Showdown at High Noon with the Monobrow Cowboy



Hurricane Katrina was not kind to those in Mississippi. In the south-west corner of the state, we had a lot of physical damage but the real damage done was to local businesses who lost a lot of their part time help. After the storm, just about every local restaurant, business or other service was advertising HELP WANTED on their marquees, their outdoor signs and on hastily hand written messages scotch taped to their windows and doors of their establishments. People were leaving the area for good, businesses were losing employees and business owners and managers alike were begging, literally begging for any help they could find. There is an old saying; “beggars can’t be choosers” and when it comes to employees, I was about to find the hard way just how true that saying really is.

Case in point, my most recent (mis)adventure at OFFICE DEsPOT

First, a little warning about OFFICE DEsPOT. Personally I try to avoid OFFICE DEsPOT with the same effort that Superman tries to avoid Kryptonite suppositories. Now, don’t get me wrong … OFFICE DEsPOT would be a great place to shop, if the employees weren’t drawn straight from the lower portion of the bell curve of the local Special Education program.

What helps the customer the most in OFFICE DEsPOT is the huge wall display near the customer service desk which shows pictures of the store managers and assistant managers and anyone else who qualifies for a dreaded gray shirt. It would do you well to memorize these people’s faces (and / or failing that, at least their names since several times, the picture of the person will be missing from above their name, a situation that could either imply high turnover or simple laziness). These people, often clad in gray Polo style shirts, are the first people in the store that you hope to God you never have to encounter while walking the isles let alone ask for help. I call this store manager information board the “Clueless Idiot Display” or “CID” and it changes almost every time I am in OFFICE DEsPOT which means I have to keep on my toes to know the who’s who of retards that may be ambulating around the premises unchecked and most likely un-medicated.

Avoid gray shirts at all costs! I simply cannot emphasize this any more clearly. The safe bet at OFFICE DEsPOT is to never ever engage in any verbal communication with anyone wearing a gray shirt at all! Do not do anything that will attract the attention of a gray shirt or your mental doom is assured. If someone in a gray shirt approaches you and looks like they are about to talk to you, run away as fast as you can. Do whatever you have to do in order to escape; climb over merchandise display units, use shelves like ladders, run up and over the display office furniture, hop into a rolling chair and use it like a giant soap box derby car for a getaway, do whatever it takes to put at least 100 feet distance between yourself and the gray shirt (which is kind of hard to do in the smaller stores so you’ll just have to do the best that you can). If the gray shirt follows you (and sometimes they will, kind of like an eerie imitation of an undead zombie in a bad horror film), just repeat this procedure until the gray shirt stops following you. Gray shirts are kind of like Liches, evil undead things that haunt old tombs, only instead of haunting old tombs, gray shirts haunt the isles of office supplies, moaning softly and remembering what it once was to be human and not work at OFFICE DEsPOT.

Be on the look out in your headlong flight from the gray shirt. If you are fortunate enough to run into a red shirt, you can stand behind them, using them as a human shield to protect you from the deathly cold embrace of potential conversation with a gray shirt. As you grab the red shirt, be sure to peer around at their name tag, then hunker down behind them and shout over their shoulder towards the approaching gray shirt:

“Hey! Don’t bother! I’m fine. Really! (insert name of red shirt employee, taken from name tag on front of red shirt, i.e.:) “Timothy” here is going to help me find what I need. Timothy is going to help me find everything that I need. You can just go back to … managing … stuff. Thanks. Really. Go away. Please. You’re spooking me. Bad. Ok? Thanks. Bye.”

Most of the time, the gray shirt will skulk away in search of a new victim (“customer”) to annoy and possibly, if given enough time, to infect with the dreaded brain disease which destroys the frontal lobes of the human cerebrum (and even more hideously, reduces you to putting in your application for employment as a manager at an OFFICE DEsPOT). Shun the gray shirts, they are the least knowledgeable of any “employee” (and I use the word “employee” in the loosest possible sense, mind you) in the store and the higher up in rank you go, right up to the very top, the less the gray shirt knows. This rampant tier based brain damage gets so bad that I’m sure that if you were unfortunate enough to run into the actual top store manager, they’d be doing good to tell you the name of the store that they actually “manage” let alone recite their ABCs in the proper order or count higher than ten without taking their shoes off or dropping their pants.

