I have a friend called Heinrich (not his real name).
He is one of the best guys I know. I know this because he was my boss at a liquor store when I crashed the liquor store’s delivery van. Twice. In the space of about three months. Give or take two months.
To be fair, the first time wasn’t so much a crash as I hadn’t left the carpark. The thing is, bollards don’t move. When they’re painted a bright colour, and the side of your van rubs against them as you try to leave a tight space in a liquor store carpark, your side door will eventually cave in, and in turn be painted that same bright colour.
I’ve heard. I mean, it’s not as if in the lead-up to Christmas I was asked to deliver some alcohol, jumped into the delivery van in a tizzy and then proceeded to rub the van against the bollards, causing said effect.
That would be ridiculous.
The second crash (hypothetically) was a bit more impressive, a light, gangster lean into parked cars that would have impressed Evil Knievel, and left my right headlight looking like Ronda Rousey in those latter matches, where she fought like I drove liquor delivery vans, all face-first and flailing arms, as she realised, like I realised, that she was by no means in control of the situation.
Far better, then, to have me work in the store, where I could bond with the customers, from ‘man whose pants fell down while being arrested after accusing the staff of looking at him funny, and then looking at us funny,’ to ‘guy who accused me of being insensitive because he waved to me in the carpark while I was driving a forklift, and I didn’t wave back to him because to do so would have meant I would have had another accident... and I had learned my lesson, you see, what with those two hypothetical crashes that may or may not have occurred earlier in this story.’
In the bar at Cheers, everybody knows your name. At our liquor store, we knew the way they smelled, the things they yelled, and the reasons why they didn’t have enough money to buy that last beaten-up can of Emu Export.
There were the couples: beautiful unions like Carlton and the lady with the metallic Diet Coke bottle, two star-crossed lovers, part Kanye and Kim, but mostly Kurt and Courtney... if I'm being unkind to Kurt and Courtney. Carlton was a b-league thief and the woman would yell at me to ‘leave him alone’, remind me that his name was Carlton, and sometimes reminisce about their early years, which consisted of coming to my liquor store and reminiscing about their even earlier years.
There was Mr. Stinky, who was actually a lovely guy, but let’s be honest. He stank, like really bad, and I mean it’s not like you're called Mr. Stinky if you smell like lilacs or freshly-baked cookies. No, the dude ponged like a wee-soaked loaf of bread. Once he left, and sometimes, as he was leaving, Heinrich would appear from downstairs with a can of Ambi-Pur - as though we'd rung 9-1-PONG - and spray it everywhere that Mr. Cookies, I mean Mr. Stinky, had been standing, as if dousing a fart fire.
But I worked at the liquor store for the longest time, because:
- I wanted to go where everybody knew my name
- And they were always glad I came. But, more importantly,
- I liked to say, ‘G’day mate’ to random strangers, as though we were at a urinal with our Johnsons out and needed to make polite conversation.
What of Heinrich? We’re friends to this day. He’s good to his cat, loves his partner, and they have a daughter called Blueberry Muffin (not her real name.) We sometimes spend a lunch or afternoon tea at his house, and laugh a lot. Unless I bring up the liquor store, of course, or the times I crashed the van. Do that, and he’ll change the subject; mention the road rules in a clever, non-partisan discussion in the hope they stick down somewhere deep in my mind, between stories of dudes that pong and my inability to work a stick-shift and text at the same time.
Because Heinrich is one of the best guys I know. But he is also a much better delivery driver than me.