Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Nipple Incident

For several years I worked in a music store located in a local mall. Music was, and still is, a huge part of my life and it seemed like a natural fit after starting my part-time career as a “dish sanitation engineer” at a Western Sizzlin’. I enjoyed the exposure to new bands, the camaraderie with my coworkers, and the smell of freshly consumed cannabis as it mingled with the hustle of commerce. I was fortunate to work under two very capable store mangers during my tenure, but there was a brief time between the departure of the original manger and the promotion of the assistant manager that set the stage for the series of events I will now describe…..

For several weeks our district manager held interviews and we saw a stream of applicants throw their metaphorical hats in the ring. At the time I was not privy to the qualifications sought in a Camelot Music employee (although the old manager once told me that he hired a girl because she looked like Jewel) so I could not be sure who our D.M. was leaning toward. Then, just as I thought we had seen all of the potential hires, we were graced by the presence of a man we will call Ray.

Ray waltzed in one Saturday afternoon wearing a suit made for televised meteorology and a smile made for white collar crime. He acknowledged my greeting with a curt head nod and breezed his way past the front counter and into the back of the store. My fellow co-workers and I exchange worried glances as we mentally reviewed the other applicants trying to calculate Ray’s odds. None of the other contenders had worn suits, and I was pretty sure a few of them had a prison tattoos so things were not looking good for us. After about 45 minutes Ray emerged from the office with his smile intact, and I had a feeling that we hadn’t seen the last of our new acquaintance.

Several days later, my worst fears were realized when our district manager called a meeting and informed us that Ray would be taking over as the store’s general manager effective immediately. He would be stopping by later to pick up a few uniforms (we wore matching polo shirts with the store logo embroidered on the chest) and put himself on the schedule. Before leaving that day, I was informed that I would have the pleasure of working with Ray that weekend and I had a feeling that my shift was going to be epic.

I arrived at the store for my workday and began sorting through that week’s shipment of movies and music in order to get them onto the shelves. While I was placing some of the CD’s on the display wall, Ray walked into the store wearing a shirt / pants combo so tight I could have cataloged his birthmarks from the Kentucky Fried Chicken down the street. To his credit, Ray was not a portly fellow and seemed to take care of himself, but that was still no excuse for sporting what I could only assume was a pair of slim-fit khakis cut for a 13 year old. I made a mental note to ask our D.M. where our new leader had been able to locate a Camelot shirt in a youth small and whether or not that shirt’s existence was sending the wrong signals concerning our stance on child labor.

Having freshened himself in the bathroom and briefly demonstrated his soon-to-be-legendary ignorance of music history, Ray made his way to the front counter and began chatting up one of the teenage girls on cashier duty. Apparently satisfied that she had perceived his considerable intelligence, Ray decided that it was time to let his body do the talking. Grasping the front of the counter, he proceeded to place one leg behind him and engage in an exaggerated lunge motion undoubtedly meant to delight the coed by showcasing his exemplary buttocks. The process was repeated using alternating legs until Ray was satisfied that his intended target was hopelessly enamored at which time he would move on.

Although I was not there for the premiere of Ray’s lunges, I was fortunate enough to catch an encore presentation later that same day when he spotted another female desperately in need of some lower torso action. Disturbing as these little exhibitions were, I clung to the hope that somewhere deep inside our new manager lay the heart of a leader, a man who would take the reins of our humble retail outlet and guide us into a bright future.

All of this optimism faded just a few days later as I was working the front register and checking out a matronly older woman. As I was removing the anti-theft plastic cases from her musical selections, Ray arrived at the front counter and began to scan the store for customers worthy of his imposing physique. Unable to locate any, he instead extends his arms toward me and proceeds to pinch my nipples through my uniform shirt. Mystified both by his disregard for normal social behavior and his uncanny accuracy in locating my concealed chest nubbins, I could only watch helplessly as he bookended this assault with a playful arm jab and returned to his office.