In regards to the local OFFICE DEsPOT, the home office certainly doesn’t get its money worth and, sadly, neither does the customer, usually. However, if you are like me, sometimes you get your mirth’s worth and that can be just as good for goodness sake which brings us to our latest tale of woe. Let me tell you of my encounter with the Monobrow Cowboy, who I am sure is destined to be the OFFICE DEsPOT Employee of the Quarter, if not the Employee of the Year.

It all began rather innocently enough, as most tales which end in tears do. It was a Thursday and I wanted to ship a set of art prints to my friend, Mark Longmire. I was in traffic near the local OFFICE DEsPOT so I decided to once again give them a chance to impress me. I was in a hurry, OFFICE DEsPOT advertised that they were a UPS shipping point and I had something that I needed to ship. I had a need, they told me they could fill it. I guess it’s my fault for trusting them. Anyway, it all sounded like a plan but as I was soon to learn, it was just the right ingredients for a recipe that would bake up one hell of an astounding intellectual nightmare. Truthfully, I’ve never had good experiences at the local OFFICE DEsPOT and the only way I can excuse the idea that I thought this time would be any different is to claim a slight bout of very temporary advanced mental retardation or, failing that, to simply admit that sometimes I’m a glutton for punishment.

Having a need to be met and having found a business advertising that they could fulfill that need, I took my rolled up art prints with me, entered OFFICE DEsPOT and proceeded to the shipping and mailing counter at the front of the store. I quickly scanned the CID in front of the store, noted which aspiring morons had been promoted to high levels of management since my last visit, saw a few changes to the CID from last time and did a quick gray shirt scan of the immediate area.

No skulking gray shirt managers in sight.

In fact, save for the bored looking female red shirt behind one of the registers, the store looked like some previously unheard of plague had wiped out everyone in short order. I thought I saw movement over on one of the isles, it could have been a customer or it could have been a gray shirt preparing to spring, unexpectedly, on some poor unfortunate soul who happened to be shopping for office supplies at the wrong place and the wrong time. I couldn’t be sure but I moved on over towards the service desk in the left front corner of the store and further away from the lurking shadow, away from the cold chill of evil managerial stupidity incarnate.

I stepped smartly up to the mailing and packaging area, put the rolled up art prints on the counter in front of me. At first, I thought the department was vacant but then I noticed a single red shirt leaning up against a work bench in the back corner. I waited. It was obvious he was the only employee in the department and I was the only customer. In an ideal world, he would have been on me like a shark on chum but then when you step through the front doors of this place, the term “ideal” takes on a whole new meaning. As I stood there, watching the employee ignore me, I began to feel the tiny bit of frustration start to creep into my jaded old soul. I don’t know what I was expecting since cordial and timely service is something that you just simply won’t find offered at any price at my local OFFICE DEsPOT.

So I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After what, to me, seemed more than a decent amount of time for the only person at a department counter to have to wait, especially in plain view of the department’s only apparent working employee, I took three steps back and stared up at the sign that hung, Damocles-like, over the counter by some thin metal chains set into hooks in the ceiling.

“OFFICE DEPOT UPS CUSTOMER MAIL AND PACKAGE SHIPPING DEPARTMENT”

or words to that general effect greeted my eyes, which was a great surprise since I had fully expected to see the words

“COMPLETELY IGNORE ANYONE STANDING AT THE COUNTER UNDER THIS SIGN”

to have been displayed there instead.

Marshaled with renewed customer confidence, I stepped back up to the counter, reset my patience-for-waiting-ometer and began the slow incremental count down to my patience running out again. I looked for the solitary employee and saw that he was indeed busy and rather busily employed, playing with a packing tape gun. He wasn’t the best looking example of the male of the human species, pudgy from too much Twinkies and X-Box, too little exercise and nowhere near enough real vagina in his life. His rather obvious thick black bushy monobrow was in stark contrast to the bleached blonde highlights in his hair that were apparently done with a comb, a bottle of peroxide and a mirror while drunk. He looked like Bert the Muppet in a red shirt, with bad hair.

Scriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch.

The packing tape gun made that sound as monobrow boy pulled off a small piece of tape, not bothering to tear it, and letting it dangle from the reel of the tape dispenser. He eyed it with some rather overt and unfathomable personal interest. I watched with abject fascination as he inserted his finger into the tape dispenser reel and carefully, manually rewound the tape back onto the dispenser, much like someone playing with a fishing rod and reel inside their home.

I stood at the counter. Again.

And waited. Again.

And waited. Again.

Coughing and clearing your throat are such passť methods of getting someone’s attention. The fact was that I had started to lose interest in actually mailing the art prints to Mark and had, instead, become fascinated with the behavior of this red shirt clad idiot. I began to scientifically study this poor soul all the while praying that some gray shirt wouldn’t amble up behind me, ask me if I needed any help then suddenly grab me from behind and begin eating my brain before I could respond.

And I waited. Again.

I waited until I fully understood Einstein’s theories on time.

My own personal patience-for-waiting-ometer was approaching zero, again, and I stared from my rolled up art prints to the individual that I would now and forever more refer to as the “Monobrow Cowboy.” The Monobrow Cowboy continued to fiddle with his hardware, probably dreaming of fitting adjustable windage sights and of one day being able to add Pachmyr custom combat grips to his beloved packing and shipping sidearm. The patience-for-waiting-ometer reached zero and I prepared myself to speak curtly to this clueless individual whose own personal amusement was causing me to physically age at a more than natural rate.

“Oh!” The ever alert Monobrow Cowboy exclaimed. “Do you need something?”

Some dark thoughts came to mind but since discretion is the better part of valor, I chose my words carefully.

“Yes. I’d like to mail these.” I said, moving the rolled up art prints a few inches closer to him, sliding them across the top of the service counter.

He regarded the art prints like they were plague-ridden and since it was obvious that their mere presence meant that he might actually have to do some of the work for which he had (arguably) been hired to do, it was with good reason that he showered the art prints with obvious disdain. This guy looked like physical labor was the antithesis of his mortal existence.

“Oh.” He said again, this time in a voice reserved for use when you're six years old and you witness your puppy get run over by the neighborhood ice cream truck.

Apparently the Monobrow Cowboy had a favorite vowel and he was prone to letting the world know which one it was on a regular basis. He stared from his packing tape gun to the art prints and back to the packing tape gun. The desire to fiddle with the packing tape gun and perhaps live out some strange Wild West fantasy where he wraps up the bad guys and saves the day was rather obvious. I counted three distinct times that his eyes went from the packing tape gun in his hand to my art prints and back again. Somewhere, in that fleshy melon topped with drunken applied blonde peroxide streaks, there was a super colossal intellectual struggle taking place but no matter what the outcome, it didn’t look like my chance to partake in any side effect of the slow coming victory was going to occur.

With a shrug of supreme disappointment and an irksome sound of rubber soled shoes pivoting in place on a regularly waxed floor, the Monobrow Cowboy did a half turn and began to waddle away towards the far end of the counter, around the corner and at the back side of the department. After he was a third of the way there, he emitted a primal mewling grunt that sounded something vaguely like …

“Over here.”

I couldn’t really be sure. Maybe he really said “Kube eat now.” It was hard to understand him because even his speech was lazy. In any case, I was suddenly left alone and given that the only apparent employee of a department where I desired service had made some kind of motion for me to follow him, I felt that it was in my best interest to do so, even if it lead me further into the department in question. I decided to take a chance that following him might actually lead me further along the path to success in shipping my package to its intended destination.

Silly me, what was I thinking?

I picked up my art prints and walked around the corner of the counter to where the Monobrow Cowboy had taken up a new residence. It wasn’t a long walk, maybe twenty feet, but when I arrived it was apparent that what little spark of interest I had generated just a scant minute ago had long ago been extinguished. I did take the chance, during my leisurely, if redirected, stroll to look at any signs hanging over the counter to make sure that I was again standing in a line that said “CUSTOMER SERVICE” and not “IGNORE THE CUSTOMER COMPLETELY.”

