Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Tonight At The Supermarket

There was no line at register 8. I put my ingredients for "Mexican lasagna bake" on the belt, and got a stern "how are ya?" from the cashier. He had a ponytail. A tough-guy ponytail specifically. I gave him a similarly stoic return-greeting with eye contact, as if to say, "I'm sideburns guy and you're ponytail guy and I know what it's like to be thought of as a freak as I have also been mohawk guy and long-hair guy so I respect you, and I know what it's like to work at the grocery store so I would never look down on you either." While he was ringing my items through, the haggard old bagger with the big gray fu manchu very casually starts a conversation with his younger co-worker in a thick New England accent:

"Hey, I thought of you last night."

Ponytail guy keeps ringing and we both turn to the man in anticipation.

"You ever watch hardcore porn?"

The next second felt like 69 seconds, as my mind raced through the possible explanations as to what in the hell was going on. I think my first thought was that this guy was just very, very comfortable with pornography and with his fellow employees to the point where he'd have no problem whatsoever with bringing the topic like you would any other. Besides, there's only one customer within earshot and he's a guy so...

Then within that category of thought I wondered about the next sentence, which would explain just why he thought of ponytail guy while watching porn.

But since my mind couldn't possibly fathom that he really meant what he said, I turned to a new option, the "wow, this guy is a real practical joker, and doesn't mind risking his job by saying outrageous things just to get a rise out of customers" option. Either that or he's decided he's had enough bagging, and is gonna go out with a bang. I half expected ponytail guy to whisper to me "management knows, we're just waiting for the police to take him away."

Me and ponytail guy made eye contact again, now with markedly different looks on our faces than those we wore ten seconds earlier.

And right then, in second #69 out of what was really one eternal second, it hit us both. Hardcore Pawn. The cable show about a pawn shop. Earlier in this story, I didn't spell out the dude's words phonetically as it would have given the punchline away. But when he said it, it was "hahdcah pahn." Which is more like hahdcaw pawn in the Rhode Island version of the Boston accent. The "or" of "core" was said in the same way as the "or" in the second word, which means it naturally would have been "porn."

Suddenly me and ponytail guy went from frightened to amused, grinning ear-to-ear smiles that neither of us could have expected at the beginning of the transaction. We have connected yet again, ponytail guy and I.

When I turned back to the pawn-lover and said, "you scared me for a second there," I realized that he had no idea why we were smiling or that he'd said anything that could be misconstrued as a fireable offense. "What," he asked, and I repeated myself, getting back another quizzical look. I glanced back at ponytail guy, who was now doing everything he could not to laugh out loud, got my receipt, and walked away as pawn guy continued on with his story like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Now more customers were behind me, and ponytail guy probably had to wait a while to explain to the pawn star what had happened.

Of course, we all know that when these pawn-shop shows started, they purposely used porn puns to get attention, and people have surely made thousands of tired jokes about these names by now. But I like that I heard one that was totally organic, just a guy telling another guy that he thought of him while watching a TV show. You'd think a person would have to know ahead of time that any conversation he instigates about these shows will contain some automatic Three's Company-esque comedy. But I guess not. Maybe the term "hardcore pawn" has become so common that people have stopped associating it with the subject of the wordplay it was born unto. Or maybe this innocent old man was completely unfamiliar with the term "hardcore porn." I'll have to ask my new comrade ponytail guy his opinion next time I see him.


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Location: Rhode Island, United States