For the record, my adventures in retirement did not begin on a harmonious note.
It was all the more amazing because this day of discontent took place at a mall, evidently a favorite gathering spot for aging mall rats who have either been pink slipped or pensioned out of the real world.
A few weeks ago, because we had purchased our movie tickets a full 90 minutes before its scheduled start (retired people tend to do things like that), my wife, son and I were aimlessly wandering from store to store to kill time.
After passing by clothes we didn’t need, food we shouldn’t eat and gadgets we didn’t understand, we came upon what decades ago used to be called a record store. Now, of course, it’s a media center with aisles of CDs, DVDs and more gadgets we can’t comprehend.
But the poster at the entrance caught my eye. “On Sale. In celebration of National Record Store Day,” it said simply, with photos of what looked to be album covers of half-a-dozen contemporary acts. One of those bands was Mumford and Sons, our family favorite.
I checked every nook and cranny of the store but found no records. Perhaps they were sold out. I spotted a clerk and asked, “Do you have any of the ‘Mumford and Sons’ records left?”
She looked at me astonished that I would ask such a question. It quickly turned to sympathy.
“Nobody sells records, anymore, honey,” she said, all but patting me on the head. “Everything’s on CDs now. Does someone in your family have a CD player? Maybe we can find what you’re looking for over in the CD section.”
“If nobody sells records, anymore, why do you have that poster?” I asked.
She ignored my question.
“Let’s go and see if can find that Munford for your son, honey,” she said.
I was about to give her my “Don’t call me ‘honey’” speech, but my wife, who has heard me chastise waitresses on that subject countless times, gave me her cease and desist look.
I moved on.
“First of all, it’s Mumford and Sons, not Munford for my son. You should at least know that.”
The clerk then offered up her own version of the cease and desist look. This time it didn’t work.
“And don’t say that nobody sells records, anymore. There are hundreds of stores all over the country that still sell records,” I said. “Did you even look at your own poster? It’s National Record Store Day. That means special editions of old and new recordings are released on this day every year. The Mumford and Sons album, by the way, is called ‘Live at Bull Moose.’ I believe it’s out on black vinyl, but there are other albums that have been pressed on colored vinyl or picture discs. We’re going to Pittsburgh later to get some of them. I actually was going to ask if you had the releases by Bon Jovi, David Bowie, Joan Jett, Country Joe & the Fish and The Band.
“What band,” she said.
I wasn’t going to play the Laurel and Hardy game, so I just answered, “‘The Band.’ It’s a group that used to back Bob Dylan.” To my surprise, she didn’t ask, “Who is Bob Dylan?”
However, she did ask, “How did you find out about this?” and when I told her it was on the Internet, I could tell she was shocked that I owned a computer.
Resigning myself to the fact that the conversation was going nowhere, I said, “Look, it doesn’t matter to me that you apparently don’t collect records, but it does matter that you work in a record, er, media store and don’t know Mumford and Sons or anything about National Record Store Day.
“There are dozens of stores making lots of money right now selling records because those special edition albums are rather pricy. But we’re pretty much alone in this big CD store, which ought to tell you something.
“And I don’t mean to be condescending (actually, I did), but vinyl records are doing pretty well these days. You’ve got all these CDs,” I said, waving my arms, “but is anybody buying them? (CD sales have plummeted by half in the past five years.) People are downloading songs instead. And a lot of college kids and older people are buying vinyl again. That same article that listed the special LPs I’m looking for this year also noted that vinyl sales are at their highest level in more than 15 years. So perhaps you ought to tell your manager to update his stock.
“Oh, and by the way – don’t call me ‘honey.’”
With that, my son shook his head, my wife apologized and we were out the door.
“Maybe we should just go home,” I offered.
“Why’s that?” my wife asked.
“Got to recharge the iPod,” I said. “Wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m out of touch.”