Tin-foil Hats, Aisle Twelve
This may seem like a work of fiction, but that is entirely debatable. Do any of us truly answer the call to truth with complete and utter honesty? Lies and truth share an uncomfortable symbiosis.
So far, I suppose you might be thinking- holy crap: what kind of government conspiracy is this author about to uncover? What torrid affair could be exposed in these texts? What in the world could this possibly be about?
My dear reader- I am about to embark you on a journey that is at once unfathomable and yet one hundred percent believable.
I speak of course, of craft retail.
The Perils of Non-Newtonian Fluids
If anyone tells you that retail work is ‘easy’ work for people who don’t have any useful skills, then it is probably safe to say that they’ve never actually been on the other side of the counter. I say this as someone who has had several jobs of varying difficulties. Craft retail, specifically, sits somewhere in the middle of all these experiences- having it’s own good moments and bad moments.
But if nothing else, it is something that I know a lot about- which makes me a valuable member of the team. And this is why, I suppose, the horrors of the past year have been diverted specifically to me.
This, and the Fates know when a person is a storyteller and opt to provide them with a wealth of material.
It was December 18th, 2016 when we noticed that all the glue was gone and we had no clue why. It was the holiday season, so we were a little preoccupied with the chaos that comes with being in this particular business at this particular time. So when the cavernous shelf was filled, only to be emptied again immediately, we began to speculate.
After all- it was the holidays. People perch themselves like vultures on the strangest items as soon as Halloween is over. Red pony beads, table-top Christmas trees, clear plastic ornaments, paper filler, cookie tins- just to name a few.
Something as simple as Elmer’s Glue, although a little oddball, did not seem an unlikely victim for whatever might have been caught in the crosshairs of a Pinterest trend. The same thing had happened not six months ago with string gel medium, which the average crafter has no knowledge of, because a Pin-board suggested it for a tutorial on artistically aging photographs.
We’d survive- whatever it was.
But that was before we started getting the phone calls: “Do you have any glue?” “Do you have any styrofoam pellets?” “Do you have any borax?”
The moment the word ‘borax’ was mentioned, I knew immediately what was affecting our glue supply. It is a common science project for kids to make glue slime, which is done by mixing borax (a household cleaner) with school glue until it makes a gelatinous semi-solid. This is a great way to teach kids about chemistry and some basic physics. And the wonders of science and… you know.
So at this point, I had come to two conclusions, both of which were false: either there were a lot of kids doing this for their science fair project or a lot of children learned how to make it and were showing off to their friends.
In either situation, I was in no way prepared for the reality.
The phone calls became more frequent, urgent: “Glue?” “Clear glue?” “Borax?” “Shaving cream, contact lens solution, glue?” “Glue glue glue?” “Where is the glue?” “Why don’t you have any glue?” “WHY DOESN’T ANYONE HAVE ANY GLUE?!”
I did what I always do when unreasonable quantities of singular items have suddenly reached an apex of ridiculous popularity: I asked the Internet. An article landed in my lap (literally, because my only computer is a laptop) about how glue slime has become popular. Thousands of videos of people playing with slime. At least a hundred tutorials and recipes.
The other part was about how kids who make it are selling it. There was an entire market in the 7-17 demographics bracket based around the buy, sell, and trade of non-newtonian fluids by the ounce.
And just like any other thing that happens in this town, the parents had gone completely bonkers that their children jumped on the trend a day late and started blaming us. Because it is entirely our fault that this trend blindsided everyone. People began showing us just how little they know about working in retail by asking why we ‘don’t just order more glue?’ They felt that it was an affront, a personal insult to them, that we were refusing to do this specifically because of their requests and we are clearly anarchists bent on dismantling this oppressive system.
I had no way of knowing that this was so widespread. I thought it was just our area that was out of glue, but apparently it was the entire United States.
Now, the children approach this trend with youthful abandon. Generally, they were a little sad that we don’t have any glue but choose to instead raided our glitter and vow to search for glue elsewhere.
However, the parents know what power is. They pretend to think we have it.
Every day. 9am, on the dot:
“What do you MEAN you don’t have any glue!? ITS A BASIC CRAFT ITEM! YOU HAVE TO HAVE GLUE!”
“You’re telling me that you DON’T CARRY GLUE?”
“I’m calling your corporate office to tell them just how wholly unprepared you all are because this is the fourth store I’ve called and NONE of you have any glue.”
“Can I pre-order? What do you MEAN I have to order from the website?”
“When will you be getting more? You don’t KNOW! HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW!? Two weeks at the EARLIEST!?”
“Can you call me when you get some? YOU CAN’T EVEN CALL ME WHEN YOU GET IT IN?”
I once caught one of our framers taking a call like these and I saw her re-inact Winona Ryder’s entire range of facial expressions a la SAG awards, eventually ending in her left eye going slightly wall when the angry parent finally hung up.
