I Want That Hypnotherapist’s Number

November 16th, 2006  |  Published in etc

Ray Smuckles: I forgot everything I knew about computers!:

Anyhow, I been workin’ with a hypnotherapist, and we got me to the point where I no longer desire punchin’ in and batch-glockin’ a bunch of eight-character goons with some vengeful kill -9 action. You get me down in front of a command line terminal, the hell I want a ham sandwich and a stroll ’round the pool. I find the whole concept distasteful, but I do not condescend. My guy is good, he has finesse. He keeps me gracious even in the face of my ghosts.

Lucky, lucky Ray. He had it cold when he said “this crud is fly-easy if you can make yourself care.”

The tragedy isn’t not ever knowing … the tragedy is what happens to your brain after you make yourself care.

Before continuing on with the day:

This week’s allowance went to “Final Fantasy III” (warning: Flash, assorted other unspeakables, adorable dwarf fantasy characters, music, evidence of my ongoing slide into retardation). I walked into the Gamestop, walked over to the rack, saw two copies of FFIII on the shelf, took one down and walked it over to the counter.

Okay … I wasn’t as casual as all that. There was a mildly OCD-acting guy who was straightening all the games. I couldn’t tell if I was witnessing compulsive neatening or some sort of pre-purchase stall … a ritualistic waste of time designed to prolong the act of making a decision and buying something. I had to snake in past him and I was anxious, because if there are two games left on the shelves, you’ve got about a 50 percent chance that one of them isn’t really available, for reasons we’ll get into.

So I got the game … or rather its case … and walked it over to the counter.

The cashier said “Did you have this reserved?”

“Nope,” I said. Then there was this uncomfortable three-beat pause during which I got the sense that a more sophisticated Gamestop customer would collapse into a babbling, tearful, pleading mess … soppily begging to own the game on release day even if he hadn’t taken the sensible and correct measure of reserving the title.

I held firm, though, and left the affair at “Nope.” I could tell I was supposed to ask what it meant, my lack of a reservation, so the clerk could begin the ritual of allowing me to buy something that was on the shelf but happened to be only newly released. I wasn’t trying to be defiant, really. I just wanted to buy the game and be on my way, and if they weren’t going to sell it to me I didn’t want to have that knowledge imparted to me and I wasn’t about to pretend like I’d cheerfully report back the next day to see if any more had come in.

A few more beats passed, and the cashier yelled over to a senior employee on his way out the door “Do we have any more Final Fantasy DSs? Or …” [malicious pause] “are they all reserved?

The senior guy cleared my purchase with barely a glance over his shoulder. I could feel some air leak out over the counter. The cashier rang the purchase up in a manner both perfunctory and resentful. He wouldn’t look me in the eye. I felt so badly about what appeared to be some sort of inadvertent and status-crushing total victory that I made up a question about which XBox 360 was best to buy — hard drive or not — to help restore the lost power dynamics and perhaps establish my own credentials less as a ball-busting gamesman and more as a hopeless newb who stomped on a Gamestop mos less out of malice than simple ignorance.

Twelve hours later, I still feel bad about what seemed to be, judging from the angry clerk’s behavior, a major breach of some protocol. I didn’t do anything wrong introducing the matter, because the launch-day title boxes are left on the shelves with the employees knowing full well they’re a trap set for people foolish enough to think they can just walk in and buy a new game. That’s a stupid game they play that seems designed to create a sense of demand for things that are simply not, in any meaningful sense, “rare.” Refusing to play that game is less an act of aggression than a simple declaration that enough is enough and that if a game is on the shelf near the window, it should be available for purchase.

The senior guy probably screwed up signing off on the purchase as casually as he did, without pausing to sense that he was thwarting a power struggle, though. It indicates to me a certain lack of leadership training among Gamestop junior co-assistant shift leadership, who should know by now that the scummiest and meanest of your subordinates is worth any ten civilians in off the streets. His junior asked him to represent, but he was too busy getting out the door to “make it to Frys before closing.”

That was an ugly dis, and I hope he remembers it the day his till comes up short a perfectly even double-sawbuck with fingers pointing nowhere but him.

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