I kept working my job at the toy store, but with my hours being cut (shakes fist at education payment program and its loopholes), I had to take on a second job.
So, like any rational, sane adult, I applied for a position at a nearby pet store.
Yeah, okay, I let my inner child basically run rampant for a few years. It happened. I’m not proud but I’ll fess up to it.
I’d work five hours at the pet store, have an hour long lunch to go home and eat ramen with veggies added, and then I’d go work five hours at the toy store.
I once sold a woman a hamster and a barbie doll in the same day!
She didn’t recognize me at all, and I’m pretty sure it really freaked her out when, as I sold her the doll, I said that I hoped her daughter’s party went well and that she liked her hamster. That look of confusion was priceless.
On my days off, I’d hang out with my friends or play video games. Dating seemed like too lofty of an endeavor with my work schedule, or at least that’s what I liked to tell myself so I didn’t feel bad about my lack of effort on that front.
Plus, after my fiasco with Damion, which I realized was idle gossip for a few days at the toy store, I was hesitant to even look at any of the guys at work.
Stanley knew how to get past that roadblock.
Short in stature, tall in personality, Stanley was forever cracking jokes about his diminutive size. He was about as tall as me (5′ 3″-ish), but where I was chunky, he was skinny as a rail. One of his favorite pastimes was cramming himself into the toy chests, just to prove he could. On more than one occasion he’d managed to get himself stuck. It was both amusing and depressing all at once.
Annoyingly energetic and cheerful, Stanley was nice, just a bit much.
He was also desperate to find a girlfriend.
Every girl in the store, at one point or another, had been asked out on a date by Stanley. While not overly aggressive, he was still an HR nightmare.
I had been warned by co-workers that I’d be approached too.
Months rolled by and nothing. Eventually, I forgot the warning.
Then, one evening Stanley let me know that a group of employees were meeting up at the restaurant near the store for drinks after work. It was a typical meetup that happened maybe once a month. It was kind of short notice, but I figured it’d be nice to go since I’d missed the last couple of gatherings.
End of the shift, I make my way to the restaurant, but I don’t see anyone.
Suddenly Stanley appears. He’s nervous but donning a Cheshire cat grin.
He tells me that no one, of the typical group of fifteen, could make it. I started to look for the door, but he begged me to stay and eat with him. I relented, but said that I’d only stay for a single soft drink.
Stanley tried to get me to order something to eat. He pulled out my seat for me and offered to pay for my meal. I declined the meal offer and stated that I’d just have the lone drink. He insisted on paying for it and I reluctantly allowed it.
It took a while, but I realized that I’ve been tricked into a date. I wondered if there ever was a gathering planned as I sipped my Dr. Pepper.
Stanley talked a mile a minute, and I tried not to let my discomfort and irritation leak through into the conversation too much. I finished my drink quickly, earning myself a bellyache.
He looked lost as I started to leave, and a small part of me felt badly, but only a very small part.
Maybe I could have been mad. Maybe I could’ve made a scene, but it wouldn’t have done either of us any good. I didn’t see a threat when I looked at him. I saw a sad, lonely man who knew he’d made a mistake.
I thanked him for the drink, said goodbye and fled.
The next day I asked my co-workers about the gathering. Stanley had indeed started to ask a few of the front-end gals if they wanted to meet up, but they all had plans. He never extended the invite to the guys and gals on the sales-floor or the guys in the stockroom. He just saw an opportunity when I said I’d go to the restaurant and he took it.
I think the whole situation kind of embarrassed Stanley, as he seemed to avoid me altogether for a month or so. He kept cramming himself in toy boxes, so he still had that going for him…