Thursday, May 30, 2013

This Shit Again

Holidays portend bum-fuckery of the highest degree because everybody takes the day off, so nothing is accomplished and everyone needs to frantically scramble over the following few days to catch up on the missed work, instead of, say, having done the work ahead of time like a responsible adult. Fernando is the one who suffers, for is it not always the case that the most competent individuals in a group are dragged down to the fetid mediocrity accepted by the masses?
This happens on every holiday, but it's worst when the days in question fall on either a Friday or a Monday because then the weekend is immediately adjacent and it provides a minimum of three nonproductive days for the failures to gestate into a tentacled beast which threatens to choke the joy and life from him.
Memorial Day always occurs on a Monday.
Fernando sits at the store that Tuesday. He awaits delivery of his movies and has been at the store for a few hours now, as it is rather important that he procure his inventory so that he might arrange for profit to be made off it. Coffee at the ready, he kills time alternating between browsing Fark and playing browser-based tower defense games. He has his blinds open so he can easily catch glimpse of the delivery truck and, more importantly, so its driver can catch glimpse of him. He takes a great risk in doing this, since open blinds attract ne'er-do-wells and lookie-loos who think that because Fernando visible within the store, the store is open for business.
At around 11.30, the UPS truck pulls into the parking lot from the printing place next door. A second man is perched within it, sitting on the steps leading up to the cab. The truck slows up as it cruises past the store, then vanishes out Fernando's line of sight. The deceleration led Fernando to infer that it would be pulling up somewhere in the parking lot.
Fernando rose from his chair and walked around the counter to meet the driver. He peeks out the front door.
The truck is in the process of pulling back out onto the highway. Fernando attempts to flag it down and shouts, “Hey! HEY!” but he is paid no heed. The truck speeds away to the south.
For FUCK'S sake!” Fernando yells, loudly enough for some old people coming out of the restaurant about two hundred feet away to look in his direction. He growls out a sigh of consternation and storms into the store to plop down before his computer and pull up contact information for his local UPS syndicate.
Fernando calls the nearby customer center which serves his area; he learned last time that the nearest physical UPS Store is unwilling to provide any meaningful service to him. Fernando allows the phone to ring seven times before he hangs up.
Perhaps he dialed a wrong number. Such things have been known to occur. Fernando tries again, double-checking each digit as he taps it out on the numerical pad.
Fernando allows the phone to ring six more times before he hangs up.
God damn it so much,” he mutters as he pulls up the webpage to UPS proper. He dials the customer service number and is greeted with the prompt which implores him to choose one of a limited number of options, none of which will assist him. When the computer-lady finishes asking if he'd like to press nine for Spanish, he growls, “Representative.”
We can help you with that in just a moment,” chirps the automated message. First, though, they would prefer that I elect one of the previously listed options.
Fuck that noise. “Representative.”
One moment please. Your call is very important to us.” Fernando hears the fuzzy click as his call is rerouted. “UPS customer service, this is Australia.”
Fernando tells the man his name, his business, and why he is calling.
I'm sorry to hear that,” says Australia. “Have you tried contacting your local customer center?”
I did. No one answered.”
Sir, what was the tracking code so I can check into that for you?”
Fernando rattles off the line of 25 letters and numbers. He hears faint tapping, then Australia says, “The delivery is scheduled for today.”
Right. I am saying that the truck drove right past the front of the store.”
Sir, perhaps it was a different truck out on a different route.”
Possible, but unlikely, seeing as there's but the one route here and the truck had just pulled out of the printing press next door, into my parking lot, and past the store.”
Sir, items which are scheduled for delivery on a certain day are not guaranteed for a set time. It is possible that the item is still awaiting delivery and will be out to you by the end of business hours today and was not on the truck in question.”
I checked the shipping status online. It is marked as in transit. Why would it be marked as in transit and scheduled to be delivered if it is not, in fact, in transit and scheduled to be delivered?”
Sir, I appreciate your concern, but the item is scheduled for delivery by the end of business hours today.”
That doesn't answer my question.”
Sir, could I put you on hold for just a moment?”
Fuck no. Fernando felt the suspicious tingle that if he were shunted into customer service limbo he would never escape its noxious embrace. “I would rather you didn't.”
Let me pull up the contact information for your local center and send them a message. It will just be a moment.”
Very well.”
Fernando hears typing as Australia composes his message, or something which resembles a message. This takes about two minutes, during which both Fernando and Australia are silent. Then Australia says, “Sir, I have sent a message to your local center and you should expect a phone call from them within an hour regarding the status of your delivery.”
Sounds good. I look forward to hearing from them.”
Sir, I apologize for the problems you seem to be having with this delivery.”
It's not your fault. Thank you for your help.”
Thank you, sir. Good-bye.”
The waiting resumed. But look, now it's opening time and Fernando did not receive his promised phone call and still does not have his movies!

