The Blackest of Fridays: My Seasonal Employment at Hot Topic in Penn Square Mall

I recently read this was one of the bleakest Black Fridays in Oklahoma shopping history although, if you’ve been out to many area stores, you probably wouldn’t know it, especially if you were at Penn Square Mall, where last weekend the parking lot was an overflowing sea of shiny automobiles—I wonder if they still have valet service…

But even if this year was down, I still wouldn’t want to be in there during the holidays.

Not too long ago, I went walking through Penn Square Mall, my old stomping grounds, surprised and startled at how much the place has changed into something near unrecognizable. I worked in that mall throughout much of the late nineties and early aughts, managing a string of movie theaters like Hollywood and Dickenson, as well reaching the assistant manager position at Suncoast Motion Picture Co.

They were fine jobs for an aimless sort like I once was, but probably the spate of employment that I find the hardest to live down was that one seasonal gig I took circa 2000 working for Hot Topic, the fashionable goth and trendy punk outlet that has somehow transformed into a darker version of the Disney Store, filled with totally acceptable outré gear for the whole stupid family.

But back then…

It was a little before Thanksgiving and I needed an extra job to pay for a print run of my zine, Damaged. A chubby youth with a penchant for drawstring pants bought exclusively at Structure, I applied for the job with the understanding that it was only going to run until the New Year, signing up as extra help for the busy holiday shopping season.

My co-workers were a little bit younger than me, all happy and chipper and excited to be a Hot Topic employee; to be honest, the crew resembled a punked-out version of Up With People. Mostly clean Edmond kids, they had Manic Panic hair, rattling chain wallets, food-caked braces and were typically clad in AFI tees. Meanwhile, I spent most of my days painfully biting my tongue as terrible pop-punk would play on the store speakers.

Over the next few weeks, Hot Topic was the way that I rhymed, falling into a rhythmless rhythm, seductively selling horrific JNCO jeans and trashy flame-print bowling shirts to pre-teens with too much money, making my unspoken sales quota the best I could, leaving the store as soulless as ever come 10 p.m. and my long walk home.

The manager was a young soul-patched dude with dreams of being a youth pastor—I wonder how that turned out for him. I guess much like him, I was desperately trying to prostitute myself for a dead culture that would never accept me, much like the then-fresh open wound of high school cliques. I even went as far as to pierce my ears on a boring December evening, perhaps the most ridiculous fashion train I ever jumped on.

The hours were usually interminable, with two types of customers: the punk kids that hated the place but shopped there anyway and the preppy-types that needed something “punky” to shock mom and dad. I’m sure it’s the same way today, with punk more of a sold-out sales buzzword instead of a true musical movement. If only Burger Punk was around back then.

My last day there was a few days after New Year’s Day, when the seasonal staff was being dropped one by one. I was let go because I stole someone’s chocolate chip cookie off the table in back and quickly ate it on my fifteen, which I did do and, honestly, would do again—it was a Mrs. Field’s, after all.

As I left the store, I threw my lanyard in the trashcan near the stairwell and walked over to apply at Suncoast, where I actually spent much of my worthless time. I got a job at the movie store about two days later. When I took out the earrings, my left lobe was infected as fuck. That’s what I get, I guess.

_

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32 Responses


  1. The last paragraph reads like a present-day Bukowski.


  2. Was looking forward to more outrage from Louis about the nomenclature of this particular Friday… Disappointed!


    1. Oh, so sorry for your upset. Maybe you should call for martial law like that “great” General Flynn?


      1. Great general, indeed. I’m sure your life is just as decorated as his, right?


        1. I was in the military, granted, I wasn’t as decorated as Flynn, but then again, I never had to be pardoned for committing treason, so I have that going for me.


          1. Pardoned for crimes he PLEAD guilty to nonetheless, and resigned for lying to and for the White House. But it appears all that matters to some people is his awards and that he is not as bad as Hunter Biden (debatable).


          2. I expected nothing less from the low information tlo dwellers. No nuance allowed, correct? All people that plead guilty are actually guilty, am I hearing you correctly?


            1. There is no nuance in the calling for martial law to overthrow a legal and fair election.
              Any of you other right of center folks that comment here want to step up and say whether you support a Trumpist overthrow of the government? VonH? Option A? Anybody?
              Auntie here seems to think it’s not that big of a deal.


            2. Can you follow the conversation? You’re turning into a graychin… I was talking about the nuance of Flynn’s criminal case.


            3. And yet you still can’t bring yourself to condemn the calling for the overthrow of the U.S. government.
              Flynn pled guilty, twice. No nuance there. He called for the overthrow of the government. No nuance there.
              You are one patriotic soul, Auntie.
              And I don’t have to be as decorated as Flynn to say, as a U.S. citizen, that he is a danger to this country.
              You too, I guess.


