We were up in Houston visiting a friend who was very excited about a thrift shop.
Normally I'm not a thrift shop kind of guy. I'm too particular about what I buy and I just don't like shopping that much.
But this time I was excited.
Located on the bad side of town in a run down strip mall, this particular store was known for one thing: having a lot of old employee uniforms. Being college aged and particularly prone to mischief, we couldn't help but imagine the stories an official looking employee shirt might contribute to.
So we bought piles of them. Texaco, McDonalds, Taco Bell, and of course... Best Buy.
At first we'd wear them around campus, then slowly they made their way to the back of the closet, and eventually they were put in boxes and nearly forgotten.
Until, one day, Austin and I decided to prank Best Buy.
We put on khakis and our Best Buy shirts (Austin's was actually just a royal blue Polo shirt since we only had one official shirt).
Something was missing, though. We needed nametags.
A few minutes at the computer later, we created the most glorious nametags that were ever to see the insides of a Best Buy. We decided that "Super Associate" was probably the most fitting title for each of us. We also decided that our names might be a bit too bland, so I switched mine to "Mahatma" and Austin switched his to "Cornelius".
Before heading out we walked into the kitchen where my mother was.
She didn't believe that we had actually gotten jobs at Best Buy, and also didn't believe that my real name was Mahatma.
"Tynan... you shouldn't do that..."
She said it with a smile on her face that revealed that she wished she didn't think it was funny.
We jumped into Austin's car and headed for the south Best Buy in Austin, Texas.
When we got there we put our shirts into a shopping bag which we then put inside a shopping cart. Our white shirts and khakis looked average and uneventful.
We nervously pushed the cart inside and headed for the bathroom in the very back. There we miraculously transformed ourselves into super associates and headed down the long bathroom hallway to the store.
We split up.
Immediately it felt like EVERYONE was watching me. Would they think I was a new employee? Would they know I was an imposter?
I started asking people if I could help them. NO ONE wanted my help. I greatly underestimated how terrified customers were of salespeople.
"Anything I can help you with? Anything at all?"
Finally I found a middle aged woman looking at web cams.
"What's the difference between these two?" she asked.
One was a hundred dollars. The other was a thirty dollar refurb.
"Not much other than the price," I responded.
She seemed stunned so I continued.
"Yeah, it's really just the brand name. Get the cheap one and save money because you probably won't actually use the thing anyway. No one ever does."
She mumbled something and took the cheap one. I felt good.
More and more eyes seemed to be on me.
I helped another customer find the section they needed. Of course I had no idea where that section was, so we just wandered around together for a few minutes.
After twenty minutes or so I realized that I hadn't seen Austin in action yet. I walked around looking for him, but he was nowhere to be seen.
He must have gone back to the bathroom. Maybe he got caught. I went down the long hallway to the bathroom, but he wasn't there. I must have missed him.
I left the bathroom and started heading down the hallway.
Just as I was half way through the hallway a real employee started heading towards me.
Nowhere to run.
"Hi!" he said.
"Do you work here?"
"No, I work at the north store. I was thinking about transferring here."
"Oh yeah? You really should. It's a great place to work. My name's John."
I glanced down at my name tag.
No reaction. Seriously?
We chatted for a few more minutes and then went our separate ways. As I hit the store floor I locked eyes with an employee. I instinctively started walking away from him.
Was he following me?
I walked faster, not bothering to ask people if they needed help. He was following me.
Finally he caught up.
"Where's your friend?"
"The one in the blue shirt."
"I don't know who you're talking about."
"Yes you do."
"No I don't."
"You have to leave."
I left the store an headed back to Austin's car, sure that he'd be there already.
But he wasn't.
I took off the blue shirt and headed back inside. I walked through the whole store but couldn't find him anywhere so I went back outside.
I sat down on a curb and watched the front of the store.
All of a sudden a head popped out. It frantically looked both ways. When it liked what it saw, the whole body came running out towards the car.
It was Austin.
We excitedly shared stories. He spent a good part of his time berating someone for buying a VCR, telling them that what they really wanted was a DVD player and that VCRs were totally useless.
The customer made it clear that all of her videos were on tape. Austin told her to buy new ones because VCRs are terrible.
Another customer wanted a toaster. He followed Austin all over the entire store because neither had no idea where the toasters were. When they finally found them, Austin tried to convince the man that no toaster other than the most expensive could possibly toast things adequately.