The saga continues.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


A guy Fernando has never seen before enters. He had been in the company of one of Fernando's female quasi-regulars, who remains outside. Fernando is okay with that. This woman comes to the store about once a month and has choice words for Fernando regarding the fact she does not win his weekly free rentals drawing. Notwithstanding, of course, that she needs to rent more than once a month to have a decent shot at having her name plucked and every week sees the bucket emptied so three-quarters of the time she is not even a contender.
Fernando has given up telling her this after it became apparent she paid his words no mind. He has better uses to which he can put his interpersonal communication skills.
The man immediately leans onto Fernando's counter, which he had just cleaned. He wears a tattered brown t-shirt liberally speckled with dirt, oil, and grease stains, and his forearms are much the same. “Hey, you got Battleship?”
Indeed I do,” Fernando says. “Let me get that for you.” He levers out of his chair and retrieves the tag in question, then sets to filling out the rental slip.
You seen it?” asks the stranger.
I've not,” Fernando responds.
You're shitting me. You work at a movie place and you don't watch the movies?”
Why is it that people automatically leap to that inference? “I don't watch most of the movies I have. Time and taste play a big role in determining where and when I pop in the things I have here.”
Man, this movie is awesome. You can't stop watching once you start.”
I'm glad you enjoy it as much as you do. I, however, would be unable to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in the narrative, and would instead look for inconsistencies in the plot.”
Man, if all you care about is a movie's fuckin' plot then you can't watch nothin....” Fernando looks up as the man trails off and understanding dawns. “Ohhhhhhhh.”

Fernando nods, finishes writing, and retrieves the film in question.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


One afternoon Fernando sits at his desk and a pickup truck pulls up. This truck is outfitted with an stereo system which blasts a country music song at ludicrous volume, accompanied by the lovely rattle of the truck's rust-spotted metal chassis and the unhealthy gurgling rumble of an ill-kept muffler; variables which, if summed together, would value the vehicle at no more than $3000.
As a side-note for all you budding lyricists who follow my every written edict, the words “tractor” and “faster” do not, in fact, make for a palatable rhyme, no matter how much one might drawl them out. Don't do it.
Three unknown teenaged rapscallions pile out and crowd into the store, of course leaving the truck and its dulcet serenade running. They giggle and push each around as they cross the foyer and head into the store proper. Fernando feels obligated to greet them, so he does. “Hello.”
They look at each other and share a chortle and move beyond the new release rack, into the back corners of the store. Fernando stands and moves to the archway separating his headquarters from the rental racks, leaning against the wall.
The teens gallivant and don't look to be doing anything productive. At one point they huddle together and palaver in a quiet murmur, then move as a group into the extreme rear of the store, near the door to Fernando's inner sanctum. The Keeper perks up and keeps his steely gaze on his guests.
But no, they obey the sign posted upon the otherwise impenetrable barrier. Instead they crowd around a nook immediately adjacent to the door, the one in which Fernando's thermostat dwells. Their bodies coupled with the arrangement of the rental racks prevent Fernando from directly seeing what manner of travesty they sow, but whatever it is takes only a few seconds, before they skitter back up the aisle, all in a row and all with shit-eating grins on their faces. The leader of this pack, an acne-faced and sandy-haired lad with a wiry build, says to Fernando, “Couldn't find nothing.” He even has the good sense to give a halfhearted shrug, as if apologizing.
Fernando arches an eyebrow and tracks them as they navigate his labyrinth of racks to the foyer and front door, whereupon they exit. The pickup's doors creak and moan as they clamber into their pimping ride and trundle off with a sickly harrumph. Jason Aldean-or-whoeverthefuck's bad music becomes a drone which dissipates into sweet silence.
Fernando walks to the back of his store to check out what so amused the lads. He found that the dial on his thermostat had been turned up, beyond the eighty degree mark.
Well done,” Fernando drily says, placing a fingertip on the corrugated plastic and twisting the dial back to 60.

