The Local Flavor Part I

We have a few local crazy people who come in every day. I'm going to tell you about the pervy old guy first.
He's probably in his late seventies, unless life has been especially hard on him. He's stone deaf and asks you to spell everything to him – literally spell the words you've just spoken. He takes the bus everywhere and he's obsessed with milk crates, newspapers, and now plastic bags.
A few days ago I noticed he's stopped paying for his coffee and is stealing newspapers to collect in his apartment. Charlie and I used to live across the street from him years ago. When he still drove a car he stopped Charlie once and asked for some help unloading milk crates from the trunk. Charlie said the guy's apartment was stacked from floor to ceiling with crates filled with newspapers. This must have been at least five years ago. Who knows what his place looks like now.
According to the long-time employees the guy's doctor came in and asked that we stop giving him milk crates. So we did.

At some point the guy discovered that we cut the headlines off the previous day's paper and recycle the rest. Every morning he'd hobble in with his cane and ask for whatever we had behind the counter. We started telling him we couldn't do it anymore. So then he started sneaking behind the counter while we're busy and snatching papers. This makes it sound like he's a lot faster than he is. “Snatching” is the wrong word, but whatever. If you catch him doing it you can't really say anything. He gets really mad and just lies about it.

For a while he was on a plastic bag kick – he saw someone using these bags we have for wrapping pastry cake plates to keep things from drying out overnight. He wanted us to put his papers in them — when he actually bought one. The papers fit nicely inside with a little spare room. Then he started asking for plastic bags whenever he came in. We started telling him no. They're actually pretty expensive and we don't often have much of anything in the store to spare; we're constantly running out of large cups, the sleeves, lids, you name it. Now he buys a banana and asks us to put it in the sack. I guess his reasoning is that if he's buying something he should have whatever he wants to put in it. Not a small pastry bag, mind you, or even a normal paper sack; a bag that's probably the equivalent to about 5 gallons. With a banana in it.

This is still better than the garbage bag kick he was on. Huge, 30-gallon bags that he demanded, saying he needed them for all of his papers.

The guy seems only slightly crazy, in the sense that he's probably obsessive-compulsive, a pervert, and perhaps going a little senile. But I think he's actually pretty sharp because he keeps finding ways to get what he wants from people.

Lately he's begun avoiding paying for his coffee by waving money at you from his table. He comes in during the morning rush and wanders around until he gets a table he likes. He'll sit down and lean back behind the counter with a couple of ones or a five in his hand, just waving it about until you look over at him. He'll shout that he wants his coffee. He likes it in a very particular way: with a pump of chocolate syrup, ice, and a red straw. Sometimes he gets the plastic bottle of honey and proceeds to squeeze every last drop out of it into his coffee then sucks it through the tiny straw. It's quite gross.

He never pays for refills and no one bothers charging him because he just gets pissed off. But he makes sure to shout out at you when he's ready for one. We also only ever give him decaf because, apparently, he used to drink so much regular that he would either wet his pants or go into the bathroom and pee all over the place. I'm sure he has to pee a lot even drinking decaf, but he doesn't get so wound up that he urinates all over the wall.

Today I noticed him waving money and we all kept telling him to hold on a second. He came up and shouted in my face, spit flying everywhere, that he was ready for his coffee. I finally lost patience with him and said “Hold on a second! We've been helping other people all this time!” I got him his damn coffee with the ice and chocolate and straw and gave it to someone else to take to him because I was tired of dealing with it. Next thing I noticed, he was gone, hadn't paid, and hadn't bothered with a refill – probably because we'd have charged him for his first cup.

Occasionally you'll notice him leering at you. Yesterday afternoon he came in for his third round, took a Wall Street Journal that he “didn't know” if he wanted to buy or not, and proceeded to sit in a chair staring at my ass the entire time. I was trying to clean the pastry case and kept glancing up to find him positively ogling me. Ugh.

My best guess is that the guy's life comprises of trips on the bus to various stores around town where he tries to collect as many newspapers, plastic bags, and milk crates as he can. I sometimes try to imagine him on the bus with a lapful of this stuff and I don't know how he manages it. It's sad, but he still gets on my nerves at times.


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