Doctor Who Lady. I was working at a McDonald’s in Richland, Michigan, when Doctor Who Lady came in. She was pretty old. Obviously, I didn’t ask how old, but she had a walker. On the front of the walker, she had a bag with the logo the show started using during the Third Doctor’s run on it. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I love Doctor Who!” and she paused and goes, “I have a secret in there, and I’ll show it to you if you tell me who your favorite Doctor is.” So, I said, “Eight is my favorite,” and she nodded like we were in a secret club, opens the bag, flips one side inside-out as much as she can without spilling it, and inside it’s been signed by Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, and Sylvester McCoy. Then she says, “I had to make sure you were the real deal,” takes her bag with her Big Mac and rolls away like some wonderful apparition.
The History Nerd. On the inside of my right forearm, I have a large tattoo of a kitchen knife, a French flag, and some sprigs of lavender. A scroll wraps around the bottom and says “J’ai tué un homme pour en sauver cent mille,” or “I have killed one man to save one-hundred thousand.” I was working at the same McDonald’s when, as I was ringing up a guy’s order, he suddenly burst out, “I have to see your tattoo!” I held out my arm, and he read the tattoo. Normally, people ask, “What does that mean?” and then when I tell them the translation, they say, “That is so cool, did you go to Iraq?” But this guy looked at it and goes, “I assume you’re a French history buff?” and immediately launches into a conversation with me about it. The tattoo is in honor of Charlotte Corday, who was a bad ass during the Reign of Terror, so look her up. Anyway, the guy turned out to be a history professor at a college in Kalamazoo, and he was just thrilled to find someone else to geek out about France with.
The Minister’s Fiancee. For a while I worked at a Fredericks of Hollywood store. The people I worked with were awesome, but working in an retail at all qualifies as a shitty job, to me. Anyway, one day a woman came in, she was just the embodiment of every white, Midwestern Christian young woman stereotype you could imagine, and she was so excited because she was getting married to her minister, and she wanted to buy something for her wedding night and honeymoon. I thought she was going to go for like, the lacy white bridal babydoll or something. Instead, she walked out with over six hundred dollars worth of the raunchiest lingerie, lucite heels, and various flavored massage oils money could possibly buy. It was the first time I ever really thought, you know…maybe I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
The Dude. I was working as a cashier at a grocery store in my teensy hometown when this happened. There aren’t many people here, and I’ve never seen this magnificent person again, so I assume he was either an angel of God or just visiting one of our many splendorous lakes. Anyway, the store closes at ten pm in the summer, and it was like, maybe nine-thirty, quarter-to. The last rush was over, and the only people still working in the customer area were me and my manager, who was in his office. A guy walks in, he was probably in his late thirties/early forties, but rode hard either way. He had a sandy brown, curly mullet, a pair of aviator sunglasses, no shirt, and a pair of jean cut-off shorts that were like, bordering on too-short for a dude to be wearing in the 90’s. He was also smoking a cigarette and barefoot, and I don’t know how they do it in other places, but shirtless, shoeless, and smoking is like, three strikes and you’re out. But he wasn’t even trying to hide it. He walked right past me and goes, “Hey, man,” and keeps on walking and disappears down the aisles. I’m wondering if I should get my manager, but the dude is already coming back with a gallon of milk. But he doesn’t come through my checkout lane, he just keeps walking, gallon of milk in his hand, right toward the doors. Doesn’t even attempt to pay for it. He waved at me, cigarette dangling from his lips, and goes, “Take ‘er easy,” and just walks out. My manage came out like, seconds later, having apparently seen all or part of this on the security monitor, and goes, “Why didn’t you stop him?!” All I could say was, “I don’t know, he was too cool.”
John Wayne. I briefly worked as a nurse’s aid in a home for people who had dementia. One of the guys was so far gone, he had absolutely no touch with reality at all, and he was always cheerful, all the time. He would say bizarre things, like “That’s the eyebrows, isn’t it?” and grin at you like you were getting along really well. You had to be careful, though, because he would try to shake your hand, and once he had it, he didn’t let go. He also had a stuffed dog he thought was real, and its name changed every day. But the best part about him, the thing that made him my favorite patient, hands down, was that he would go through spells where he thought he was John Wayne. Since I was a redhead, he got it into his mind that I was Maureen O’Hara, so he would follow me around and quote lines from Rio Grande and The Quiet Man.