As the Keeper turns and returns to his lonely vigil, he adds for the benefit of no one in particular, “Might've worked better if you checked that the damn thing was on in the first place. Idiots.”

Sunday, May 19, 2013


One of the quasi-regulars peruses the store's new release rack one afternoon. Fernando hears the soft, assorted clack of cases being rearranged on the shelves, but pays it little mind. The door is propped open by a VHS rental case, the sun is shining, and dandelions have come into bloom to devour all the world. Fernando never understood why people would consider the dandelion a weed and seek to eradicate all traces of it. It is a flower—a mighty successful flower, one which provides a great abundance of pollen and nectar to honeybees and gives ordinary dull grass pretty yet un-gaudy splashes of color. They are edible, besides. That it can choke out and murder daintier plants like tulips or carnations is not the dandelion's fault. One does not blame professional basketball players for their ability to shame sixth graders at the sport, but to do the same to the dandelion is somehow accepted.
Anyhow, this quasi-regular speaks at Fernando. “Hey, this Hyde Park movie, it's a comedy?”
Hyde Park on Hudson? No, not at all. It's a history drama.”
It has Bill Murray though.”
Indeed it does. That does not automatically make it a comedy.”
He's a funny guy. He was great in Zombieland.”
This young man is somewhere around the age of eighteen. Fernando inwardly cringes. “If Zombieland is the metric by which you judge Bill Murray's body of comedic work....” he begins saying, then trails off upon realizing the statement would prove pointless spoken to someone whose idea of a “retro” gaming system is the N64.
If you're in the market for a comedy, I can recommend This is 40 or...I think I have a copy of Guilt Trip in as well,” Fernando says at last. The young man takes Fernando's first suggestion to heart, pays, collects his movie, and departs.
Grumble, grumble.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Survey Says

-Ring ring ring-
Fernando leans forward in his chair to read what the caller ID has to say. “Out of State.” Meh.
He crosses the office and lifts the phone off the cradle. “Hello, Dominion of Movies.”
Can I speak with the person in charge of your web pages and internet presence?”
Unfortunately, Ramshackle is out on vacation so he cannot take this call, at least not immediately. Fernando possesses the means to get in touch with him, but is only to do so under the direst of circumstances, and only after the quality of communication has met a minimum standard. “I have a few questions for you to answer first, before I'll put you through. What is your favorite flavor of coffee creamer?”
Excuse me?”
What is your favorite flavor of coffee creamer?”
The man is silent for a good five seconds, then he disconnects the call.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


One of Fernando's acquaintances, Narcisa, enters the store one afternoon. He had not seen her in many a month, for she had been quite busy juggling her numerous life-happenings including college graduations, work, and raising children. The first thing she says to him after he emerges from his back room with a fresh cup of coffee is, “Never have kids, Fern.”
Fernando sips at his cup of molten sex. “I actually don't think I can, unless they've refined a surgery to let me.”
Oh, Fern, I didn't know. I'm really sorry to hear that.”
Fernando stands still for a moment, puzzling through her response, as it took him off-guard. Then comprehension bloomed. “What...? No, no, I'm not saying I'm sterile, I'm saying I lack a uterus.”
Oh, duh,” Narcisa says. “You can tell I don't get most jokes.”
In all fairness and honesty, it wasn't much of a joke to begin with.”

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Invitation to Disaster

 “Hey, do you want to come to my graduation party?” a young lady asks of the Keeper one day as Fernando fills out a rental slip for her. She is one of Fernando's most regular of regular customers. “I would have sent you an invite but, um....” She looks down at the floor. “I actually don't know your name. You're just kind of the movie store guy to me.”
Fernando shrugs and laughs. “Happens a lot, actually. 'Movie Store Guy' is apt enough, considering names probably started as labels based on what people did way back in the olden days before electricity and indoor plumbing.” He scratches his cheek. “When it is? I can't guarantee I'll be able to go, I'm afraid. Work kind of gets in the way of most things.”
It'll be June 7th.”
Oh, I'm sorry, I definitely can't go then. I have a wedding to attend over that weekend.”
You're getting married?” she asks, studying Fernando with no small amount of surprise. “I didn't even know you were engaged.”
Well that would be one hell of a surprise if I were. No, I misspoke. Actually I'm standing in a wedding for my best bud. Thank you for the invitation, though.”
It's okay! You going to get somebody else to run the store then?”
Nah, I'll shut it down. It ain't gonna be no thing.”
Fernando's guest giggles, pays for her movies, and leaves.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dick Move

