The worst part of working retail is the music. Anyone who’s ever worked in an environment that spews forth canned, tepid, songs with mass appeal can attest to this. At first it’s not so bad. At first it’s just music like at any other place of business, it fades into the background because you have other things to be thinking about. But then two years later you find yourself rocking out to John Mayer in the framing aisle. And, infinitely worse, you know all the words. When did this happen? You don’t really recall because it wasn’t a conscious effort. You weren’t trying to learn them, they were just transplanted in your head via some pop music form of osmosis.
But terrible music, with a few good tunes thrown in, can generate a lot of amusement. Around Christmas Co-Worker C and I had plenty of laughs over the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, the reason for which you may find here, and my description of a stooped, gnarly fingered, old man shuffling along to “The Santa Claus Shuffle”, not to mention my favorite part of the version of the Grinch song we play in the store when guitar riffs open up and a guy that I imagine to look like this
[Note: I’ve never actually heard this guy sing. But I have seen this hilarious photo. And the Toronto Star claims that there are: “Blistering guitar licks and vocals that slice like a hooch-soaked machete.”]
screams out “I knoooww the Grinch that stole Christmas”.
Every time The Captain & Tenille’s “Muskrat Love” [a song I find so incredibly bizarre that I can never quite believe Tenille’s not crooning something more practical like “must get love” but no – the muskrats are there in the background to remind me] comes on over the overhead Co-Worker C busts out with something like “I don’t understand! Why?! It doesn’t make sense. I don’t even know what a muskrat is. I don’t know what they look like, I don’t know if they’re in love… They could have used any other animal in the world and it would have made more sense!” I can’t say I disagree.
There are other songs that are ridiculous but have become endearing, such as a the song we are both convinced is saying “All about the workplace”, also the tune “I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien” and the Crash Test Dummies’ “Mmm Mmm Mmm” with “Onnnnnnnce there was a giiiiiiirl.”
But above anything else there are the hilarious conversations that come about from the tunes playing at the good old Job.
Somewhere, again, around Christmas [when we all start out ignoring the songs at the end of October until we can’t anymore and start nearly weeping towards the holiday itself] we were all going about our business when a particularly peppy sixties tune came on. Not one of the worst, certainly, but Manager B, about halfway through the song busts out with “Jesus! Who told this kid he could sing?” Everyone was silent for a moment not quite sure what to do or say, this being six months after the kid in question’s untimely death where all past transgressions were immediately erased from public memory and canonization proceedings began in people’s heads. “Isn’t this the Jackson Five?” a co-worker finally squeaked. It, of course, was. Manager B just managed an “Oh”.
This morning a co-worker, I don’t know which because this whole conversation took place over the headsets we’re forced to wear and which give me serious hot ear, pointed out a song sung by Lady Antebellum. It was actually good information because I was also wondering who was singing this song I’d heard at least fifty times that was a lulling mix of pop and country. But she was talking to Manager 2.0, I assume they’d had a conversation pertaining to the Grammy winners. Manager 2.0 paused for a moment before speaking again; “What exactly is an antebellum. I mean I get it’s a band but what’s the thing they named themselves after? Is it like an old house or plantation or something?” It was at this point that I dropped what I was doing and stared at my headset as if I were staring at her, gaping slightly. “It’s the time before the Civil War,” someone said. “It’s not a thing it’s a time period”, I added. It was at this point when Manager 2.0, clearly embarrassed, decided to start justifying that she’d made a mistake and barked out; “Well I hate history. My son doesn’t get history either and I can’t help him study because it’s so irrelevant.” I tried to help.
Me: Well, Antebellum means “before the war” in Latin, and it’s generally referring to South before the Civil War so you weren’t that far off with the plantation.
2.0: Well, whatever.
Manager Blue: You know that old quote though, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
2.0: (sort of smug) Yeah, but I wouldn’t know if I was repeating it because I wouldn’t know the history in the first place.
Me: (after a pause where I tried to talk myself out of the comment I was about to make) But that’s sort of the point that quote is trying to make.
[Some inane chatter revolving around this topic that I can’t really remember.]
2.0: Oh well, whatever, I don’t care if I start World War II again.
Me: I’m… not sure you really want that on your shoulders.
2.0: Haha, I can’t start World War II over again because it’s already ended!
Me: …Fair point.
2.0: Though, my son [aged approximately ten years] is actively building a time machine so you never know.