I have a theory: when God had completed his designs of the greatest douchebags of humanity, he wasn’t entirely pleased. Oh sure, he had prototypes for the lawyer, the bureaucrat, the world leader, but God felt there was something missing: an ultimate douche who could self-righteously ruin people’s lives under a cloak of anonymity and retail prowess. This uberdouche was dubbed, the mystery shopper. The mystery shopper’s job would be to pretend to buy products from various retail stores and use this cover to evaluate how obedient the poor, minimum wage -making employees were to the companies who oppressed them.
God was particularly proud of the mystery shopper. Of all the men and women he had created, this model was the closest to his own image. My own encounter with a mystery shopper affirms this theory. And I will get to that in a moment, but first I must assert that my theory is stupid because there is no God. I have proof.
There was a time that I thought there was. My parents had become even more zealous about their respective personal relationships with the lord, Jesus. They would drag me to the Transcona Revival Church every Sunday morning for the quakingest, shakingest, tongues-speakingest, church service in all of Winnipeg. My brother would stay home in protest, listen to Black Sabbath and threaten to drink goat’s blood. I was with him in defiant spirit, but at the age of fourteen, I was still not quite old enough to stand up to the wrath of god and my parents.
My parents had become leaders in the church, and they would burst into a blue streak of holy nonsense on a weekly basis.
“Mwwhajibiiti liminihinina abitabbi abitabbi!” my mom would scream.
“Allawai allawai shaddai shaddai dibrinititi!” my dad would respond.
And other members of the congregation would pop out of their seats as if they were victims of divine puppetry and start adding their voices to the jibberish choir. The pastor would sway, his beard glistening with sweat or the oil of anointment or whatever, the people would sway and get all trippy, and I would remain seated, my face flush with embarrassment.
One Sunday, however, I caught a glimpse of something divine in that church filled with charlatans and suckwads. Her name was Chastity Neufeld. She too had the gift of tongues, and at the tender age of fifteen! But when she spoke the holy language of God, she heaved and sashayed, she gyrated and groaned. And her voice was soft and sensual as if she were some actress from a dubbed French erotic movie that you might be lucky enough to glimpse on late night CBC.
When I first saw her I sprung from my seat. My father looked at me with anticipation. Perhaps I was about to emote in God’s own dialect! But no. I just stood there, my eyes lost in that swaying, super-developed body, that angelic face, those endless freckles, that light red hair.
For weeks, I would pick my spot and stand at attention, taking in all the glory of Chastity Neufeld. I would attempt to get her attention with a knowing smile, or an intense, arousing stare. But nothing seemed to divert her attention from Jesus and those who appeared to communicate directly with Jesus. Finally, one Sunday, I devised a plan to get her attention. I would give the performance of my life and speak in tongues with such a convincingly authentic tone, that I would impress everyone. I would be the golden child, and Chastity would be my child bride. The strange thing is, and I don’t know quite how to express this, but the closer I came to affecting some sort of public relationship with God, the closer and closer I became to actually believing. Rationally, I knew that I was hatching a plan to fake-communicate with God, but the more emotionally invested I became in the plan and the more I envisioned its best possible outcome (me and sweet Chastity dry humping in the back of her father’s station wagon), the more it seemed possible that God was real and there was a purpose.
The night before I was to unleash my plan on an unsuspecting congregation, I said a little prayer:
Dear Jesus H. Christ
If you actually exist and are actually the son of God, and if you can hear this, please don’t take offense at what I’m gonna do. I’m not trying to make fun of you or your dad. I just want to impress a girl. You must know the feeling. I mean … I know you preferred dudes when you roamed this earth. I mean … you had like twelve boyfriends right? Where I come from that’s totally being a manwhore. No offense again. You must know what it’s like to want something so bad that you can feel it in your pants or your robe or whatever. Anyways. I want this girl really bad. She is the only good thing about church. Jesus! No offense. Shit, I mean, sorry. But listen, guy, if you can see it in your heart, please let tomorrow go well for me. If you make her love me, I will totally kill my brother for you.
The church was a feverish frenzy of hand waving, progressive Christian rock and tongues when Chastity began her chanting.
“Zallawa Mennahah! Zallawa Mennahah! Shaddani! Shaddani Mennanah!” she cooed.
I took my cue, jumped up and emoted. But what came out sounded less holy and exactly like David Lee Roth scatting in “Just a Gigolo”:
“Hummala beeboola zimmila Bop! Boze-dy boze-dy bop! Zee bop! Zee bop!”
I don’t know why that came out. I guess I choked. The entire church was looking at me. Some looked at me with disdain in their eyes, others were simply confused. But they were all looking. I tried again but it just got more unfortunate:
“Calrissian! Calrissian! Chewbacca Yoda! Chewbacca Yoda!”
And before I could even look over at Chastity Neufeld, I was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and escorted out of the worship area by a burly usher. In the pastor’s office, I sat facing my mom and dad and Pastor Dave. Mom was sobbing a little and Dad looked like he was ready to not spare the rod. Pastor Dave spoke.
“Jonny, what the heck were you doing out there? I mean, gosh, Jonny, that little display was just so inappropriate.”
“I felt the spirit of God speaking through me, Pastor Dave.”
I heard my dad whisper, “Help me, Jesus” under his breath.
“Ok, Jonny. I think I understand,” said the pastor.
“Yes. Jonny, you have what we in the ministry call a ‘false gift.’ You see, when you are given the gift of tongues, it’s clear to everyone else who has it that it is authentic. Your words today were not from the Lord. They were from the enemy.”
