First Lecture

Day one of specialized courses on human awkwardness and uncomfortable situations.

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Sup, class.

I’m your adjunct prof, Toby. My frat brothers call me Toblerone. This is our first lecture of “Tending the Register of a College Town Liquor Store,” I guess. Let me know if you need anything.

If we were in an actual liquor store, and not a college classroom, I’d go back to watching the replay of a UFC title fight on my prodigiously cracked iPad right now. I’d ignore the shit out of you guys and crank the volume way up. As you perused the flavored vodkas you would hear the meaty thwap of every low kick connecting with every roided-up thigh, and you would hate it. I’d sip a 7-Eleven fountain drink that you would strongly suspect of containing mostly Maker’s Mark, because I would wince after every straw pull. And because a half empty handle of Maker’s Mark with the cap off would be clearly visible behind the desk.

But alas, this is not a liquor store. And you are not customers I can creep out with my weirdly detached behavior. You’re students, and you already paid. I guess I should teach you losers something.

A little about me, first—I’m Tobes; I’m an Environmental Engineering major with no aspirations of helping the environment; I’m a month out from my 20th birthday and yet my eyes project the glossy sheen of a decades-long alcoholic; and over the past seven months of employment at McDougall’s Liquor on 24th, I have mastered the art of register tending.

If you’re in this class, you too would like to achieve greatness in your liquor store clerking. You too would like to manage the front desk of a dilapidated alcohol peddler who mostly sells Malibu rum to teenagers with fake IDs. You too want to sit stone-faced among tiny bottles of Absolute vodka and mutter “credit or debit?” while underage co-eds nervously purchase large bottles of Absolute vodka.

If so, you’ve come to the right place. But don’t get the wrong idea—this isn’t a blow-off course. You should take this seriously. You probably took one look at me and thought, this guy has never put effort into anything his entire life, and you would be correct—but tending a college town liquor store ain’t easy. It’s hard work. I forgot to make a syllabus but trust me when I tell you that whenever I actually show up to teach this semester, we’re going to strain those brains of yours.

Today we’ll start with the A, B, Cs of tending the register of a college town liquor store. Pay attention. Or don’t, I don’t really care.

Aloof: Never make eye contact. If you do make eye contact, hold it for way too long. Keep your eyes unfocused like you’re having an acid flashback and the visual stimuli in front of you means absolutely nothing. Also, never reveal a facial expression or vocal tone, ever. As far as the customer is concerned, you are a hungover ghost who has minimal awareness of living people in this plane of existence.

Brain Dead: To an outside observer, your brain should appear incapable of complex cognition. Your languid speech and lethargic movements should suggest your cerebrospinal fluid has been replaced by undiluted Everclear, leaving your brain to perpetually float in 190-proof grain alcohol.

Curt: When you are absolutely forced to look away from your iPad and speak to a customer, use the fewest words possible. You should take so long to respond that they repeat themselves twice before you even open your mouth. Man or woman you should call every customer “Boss,“ “Chief” or “Champ“—as if you had actual status in the world and could justifiably condescend to anything other than stray cats.

Let’s practice. Everyone get out your iPads and pull up a cage fighting highlight video. If your tablet isn’t cracked, go ahead and tap the screen against the corner of your desk until you get some nice hairline fractures going.

Great, now let’s all ignore each other for the next three hours.