By Lisa Maliga
Flipping Over Grigori
It was another sunless Wednesday morning and my workday started off with a raucous bang. Right outside the furniture store on La Brea Avenue, a spiffy Mini Cooper had been sideswiped by some geriatric in an Oldsmobile that was new around the 1984 Olympics. I happened to walk up to the store just a minute or so after the crash. Already, the two-car accident was clogging the busy artery with the inevitable looky loos—and it was quite the street show. The navy blue with a jaunty white roofed car was upside down, mere inches from the curb. The Olds had a massively crumpled passenger side, and the driver, a slack jawed codger was leaning heavily on his cane, staring at his wrecked car. The bearded young guy who crawled out of his tiny car seemed perplexed, but was physically unhurt. As I unlocked the front door, the police drove up in their black and whites emblazoned with their motto, to protect and to serve written on each side of the vehicles. They managed to protect my view of the scene, along with that of the gathering crowd on the sidewalk.
There was no business as foot traffic was limited and the congested street was gridlocked for miles in both directions. Being a cloudy day, the gloom permeated the large showroom floor and even the warm track lighting and serenely glowing table and floor lamps failed to stave off the murkiness. It was mid winter, and there wasn’t a damn thing to do inside the furniture store. I’d already dusted, vacuumed, scheduled the solitary delivery and was barely able to stay awake.
Arturo, the finishing guy, was out back shellacking a table that was headed for some new house up in those hills of Beverly. I wished I wasn’t earning minimum wage and that I was able to sit in front of a wood burning fireplace, drinking hot chocolate with extra whipped cream, and reading a book.
The phone rang and I picked it up after the first ring, as I was sitting right next to it.
“I am Jorge!” I heard the deep, Spanish accented voice of the owner. Yes, you are, you arrogant asshole, I thought. The man had been here since 1978, couldn’t he figure out how to start a simple sentence?
There was only one reason for Jorge to call – to get the sales stats. I saw that the senior sales clerk, Charlotte, was on the floor talking to an earnest looking young couple that gazed longingly at the lipstick red crushed velvet sofa. It was the tackiest piece of furniture on the floor, but if it sold, Charlotte wouldn’t have to worry about making any more sales that day. I also knew that the daily sales report, for a whopping $56.27, wasn’t going to please Jorge.
I told him the numbers. “But Charlotte’s with some customers right now and they’re looking at that red velvet couch…”
Click. For Jorge to hang up meant that he was either on his way over – or would be soon. Of course with traffic still snarled into infinity and beyond due to the accident, the guy would make a delayed guest appearance.