Walton's World

Walton's World
The Other Side of the Counter

Joe Blancato | 3 Jan 2006 11:03
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Paul was in a gangsta phase when I worked at the game store. He wore baggy, baby-blue velour and talked like he didn't enjoy the same upper-middle class upbringing everyone in the area did. We mostly laughed at him and let him talk a big game to the girls who wandered into the store, but one day, he crossed a line none of us ever quite expected.

Paul was walking up to kids younger than he, staring them down and demanding they buy him stuff. What surprised me the most was kids only a couple years his junior were running away; I mean, a stiff breeze could take down Paul. By the time one of the kids came over to me and whispered, "He's got a knife," it was too late.

I heard a loud crash, followed by the angriest string of obscenities I've ever heard bellowed by someone who wasn't in my immediate family. One of the display cabinets, housing about $1,000 in hardware, was toppled over, and Paul was feverishly backing away from a guy who had to be 6'4" and weigh 250 pounds soaking wet. In the big guy's hand, I saw a huge damn knife.

Luckily, it was closed; the big guy was content with scaring the crap out of Paul rather than actually killing him. He then used Paul as a small wrecking ball, slamming him into two display cabinets before someone had the good sense to call the cops. A few statements later, Paul was taken away in the back of a squad car. So ended Paul's status as a regular at the store. Last I heard, he was doing two years for assault.

While these tales are mostly of woe, they're but a slice of retail gaming life. For every story Brian and I told, we have others that are similar, but with slightly different endings. And the funny thing is, other than the really hard, trying moments, each day ended positively. What keeps you going in games retail is knowing, at the end of the day, you helped a guy find a game his little sister would love.

"Despite the fatigue and stress, I did gain a new appreciation and sadness for the retail worker, because they have to put up with a lot of crap," says Brian. "Irregular hours, low pay, and so on, so now I'm much nicer to retail employees (not that I wasn't nice, but you know what I mean).

"The job also helped me learn a bit more about the console side of gaming ... Also, I had some wonderful co-workers whom I still keep in touch with. I'd say it was positive overall due to these factors that outweighed the crappiness."

And besides, a job like this gives you anecdotes you can tell at parties forever. And what good is anyone without a few stories to share?

Joe Blancato is a Contributing Editor for The Escapist Magazine, in addition to being the Founder of waterthread.org.

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