Some semi-regulars come into the store one afternoon. These semi-regulars fall squarely into the revolving door-late fee variety, in that they perpetually owe Fernando money, pay off a fraction of what is owed whenever they come in to rent, and end up just about right back where they started because the things they'd just rented are late. This was never a value too-too absurd in scope, and these people, for all their perpetual tardiness, were good about making slow headway on the damn thing and even had short spans of time in which they were free of any debts owed to the Dominion and its Keeper.
The last time they had rented, though, they'd been much later than usual, and their late fee had blossomed as a result. When the pair approaches the counter with their tag in hand, Fernando asks, “Did you want to put something down on your late fee?”
How much is it?” asks the female half of the duo.
God I probably don't even want to know.”
--Twenty-eight altogether.”
The other one of them looks at Fernando with disbelief writ across his features. “You're shitting me.”
Afraid not, sorry. The last time you were in you kept, what was it, Breaking Dawn 2 out for nine days. And you still had a little bit of late fees from before.”
The first one looks down at the money she had placed upon the counter, six dollars in total. “That's all I've got on me. Put that towards it I guess.”
That can be arranged. We can nibble away at it. I've got no problems with that.”
Twenty-eight fucking dollars,” the other repeats, probably to himself. “At this rate I should just not come here anymore.”
Fernando chose to believe the latter sentence was addressed to the three gathered people at-large, so he had leave, nay, obligation to respond. He does this with his usual tact: “Frankly, that would be a little bit of a dick move.”
Both of them look in Fernando with absolute shock. The Keeper shrugs. “Just saying.” He takes the money resting upon the counter and places it in the till.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Metaphorically Speaking

A high schooler approaches the counter with a small clan of buddies one day. They have been in the store for about ten minutes now and have shown no signs of wanting to rent or buy anything. Instead they have been giggling, shoving each other against the movie racks, and generally being annoyances.
Hey, you're like a nerd right?” he asks. Behind him, his buddies chortle.
Fernando swivels his chair about to face the gathered youngsters. “I consider myself more than just a simile, actually.”
What...wait, what does that mean?” asks one of the other teens. A third one punches him in the shoulder and they tussle for a few seconds. Fernando watches in silence until they finish up.
Once he has reclaimed what vestiges of attention they possess, he says, “It means I consider myself to have more than just the qualities of the object or a superficial similarity thereto. I consider myself to be said object. Though that does imply that there exists a distinction of some sort, in which an object could have the qualities of an object without actually being such an object.” Fernando ignores the kids and starts talking to himself. “If something is 'like a red cube,' does it necessarily have to be a red cube though?
Considering that the statement is true, and not something I say just to make a halfassed comparison that really isn't one. The language doesn't require it. But if it's close enough as to make a worthwhile and meaningful metaphor....hmm. Maybe I'm being too literal.
'Like a thundercloud.' Faces obviously aren't thunderclouds, but there must be some commonality between angry people and cumulonimbus. It will be an abstract commonality, and it could well be wrong because it requires people to agree on what qualities a thundercloud has, and an angry face has. It would be meaningless to somebody who has never seen a thundercloud nor been told or having learned that the idiom is what it is.
So why have and use idioms at all if they require abstraction and possible untruth? It just leads to muddled communication unless all parties know what the deal is. I suppose that's why proper research papers or essays or whatever are written in the style that they are. No-nonsense and generally unfun but unambiguous in what they need to get across. The other kind is a...a self-congratulatory puzzle. That's why good writing makes warm fuzzies pop! Because the reader has to figure out on some level or another exactly what the writer is conveying, and it's a small personal triumph once that shared knowledge clicks! A treasure chest which is unlocked by the vagaries of words and meanings. Awesome.
Hmm.” Fernando's thought-train tapers off at this point, and he refocuses his attention on the here and now.
Oh, well then,” he remarks to nobody in particular, as the teenagers had vacated the premises. Our hero has reasoned out something marvelous, though, and so he is content.