As if suffering this indignity wasn’t enough, the entire scene had unfolded in front of the previously mentioned customer, who now was under the impression that I was a willing participant in this sick game of protuberance tag. Fearing she might call the corporate hotline printed on her receipt, I tried my best to downplay the incident as impromptu horseplay but I am fairly certain that she sensed the shame in my eyes. I quickly finalized her purchased and wished her a pleasant day.

With my customer safely out of the store, my mind became inundated with questions:

What should I do now?

Did the employee handbook cover “Nippular-Assault?”

Does GNC carry an ointment that could prevent further chaffing?

I had handled many situations in my tenure at this musical oasis ranging from pre-pubescent shoplifters to death-threats, but I drew the line at non-consensual nipple-play. I began commiserating with the other associates and a few days later we were visited by the District Manager. Apparently the chorus of our discontent had reached his ears, and to our collective relief he was ready to take decisive action.

He set up shop in the back office, and each of us was summoned to give our testimony and sign a rudimentary affidavit concerning any events transpiring as a result of Ray’s actions. When it was my turn, we exchanged pleasantries and got down to the business at hand: my enflamed nipples. His face was a mask of professionalism as he clarified the events that had transpired just days earlier:

“Did he use both hands and touch the nipples simultaneously or were they used in tandem?”

“Would I describe it as a twisting, pulling, yanking, pinching, tweaking, or a combination thereof?”

“Did I feel that the touching was sexual in nature; if so how did that make me feel?”

“Did I feel that I could accurately estimate the duration of the attack?”

After spending about 20 minutes having an in-depth conversation about the treatment and current status of my nipples, I was released to rejoin my cohorts at the front of the store. Many of us speculated on what action would be taken when Ray arrived for his shift later that day, and we did not have long to wait before he graced us with his cotton-wrapped presence. We watched in expectant silence as his unnaturally constricted legs carried him to the back of the store and into the waiting arms of angry management.

Just under a quarter hour had passed before Ray stormed from the back room and swept past us on his way to a brighter (and more snuggly tailored) future having generated more uncomfortable moments than Kayne West at Charlie Sheen’s third intervention. That was the last time I ever saw Ray, but as I doing research on an unrelated subject I ran across a truly remarkable parallel to my story involving Hanabi-Ko, a lowland gorilla.

Hanabi-Ko (better known as Koko) became famous for her ability to interact with humans using American Sign Language taught to her by trainer Penny Patterson. Although the extent of her understanding is still hotly debated amongst the scientific community, Koko has been the subject of several documentaries and was the basis of a character in the Michael Crichton book and subsequent movie “Congo.” Despite Koko’s monumental contribution to the study of gorilla intelligence, her obsession with nipples may be her best known legacy.

In 2004, two women named Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller were hired by the Gorilla Foundation (helmed by Patterson) as caretakers for Koko. They claimed that on several occasions Patterson pressured them into “indulging Koko’s nipple fetish” by baring their chests to the animal, claiming that Koko needed to see some “new nipples” because the behavior encouraged bonding. In 2005 the women hired San Francisco attorney Stephen Sommers and sued the Patterson and the foundation for 1 million dollars. Sommers claims that Koko’s nipple fetish was deeply ingrained in the animal and could be seen in a famous 1998 online chat the gorilla had with AOL users. Attorneys for Patterson and the foundation denied the allegations but later settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.

Koko is still living out her days in California, and I can only hope that she has found peace and camaraderie, perhaps in a man whose love for nipples matches her own and who garments push both the limits of good taste and modern stitching techniques. A man named Ray…..


  1. LOL

    Brian, you have a gift!

    Sure was interesting to read this story and remember back when! LOL

  2. OH MY GOSH I AM TOTALLY ROFL!!!!! Brian, you are a master! LOLOLOL!!!! I remember this!!! LOLOL!!!!LOLOL!!!!


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