Tuesday, July 06, 2004

It's some day last week when the kid walks into our door. He's 19ish and waiting at the register for a while, behind someone I'm ringing up. I guess I noticed him, but I can't remember what my train of thought was up until the point where I saw the stack of green cards in his hand and he asked if I was registered to vote. I interrupted his spiel, letting him know he needn't waste the breath on someone who reads Casey's livejournal as regiously as I do-- except in different words, as saying that would have confused him terribly.

"You with the MPA?" I asked, eyeing the door to see if maybe Casey was walking around the strip.

"No, I'm with Bike the Vote. We're riding around Maine trying to get people to--"

"Yeah, yeah. What, no petition?"


"You guys must be unaligned, then." He nods. This strikes me as somewhat noble, this encouragement of American's to express their opinions, free of strategy or agenda. Stupid, but noble.

Noble and stupid so rarely walk alone.

"My friend works for the MPA, I already registered with him." I lie, in case Casey might need the convenience of having an unregistered, but not (completely) politcally jaded liberal voter just a phone call away. Come to think of it, I'll probably just tell him all the relevant information and just tell him to fake my signature. "I'm sure I can find someone around here that's not already, though. Hold up a minute."

Just then, Tabby walks up to the register. Tabby's short, thin, hot in that emaciated way. She's one of those girls who's too frail to pick up the lab puppies at work, and just good-looking enough to rival my sales. In other words, I hated her.

Or hated her until I realized she's a huge source of entertainment-- for one, she's got epilepsy, which provided a refreshing breeze of entertainment on one slow monday-- eight hours is a long damn time no matter how you look at it, I've decided, and sometimes someone need something like an unexpected seizure to make it go along a little faster. In Tabby's case, actually, she tends to pass out before she has one. She'd been complaining all day of various medical discomforts-- her head hurt, her stomach hurt, she was suddenly very cold. I was furious with her, convinced she was faking it to get out of work early (as I had a week before, making such real-to-life puking sounds into the toilet that it made me actually puke.) Nevertheless, when she leaned next to me at the register, while I was on the phone with eighties hold music, I took pity on her, perhaps sarcastically, and started dancing around her to "What's love got to do with it?" in order to perk her up a bit. It was all to no avail, she just stood there staring forward, and I thought it was quite rude of her not to acknowledge me. On and on I danced, and it wasn't till I tried to take her hand to join me that I realized something was wrong-- I couldn't pry her hand away from her body, so I tapped her arm lightly to get her attention. She fell over like a harvested redwood.

No, that last part didn't really happen, I just thought if I was going to take that long a tangent I might as well add in the sheer fun of an epilectic chick falling on a hard tile floor. What really happened is that I danced my idiot head off until Alicea, the frustrated manager, came up to tell Tabby to get back to work, only to find her unresponsive. In a panic, Alicea and Amber carried Tabby over to a puppy socialization room, and Trish cleared people out of the store and guarded the door. I ran to call t]Tabby's mother.

"Hello, is this Tabatha's mom?"
"Yes, it is."
"Your daughter...we don't know exactly what's happening to her. She's...passed out. I guess. She fell asleep standing up, and we can't wake her."

Okay, concerned Mom! Here's your cue to tell us what to do! Your daughter is about to have the first seizure she's had in years, and she's in the hands of a bunch of teenaged puppy salespeople! Tell us, what do you have to say in this frightening, dramatic situation?


Uhm. "And...uh...let me get the manager for you."

I run back onto the sales floor. "Alicea, Tabby's mom is on the phone." I tell her. "You found the number? Good work!"

Yeah, go me.

So yeah, anyway, Tabby has her seizure and her mother eventually comes to pick her up, arriving with an incredibly matriarchal mix of compassion and condescention. "Oh, sweetie, did you have a seizure? Come on, let's go home and have a nappy-nap, you silly little jumping bean." That, and the fact that I had to cover the last two hours of Tabby's shift, were enough to make me sick, but I knew at least I'd have a cool story to tell. If only she'd really fallen on the floor.

It's not this incident, but another involving a shooting at her apartment (fired off either her former boyfriend or one of the four people beating him to a bloody pulp, no one knows who.) that leads me to believe that, in all the time she's been stuck testifying in court and narrowly avoiding bullets and teenaged pregnancies, she might have forgotten to register to vote. I call her over.

"Tabby, are you registered to vote?"


"Yeah, to, uh, vote."

"I don't think so. I got that card thing, I just keep forgetting to send it in. I'll have to do that tomorrow."

"No, don't. This guy can register you."

