I worked at the “alternative” shoe store in the mall for one day in the late 90s.
I had to quit the alternative shoe store because of herpes.
Bubblin’, tubblin’ herpes, which I imagine is probably the same reason Rob Thomas left Matchbox 20, but that’s neither here nor there… nor herpes, nor therpes.
Regardless, nobody likes a gossip. Except for me.
The day started out like any other first day on the job at a shoe store. First, the manager showed me the various ways to remove a shoe box from a very tall shelf. Many boxes hit me in the head, and I was told that I would get used to it.
Then I learned that you always put the smallest size shoe on display, because every shoe looks cute when it’s tiny, which explains why I’m so disappointed every time I try on shoes and the size 9 doesn’t look as cute as the size 5 did on the display.
I learned that if you didn’t sell three pairs of socks for every 1.5 pairs of shoes you sold, you were in some serious trouble at the weekly meeting. It’s called meeting your “Hosiery Ratio” which was, coincidentally, my nickname that one fateful night years earlier on the Collective Soul tour bus.
I couldn’t help but notice that the manager had a gigantic erupting herpes sore on her mouth. And by “I couldn’t help but notice,” I mean “I literally could not stop staring at it.”
I realize this is something that was out of her control, and that it totally sucked that she had to deal with having this thing, but as I may have previously mentioned, my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder majors in checking and re-checking things and minors in germophobia, with mouth stuff being by far the worst for me. Up-close photographs of mouths horrify me. I have a hard time watching people eat and not gagging. If someone gets food on their face, I probably will gag. Eating sounds? NO THANKS. If I can feel your breath on me, it takes everything I have to not physically recoil and shudder.
In short, I’m a blast at dinner parties.
This thing was waaaaay beyond your average sore. It was huge. It was shiny and red and purple and yellow, glowing like a rainbow across a sky of Vaseline. This thing was so packed with fluid that I swear I heard it make a sloshing sound when she turned her head. She could have kept goldfish in there.
Every time she moved her head, that thing threatened me like a spring-loaded volcano, where the slightest movement would have caused its magma to explode with a fury that would paint the walls of the entire universe with its viral anger. You could have seen this thing throbbing and pulsing from the International Space Station, and the only thing that could have rivaled it would have been the Great Wall of China or James Franco’s ego.
At that moment, my OCD saw this thing as the Heartbeat of America. It was today’s Chevrolet.
Just in case there’s any confusion here, this thing was large and in charge and, as such, from this moment forward I will be referring to it as Mt. Vesuvius, Destroyer of Worlds.
The manager started to train me on the cash register. It was at this time she felt an overwhelming desire to touch Mt. Vesuvius, Destroyer of Worlds, every three seconds while sucking air between her teeth and saying, “Oooh. Oww. It’s just so tingly. Oooh. Oww. It’s so swollen. Oooh. Oww. Ohh. I WISH THIS THING WOULD JUST BURST!”
And in between tapping, fondling, and groping Mt. Vesuvius, Destroyer of Worlds, she was touching the buttons on the cash register with the same finger, leaving a greasy Vaseline fingerprint on each key that she touched.
Touch herpes sore, oooh, touch register.
Touch herpes sore, oww, touch register.
Touch herpes sore, I WISH THIS THING WOULD JUST BURST, touch register.
I had to find a focal point on the other side of the room so I didn’t pass out in a cold sweat right there on the Doc Martens display.
Then she said, “Now why don’t you try it?” and stepped back from the register.
I froze. It was like she had just given birth to my worst nightmare and I had to eat the placenta. The screaming from inside my brain sounded like a freight train in my ears. Everything in the room began to move in slow-motion. From outside my body I saw my hand rise up to the register buttons and press them, and then a siren went off in my head: DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE!
Yes, I feel bad for anyone who has to deal with those sores. It must be awful. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. All the more reason that a person shouldn’t try to spread it around by being unhygienic as fuck.
I finished the register training and made an excuse to go to the bathroom. I had already decided that if they didn’t have a satisfactory soap in there that I would just have to chop off the ol’ finger. I mean, really, what’s one little finger sacrificed to Mt. Vesuvius, Destroyer of Worlds? I’ve got nine others!
I made a cocoon of liquid soap for my finger and let it soak in while I mentally sang the “Happy Birthday” song twice in my head, which I heard somewhere years before, was the perfect amount of time to adequately kill viruses. Then I did it again. And again. And again.
Then my OCD and I grabbed my purse, got the hell out of there, and never looked back.