Season's Gaming

Season's Gaming
Christmas Behind The Cash Register

Sean Sands | 19 Dec 2006 11:00
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The tide ebbs, and after a remarkable four hours the mother returns for her sons who have formed their own shanty town between the used DVDs and the magazine rack. I stopped hassling them out of pity hours before, even changing the Gamecube game just the one time. Remarkably, the line which had wrapped around the checkout counter is gone, and we are all surprised to find in the aftermath that the sun has set, and it's 7:00 at night. I try to remember if I ever ate lunch.

I send Katie home early and spend the next 45 minutes fixing everything she touched. On her way out the door, impossibly bubbly and cheerful, she apparently secretes some tidal wave of young pheromones, and a group of passing boys absorb her whole and make way for the food court. Adam is next off the hook with his jacket on and keys in hand, before I've taken a second breath after dismissing him for the evening. June stays for a while, straightens up the store, alphabetizes the remains of the Xbox section, which looks as though it had been ransacked by determined cops with a search warrant. Eventually, I tell her to leave as well.

It seems right to close the store myself. A day this long should be experienced on its bookends alone. I start to look forward to counting the cash, tallying up the final numbers of the day and enjoying a store empty of customers and chaos. The hours that had darted by like passing cars on a busy highway are now minutes that creep along with interminable persistence. I try to keep myself busy, to recapture that chronological detachment that makes the day sweep past, but I keep eying my watch until 10:00 finally comes.

"I'm just browsing," says the only customer in the store. He is wearing a nice suit, five o'clock shadow and cologne. I explain that I'll be closing the store in just a few minutes, words which I actually see go in one ear and out the other. Then I partly close the gate, the universal mall symbol for I want to get the hell out of here. He wanders aimlessly around the store, as though willfully rejecting my hints. I remind him that we are closing, and he looks up as though surprised. I expect him to apologize and leave. Instead, he asks for advice on which system he should buy for his son.

And then, a strange thing happens to me. I lean against my yellow counter, and instead of ushering him out the door with a baleful glare and mumbled profanity, I ask probing questions, get a feel for what he's looking for, find out about his son and what kind of games would be appropriate. I invest myself in this man and his Christmas gift, partly because I realize he's not going to leave anyway, but more because I haven't had time to really sell anything all day, and by God, when I want to be, I'm good at it. He loosens up, and we talk along a few tangents and minutes start to slip by again. It's 10:20 when he asks to buy a PlayStation 2 and half a dozen games.

I apologize, because I don't have a single system left in the store to sell, but I give him a line on a couple of places I know should have them in stock. He thanks me for my time, wishes me the first Merry Christmas all day that's felt genuine and wanders out of my store into the largely empty mall.

Sean Sands is a freelance writer, co-founder of, and owns a small graphic design company near Minneapolis. He does not miss his stint in retail even a little.

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