Satisfied that I may have, somehow, been in the wrong place in the first place, I obediently took my place in front of the counter, mustered what cheerful persona I could (which wasn’t much) and resigned myself to conduct this amount of business with as little overt negativity as possible. I just wanted to mail something to a friend in another city. It should be a simple affair, especially for a business which advertises that they are your very own personalized shipping and mailing headquarters. I don’t know about you, but anytime I encounter something that is personalized especially for me, I don’t expect it to be this much trouble to use.

Such is not my lot in life, apparently, or at least it is whenever I step foot into the neighborhood OFFICE DEsPOT. God, I hate this place. They’re stocked full of things that I need and run by morons who would make the people who ride the short yellow bus of the Special Ed program look like a team of Ferrari engineers in comparison. The quicker that they convert these places into huge, unmanned pay as you go type department stores and do away with nine tenths of their employees, the better because the average grade of people that they hire couldn’t outscore a box of Sunmaid raisins on a standard IQ test.

I waited. Again.

The Monobrow Cowboy hopped up backwards and was now sitting on a combination desk / table. Sitting, studying his packing tape gun with an interest best reserved for someone’s first introduction to a free online pornography site.

Scriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch! Twist. Twist. Twist. Twist.

My ears involuntarily prickled at the noise of the packing tape reel being played out and manually reeled back in. The Monobrow Cowboy was now pulling off about six inches of packing tape at a time, letting it hang loose over the cutter assembly like he was fishing with a rod and reel, then slowly sticking a finger into the tape / dispenser wheel and manually rewinding the tape back onto the spool. I truly felt, as I stared in abject fascination at his antics, that I was seeing evolution in full pedal-to-the-floor reverse and that it was happening right before my eyes.

I found myself fascinated and unable to do anything but simply stare at this Faulknerian idiot man-child going about the routine of being completely mesmerized by this ((expletive + expletive) – (expletive / expletive * expletive) = X where X is the square root of expletive to the 33rd power) packing tape gun. Finally, every single ounce of patience I had for this experience evaporated like early morning dew caught in a supernova.

“I need to mail this.” I said, moving the rolled up art prints a few inches closer to him on the counter top and tapping the counter with them lightly for his attention.

I really wanted to see, with complete scientific curiosity, if the presence of the rolled up artwork and the threat of physical labor on his part that the rolled up artwork represented would be like a crucifix to a vampire. I wanted to see if the mere presence of impending physical labor would evoke some other unique response. And, interestingly enough, it did, but not exactly the response that I had expected or wanted. The events of the next few minutes proved that this guy was definitely destined to be a career OFFICE DEsPOT employee and probably one day soon he would indeed get his every own gray shirt with his picture posted on the CID at the front of the store.

The Monobrow Cowboy lowered his weapon of choice and regarded me again with an expression that I swore looked like he had never seen me before. With a sigh, he lowered the packing tape gun to his side (and if they made them, I’m sure he would have stuck it in a low slung hip holster and refastened the safety strap ala Han Solo style). There next came a deep grunt that normal people reserve only for the most intimate and special moments of truly mind blowing coitus as he hopped down off of the counter top. I watched as he leaned over towards me and used a single finger to swing a flat panel monitor around towards me. He motioned with the finger towards a standard 104 key layout keyboard. I gazed at what he had wrought before me.

“Ugh. Mugh. Gagh.” He said, or he could have said “here you go.” It sounded very similar.

Incredible!

What appeared on the flat panel screen was some kind of choice driven proprietary OFFICE DEsPOT / UPS GUI (Graphical User Interface to you non-IT dwellers) designed, yet again, to put most of the thinking and labor on the shoulders of the customer rather than in the hands of the employee. Wonderful! OFFICE DEsPOT is nothing if they aren’t diligent about putting the “customer” into “customer service.” I swear, as much work as I do for myself around this place, the home office should be cutting me a pay check… I mean, seriously, what do these people that they hire here really do during their work shifts that merits them receiving monetary compensation for their effort? Nothing came to mind immediately so I tabled the question for later review.

