Unspeakably Stupid
Unspeakably Stupid Story #2:
Nutty Folks Downtown

Back in the early '80s (remember those?), I used to work for a chain of print shops in Oregon & Washington called "PrintRight", now known as LaserQuick. PrintRight had about 29 shops back then, and a skilled "Offset Operator" like myself could work in just about any location he chose. (Getting paid decent money, now that's another story.)

After a particularly bad experience working for an incredibly incompetent manager at a PrintRight at a mall, something possessed me to transfer to one of their many locations in downtown Portland. Actually, what happened at the mall was I had this irresponsible idiot chick manager and I ended up running the shop myself. One day, after I had just chewed her out again, she walked into the back of the shop and just fainted dead away. Had to go to the hospital and everything. She lost the shop about two days later, two execs walked in and took it away from her. Practically another Unspeakably Stupid Story on its own. Anyway...

Downtown Portland could be a little scary, there were lots of homeless panhandlers and people talking to themselves walking around. Also, Portland is well-known for its near-total lack of competent law enforcement. I had to park five fucking blocks away, so I got panhandled on a daily basis as well as the occasional confrontation with the shopping-cart and bag ladies.

Not surprisingly, some of this human effluvia, and those prone to its influence, entered our shop regularly. We had a couple of very interesting customers who came in regularly to make copies. One was a large, filthy woman who wore a huge, heavy coat in all weather. Fine with me, except... THE COAT SMELLED JUST LIKE CAT URINE. Ours was a very small shop, and the place would fill with the odor of cat piss seconds after her arrival. Eventually, my boss, Mike, got around to asking her why she was making so many copies. She told him she was trying to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

But nothing tops the bad-customer story of a strange little man we will call El Hombre. El Hombre stood about 5' 6", appeared to be of Central or South American descent, had greasy black hair parted on the side, appeared to be about 40, and always wore these thick leather gloves, which he would sometimes gesture with, while putting them on, after he was finished making copies.

El Hombre could NOT be taught how to use the copiers no matter HOW many times my boss, Mike, would show him. He also tore up copy after copy after copy, sometimes standing there and shredding 90 out of 100 copies he'd made, and dumping them in the trash. But El Hombre's most annoying quirk was snapping at the other copier users. We only had two copiers, and sometimes someone who needed just one copy would ask to cut in on a person who had a whole stack. Well, El Hombre always had a stack. When any one would ask to cut in, he'd snarl loudly, "NO! And stop trying to read my copies!"

Well, the first time Mike and I heard that, you can bet we were running for the trash can the second El Hombre was out the door. We got out the old Scotch tape and put together some very interesting nonsense, including a letter addressed to then-Presidential candidate John Anderson, in which El Hombre expressed being so concerned with the state of the country that he was going to go off in the woods of Montana and blow his own head off with a shotgun. There were also incomprehensible ramblings about drugs and Central America (El Salvador was a big issue at the time).

Another El Hombre letter of his we taped back together told a story about him getting questioned by a couple of cops while just walking down the street one night, and giving them so much unnecessary shit they wound up arresting him and taking him to jail.

Anyway, this nut was just agitated all the time. He came in about a dozen times, until Mike finally came down on him about being rude to the other customers. El Hombre blew up and started yelling and we nearly had to physically throw him out the door. He vowed never to return, and we were thankful.

Then, about two weeks later, he shows up again. Looking very calm. He apologizes to Mike, and explains that he was now back on his medication and everything would be fine from now on. And would Mike please, just one last time, show El Hombre how to use the copier? Mike showed him, and El Hombre thanked him politely. A female customer came in, and El Hombre, spotting the single document in the woman's hand, offered to let her cut in to make her copy! She did this as Mike and I looked at each other in utter amazement. He tore up nothing, politely paid, thanked us and left!

Another week passes, and El Hombre shows up again. This time, he is not quite so polite as he asks Mike to show him how to run the copier, but after Mike shows him, El Hombre thanks him as his copies begin to come out. "Oh, and by the way," he asks Mike, "could you call me an ambulance? I've been stabbed". Mike walks back to where I'm printing. "This guy wants me to call him an ambulance, he says he's been stabbed." I roll my eyes, visions of finally having to physically throw him out onto the street filling my head. Mike walks back up front, where El Hombre eventually convinces him to call an ambulance. Mike dials 911, and of course the dispatcher wants to know if there's an assailant still around, did he see anything, etc. El Hombre rips the phone from Mike's hand and yells "He doesn't have to answer that! You just send the fucking ambulance, god damn it!"

So then El Hombre steps outside, and begins pacing back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the shop, waiting for the ambulance. The first thing to arrive is a news crew from the local ABC affiliate. They go to work trying to interview him. Then two cop cars show up. Then two ambulances and three more cop cars. A crowd forms.

Finally, one of the ambulance guys takes off El Hombre's shirt, revealing a four-inch stab wound in his abdomen! By now, the news crew is interviewing Mike and I'm still inside the shop watching it all. In the middle of this, nobody notices El Hombre slip away. He comes back into the shop, shreds his copies, leaves and gets in the ambulance!

We never saw him again.

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