Sunday, April 10, 2011


My going theory is that Radioshack is a charity shelter for people too stupid to work at Home Depot. Now, they say you should test a theory with the intent to disprove it. And every time I brave a Radioshack, I take my fragile faith in humanity, hold it in my hopeful little hands, and do just that.


A day or so ago, I walk into my neighborhood Radioshack just before closing time, needing contact cleaner for a piece of electronics I have. There's an employee by the door, vacuuming. I ask him if they carry contact cleaner. He smiles kindly, the way you would for a child or someone with polio braces.

"Contact cleaner," I say.

"You know you're in Radioshack, right?" he asks. I nod, "Yeah, do you guys have contact cleaner?" He then points to his eye: "Contacts?"

Ah--I realize--one of the mentally homeless.

"No, no," I say "contact cleaner...for cleaning electrical connections." The kind you'd find in an electronics store, I refrain from saying. "Ooohhh," he nods, for whatever reason visibly relieved. Then he shouts over to employee #2, who's stocking shelves with his back to us, "Hey, we have contact cleaner, right?"

Employee #2 doesn't look up, just shakes his head 'no.' Employee #1 persists, "I think we do. You know, contact cleaner!" Prodded by this exclamation mark, employee #2 finally lifts his head and sizes me up, clearly annoyed at having to answer such a stupid question...and points to his eye. "Contacts?" he says, with a puckered smirk.

Hm--I think--both of these guys' shoes are tied, no velcro, and they appear to be breathing fine, no eye dilation....

"No," I repeat, "contact cleaner...for cleaning electrical connections."

Employee #2 looks at me a second, processing.

Finally, a third employee, who'd kept his head down through this entire exchange, counting receipts at the register, says simply, "it's in aisle three." And sure enough...


A few observations, in a l'esprit de l'escalier type way.

First, what was the sin of employee #3--the only one of the bunch seemingly capable of breathing through his nose--that he should be consigned to such a Sartre-esque hell?

Second, it's extremely disconcerting to be viewed as an idiot by idiots. The experience has a panic-inducing, through-the-looking-glass quality to it.

Third, my theory stands. Radioshack: 1; The Shining Future of Humanity: 0.

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