I sighed, scanned the GUI and gleaned that it was left up to me to ship my own package, which was all very good and well, if it were not for the fact that apparently all of the packing materials (and yes, the packing tape gun) were located out of my reach behind the counter. So, I still had to do most of the work and if this continued in the direction it was going, I’d probably have to put my own shipping box together as well as wait around until the brown UPS truck arrived and throw the package in the back myself.

I pulled out my Palm M150 PDA, keyed up Longmire’s address and switching my eyes from the PDA screen to the flat panel, I began to move the mouse and type with a speed that obviously made the Monobrow Cowboy envious of my keyboarding skills. He was particularly jealous of my Palm PDA, staring at it like it was half a pack of fresh Twinkies or, he might have mistaken my PDA for some new kind of Nintendo hand held game system, in hindsight.

“Have you ever shipped with us before?” he asked in a whiney voice that could easily have been mistaken for sounding just like “can you hurry up. It’s almost time for my break.”

“A few times.” I said, not mentioning that it had never been this hard before nor had I ever dealt with so lazy a human being.

The Monobrow Cowboy made a coarse low rumbling sound that I could have been interpreted as either a gasto-intestinal eruption or a simple non-committal agreement. Either way, no help in the matter was offered nor, at this late in time, expected.

As my hands flew across the keyboard completing my task, I was somewhat happy to note that the packing slip and all required information, forms, etc. for the transaction were being printed out on a big network capable laser printer located in yet another part of the shipping department. The fact that the Monobrow Cowboy would have to again become ambient and mobile enough to fetch these articles occurred to both he and I at approximately the exact instant in time. It was my pleasure and his chagrin which brought a smile to my lips and a frown to his brow. With another deep grunt, the Monobrow Cowboy ambled off to the rear of the department to retrieve the paperwork. Some pleasure came out of the situation when he thought he had retrieved all of the paperwork and, just as his back was turned and he had proceeded to walk three paces away, the laser printer spit out the final sheet of paperwork. This required him to come to a stop, think about his place in the universe, pivot on his feet, return to the printer, retrieve the errant paperwork, and head once more towards the front of the department where I was keeping station and still losing patience faster than the Exxon Valdez lost its stock of oil in Prince William’s Sound.

At this time, I had to admit to myself that this was starting to be some amount of fun for me and I looked for other ways to make this guy work, actually work as in exert a physical effort to do something other than play with the (long string of vulgar adjectives) packing tape gun.

The Monobrow Cowboy slapped, yes, slapped, the forms down on the counter in front of me to sign. He didn’t offer me a pen so I pulled my own out of my wallet where I carry it. I thought it was kind of rude to hand the customer a bunch of forms to sign and notarize without handing them a pen but, as I was about to find out, the Monobrow Cowboy had a better use for his pen.

I began to read the forms. It was the usual post-911 Bravo Sierra type shipping and mailing stuff. I had to sign a waiver that I wasn’t shipping anything harmful or dangerous, no radioactive materials, no biological materials, no fuel for a Coleman gas products, no homemade bomb, no anthrax (the dreaded disease, not any music from the heavy metal band of the same name), etc. Anyway, as I’m reading the FINE PRINT and making the required legal notations that basically say you can’t sue OFFICE DEsPOT for anything up to and including the Second Coming of Christ, the Monobrow Cowboy hops back up the counter top and goes back to fiddling with his favorite sidearm.

Scriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch. Twist. Twist. Twist.

Well, obviously he had mastered that trick so he began to experiment with his own boundaries. A smile came to his face as he grabbed the packing tape gun in one hand and the end of the tape in the other, then threw his arms wide as far as they could go, stretching out a piece of packing tape in between his hands.

Scriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch.

I stopped writing.

Suddenly and completely.

I lifted my head slightly and stared, from the top of my eye sockets, at this moron. God help me, I stared, in total, abject scientific curiosity but it didn’t take a Nobel Prize winner to figure out what was going to happen next.

