I have come to the realization lately that I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I am capable of. Sure, I work on my novel every day, but when I go through a lull in that, I put it aside and do something else, even though there’s still gas in my tank for words. This is why I’ve been blogging more often the past few weeks. I hope I can keep it up. Pretty sure I can. I like it better than Facebooking, for one reason (among the many) because the posts over there are here today, gone tomorrow. Here they stay fresh and are easily accessible years later. And as for doing a diary, which I’ve been at occasionally, it’s only really interesting to myself. And I like to share, even if it’s only with one or two people.
“There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with.” ~ Seneca
I am at work now, at the shop where my next novel is based. I used to own this place. Now it’s my brother’s and it’s totally changed from the way I had it. He cleaned it up, remodeled, swept out all the reprobates and derelicts with his Hercules broom, etc. etc. Even the customers are different, most of them anyway. Some are the same. The latest to come in was a house painter with long gray hair pulled back in a ponytail and a dyed pitch-black mustache (the vanity! the vanity!). I rented a pressure cleaner to him two weeks ago and came back today to rent it again.
“Hello, Mr. Mushrush,” I said as he entered the store.
He was flattered I remembered his name. But how could you forget a name like Mushrush? He lit up the room with his barracuda smile…
I have learned more about human nature from my seventeen years in the tool rental business than from anywhere else. That it was always my money that was on the line was of course the greatest factor, but also dealing with mostly blue collar people of the middle and lower classes every day. I could’ve never had such a great course in humanity if I’d worked in an office, or a school, or a place like that. No, my job required a deep level of street-psychology. My customers were always lying to me, trying to get an edge, stealing… And my employees were often even worse. Add to that the fact that the business was barely even making it the first ten years, and there you go.
But Mushrush setting the room ablaze with his barracuda smile reminded me of some of the other great con-artists who have come into the store over the years. Some would try to win me over with their unique personal charm, a gracious smile, small talk, flattery, so forth. But I could usually tell right away there were hidden motives involved. As I said, it was my money on the line, my welfare, my mental health, and eventually I could sense things before I even thought them. Sometimes I didn’t need to do either. Sometimes it was obvious. A customer would come in and want to rent something with no credit card, no cash deposit, not even enough for the rental. They’d want to pay on return…
“Come on man, you know me. I’m good for it. I wouldn’t screw you over.”
“I’ve heard that before from people I’ve known a lot better than you, and they did screw me over.”
“Yeah, but that’s them. I wouldn’t do it. I’m not like that. I’ll pay you when I get paid for the job.”
“Sorry, I need payment upfront, plus a $100 deposit.”
“$100? Are you kidding?”
“Store policy,” I’d say. “The machine’s worth $900. Usually I get a $200 deposit. I’m only doing it for $100 because I half-know you.”
Customer scratches head. “S’cuse me for a moment,” he says. He goes to corner, extracts phone from pocket, calls girlfriend, or wife, or someone else who doesn’t trust him. The answer is no. She won’t loan him $100. She knows better now, knows the con, the fix, the tendency, and hangs up. Customer then hides disappointment, pretends conversation went very well, slips phone into pocket and says, “I’ll be right back.” He then exits store and, with an invisible Greek chorus trailing after him, gets into pickup truck and drives off into the sunset, never to return.
“Men are false. Therefore, the best assurance against being hurt by someone must be founded in his inability and not his unwillingness to hurt you.” ~ Guicciardini
Of course I wasn’t always so strict. Most of what I learned I learned by getting screwed.