Tales From the Nerd Farm

The Regulars

Thing I Never Said: “No we don’t offer faxing. We also don’t offer telegraphs, telegrams, or carrier pigeons.”

Let’s be clear right up front: most of my store’s regulars were delightful. We had a core group of amazing customers that were always a delight to see in the shop, who I miss now that our lives no longer intersect. Two of them became managers, in fact: one took over as general manager when I stepped back to assistant manager in exchange for taking two months off to go on a Fringe Festival tour of Ontario*, and another that took a gig as emergency relief staff and managed to climb the ladder to being our final GM.

Miles, Kevin, Kelsea, Matt, Brittany, Bacon, Trevor, Leo, and others, all good people it was a delight to see walk through the door. My store was blessed with regular customers any establishment would be lucky to have.

That said, let’s talk about the weirdos.

*Which was a complete and unmitigated disaster. Not my best move, professionally.

Hair Metal David Spade

Hair Metal David Spade is a former engineer who gave up STEM careers to rock out in a Def Leopard cover band. He looks almost exactly like David Spade a week after stopping taking his antidepressants against doctor’s recommendation, with 80s Rock Band Hair. He would come into the store on a semi-frequent basis to buy 15 minutes of time on a computer (the lowest amount of time we offered) in order to do some internet stuff for his band or check his Tinder, and yes, his Tinder name is “David Spade,” I have to know that and so do you. And if you think I’m making him up, click this link at your own risk.

I don’t know, he’s living his best life, I guess? Chasing his dream. Seems happy with his choices. There was something just a little odd about him but he never caused problems. Just came in, bought time in 15 minute increments (even if he needed 45 minutes to do his thing, he’d buy it 15 minutes at a time), always in loose change, sat quietly, and was never weird about it. There was a period when he’d ask for “someplace quiet” and I’d have to point out that the room was not large so the volume was what it would be, but that wasn’t an issue.

I just really needed you to know he exists.

As for problems…

The HON Bros

The HON Bros were known as such because they played a video game called Heroes of Newerth, and were INCREDIBLY bro-y about it. They had a tendency to be… boisterous. And to test the rules of the store. I first came to know them one Saturday night when they kept asking for a little more time to “finish their game.” Thing is… I’d sell them 30 minutes to finish their game, and what would they do? Start another one, which would require more time to “finish their game.” This would be great, because selling people time on computers was my literal job, and also because copious weed use made them snacky as all get-out, but 2 AM was coming around, and I needed them to finish their game without starting a new one.

Also despite routinely buying fistfuls of fruit snacks, jerky, and Rice Krispy treats, they tended to try to get around the “No Outside Food or Drink” policy. A lot. Brianna, who I’d been grooming as my replacement (and she did replace me, albeit ahead of my schedule, thanks again Fringe tour), gave one of them (I’ll call him Larry for reasons that make sense to me) a three-day ban for sneaking in candy. He slunk in the next day, all sheepish grins and apologies, hoping I’d reverse the temporary ban despite constant infringements. When I didn’t, he threw an escalating tantrum. Long story short, he got himself and his cousin permanently banned and escorted from the property by the police. Larry’s cousin eventually turned himself around, became a better person, and convinced us to let him back. Larry had already proved that his apologies were meaningless charades, and his tendency to just drop in like he wasn’t banned forced us to file trespassing charges against him. Well, once we got past the fact that he’d made his membership under someone else’s name.

Most of the HON Bros were okay people, if messy. But man they could be a lot to deal with.

Eazy403

Eazy403, whose real name I never bothered to learn but was probably Mo, was almost definitely a drug dealer. But that wasn’t my issue with him. It’s not like he did business in our store. No, our store is where he went to kill time between deals by playing Counterstrike.

This is how my average interaction with Eazy403 would go. He’d sweep into the store, try to log in, and find that his account was locked because he’d run into overtime on his last visit. He would then settle up his account, buy 30 extra minutes, and get into some Counterstrike. At some point typically longer than 30 minutes later, he’d get a phone call and sweep out of the store without paying his tab. So I’d lock his account again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

He didn’t love having his account locked, but also didn’t seem crazy about the suggestion that he could avoid this by either stocking up on hours, or paying up when he left. And so I took a certain satisfaction in locking him out.

At least I didn’t feel there was anything malicious in this pattern of his, I just think he was inattentive to time passing and didn’t overly care enough to check at the desk before leaving to, I assume, sell someone something illegal.

Now, a different regular, he routinely stepped on that line more purposefully. Let’s call him “Graham.” I think he worked in construction somehow, definitely a trade of some sort. We were all pretty sure he snuck booze into his coffee throughout the day but never seemed drunk so we never called him on it. What we did have to call him on was this: for a stretch of time, he’d come in, pay off a $30+ tab, buy one hour, and then play all day, racking up another $30+ tab that he would not pay when he left. And I know he was doing it on purpose because nobody sits down to play Civilization 6 for one hour, nobody in the history of video games has only wanted to play a Civilization game for one hour.