“Oh.” Said the Monobrow Cowboy, with a look of both surprise and amusement, a horrible combination to be sure given his furry rippled brow.

It almost looked like a black hairy caterpillar was trying to surf on a pasty white wave, and wipeout was imminent.

“He isn’t going to do what I think he’s going to do…” I asked myself quietly. “Please. Tell me he isn’t going to do what I think he’s going to do…”

I stared at the Monobrow Cowboy. I couldn’t help myself. What made a sharp cat claw-like twinge of dismay crawl up my spine was the fact that he stared from the packing tape gun in his right hand to the long line of packing tape stretching out in front of him, leading to his left hand. It must have been a good five feet of packing tape, just pulled off of the dispenser and held out in front of his face. He held it up proudly, for all the world (or at least for anyone in the store who was even remotely interested) to see. If there had been any karmic justice in the world, he would have dispensed the tape sticky side backwards, accidentally taped his bushy monobrow and then painfully depilated his forehead down to the roots when he tried to remove the tape but, alas … karma just isn’t what it used to be anymore. Either that or his luck was better than mine.

He studied the long stretch of packing tape. The Monobrow Cowboy actually stuck his face close to the strip of tape and started looking through it at different things around the store. I saw him look through the tape at me, then his eyes darted left and right, up and down, all around behind the strip of packing tape. I could only begin to imagine how distorted I must have looked through the packing cellophane and what obvious glee that would bring to this Faulkernian idiot man-child. I swore right then and there that if this epic retard said the words “You look funny!” to me, I was going to (in a manner that would make Chuck Norris proud) jump over the counter and beat him to death with an empty cardboard packing tube, a feat, I estimated, that would take about ten to eleven hours to complete given the nature of the task and the tools I had to work with.

I continued to stare at him up and over my brows, from the top of my lowered head and with my eyeballs firmly planted in the top of my eye sockets. He stared back at me through the two inch wide strip of packing tape. I definitely felt that some Sergio Leon music should be playing softly in the background.

And then he did it.

He.

Did.

It.

He let the end of tape in his left hand flutter free, falling slowly down until it hung in front of him. Next, he took the ink pen from his shirt, the very one that he failed to offer me to use, and he dropped the ink pen on the floor. I was already ahead of this “game” so I knew what he intended to do. Looking down at the dropped pen, he carefully maneuvered the strip of tape over the pen and tried to stick it to the pen. He bobbed the strip of packing tape up and down for a few seconds then tried to see if he could stick it to the pen laying there on the floor. He maneuvered the strip of tape like a master angler, left, right, up and down slowly, testing to see if he had a bite. After a few sharp pulls, he found that he had better success if he let the tape stick for a second or two then slowly drew it back up. I saw him smile as he started to lift the packing tape gun slowly in front of him, then I heard the distinct sound of an ink pen hitting the floor from a not so great height. His pleasure turned to obvious dismay and he began to fish for his pen again. Inside my mind, I was simply speechless. Never before had I seen such an act of utter and pure mental retardation carried out by an employee of a store in front of a customer.

I picked up my art prints and tapped them lightly on the counter to get his attention. The look I got was one which is usually reserved for professional golfers who try to blame a missed shot on the click of a photographer’s camera.

“I filled out all of the paperwork. Do you have a packing tube for this?” I asked, holding up the rolled up art prints.

He sighed and began to take up the reel of tape. Twist. Twist. Twist. Twist. Twist. Twist. Twist.

It seemed to take forever for the Monobrow Cowboy to reel in all of that packing tape but somehow he did. He solemnly stooped to retrieve his pen from the floor and I watched him walk a few feet away and retrieve from flat storage an unfolded mailing box. I needed a cardboard tube, not a cardboard box. How do you fit a rolled up group of posters in a box? The size of the box I could tell already wouldn’t have been large enough to fit the prints without bending the already rolled up prints in half, which I was not about to do.

“Uh, these aren’t going to fit in that… Sparky.” I said, with a small amount of disdain creeping into my voice for this lackluster dullard which fate had saw fit to doom me to deal with today.