“What the fuck?”
“See that’s Satan speaking through you right now!”
“Jesus Christ! This is fucked.”
Then Pastor Dave lunged at me, over his desk, tackling me and holding me down on his office floor. His sweaty palm mashed up against my face and his hairy, chubby body rubbed up against mine as he had me pinned. He began to chant:
“I rebuke you, vile spirit! In the name of Jesus, our lord and saviour, I rebuke you. Leave this child! Leave this child at once!” He began grinding up against me and I could feel his erection under his purple robe.
“Oh God! Will he be ok?” Mom asked.
“Give it a minute,” Pastor Dave said as he continued shaking my head and rubbing himself against my thigh. I wrestled my way out of his death grip and retreated to the far corner of the room, shaking and curled up like a frightened, feral cat. “The spirit is gone,” Pastor Dave said.
“Praise God!” Dad said.
I said nothing. My parents were told to keep me away from the church for a couple of weeks. A kind of probation. I swore to myself that I would take the opportunity to learn more from my brother about Satan.
The next time I saw Chastity Neufeld was at Hypermart. She had put on some weight but she still looked incredible. She chose my till to purchase her Hypermart brand diet cream soda and her Hypermart brand double-pack of cheese-flavoured “snack rods.” She looked at me with kindness and understanding. It was like we had been to war together or waged spiritual warfare together or something.
“You’re that kid who was possessed, eh?”
“Yeah, well. I wasn’t really. I was actually trying to get your attention.”
“Really? That’s kind of retarded.”
I passed her merchandise over the scanner, as I tried to give her a sexy, squinty, “all-grown-up” kinda look. “Yeah. Fair Enough. But I was a kid. And I had a huge crush on you. As you can plainly see, I am a man now. A grown man. A man with a job and even a place to live.”
“Well, congratulations on all your success.”
“So umm. Do you still like God?”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes. I am still a servant of the lord.”
“Oh. That’s cool. I mean, Jesus is alright. He’s no Travis Bickle, but he’s like pretty cool. I mean, he changed the way we think about umm … carpentry and manlove.”
“Listen, I kind of have a girlfriend. Her name is Dora. But if you ever wanna like fuck around or do some drugs or something, I could, like give you my number. If she answers, just hang up, but if I answer we could make plans and you know maybe screw sometime.”
“Wow. Yeah. That’s disgusting. You’re disgusting.”
I scrawled my number on her receipt. “Well, I tend to grow on people. You know, like fungus, or yeast. I mean, you might see me tonight in your dreams, whether you want to or not.”
She said nothing. She just shuddered, grabbed her bag and scurried off.
I called out after her. “Have a hyper day!”
And then she was gone.
A week later, Mr. Hardman called me into his office and showed me this:
HYPERMART MYSTERY SHOPPER REPORT #2942
Did employee express a warm and friendly Hypermart greeting?
Did employee ask if you had a Hypermart credit card?
Did employee mention the Hypermart points promotion?
Did employee mention any pertinent cross promotions?
Was employee helpful?
Was employee polite?
Did employee display signs of functional intelligence?
Was employee well-groomed?
Did employee have his shirt tucked in?
Did employee wish you “a hyper day?”
This cashier was extremely rude and asked to have sexual intercourse with me and/or to abuse drugs. He gave me his phone number and I felt personally threatened by his insistence. He told me I would have dreams of him and that he would grow on me “like a fungus.”
Recommendation: Immediate dismissal.
At first I wasn’t sure who the mystery shopper was, because I tended to make such offers frequently, but the “like a fungus” line was the tip-off. I save my A material for people I truly care about.
“So, Jonny? What do you have to say for yourself?” Mr. Hardman asked.
“Oh shit, Mr. Hardman. I know who this mystery shopper is! This is a setup! I can prove it!”
“Yeah, Mr. Hardman. I would bet my life that this mystery shopper is a young woman, around my age, and her name is Chastity.”
Hardman paused. “How did you know that?”
“Well she was my first love. And I broke her heart. Like seriously broke the fuck out of it! You know, Mr. Hardman, I’m like Captain Kirk when he beams down to some planet and starts making out with a hot alien lady and the alien lady is all ‘Why are you pressing your lips against mine?’ And Captain Kirk is all, ‘It’s a custom from Earth.’ And the alien lady says, ‘Please, custom me again.’ I’m like that. So anyways, we were dating and she got all clingy, and you know me, I like to ramble and stuff so it wasn’t a match for me. I had to cut her loose. Now she’s trying to exact revenge! Don’t let her jilted heart ruin my Hypermart career, Mr. Hardman!”
Mr. Hardman was silent. Then after a few tumbleweed moments, I was told to stay away from Hypermart for a couple of weeks. A kind of unpaid probation. I swore to myself that I would take the opportunity to hunt Chastity down and ruin her life, unless she called me and wanted to screw around or something.
I always had wanted to fit in – everywhere, with everyone, in every situation. But Hypermart changed things. I was simply too disgusted with what had happened to my strip mall and to my life. It was like I had been demoted from person to Hypermart employee. I had never done a great job in any capacity, but I worked extra hard to be the ultimate slacker when it came to my Hypermart duties. I know this resulted in a string of horrible evaluations, and conclusions about my intelligence or sanity. But I discovered something by having to listen to these constant claims that I would never succeed. It turned out that I did possess one very important quality: defiance. Whenever faced with the cruel judgments of people like Chastity Neufeld or Mr. Hardman, I would remember the following mantra: I do not want to thrive in YOUR world.