Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 40


By the mid 1980’s my comic book and collectable store in Worcester, Massachusetts had developed a large and loyal customer base. It was primarily male, mostly between the ages of eight and thirty. We had lots of teenagers. Some customers were as old as sixty-five to seventy, but there weren’t too many.

Our store was located in a “tough” section of the city so most women were afraid to come to shop there. Mothers with young children would also be concerned for the safety of the kids. It always bothered me that I was unable to attract fifty percent of the area population (the females) because of the store location but I thought I couldn’t afford the higher rent in a safer neighborhood. I wanted my store to be a place where whole families could shop. We attempted to keep the store atmosphere as pleasant and “family-friendly” as possible.

In the theme song from the TV show “Cheers” it says that everyone needs a place where someone knows their name. I wanted my store to be that kind of place and for my customers to know that I cared about them as people, not just as customers.

I enjoyed almost all of my customers for a variety of reasons. I certainly appreciated the money that they spent! Knowing they had other places to spend their hobby money and that they chose my store made me feel honored. Getting to know my customers on a personal level was another “plus.” There were a lot of interesting “characters.” Many of them were “gamers.” Gamers are people who usually enjoy role-playing adventure games or war games. Most of them are nice, normal folks, but there are some that are unusual.

One such customer was Conrad. (I’ve changed his name so he won’t be too embarrassed.) Conrad collected comic books and he was a very vocal fan. He had strong opinions about every comic book he read and even had opinions about those he didn’t read! We would spend hours discussing comic books. (I always encouraged my customers to discuss comics and collectibles with me. The only stipulation was that they had to let me continue to work at the same time. Most of my customers understood.) Conrad also had an annoying habit of paying for every purchase with two-dollar bills. He did it because he knew there is no place to put a two-dollar bill in a standard cash register drawer and it drove retailers crazy. He loved to be irritating and odd and he really loved to be contrary. But for some reason I enjoyed his wackiness.

One day Conrad was more agitated than usual and he asked if he could talk to me in private. I brought him into the backroom of the store. He quietly asked if I could somehow find him a gun. I laughed at him. He suddenly looked very serious so I knew that something was wrong. He was actually trembling as he explained that one of the guys with whom he played Dungeons and Dragons had just “killed” his favorite character. Conrad had been role-playing as this character for many years and had developed him over time into a powerful character. Now this favorite character could no longer be part of the game and Conrad was angry. Conrad now wanted to get revenge on his fellow gamer by actually buying a gun and killing his friend! I tried explaining to him that this was only a game and not real life, but he wasn’t accepting this information. I finally had to grab him by his shirt and shake him to “snap” him out this delusion. We talked for about an hour until he realized that he needed to get professional help from a doctor. A few weeks later he thanked me for bringing him back to reality and preventing him from making the biggest mistake of his life.

On “Cheers” there was a regular customer named Norm. As he entered the bar each day, the other regulars would greet him by cheering out his name, “Norm!” He was known and loved by the other regular customers. In my store we had our own “Norm.” He was actually Darryl Hunt.

Darryl was a young man in his early twenties. He collected comic books and was a serious gamer. Darryl knew a lot about all of the major sports and he was quite knowledgeable about popular music. He had strong opinions about almost everything, but he was usually right. Darryl also had a great, sarcastic sense of humor that usually cracked me up. He was also one of the kind of guys who would be willing to help out whenever he was needed. He came into my store almost every weekday from two-thirty until near closing, just to hang out with us. Over the years he has become a true friend.

Next Chapter: The “Talking Toilet Guy”.


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  2. I was just relating that story to someone (although I misremembered some of the details). Of course, since you didn't mention me or my brother anywhere in your blog, your blog isn't complete. ;-)
    --Mike Turniansky

  3. mike! How did you find my blog? What was your brother's name?...Paul

  4. From your wikipedia page, actually. My brother was Al Turniansky (who died in 2008)

  5. From your wikipedia page, actually. My brother was Al Turniansky (who died in 2008)