Stranger than fiction

Every year Madison has a downtown block party that coincides with the end of the University’s semester, officially called the Mifflin Street Block Party, and unofficially Drunkfest. Students start drinking in the morning, then walk around the downtown area all day visiting house parties, bars and restaurants, getting progressively drunker.

During Saturday’s festivities, a few of them came into the store. The female drunks are nice enough, wide-eyed undergrads in short-shorts and ripped Bucky Badger t-shirts, who just hang around trying on rings and stuff. Not that many of the guys come in, but the ones that do can be trouble. I thought I was doing good to answer a few of this one guy’s obnoxious questions (“Why don’t you have statues made of real ivory?”) before shooing him out the door, but just as he was on his way out, his friend was coming up to the counter where my boss was standing, saying, “How about a little kiss?” (Diane is 62, BTW.)

But the other pair that came in were the real troublemakers. Diane was in the bathroom taking a confidential phone call at the time. The fat sunburned kid just kind of rolled around the store, picking stuff up, but his friend stayed by the necklace spinners. I was all set to stand right there by him, but then the phone rang–someone who needed to sign a couple people up for readings with the out-of-town medium who comes through every month, the kind of call it takes five minutes to work through, scheduling and taking their credit card number for the deposit and all that. While I was in the middle of the call, Diane came out of the bathroom, so I wrote PURPLE TEESHIRT on a slip of paper. Purple Teeshirt was, by this time, hightailing it out the door. By the time she opened the door, he was out of sight.

A couple minutes later, she happened to be outside again, and there he was, showing off the crystal and garnet pendant he’d stolen to some friends. She got it back, and told him she wouldn’t call the police, but that he was never to come into our store again. Happy ending, right?

Well, yesterday two other people came into the store, to give back the other stuff Purple Teeshirt stole. The woman said she really chewed Purple out for stealing stuff from us, because ours is one of her favorite stores. “Stealing from you guys, man, that’s just bad juju.” True enough, though we’re used to it. People will shoplift books about how to get good karma. Go figure.

The guy with seconded what she said, but he had a story behind it–one I remembered from half a year ago. He came into the store with pocket change and a badly infected ear; he’d tried to do a home piercing. Whoever was working that day sold him a tiny quartz crystal, which he stuck in his ear in place of a stud. He came in a couple days later to say the infection was cleared up. When he came in yesterday, he said he’d had no further problems with it, and thanked us again for the crystal.


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