I'm feeling quite cheerful as my time in the Mos Eisley cantina of opticals draws to a close. I grew up in poor, Appalachian West Virginia, served in the military, and have been all over the world, yet have never seen a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. OK, maybe it's not quite that bad, but I have to have some fun with it.
As you can imagine, this is a BoxMart type of place.
The type of BoxMart that locks all the doors but one at dark, and closes at midnight because some guys stole the jewelry counter a few years back. Yes, the whole counter.
The kind of BoxMart that now has tatted up thugs on the doors instead of little old ladies, because they shrunk out about 2 million last year.
The type where bums come to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and get an occasional shower in the bathroom sink.
The kind of BoxMart that allows people to buy a lawnmower in the spring and return it in the fall because they don't need it now. (They'll buy a new one next spring, and they think they're good customers because they keep coming back.)
The kind of BoxMart that rewards those customers who abuse the employees with gift cards and free glasses.
The kind of BoxMart where most of the employees work just hard enough not to get fired.
The kind where the employees are surly to everyone, often giving looks like they wouldn't mind shanking you.
Some notable things I've seen over the years from before I started writing:
One old lady door greeter in her 80s got a black eye and some teeth knocked out by a guy stealing a cart full of beer.
It’s not unusual to see a bum leaving brown, yellow or brown-yellow trails down the aisles.
"Every time I've been here, the police show up at least once to carry off the latest thieves. Sometimes they're here three to four times in a 9-7 shift.”
I once saw a guy sitting in an aisle with his shoes off trying on about a dozen different foot powders.
One time I came in here at night to get a power drill to assemble some furniture right after moving into my house. There was a hooker trying to fight a janitor because he'd just waxed the floor around the ATM and he wouldn't let her John walk across it to get her money.
There has been a shooting at the gas station in the parking lot, and the busy tobacco register was robbed at gunpoint once while I was here in the optical.
I've had a grandma-granddaughter tag-team of thieves steal from the dispensary, get an exam and come back telling me they got those three frames elsewhere, and then try to get me to put lenses in them. Hello, there are only three holes on the board, and they match exactly the three frames you have, down to the #, they're the ones you were looking at, and there were no holes in the board before you came in. She calls me a racist and starts screaming for a manager. I tell her sure, I'll get a manager, and security as well. She runs out the doctor door with her granddaughter. I gave their info to asset protection, who did nothing.
I had a 300-ish pound guy show up after closing and stalk me through the parking lot screaming that I needed to give him some contacts. Afterwards, he filed a complaint.
I had a guy demand a refund for glasses that insurance paid for, then get pissed when the refund was only for the tax, and then steal the glasses that had just been refunded. I gave his info to asset protection, and again, they did nothing.
One guy popped zits on our mirror the entire time I took his order. I threw it away.
Not a day goes by that I don't get at least one person stinking of booze or weed, and not a month goes by without someone coming in stinking of feces and urine. Every time I've been here, the police show up at least once to carry off the latest thieves. Sometimes they're here three to four times in a 9-7 shift.
I suppose back when I first started here I was a little more idealistic and less jaded. I once paid for a diabetic guy to have an exam because he couldn't afford his medicine if he got both exam and glasses, and he was about a -12.
Another time, a church lady dropped off a purse to me with nine $100 bills in it, because she didn't trust the customer service people. I went through the purse, determined that the owner worked at the VA and contacted them. I made arrangements to meet her and returned it. She thanked me, and that was that. When I told the optical staff what happened, they all commented how they would have kept the money, and became suspicious of me.
We once had a cantankerous old lady whom no one could deal with but me. Even her kids hated dealing with her, and they once paid me to bring her glasses to her home rather have to bring her in again. When I called her to let her know I was coming, she asked me to pick her up some chocolate too. She got her chocolate. I guess it hasn't been all bad.
On to the present: The Sloptician heard I was leaving, and came by to have me fit his next glasses. Maybe this is a compliment? I don't know. While he's here, a woman comes in and starts loudly interrupting us, demanding I answer her questions about "straps." I showed her where they were and advised her I'd be with her as soon as I finished Sloptician's order. She wandered off for a minute or so, and came right back at me loudly interrupting us again. I guess I have to tell her again. Either she has the memory of a goldfish*, or she's on the chronic. Yep, I can smell it, she's on the chronic. I point to shiny things and ask irrelevant questions. She's now stupid-confused, and wanders off.
Five minutes before closing, I get the call. Some lady is bitching me out because she came here this morning all the way from the next town over and no one was here. We open at 1. Then some generic managers told her we had never been open on Sundays, and now here I am answering the phone, and we're a bunch of lying Mother-F’ers. "OK, ma'am, I'm closing in two minutes. Is there anything I can do for you in that time?" Click. I guess that works for me right about now.
I've decided the last day that I am paid to come here will be the last day I ever step foot into this place again. Time for a clean break. What a long, strange trip it's been.
*Goldfish actually have a pretty good memory, as far as fish go, so maybe that’s not a good example.
This article is an online extra for INVISION Online.