Working in Pioneer Square is an odd beast. I work literally on the streetcorner where the phrase “Skid Row” was coined, and to be honest, things haven’t changed much. It’s filled to the brims with bums, bars, and shelters…
…but because it’s an historic district (home of the Underground Tour) and it’s blocks away from Mariners and Seahawks games, it’s also filled with tourists. Tourists, bums, and drunks…it’s a confusing, bizarre combination.
At any rate, we get our fair share of all three, plus some of the businesspeople and people who actually live around the neighborhood. We’ve got some regulars, both good and bad.
The worst is a woman I’ll just call, for lack of a better name, the Crazy Crackhead. She’s a strange, fat black woman who wanders in every day, orders and pays for her coffee, stays for two to three hours…and uses the bathroom between five and ten times, for a really long time. I was told to “be judicious” when handing out the keys, because we get junkies coming in to shoot and/or smoke up a lot, but we’re also told that paying customers are allowed to use the bathroom.
And, when this lady uses the bathroom, it never smells like crack or anything else (which merely means she may be snorting or shooting); it just smells like shit. So she’s an older lady—maybe she’s just incontinent. Who knows?
What I do know is, she’s a real bitch. Actually, that’s not true. She’s nice to me for some reason, but an absolute bitch to everyone else who comes into or works at the store. I have a fan—how about that!
I opened today with a girl from a different store, Andrea. She knew the Crazy Crackhead—I guess she came into Andrea’s store trying to do the same thing, but Andrea’s store doesn’t have a public restroom. Crazy Crackhead became Andrea’s lifelong enemey when, after arguing about whether or not they had a bathroom, Crazy finally said, “You’re a dumb girl,” and left. Wow.
So Andrea was pissed merely at the fact that she came in. I was used to her. She’s so strange—just wants regular coffee, walks around all daintily, with her hands up in the air and her fingers down, like a goddamn Aristocat. And she, despite being extremely overweight, wears clothes designed for somebody 60 pounds lighter, so when she raises her arms to do her bizarre walk, her shirt always raises and we get an eyeful of her enormous belly. It’s creepy, but I usually just busy myself with other things and try to ignore her.
However, Andrea didn’t. Andrea kept making fun of her behind her back. Which wouldn’t have been a problem, except she’s fucking hilarious. She was saying some of the funniest shit I’ve ever heard, such as, “Man, I need to go to the bathroom, but I have to let it air out first. I don’t want to inhale any of that crack smoke.” And then she started scratching herself all over and shrieking, “The bugs—they’re all over me!”
Andrea also demonstrated a funny and accurate interpretion of Crazy’s odd little walk. Seriously, I wish I knew more funny women.
Of course, Crazy Crackhead seemed to remember Andrea. She was a royal bitch to her from the second she got there. After she kept using the bathroom, Crazy Crackhead said to her, very sternly and for no reason, “You may as well just leave the key out for me.”
Andrea said, accurately, “We need to keep track of who’s using the restroom. Sorry.”
The Crazy Crackhead responded with a hoity-toity “Huh,” raising her nose and snatching the key out of Andrea’s hand. Andrea was not pleased.
“I want to steal her backpack and throw it in the street,” Andrea said.
“Go ahead,” I said.
“I would,” she responded, glancing around at the now-crowded café, “but there are too many witnesses.”
Possibly the funniest interaction occurred when Crazy Crackhead was returning from the bathroom the third or fourth time. Andrea was grinding coffee, and I was at the bar. Crazy handed me the key, then waltzed over toward Andrea. All of a sudden, she rushed toward Andrea and shouted, “What?!”
Andrea said, “Huh?”
“What did you just say?” Crazy Crackhead demanded.
“Nothing,” Andrea said.
“It’s not right to talk about people,” Crazy said and sat down.
It’s weird—the anger made sense, because Andrea was making fun of her all morning, but at that particular point in time, she hadn’t said anything. This infuriated both Andrea and most of the regulars, who all made fun of Crazy Crackhead the next time she went into the bathroom.
But the thing that fucked me up the most was the first thing she did after getting there. She demanded to use the bathroom, which was occupied. I told her as much, and she angrily insisted she need to “wash her hands.” Hmm, maybe she’s obsessive-compulsive and incontinent. A volatile combination.
At any rate, she waited to use the bathroom before ordering anything, and by the time she had come back, two gentlemen had come in, ordered, gotten their drinks, and sat down. When Crazy came back, she approached the gentlemen at their table and insisted that they move because she “was sitting there.” Which was true, except for the fact that it was completely untrue. Not only had she not sat there at all, she didn’t even put her bag down near that table—she put it down by a chair a little ways down, then disappeared into the bathroom without ordering. There was no indication she was sitting there at all, and by all rights it was not her seat.
However, the gentlemen got up and, unable to find anywhere else to sit, they simply left. I was in a bit of an ethical condundrum at that point. See, I’m not technically allowed to do anything in that type of situation. Technically, the customers are supposed to resolve their own problems between each other, and if they come to me, I’m not really supposed to do anything except say, “Gosh, I’m sorry about that.” If I actually assert myself, I could get fired.
For example, a few weeks ago, some bum came in. He barely managed to scrounge up enough to pay for coffee, but he had enough, so he took advantage of it, sat down, and bothered every single customer who came in. He wasn’t panhandling, which is something I can do something about—he was just engaging them in conversation. Except that nobody he talked to wanted to talk to him, really. Some just ignored him, but some talked very uncomfortably to him and then left as quickly as possible. This is bad for business, which really means very little to me, but I understand that kind of annoyance as a customer.
However, when I talked to the manager, he told me not to do anything, because I couldn’t, technically. He wasn’t doing anything that would warrant us tossing him out. Apparently making customers uncomfortable is A-okay.
It makes no sense to me, but I have to follow the policy. Of course, I gave my notice yesterday, so I kept thinking, “What are they gonna do—fire me? I should just say something, because, hey, if I get her riled up enough, maybe she won’t come back, and then we’ll all be a little happier.”
In the end, I did nothing. It wasn’t worth it to get involved. The Crazy Crackhead’s a nutjob, so I didn’t want to risk whatever she might’ve done if I provoked her. I’d like to think that if she tries the same thing next week, I will do something about it, but I probably won’t.
I’m a big pussy.