If you missed Part One, you can read it here.
Spring 1984 – Wildwood, NJ
I was 22 years old.
Like any job when you work with men, we always have our favorite female customers that come in. Everybody had their favorites, but there are always the top 5, top 3, and number 1. I know it may sound silly or sexist, but it’s really just something men do. I’m sure women do the same thing as well. That certain guy that comes in with the shoulders, eyes, or voice that makes you weak in the knees when he comes in your store to buy or rent something. It makes any job more fun.
But there was this one lady that came in that I absolutely adored. She was petite, with lovely caramel skin and raven hair. Her name was Betty Knight.
I made it known to my male coworkers that she was my number 1. They all agreed she was one of the prettiest women that came into our store. No one knew much about her other than the fact she was beautiful, over the age of 30, and had a little daughter. Just a lovely lady who periodically came into the store to rent movies.
There was this black guy I worked with named, Tyrone. He was in perfect physical condition. I remember the guy just being in incredible shape. He could just grab onto any secure object from above and pull himself up in the air. You could wash clothes on this guy’s abs. I was always envious of guys that looked like that. Anyway, he was a sweet guy who had a goofy sense of humor.
He liked silly jokes and pulling pranks. One time I was putting away some of the video boxes on the shelves in the library. I was reaching up high to put a box on a shelf and Tyrone snuck up behind me and tickled me. I was not only surprised, I accidentally farted. I was embarrassed, but Tyrone thought this was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. He joked and kidded about it with me for the rest of the week.
I didn’t really mind, because no one else was around when he did it, and he didn’t tell any of my co-workers. He simply enjoyed juvenile humor. I liked him so I took it in stride. Just locker room horseplay among guys working together in a boring retail job. Let’s face it, farts are funny.
He knew I liked Ms. Knight because when she would come in I always said that I’d wait on her. I would fuss over her and go above and beyond on the charm and customer service. I don’t know if she realized it at the time, but I simply did it because I thought she was gorgeous, and enjoyed engaging her in the store. Any excuse to chat with her and be near such an ethereal beauty.
One morning I was working the day shift with my man, Tyrone. We were just working the counter, chatting, and watching videos on MTV. (Which ran all day, every day at the store.) Betty came in to drop off some videos and get some more. Of course, I greeted her and did intake on her returns. She then went back to the library section to look for more movies.
When I looked at her account I noticed she rented The Little Mermaid on a regular basis. Now, this isn’t the one we’re all familiar with. This isn’t the animated Disney classic that my daughter grew up on. This was a cartoon made back in 1975, and one of several titles that found its way onto home video in the 1980’s. I’m talking some Hans Christian Andersen stuff here.
Not many people have ever seen this relic, but back in the mid-’80s, you couldn’t get many Disney titles back then. They hadn’t made the leap to home video yet. I knew a guy I worked with who had a bootleg of Disney’s Pinocchio back then. That was a rare and illegal copy of the film. The video and audio were poor quality, but it was still Pinocchio and a watchable dub.
We chatted a little bit when she returned to the counter to rent her movies. I mentioned to her that I noticed that she rented the Little Mermaid quite often and that if she wanted we could order her a copy for purchase and it would only be around forty bucks. I even told her I could hook her up with a discount. She said she’d think about it.
The transaction passed without incident and she was preparing to leave. Then Tyrone suddenly said the following words:
“Charles likes you, Miss Knight!”
I was mortified. I couldn’t believe the unmitigated, awkward, audacity of the outburst. Was this something he did to his friends? Just outed their private romantic feelings to whomever? It was insane.
“Shut up, Tyrone!”
She simply smiled and I was so embarrassed I could barely look up from the counter. She gathered her things and walked out the door, smiling and saying goodbye.
“What the hell, man?”
“What? You know you like her!”
“But you didn’t have to tell her! I don’t know anything about this woman! It’s weird, dude!”
Tyrone just laughed it off and went back to stocking the shelves.
A week or so passed, and I was working at the counter with a different guy who worked there. That’s when the phone rang. My co-worker was waiting on someone so I answered it.
“Thank you for calling Home Video Centers, this is Charles. How can I help you?”
“Charles. Just the person I want to talk to. This is Betty Knight.”
(My heart rate speeding up…)
“Oh… Hi Betty. What can I do for you?”
“I thought about what you said, and I want to order the Little Mermaid for purchase. Can you order it for me?”
“Sure! Let me just write that up and take some of your information for the order.”
I do that and then… “We’ll probably get that in a week to ten days, and I can probably get you a discount. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Umm… would you like to get together sometime?”
My brain almost couldn’t process the data that was coming through the phone into my ear. I nearly threw the receiver into the air thinking this was some sort of spell that had been cast upon me by evil wizards and witches.
“Uh… yea. Sure…” (Anxiety raced through my system like a freight train.)
“You have my address and phone number. Are you working Saturday?”
“Why don’t you just come to my house on Saturday around 2pm. Can you do that?”
“Yes, I can Betty.”
“Bring over a couple of tapes. I like Rod Stewart. Bring over one of his concert videos and maybe something else. Do you have any suggestions?”
“Uhh… how about Eddie and the Cruisers. That’s a great movie.” (trembling)
My mind is reeling at a million miles per hour. Dopamine is searing my brain as it explodes and blooms like a flower in my cerebrum.
“Great. Call me before you come, okay?”
“Sure thing, Betty.”
“Great. I’m looking forward to seeing you, Chaz.”
“Umm… you too. See you then.”
She hung up and I had to step away from the counter. I had to go outside into the parking lot to process what the hell just happened. I lit a cigarette. How was this possible? She’s like the hottest woman that comes in here! Why me? This almost seems like a prank. It can’t be real. It can’t be happening to me! I’ve lived a charmed life since I was 15 years old, but I don’t remember anything about me getting wishes granted. Had I somehow accidentally made some pact with the devil for my soul one night while I was drunk? This can’t really be happening.
But it was happening.
It was real, and it was on.
More next Tuesday!
Check out my latest book, LAWNDALE on Amazon!
It’s chock full of stories from my youth growing up in Northeast Philly in the 70s!
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.
You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1
Listen to Phicklephilly LIVE on Spotify!