OCD Gets a Job at The Shoe Store

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.

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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.

Steel Maggie-nolias

I threw away my old Doc Martens combat boots after 27 years of ownership.  As I pitched them into the trash and they clunked towards the bottom of the can, they yelled, “Do they have a steel toooooooooooooooe?!” on their way down, because after so many years of excellent service, this was unfortunately the memory I associated most with them.  Because teenage boys.

Oh!  Do tell, Myrtle!

I remember the day I got my Doc Martens in 1992.  Grunge was now all the rage, and no teenage grunge queen was complete without a pair of Doc Martens to go with her sundress, tights, and flannel shirt.  They were all I wanted in life that year, and I begged my mother to buy them for me.

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Fine, these flowers aren’t magnolias, but spoiler alert, those are Doc Martens on my 16-year old feet.  And a cigarette in my hand, but that’s neither here nor there.

Things had finally started to turn around in our household, our roof had been fixed up after Hurricane Andrew (thanks to insurance) and Mom had landed a better-paying job.  Plus, it was just me and her left in the house since my sisters had both moved out.  We were no longer destitute and there was even a little left over for spending.

I told her I needed a new pair of shoes, so we hit the mall.  Just a few years before, besides my yearly pair of $15 sneakers from Fayva the discount shoe store, my two sisters and I shared a single pair of black flats that we fought over mercilessly.

Three teenage girls, one pair of dress shoes, you can imagine the carnage.  You could make ten full wigs out of the amount of hair we pulled out of each other’s heads over those black flats.

As Mom and I stood in the shoe store, she flipped the Doc Martens boot over to see the price tag and said, “Ha!  $120?!!  Not in your wildest dreams, kid!”

She started to walk away, so I had to jump on her to present my proposition.

“Okay, okay, I know this seems nuts, but just listen to me!  If you buy me these boots, I promise I will wear them every single day for the rest of high school.  For two years!”

She said, “You have almost another two years of high school, and you’re telling me, you’re promising me, that you will wear these stupid, ugly things every day?  EVERY day?”

I nodded my head like a maniac, “Yes!  I promise!  Every single day!”

The next day, I swaggered into school in my black sundress, red plaid tights, and my brand-new Doc Martens.  I felt like the coolest mofo on the planet – until the first teenage boy saw me.

“Nice Docs,” he said, pursing his lips and folding his arms.  “I bet you got them at the mall.  Do they have a steel toe?”

(Like he got his Doc Martens trying to fight the Krauts back from the border of Poland in World War II.)

I looked down and said, “No?  Why would I need a steel toe?”

He laughed, “Heh.  Well, mine have a steel toe, so…”

Soooooo…what?  What the hell did I care if his OR my Doc Martens had a steel toe?

“I’m just saying only poseurs wear Docs that don’t have a steel toe.”

He walked away, still laughing.

I had never spoken to this guy in my life, and we didn’t even know each other’s names – but he felt compelled to walk up and insult me.

Were we doing construction work there in the 11th grade, where steel-toed boots would be the only thing standing between me and a pile of broken toes?

As it would turn out, in the two years that I wore my Doc Martens to school EVERY DAY JUST LIKE I’D PROMISED, this was an unsolicited question I was asked by teenage boys on a weekly basis.  I got so tired of having the steel toe conversation, I considered just writing, “No Steel Toe” across the top of one boot in white-out and “Poseur” on top of the other to save myself the time and aggravation.

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Look who’s still wearing those Doc Martens a year later at 17!  Never mind the beer, it’s neither here nor there.

It’s so funny, too, looking back on the whole thing and realizing what stupid ass hats those guys were.  My shoes bothered them so much that they felt the need to barge up to me, a stranger, to interrogate me about them and then try to make me feel like they were better than me?

I don’t think I’m better than anyone except Melissa’s mom, and everybody knows that.

They acted like they had somehow “earned” their combat boots as teenage boys and I was merely trying to game their system.  Like they were wearing them for actual combat when I was just wearing them for fashion, even though it was the 90s and we were all just wearing them for fashion.

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18 years old!  Still wearing those Docs!  I was SO HIGH IN THIS PICTURE, but that’s neither here nor there.

And what are we even talking about here?  Did they think I wasn’t cool enough to be into grunge?  Is there even such a thing as a person who isn’t cool enough to be into grunge?

I present this photograph of Jeff Ament and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, as Exhibits A through Z in my case:

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These two look like what would happen if Gallagher had sex with a dreamcatcher on top of a deflated beach ball in the middle of a Spencer Gifts in Omaha.

If you’re reading this and realize you were one of these steel-toe jerks back in the day, I want to impress upon you how obnoxious I thought you were then, and still think you are today.

I hope your closet is filled with nothing but ill-fitting, moose-knuckle khakis, GREG.