And there were some that called every single day, asking the same questions and hoping that they’ll get a different answer. But no. I’m sorry. The Glue Fairy didn’t make a surprise visit last night. We did not plant the glue seeds in time for the harvest and now there is a glue famine. The small child that we sent to fetch more glue has been captured by witches- who are now intent on raising her as their own and we wish them luck.
One day, my brother will have children and they will ask me about the Glue Famine of 2017 and I will recall a very specific instance wherein I could feel flecks of spittle coming through the end of the phone.
One day I shall die and a team of necromancers will raise me from my crumbling sarcophagus and the very first words from my revived husk of a maw will be ‘WE ARE STILL OUT OF GLUE, CRETINOUS FILTH!’
Every time we’d get some in, it gets snatched right back up again because desperation means that it’s every man for himself! I’d suggest bulk orders, but people seem woefully unaware of what that even is.
People think that buying ten mason jars is a bulk order. People think that buying the same package of red pony beads from a retailer and begging for coupons to abuse is better than buying from a wholesaler. People think that spending all day in one store so that you can abuse said coupons over and over again is the same as wholesaling. People seem to think that we, a retail store, are a wholesaler.
Humans have absolutely no concept of what things are actually worth. Monetary value isn’t really a concrete concept.
But I digress- ah yes: the glue.
We wagered that this fad would fizzle out with the return of the sun, but oh- we were so wrong.
I cannot begin to explain just how wrong we were.
The Endcap Cometh
I began documenting the Glue Famine around late January when we had gone a solid month without being able to keep up with the demand. Our resident cynic assured us that they would forget all about this in two weeks before they went back to being distracted by their phones. Because ‘those dang young whipper-snappers and their mo-bile telephones don’t know what it was like back in my day- we had to walk sixteen miles in the snow, uphill both ways, to get to our internet connections.’
Sure, Brad. I’m like three years older than you but… sure, Brad..
I believe it was also late January when I learned that we were going to be setting up an endcap specifically to peddle slime-related wares: glitter, food coloring, paint… glue. Of course, the glue would be there. Glue is the main component of this trend. Why would we ever leave out glue?
You know why.
It should be noted that for the past two months the glue was completely absent. We would get it in, of course, but someone let slip the secret of when our shipments arrive and soccer moms across the suburb would be right at our door every Wednesday, 9 in the morning, to take it from us because their child’s glue endeavors were so much more important than anyone else’s and, arguably, anything else that might be going on in their lives.
So, as you might imagine, the endcap would remain quite empty as well. The great big blue and green signs that hovered on all sides of this display were liars. The object of your desires is outside your sticky grasp. Gaze upon my shelves of glue and see that they are barren.
You have to imagine the position we were in here- where we were advertising glue that does not exist for more than three days every two to four weeks because of these tots are hell-bent on selling slime to their sandbox buddies.
We’re not selling glue. We’re selling the concept of glue. We are selling the desire for glue. We are inspiring others to covet the glue we do not have. The glue is unknowable. It is invisible, intangible, ineffable. One day the glue uprising shall be upon us, and none shall speak its name.
Because the dozen or so rows where we used to stock our glue were now a gaping cavity of woe, our heathen customers had decided that this is the perfect space to lazily put things that they just suddenly decide they don’t want anymore. And for some ridiculous reason, the most popular thing to leave where an associate can find it is fake flowers.
People were attempting to build a memorial to the glue that was, and will never be again. The time of glue has passed, we shall remember it fondly. Ashes to ashes, goop to goop.
I’d had several people contact me about an email that went out from our company, advertising Glue Slime and giving out a recipe (instead of borax, using baking soda and contact lens solution… I wept for our local optometrists). Luckily, we were sent a large ration of glue on Thursday in preparation for the endcap that we just put up.
And for a moment, the balance was restored. We could rebuild! There was enough glue to fill the dozen or so places in its home and have a good amount for the display. Sadly, we were only given a few bottles of clear glue- which is the one that people really want for hashtag aesthetic reasons. But things were looking better!
But little did we know…
… President’s Day was coming.
And the children… needed something to do.
By Monday morning, they had ravaged our glue surplus to 1/10th. The glue that filled its home space was completely gone. I was honestly surprised that the meager 40 bottles we had left were still there and by the end of my evening shift that day, they were not.
Why would you do this to us, Mr President? This was not mentioned at all during your campaign trail and I demand answers!
So while we had those 40 bottles, we could at least fend off the screaming parents, but a considerable amount of screaming had already started by the time I arrived for my evening shift.
I shall scream as well.
I scream, they scream- we all scream into the yawning void of the glue section in hopes that the Elmer, God of Cheap Adhesives, will hear our cries and grant us the glue we so desperately yearn for. We shall be united in our despair.