Anyone who has worked retail knows that the monotony can be draining and boring. Sometimes, you have to play games to keep your mind working and don’t fall into sub-humanity. Whether it’s playing the meow game, à la Super Troopers, or another harmless gimmick, games can get you through life as a retail plebe. When I worked retail, I would make things up about my life when customers asked personal questions. I mostly did that to see what I could get away with, which became a fun game and made the days more interesting. One day, I was feeling particularly dishonest and just happened to be wearing the only piece of jewelry I own that is worth anything—a diamond and emerald ring that once belonged to my grandmother. I was helping an older woman find a particular product when she said, “Oh, your ring is beautiful! When did you get engaged?”
I was taken aback that she had handed me this gift so readily and that she didn’t notice that the ring was on my left pointer finger instead of the all-important ring finger. So imagine when the Grinch gets that “wonderful, awful idea.” I’m 100 percent sure that’s what I looked like.
(Sidenote: These quotes are paraphrased, as I am not a super human and can’t remember the conversation with complete accuracy.)
I said something along the lines of, “He took me to Reunion Tower for my birthday, and he proposed right there. It was a surprise. I had no idea it was coming! It was really sweet.” As you can tell, I’m a great actor/liar/whatever. Improv classes have improved this skill.
She leaned in. “And expensive.” She smiled a conspirator’s smile. “You better hang on to that one. Tell me more about your fiancé!”
And here’s where I made a decision…to be engaged to James Franco. “He’s an actor-slash-scholar. He lives in New York. I’m going to move up there with him after the wedding.”
“Have I seen anything he’s been in?”
“Oh probably not. He was in a film adaptation of As I Lay Dying… and he had a role in the Spiderman movies…” And just because I was pretty sure she had never seen it, I added in, “And a movie called Pineapple Express.”
Yeah, she had no idea, so she went on to ask about “the big day.” My answers became shorter as I became more bored the further away from “the game” we moved, so to speak. One-word answers sufficed for the more boring bits of our conversation.
I did not see that woman the rest of the time I worked at said retail store (oh the beauty of living in a big city), and I wonder if she ever ventured to a computer or tried to pick up a copy of Pineapple Express to possibly pinpoint who my fake fiancé is. But I’m a realist and know that she probably didn’t really care and most likely forgot about me, the lying retail plebe. And that’s okay, because for a few minutes, I was able to convincingly lie through my teeth (whether that is dependent on the liar or the audience is debatable and beside the point).
Leslie Michaels is currently a Level 2 improv student at the DCH Training Center. She spends her spare time riding her bicycle, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or hanging out with her boyfriend, Netflix. She still questions whether she’s a dog person or a cat person.