I hope you have a neverending hangnail that catches on your pants every time you put your hand in your pocket, JASON.

I hope it burns just a little every time you stop peeing, like you had to cut the stream short even though you didn’t actually cut the stream short, MATT.

I hope you have the short stream burn, Matt.

The short.

Stream.

Burn.

Years later, I got a job at that same shoe store so I could get the employee discount on further Doc Martens purchases, but I had to quit after my first day because of herpes.

Stay tuned for that one next week.

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19 years old.  First office job and wearing Doc Martens at the reception desk.  Also sleeping on the job while clutching a stuffed animal, but that’s neither here nor there.

Mz. Mannerz: I Am Fine If We Pretend We Don’t See Each Other

I’ve decided to start a regular-ish thing called “Mz. Mannerz.”  It will feature exciting content about how we can all be less of a jerkass in our daily lives.  Dissenting opinions will be printed out, put through a shredder, and used to line the cage of an angry rabbit that I have not yet acquired named “Dr. Stabbers”.  This is a dictatorship and will be governed accordingly.

Here’s the first installment!  Try to control yourself.

So there’s this person I don’t like.  He is my current Nemesis (I keep a rotating cast of enemies a la Nixon).  What he did to gain that ranking isn’t important, just know that he totally sucks and is completely outer limits rude and disrespectful, and if you had the misfortune of ever meeting him in person, I have zero doubt that you would agree that he is a universal double turdburger with cheese.

The thing that drives me the most insane about Nemesis, is that even though we do not get along AT ALL, he feels the need to barge up to me any time he sees me at a restaurant, a concert, even just walking down the street, to wave frantically and say hello to me.

And touch me.

Did I mention the touching?

I have watched in slow-motion horror as he’s sprinted across a city block to flag me down and touch me.

Ohh well, you see, even though I have instructed Nemesis on no less than five occasions, in no uncertain terms and with a look of death on my very married face, that he is NOT to touch me, there he is.  Touching me.  You would think that my glaring at his hand and through gritted teeth saying, “Do NOT touch me.” would do it, but nope!  Apparently, Nemesis feels completely entitled to touch me even though I could not be more clear that it is not okay to touch me.  WHO DOES THAT?

Also?  I am not “ha-ha don’t touch me” laughing when I say this to Nemesis.  There are no mixed signals here.  I am openly hostile to him.  When he approaches me, I take this particular stance.  NOT THAT HE CARES.

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Self-portrait, 2019.

This is to say, Nemesis is very aware that I don’t like him.  The feeling is mutual – I can assure you he doesn’t like me, either.  Yet there I am, trying to run twenty rows back at the movie theater, hoping that he won’t see me when I realize he’s sitting in the fifth row.

Oh, he’ll see me.  He ALWAYS sees me.

Sometimes he yells out my name from across the street and I pretend I don’t hear him.  That’s when he starts sprinting towards me.

Can’t we just pretend that we don’t see each other??

So here’s the thing.  Nemesis is certainly not the first person who has done this to me, and I’m sure you’ve probably had plenty of people do it to you, too.  The person you can’t stand – who knows you can’t stand them – who can’t ever see you out in public and just LET IT GO.

It’s like every ex who feels the need to come up to you and say hello every.single.time they see you in public, even though your relationship was a flaming napalm toilet of shame that ended with you smashing the original tapes of his early recordings with a hammer on your back porch after you found out he never stopped cheating on you from the first day you started dating until the last, routinely stole money from your purse, and went to Ireland for a month and came back with a permanent Irish accent and started calling french fries “chips” even though he was from Colorado.

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Fairy godmother.

Oh man, did that guy have it coming.  Trust me.  This was the same guy who gave me a secondhand rock for Christmas.

“Well, I saw you from the other side of the club…”

Then stay on that side of the club!

Now you’ve just made it awkward for both of us!  Yes, I saw you when I came in, and I am totally okay with neither of us acknowledging each other’s existence.  I am so, so 100% willing to pretend I didn’t see you.  I am so, so 100% okay with you pretending you didn’t see me.  Let’s pretend to not see each other together!

“I figured we could act like adults and at least say hello when we see each other.”

No thanks!  I’d really, really, mega prefer that we behave like pissy teenagers who pretend the other person no longer exists!  I’m fine with that.  Please, by all means, let’s not act like adults!  Acting like adults is highly overrated!

So!  To summarize:

  • Don’t ever, ever touch anyone who has told you that it’s not okay to touch them.
  • If you’re not actually friends with someone, feel free to just leave them alone when you see them enjoying a nice dinner out.
  • Just because you dated someone ten years ago doesn’t mean you have to chase them down to say hello, especially if the reason your relationship ended was because you were a nuclear asshole.  Let it go and let that other person live their goddamned life.

Sincerely,

Mz. Mannerz