This is a big reason why, in the last couple of years of operation, we had to stop letting members run into overtime. You’d think it would have been these mamalukes…

The Stamp Collectors

We gave out stamp cards: buy five day passes, your sixth one is free. They were popular with the regulars. As much as we enticed people with bulk hour purchases, most people liked just handing us $22 and not having to worry about time for the next 6-12 hours.

(When I took over as manager, I did a project to figure out how long people we using day passes, to see if they were priced right, and my assistant manager compared me to Hitler, but whatever, turns out they were priced just fine.)

Most of the time the only annoyances from the stamp cards were informing people that they can’t ask us to stamp the card a day later, because we don’t know someone else didn’t already give them that stamp, and how often some people (often but not exclusively Graham) spread their five stamps over multiple cards. Look, it’s fine, we accepted them with a smile, as long as there were five stamps it was cool. But when, say, Graham handed me five cards with one stamp each on them, it was difficult to mask my annoyance at the sheer waste of it all. One customer tried to say “This is how I remember my stamp cards,” and I had to reply “No, this is what not remembering your stamp cards looks like.” But whatever. That rarely happened, and it’s not what I want to talk about where the stamp cards are concerned.

There was this quartet.

They were all good customers for a while, but then something changed. One of them. Eclipse, became… troublesome, and he dragged his whole group down with him.

Because all of a sudden he never had any money, but had a big ol’ pile of excuses. And his behaviour got sketchier and sketchier as it happened, meaning I had to set more and more rules.

The first thing that would happen when these four got together is that they’d see just how many stamps they had between them, in order to get enough for Eclipse to get a free day pass. If this didn’t work, they’d move to step two… bargaining.

If five stamps were worth a day pass, what were four stamps worth? And yes, for a time, in special circumstances, we’d take four stamps in exchange for our three-hours-for-ten-dollars special, a popular item Monday through Thursday, and one I took particular delight in reminding customers wasn’t available Friday through Sunday. Hey I’m not perfect. But it didn’t stop there. What could they get for three stamps and ten dollars? Or three stamps and seven dollars? They were trying to build a miniature economy out of partially filled stamp cards, so I had to draw a line in the sand.

New Rule #1: Five stamps is a day pass, fewer is nothing. Stamps have no monetary value.

Didn’t expect to need that one.

Okay, so, they’ve tried cobbling together a free day pass out of multiple cards, they’ve still fallen short… time to try to convince whoever’s working to let Eclipse tab a day pass, because this time he’d for sure pay it off before they left. After all his “buddy” was coming with money to cover it, so can’t we tab him for now and he’ll absolutely settle up when his buddy gets here?

(Thing I would have said if I’d only gotten the chance: “Okay, go find your buddy and come back when you do.”)

This also brought on Rule #2: If you don’t have the money with you, you can’t just take a seat and have a nap until your buddies show up.

Really didn’t think I’d need to spell that one out.

After not tabbing for a while, living off stamp cards and charity, like an addict who swears he can handle one drink, he’d ask to tab a day pass. In one impassioned attempt, he asked how can he show he’s changed without a chance to prove himself? So I gave him what I made clear was his last chance, and yeah, he blew it. Two visits later he tried to tab a day pass, and I reminded him, “Last time we had this conversation I said it would be the last time we had this conversation. You wanted a chance to prove yourself and you got one, it’s not our fault you proved the wrong thing.”

But it somehow got worse. Well, the new rule speaks for itself…

New Rule #3: No panhandling the other customers for stamp cards.

I mean Jesus.

Shortly later there was a staff meeting, and we decided Eclipse had to go. He took it poorly, but his friends seemed to get it. They’d apparently even complained to him that he was making all of them look bad. Two kept coming in regardless, and always had money for their time.

Eclipse wasn’t the reason I stopped letting people borrow the store phone, instead saying “There’s a pay phone by the 7-11,” but that moment when he asked to borrow our phone seconds after using a cell phone let me know he was definitely a problem now.

Miscellaneous Oddballs

  • Everyone’s least favourite frequent flyer was Wadman. He was bald, showed his teeth in a worried grimace so often I sometimes wasn’t sure he had lips, bathed in hand sanitizer, and was weird in so many ways. I’ve spotted him in so many disparate parts of the city I’m not entirely convinced that there aren’t a dozen Wadmans running around, an unknown subterranean race infiltrating surface world in crude human disguises. He was never quite bannable, but he was so weird.
  • One member in recent years had to be told, a couple of times, that he needed to either get a hoodie with a working zipper or wear a damned shirt. It. Was. Winter.
  • A tall ginger with the user name “Big Red” had a tendency to… loom. He was never a problem customer, even the one time he tried to get a favourable exchange rate for a US $5 bill (lacking a system for dealing with foreign exchange, our offer was “face value,” and the owner happened to be in that day to back it), but the looming could be… off-putting.
  • I’m not sure if we banned the guy who wouldn’t log into his account, he’d just take a seat, plug in his tablet, and play games on that, but we sure told him to knock that shit off. We were not the lobby of a youth hostel, he couldn’t just borrow our outlets.

Next Page: The Petty Annoyance

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