Thursday, July 12, 2007

Small Talks and Rent-A-Cops

Note: I followed-up on this piece on 9/6/2007.

A reflection:

Not many people take a song called "Rent-A-Cop" seriously. The piano-pop ditty, penned by Ben Folds, imagines the day-in-a-life of a pervy security guard: "I whisper through my donut/ hey baby, baby, light that ass on fire."

Folds knows the set-up is silly, so he lets his rent-a-cop dream about teenage girls, cold beers, and donut-whispering. But when I listen to the song, I don't think about that cartoon of a character; I think about a real person, one I see every day I go to work. I think about Garett, whose silky black mane of hair is a freak of nature. Picture Elvis Presley's, if only he'd rejected jailhouse-rocking in favor of parking-lot security.

"It's me again!" Garett drawls, a heavy cloud of cologne rushing with him into the used bookstore. His lips protrude and adjust, staving off a stutter. "The hours keep flyin' by, don't they?" I can imagine him in third grade, the kind of kid who'd build a worm farm for the science fair just to swallow a couple of their bodies. He'd get a C on the project, and he wouldn't really know where he went wrong.

"The day's going fast, alright," I say, initialing his security clipboard.
Garrett and I love us some small talk. He says, "Hot out there!" and I say "That's right, it sure is." He says, "Ya'll got a lot of books!" and I say, "we sure do!" These conversations are beautiful.

But sometimes Garett likes to switch things up. "You know CiCi's Pizza?" he asked one night, pausing at the doorway. "This little girl, she played their gumball machine and almost won herself a free pizza!"

Whoa. Garret had tossed me a curve ball. This was not chatting up the weather or the flying-by of time, this was addressing a little girl's brush with immortality at CiCi's Pizza. I didn't know how to respond.

"Is that right?" was all I could muster, but Garrett was already dancing to his own tune: "Yeh-huh, she just hit the button a little bit too hard, but she was real close! A free pizza!" I surprised myself with the specificity of my answer: "A pizza for only a quarter!" Garett had reeled me in; I was speaking his language now. "Only a quarter," he chanted back, amazed, as if he'd just remembered spotting Big Foot at a Spencer's Gifts.

Every time Garett visits the bookstore, I patiently wait for him to flip our conversation sideways. He doesn’t disappoint. He warns me about two rowdy kids hurling eggs in the parking lot, and then assures me that he'll respond with force: "I might get me some eggs of my own and throw em," he says with a devil-may-care smirk. This is Garett: serving-and-protecting with an arsenal of omelette explosives.

Later he tells me he's getting a gun permit. "You got one?" he asks. People who listen to Ben Folds goof on rent-a-cops generally don't own firearms, so I shake my head no. "You want one?" he whispers.

Garett doesn't feel like he’s pushing our conversation past small talk, for he considers guns and CiCi's Pizza perfect small talk material. He probably doesn’t think he’s breaking any "rules." He and I just have different frames of reference, so it might be a little unfair of me to chuckle at his expense, even if he does fight crime with eggs.

The bookstore closes at 10pm. I lock up, vacuum the carpet, and clean out the register. A steady tap at the glass door startles me, and I look up and find Garett's just-checking-on-ya' grin. He tries the door, but it's already locked, so he walks away. Through the shadows I see the back of his silky black mane. He stares at the illuminate, empty parking lot. His job is done, but it looks like he’s in no hurry to go home.

It looks like he still has something to say.

Small Talks and Rent-A-Cops, Part II

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so did you get a gun?