He stopped trying to fold the box, reflattened it and put it away with some disdain. Next he drew out a box that was obviously for shipping triangular shaped items that were about six feet long and six inches wide. When he held it up triumphantly to show me that he could, indeed, find the correct container to ship rolled up art prints in, I muttered “I’m not shipping a pair of Kentucky long rifles…” Either he didn’t hear me or he didn’t care. I stared again in disbelief at what he was going to try to pack my art prints in. Now, my art prints were your standard size, about three feet by two feet. Three of them rolled together into one. Poster size.

The Monobrow Cowboy folded up the box into a triangular shaped container. It looked big enough to ship a post hole digger in, with room to spare. When I put the art prints next to the completed shipping container, the size difference between what I wanted to ship and what he was going to ship them in was rather obvious. We both stared at the package and the materials for a few seconds then, seemingly, in answer to my unasked question, he pulled out a huge sheet of packing wrap, the kind with the bubble formed in it, from under the counter and he held up his packing tape gun like he wanted to show me that he would securely wrap my art prints. What a monumental waste of space and material!

“I need a cardboard packing tube.” I said, patience drawing down to zero. “Take this back and just give me a cardboard packing tube. A regular cardboard packing tube.”

I held the art prints up for visual reference and pointed to them for emphasis.

“A cardboard tube. The kind you ship blueprints and posters in, Sparky.”

“Oh.” The Monobrow Cowboy said dejectedly. “We sell cardboard tubes over on Isle 8. We don’t carry those back here.”

They “sell” cardboard packing tubes? Well, of course they do! They’re OFFICE DEsPOT! What happened to my “personalized mailing center” other than the fact that I had to do all the work myself and he got paid for sitting around and pen fishing. You would think that businesses send out blue prints and other similar sized materials on a regular basis so OFFICE DEsPOT would have a supply of properly sized packing containers in their shipping department but no!

Why not have one for me here where I need to ship something?

I really couldn’t believe how much trouble I had been through so far and how much trouble was apparently still ahead. Do you mean that besides all of this trouble, besides filling out all the paperwork, that I now have to go and buy my own packing material? Apparently so and while I started to walk away, I heard the sound of amateur angling begin again in earnest.

Scriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch.

I didn’t need to turn around and look to know that the Monobrow Cowboy had gone back to sitting on the service counter and doing a little amateur ink pen fishing again. I took my art prints and walked over to Isle 8, my eyes constantly looking for a gray shirt in hiding and making sure that I had an escape route close at hand. I made the trek to Isle 8 without mishap and did indeed find the cardboard mailing tubes and true to the mental retardation that permeates the whole of OFFICE DEsPOT, I discovered that you couldn’t buy just one cardboard shipping tube, you had to buy a pair of them. Why the hell did I have to buy a pair of shipping tubes when all I needed was one (long string of uncomplimentary vulgar adjectives) cardboard shipping tube?!

Six bucks and some change. Plus tax. I swore under my breath, grabbed up the twin pack of cardboard mailing tubes, walked up to the only red shirt at the register, and made my purchase. All I had on my person was a ten dollar bill, and the purchase ate up most of that. I returned to the shipping corral for my inevitable showdown with the Monobrow Cowboy, whipped out my Gerber EZ-Out with serrated edge (much to his obvious interest) and in true Jedi style, with one quick motion, I slit open the cellophane (much less thick than a TaunTaun’s belly) securing the twin pack of cardboard tubes. Using the same movement, a movement that has long since become muscle memory, I unlocked the blade, closed it and returned the Gerber to my pants pocket one handed. This, I’m sad to say, obviously gained me some macho cool points with the Monobrow Cowboy. Or, to put it in other words, my toy was cooler than his and I knew how to use my toy better than he did his.

I put one of the tubes down on the counter, picked up the other, popped the end cap off, dropped my art prints down the tube then shook vigorously until the prints had settled, expanded, and taken up enough slack inside that they wouldn’t bounce around during shipping. I then slapped the end cap back on and handed the full cardboard mailing tube to the Monobrow Cowboy as if to show him how it was done, correctly, the first time. He took the tube and, in a show of his own prowess, whipped his packing tape gun across both ends to seal the tube. Scriiiitch. Scriiiiitch. Scriiiiiitch. It wasn’t pretty by a long shot but it was functional, much like using a sledgehammer to get rid of pesky ants at a picnic.