"It'll save you a trip to town hall!" He says, a line I recognize from Casey's escapades. I guess it must be a seasoned closer, what with two seperate orginizations using it. It's not that people aren't seriously passionate about the issues, it's that, you know, town hall's all the way down town, Oprah's got Kirsten Dunst on in a few minutes, and gas prices...who needs it, really? Why, if only someone would bring political activism to them, via a biking youthful activist with convenient little cards! Oh, then how the world would change!

Tabby agrees to register, and I can literally feel the winds of progress mussing my hair.

"What political party am I?" She asks. "I don't think I'm any of these."

"Just put indepedent." He tells her. "That way, you can be anything you feel like."

"And the only drawback is that you can't vote in...what is it?" I ask him. "Where they pick out the nominee for their party? It's on the tip of my tongue." I'm sure to add that, as I'm trying to look all involved and impressive-- actually, more to distance myself from Tabby. Meaningfully enough, I've actually by now moved to his side of the register, putting the counter between me and the unaligned blond who's definition of a political caucus is Bill Clinton's schlong.

"Party primary." He tells me, and smiles a little. I smile back, trying to let him know I'm one of his people, despite the Safari Stan (copyright) attire.

"Yeah, the party primaries. You don't want to vote in them, anyway, Tabby." They're all the way downtown.

"I don't even know who's running this year." She giggles.

"It's George W. Bush and John Kerry." I tell her. "Vote for Kerry."

I figure this sentiment is pretty universal. Blond or no blond, you've gotta know that George Bush has seriously fucked this country up. Like all the semi-political cynics of my generation, I'll be voting democrat in my first presidential election. We're not informed enough to be pro-Kerry, we're just very anti-Bush.

"No!" She practically shrieks at me. "I'm voting for Bush." Bike-the-Vote Guy and I shoot each other a "This has gone in a bad direction" glance, as if we were the final two survivors in Agatha's Christie's "And then there were None", having just discovered the latest corpse. We're battling, in silence, between taking the moral high road and respecting her ill-informed opinion and ripping her up registration card right then and there when he finally has the balls to say what any decent American would:

"but WHY?" He bursts in a totally unprofessional state of disbelief. Thank god he said it.

"Because, Kerry is totally against anything millitary."

"But, but he..." My astonishment has totally winded me verbally.

"He served in the millitary!" Bike the Vote guy starts, "His millitary involvement is a major campaigning point." He's outraged, but verbally inclined, and I start to think of how much sexier it is to do this whole registration thing biking around than the MPA's methods. Whole groups of beautiful, atheletic, idealistic people biking from town to town, wetting their thirsts with the satisfaction of social responsibility. I felt like dropping to my knees right there.

"Kerry's a liar!" Tabby bites back, and for a second, I don't even know where I fucking am. Working at Burger King had made me realize how seriously screwed up it was for someone like me to be working side-by-side with people who's mental capacity barely allowed them to multi-task a Whopper and a King Supreme, people who were viciously enthused when a white supremecist group came to Lewiston to "take care of those fucking towel-headed Somalis!!!" The environment in Petland is different-- in sales, your job depends on having some at least moderately developed social skills, and you've got to have enough wits about you to pull puppy-happy propaganda out of your ass at a moment's notice. But in that moment, as I found myself wearing the same uniforme as this bubbly-blond-Bush-supporter, it was all I could do to look around for the hidden Camera.

Bike the Vote guy realized at this point, as I so often do, that arguinging with an idiot just isn't worth the air-- words like "Weapons of Mass Destruction" would have as much meaning to Tabby as, you know, basic math, and he could be there for precious registration-gathering minutes only to have her argument top off at "Kerry Smells!", so he held his hands behind his back and politely waited for her to finish the card-- actually, it wasn't so much polite as devestatingly condescending, but silly little jumping beans don't have a real tight grasp on concepts like condescension.

She gave him the card and he walked toward the door, I followed him, realizing how much closer I was to BK than I'd realized. He was about to get on his ten-speed stead and ride across a beautiful state on a beautiful day, the winds of progress billowing against his T-Shirt. I was about to hock a pee-happy cocker spaniel to an unsuspecting couple with an unsuspecting carpet. He smiled and said thanks. I asked if he wanted fries with that.

I swear to god, if I hadn't just gotten health insurance a few days previous, I would have walked out the door with him.

I told him, "Don't worry, I'll work on her."
Loosely translated: "Take me with you, my helmetted Adonis! I don't belong here, you must know that! I am yours for the taking!"

"You do that." He says.
Loosely translated: "I'm getting the fuck out of here."

Goodbye, dear knight. I will try to prevail.

As I watch him walk away, Alicea, the one co-worker I've gained a tangible respect for, comes over to me. "Tell me this," I say. "Are you a Kerry or a Bush woman?"

"Bush." She says. "Kerry's a liar."

And then there were none.

On with it.