's hardware to play them at a functional level, spare time notwithstanding. He follows gaming trends decently, though, as befits his status as Keeper of a Dominion dedicated to home entertainment.

But he doesn't have the time to be what is commonly considered to be a “hardcore” gamer these days. Oh, he sinks his fair share of hours into Dwarf Fortress or League of Legends, but gone are the days of the ten-hour video game marathon. Fernando is a little sad at that. There really is some queer, visceral joy he derives from going a full night without sleep just to play that much further into his new electronic toy. But he simply can't when he has to work the next day, every day. So now he simply squeezes in a bit before or after work or fires up Bejeweled (that one doesn't need a hyperlink) or GemCraft when things are extra slow and he's not otherwise sucked into Wikipedia or TVTropes or Fark or writing or whatever.

This is the personal downside of maintaining his own Dominion. He's weirdly OK with that.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Five. Five Dollar. Five Dollar Rental.

One Saturday not long after opening a pair of women enter the store.

Excuse me,” one says to Fernando, “But I'm looking for a movie that I saw advertised once a while has, oh, Annette Benning in it and it's called...called...something about kids.”

The Kids Are All Right? I've got that one right over here,” responds Fernando, who leads the duo to the movie's hiding place.

Oh, thank you so much!” says the woman, who plucks the tag. Fernando returns to his chair while the two women browse the new release rack for a bit longer before coming to the counter.

Fernando goes about filling out the rental slip while one of them digs through a purse for money. “It's $3.50,” he says.

What?” says the other woman. “Why only $3.50?”

Well, uh, it's a new release, so it's $3.50.”

But the sign says $5.”

Sign? Wait, no, no, no, no. That's for two nights. If you wanted to rent the new release for two nights. Then it's $5; $1.50 for the extra night. For a single night it's just $3.50.” And then, in a burst of halfhearted salesmanship and squeezing an extra buck and a half out of a not-very-strong renter, “You didn't want it for two nights, did you?”

No, no, one night is fine. Wow, it says right there 'two nights.' I don't know how we missed that.”

No problem. These things happen,” responds Fernando. So the proper amount of money on this rental is exchanged and the two women came away from the store much happier than upon entering it. And Fernando returns to his chair.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ethnic Wealth

One of Fernando's customers, the one who generally complains about everything, enters the Dominion one evening. He's in a fey mood for some reason. He whistles as he browses the shelves.

Finally he selects his movies and brings the tags to the counter. “Hey, Fernie, is it alright if I pay you in quarters today?”

Absolutely,” Fernando responds. Paying entirely in change is alright so long as the individual in question is willing to wait out the time it takes for Fernando to count out the coins. Quarters, not a long time. People who pay in dimes, nickels, and pennies generally learn the lesson after their first transaction. Fernando likes to be sure of his tallies, so he double-checks his work.

So the man counts out fourteen quarters and arranges them on the counter as Fernando goes about getting the movies. “Y'know, Fernie, the only reason I'm paying with change today is because I ain't got nothing smaller.”

Fernando waits a beat to let the anticipation grow. There's only one reason anyone ever talks about his or her economic status with Fernando: it went through a marked change in either one direction or the other. "Nothing smaller" implies an improvement. “Oh? Why's that?” he asks, waiting for the gloating to begin.

Got my unemployment check today finally. Those bastards finally 'straightened everything out,'” the man says with disdain lacing his words. “Now I'm -black person- rich.”

Fernando is pretty certain his normally stoic facade broke in light of this sudden declaration, which has been edited for decency. “Um...what?” he asks, hoping he perhaps misheard the adjective in question.

Got my unemployment,” the man repeats, “and I'm -nubian- rich. Now I don't have to sell my car.”

Fernando opens his mouth to say something but the man cuts in, “Yeah, I prolly shouldn't be sayin' that because of that PC crap. That, and anybody who has two bucks to their name can be called -attractive and successful African American- rich these days. Anyway, I'll see you later, Fernie!” And he leaves as mysteriously as he came while Fernando is stunned and speechless and unable to piece together any sort of meaningful response.

Fernando was shocked at what had passed moments ago only for the shortest while, until he remembered where he was and who he was dealing with. Then he shook his head in lament and resumed his duties.