            4. You mean the nuance of having an R in front of his name automatically makes him not guilty of anything? I guess I’m guilty of not having nuance, not that kind anyway.


            5. I’ll leave out the plea, what about his own admissions that he lied to Pence, the White House and the FBI investigators. You are the person who eschews nuance and demands facts except when they don’t fit your narrative, then you want nuance and say “well those facts aren’t really true”.
              You will defend this administration no matter what, and when you can’t defend them you deflect to “Bill Clinton was worse, Hunter Biden is worse, yada yada”. Which even if true STILL DOES not make those you defend innocent.


            6. Flynn was coerced by the noble FBI into a guilty plea, when they threatened to go after his family. Why do you think the doj got involved? The activist judge, the same one who was also involved in another high profile case, where he did not admit evidence from the defense that ultimately proved true (ted stevens case) went rogue looking for outsiders to chime in to review and keep the case going.
              I have not read about his latest calls, so I have no opinion on that.


            7. I would also point out that just about all of Trump’s campaign team from 2016 ended up in jail or pleading out. That’s a shitload of nuance you have there, maybe the word you’re actually looking for is naivete.


            8. You have “not read” about his latest calls? That’s rich. It would take you about 3 minutes to read the actual text of what he said.
              Coward.


            9. Nice day, doth protest too much. I don’t care what calls for action people twit for (especially if the don’t hold an office). I care even less for stuff on tlo.

              Mac, and none of the convictions were derived for what Mueller and co were looking for. Let’s put that same microscope on biden’s corrupt ass now too.


            10. Coward.


            11. Coerced? What had his family done that they “go after them” for? If they hadn’t done anything why would they “go” after them. He pled guilty because he lied, he lied to Pence/Trump and then to the FBI. The DOJ got involved because of Barr and Barr alone, did you not see the number of Bipartisan attorney’s sign a document demanding Barr resign and the number of attorneys inside the DOJ who quit because of Barr’s actions? It’s funny he only claimed he had been coerced after Barr became involved.

              I’m done with you and your complete disregard for any thing remotely factual unless it supports your position. Because other democratic politicians have had issues (Clinton-Biden-???) you use that as a defense for anything/everything Trump and his administration has done that is questionable/illegal/wrong-as long as someone else did something wrong (if they were a Democrat) then there is no standing to challenge Trump’s absolute despicable behavior.
              Wrong is wrong no matter which party and it’s obvious you don’t care unless it’s the party you’re against. I once was a fan of your wit, but no longer-not that you care. I can see your wit is a clever disguise to hide your true self-and that person seems to be dangerous. Respond if you like but I will not reply/respond to anything you ever post.


        2. Just what every General longs to be remembered for. Being kept out of prison by a convicted fraudster. That’s all the clown will ever be remembered for.


        3. “great”? please he got fired for being an incompetent nut job, also a bona fide requirement for a job in trump’s admin.


          1. Incompetence is when you put your cox email address into the website box on tlo, Edgar.


    2. 😐


  3. Ah, with “punk more of a sold-out sales buzzword instead of a true musical movement…” Takes me back to the fall of ’71 when I returned to campus to see all of the frat boys with long hair and beards. I knew the revolution was over — and that Madison Avenue had won.


  4. “…a plunked-our version of Up With People.” Say no more, perfect descriptor. Reminds me of my many college jobs with Edmond High kids in the early 90s. Nothing like a flannel shirt and fake nose ring paired with Cole Haan loafers.


  5. Feeding trolls is like feeding a stray feral cat. It feels satisfying to do it at first, but then the annoying, unfriendly thing keeps coming back again and again while you wish it would just go away.


    1. Aunt Ifa actually does have some funny posts sometimes, by accident or not, I don’t mind her coming around now and again. As long as she doesn’t have babies.


    2. Good analogy actually.


      1. Whaddya think, Option? You for declaring martial law because a free and fair election didn’t go the way you might have wanted?


        1. crickets


          1. I’m simply not interested in worrying or arguing about something I have absolutely no control over. I have enough on my plate and my opinion wouldn’t change the course of action either way.
            I actually haven’t read enough about what you are discussing to form an intelligent response.
            Sorry .

            I’m not in favor of declaring martial law. – no. If you paid attention to any of my previous posts you would know I do not like the government. I don’t think either party is worth a bag of dog shit. I certainly don’t want the government declaring martial law and overriding our freedoms.

            Do I think there were shenanigans in the voting during this election? Yes. As there is in every election. An guess what? It doesn’t really matter. The powers that be will do what they want regardless of what we think unless you are in a position to significantly contribute to their campaigns.
            That’s probably not the response/argument you were hoping for.


            1. Oh, no, man, that works just fine for me. Thanks for answering.


    3. What did feral cats ever do to you?

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