I’ve been working in retail management for the past 12 years. I’ve had some strange things happen. Some stranger than others. One time, a guy came to me claiming that he had discovered the cure for cancer.
It was the holiday season of 2013. The store was electric with customers. I had just finished putting out a fire (figure of speech) at the register and was on my way to check with some customers when a man walked through the door.
To say he was dishevelled would be accurate, but there are very often good reasons for being untidy. This gentleman, as it seemed, had the greatest reason for dishevelment I have ever heard! I greeted him as he walked by and he waved me over to a quiet part of the store.
The person handed me a folded piece of printer paper. Without thought I started unfolding the small square.
“What’s this?” I inquired as I opened.
“That there” The man said giving me not one but two finger guns “Is the cure for cancer!”
I would imagine that my face contorted with confusion, the same way my brain did. ‘The cure for cancer’? Was this guy serious? The earnest look on his face and pinprick pupils spoke a conclusive ‘Yes’. It also said ‘You should DEFINITELY ask me questions’. Who am I to turn down free entertainment? I mean, this man came to me, the store manager of a mid-sized sporting goods retailer, at Christmas time, with the cure for cancer! What better way to start spreading this marvel of medical science? Of course I’m going to listen to whatever he has to say!
My face and brain eventually went back to a normal shape (he didn’t seem to notice either way), At which point I had unfolded the page. It was a crooked photo copy of a page from an encyclopedia. It did look pretty ‘Science-y’, because it had lots of scribbles in the margins with ‘X=’ and ‘y^12'. You know, science!
The best way to describe what was written on the page would be to pause the movie “Good Will Hunting” and have someone high on bath salts copy down the math from that scene where he solves the unsolvable equation. It was... erratic, to say the least. I asked him, “Where did you get this cure?”
The man didn’t have to think, “I made it!” With an excited smile, he waited for praise.
“That must have been tough. How’d you do it?” I put as much sincerity into the question as I could muster. The store was filling with customers by the minute but I just had to hear this guy’s story.
“I come up with it in my house, in a lab a built myself.” He never broke eye contact.
“Wow! That’s pretty amazing! Don’t you think you should show this to a pharmaceutical company or something?”
“Nope. I use to work in a lab but the big pharmacies wanted me to stop doin’ my research! They found out I was about ready to find the cure for cancer so they tried to stop me. So, I quit my job and built my own lab at my house!” He crossed his arms with a triumphant head nod.
I didn’t really know what to say but I knew I wanted to hear more of the backstory he had crafted. The next thing I remember, I was asking him what kind of equipment he used to obtain his results.
“Uh... I don’t know, man... Uh...” He scratched his chin then put a contemplative finger to his left temple,‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ style. “Man, I can’t really remember right now.” He rubbed his eyes. “I’ve been up for 36 hours, straight, finishin’ that cure.”
I had to keep him going. “Was it the TCRI 56K?” I asked.
For those of you who aren’t ‘In the know’, TCRI is the name of an evil corporation in the Ninja Turtles universe. They created the mutanagenic ooze which turned four tiny turtles into the hero’s we all know and love. The 56K part was just so obvious I was sure that even this guy would know I was messing with him... He didn’t
“Yep! Yep! that’s the one!” More snapping finger guns were fired at me. “I used that one and got that cure!”
The story kind of falls apart right here. Before I could think of anything to say, in response to that insane lie, I heard someone calling me over to the other side of the sales floor. When I turned my head back to the professor, the look on his face said he was ready to go.
“Well, man, I want you to take that and show it to everybody. We’ve got to get this cure out to everybody we can!”
I said something that apparently wasn’t worth remembering, we shook hands, and he walked out of the store leaving me with a sales floor full of angry customers and one of the best retail stories that I have to tell.