I watched as the Monobrow Cowboy picked up his pen (again) from the floor and went about signing some forms that had previously been printed out. He peeled off a label that had printed out and slapped it, crooked, on the cardboard tube. He tried to peel it off to get out a very noticeable wrinkle but found that the label was starting to tear. When he looked up at me finally for guidance, I told him “Just. Leave. It.” Three separate words, he got my meaning.

Next, he slapped, yes, slapped my art prints down on the postage scale and began to one finger peck on a keyboard not quite dissimilar to the one which I had used a few minutes ago though his GUI was obviously different. After answering some basic questions about how I wanted to send the art prints, and still holding my change from the ten dollar bill in my hand, the Monobrow Cowboy stabbed a key and turned towards me.

“That will be $12.84.” he said, looking from the screen to the cardboard tube in his hand, rapping his shoulder lightly with the tube as he held it.

Oh Holy Sweet Precious Mother of Milton Bradley!

The Hell it will be that much! I had a little over two dollars and some change. My debit card was waiting on a reload to go through later that afternoon and besides… Longmire had sent me basically the same type of package a few weeks earlier and I distinctly remember the postage being about a buck and some change, not six times that much! When I explained this in a quiet, easy going voice to the Monobrow Cowboy, he looked completely confused. How dare the computer lie to him about the cost of postage and handling! How dare a customer dispute his word! I guess he wasn’t used to customers questioning his postage and handling authority. Doubt crossed his bushy forehead, turning his monobrow into an impromptu hairy sine wave. He made a few more key punches, got a different answer and thought I would be pleased with the result.

“Oh. That will be $9.34.” he said, like that was really an improvement.

I stared at the few dollars and coin in my hand. This just was not happening. I have to do all the work here at OFFICE DEsPOT, I then have to go and buy my packing container and now they want to bend me over the counter so they can insert a square peg in a round hole in regard to postage and handling? I finally had enough of the rampant mental abuse and washed my hands of the situation.

“Never mind, Sparky.” I said. “Just cancel that and I’ll have to get it to him another way.”

The Monobrow Cowboy actually looked hurt for a second, like sales would advance his career incrementally and he had been planning on my patronage to secure part of his corporate future. He grunted again and began to tear the shipping label off. When he had butchered it about as well as he had the coloring of his own hair, he handed the tube back.

“I don’t think they’ll ship it now…” he said flatly, I guess to reassure me that I wouldn’t be charged accidentally if I somehow dropped the tube and a UPS man came along and picked it up in a good Samaritan kind of way.

I looked at the mangled packing slip, having been removed almost as poorly as it had been applied. I stuck my change in my pocket, grabbed the unused cardboard tube and headed towards the door.

As I was walking away, I heard a sound that will forever haunt me.

Scriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch. Twist. Twist. Twist. Twist.

So Longmire didn’t get his art prints shipped out on Thursday like I told him they would be. No, they went out the very next day, on Friday, via the United States Postal Service priority mail which meant that, given the upcoming holiday (MLK, Jr.), he would probably get them Tuesday instead of Monday. The sum cost to ship them out, priority mail, in the tube, with a new label and address applied over the remains of the old mangled one, was just about what I had in spare change from the ten dollar bill that I had used to purchase the two cardboard mailing tubes in the first place the day before at OFFICE DEsPOT. It took me three minutes at the post office to mail Mark the art prints as opposed to the nearly twenty minutes it had taken at OFFICE DEsPOT not to get them mailed. The fact that the post office was pretty busy with a long line at the window was just more insult to injury when it came to knowing how poorly the local OFFICE DEsPOT is run and managed.

It will be a long while before I go back to OFFICE DEsPOT for anything but when I do, I probably won’t be surprised to not only find the Monobrow Cowboy walking around wearing a gray shirt, but also to find his smiling face in a picture on the CID at the front of the store.

 

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