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Diary of a porn store clerk. The job you always wish you had…

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Kids, my tongue fell out of place the minute I laid my eyes on the following lines (yes that too…blah) courtesy of salon‘s article, Diary of a porn store clerk:

The short, squat man in the Dallas Cowboys windbreaker staggers out from the arcade, propping himself against the wall. Between that and the sweat beading his body, I know he’s left me a surprise in one of the booths: My first dirty needle. A minor panic fills my body. I hope he hasn’t buried it underneath a pile of semen-encrusted paper towels. No job is worth hepatitis. Especially not a job monitoring glory holes at a cruising spot across the street from a middle school in Portland, Ore.

The moral being working for Hungry Jack or Mickey D’s isn’t that bad after all, assuming of course customers there don’t go shooting up (which they do anyway) in the lavatories and have you being forced to clean up that shit courtesy of some malicious manager who’s high for the day is watching you succumbing to his will. Which could be the high and low of working as a porn store clerk…

No matter how much you think you know about the varied and nuanced spectrum of human sexuality, you realize you don’t know squat until you work in a porn store with a vibrant and active arcade. People don’t come here to buy porn. Our customers  – over 90 percent same-sex-attracted men — come here to meet up for casual, semi-public sex.

Kids, do you get the impression the author of this piece has a death wish thrill where as much as he complains about all the inequities and the ignominious of life he just can’t get enough of it all. It’s like a psychologist who goes home and complains about their nut job clientile while in truth they’re probably putting up with it because it’s some weird kind of therapy for them instead.

The arcade is a dark, damp area with about 15 small, squarish booths with video screens, chairs, trash cans and, of course, paper towels. The defining feature, however, is the holes between the booths, called glory holes. They aren’t jury-rigged glory holes common in arcades. They are professional, finished pieces of custom carpentry. The booth has three hard-and-fast rules: No drugs (except the amyl nitrate and nitrous oxide we sell at the counter), no turning tricks, and always feed the meter if you want to stay in the booth.

Gory holes? Who can’t resist sticking their wiener or tongue through a gory hole, the allure of the unexpected, the tantalizing, the dangerous, and all for a steady supply of crumpled dollar notes feeding the machine.

But then again who really willfully takes a job as a porn store clerk? A sex addict? A retired truck driver looking for his share of the lurid? A single mom just trying to live the American dream? Or how about a disaffected young man who has essentially given up on himself and the American dream?

Years of stuffing my feelings into a deep, dark hole finally crushed most of my ability to have feelings at all. The first time I walked in on one guy blowing another through a hole in the wall I felt … nothing. Big-screen, high-definition televisions displayed impossibly large breasts and bareback bear porn on four walls around me, 10 hours every day. None of it made me feel any way or another.

But since we’ve landed in a sordid type of no mans land, we should ask the next question. Not only who does it take to work as a porn store clerk, who does it take to be a frequent porn store visitor?

Our customers fall, almost universally, into one of four categories: First, the “gay dads.” These guys present more as construction workers than interior designers, and I don’t mean the one from the Village People. I mean my actual father, a retired ironworker from Boston who makes a ponytail look positively butch. Next come the “100-yard boys.” If you can’t tell these guys are gay from a football field away you’re blind, clueless or lying to yourself. Third, we have tomboyish lesbians who come in to raid our “twink” section, porn featuring hairless, younger looking men, often depicted as victims of sexual violence or, alternately, “discovering their sexuality.” Finally, there’s a mixture of young gay hipsters, primarily genetic males, but also a healthy crop of transgender men (that’s female to male for the uninitiated). The hipsters, no matter what their gender history, long for the days of pre-HIV/AIDS homo culture, dressing like extras from Al Pacino’s laughably bad “Cruising.”

The gay dads? Who would’ve of thought? Didn’t they just go off somewhere and die in self pity and denial? And the ‘100 yard boys?’ You mean to tell me super jocks have super fetishes? Of course the desire for simulated sexual violence certainly got my attention too. Where else can one live out their dastardly fantasies but in a manufactured porn den? Then the cruising hipsters, well these type are just being too lazy, cause there’s always action for this category-just sit at one of them trendy hipster cafes and start talking about irony with your legs wide open with an open book of Catcher in the Rye casually collecting sugar crusts.

So now that we know who the customers tend to be? Are they to be feared, reviled? Which is to say does one eventually become best friends with these types- where afternoons are spent giving each other sumptuous handjobs with a 1983 edition of hot stud of the year between your combined legs or is this a club for the disfunctional lonely hearts?

Most of my customers are friendly, though not to the point of awkwardness. I can count on one hand the number of men who’ve made a pass at me. The gay dads keep mostly to themselves, but sometimes talk to me about the job or their kids from a previous life. The 100-yard boys hotfoot it back to the booths after giving me the once-over twice. The lesbians and gay hipsters are more in my demographic and usually take a second to chat with me about Morrissey, Tom of Finland comics and Bay Rum aftershave. The gay dads might have “looked straight,” but I have never so much as seen the imprint of a wedding band.

How ironic, that the lonely and displaced come here to seek each other and their ulterior fantasy getting off session ultimately seek to make a human connection with the porn store clerk of all people. Is that because customers have figured out that on some deep level porn store clerks are just waiting there to be picked up or is it a situation that say the way one can reveal everything to a perfect stranger like a taxi cab driver say the way one feels at home revealing the woe of their being to a transient insignificant passer by/clerk?

But even a porn store clerk eventually has to come clean with himself:

My “moment of clarity” doesn’t hit me like a ton of bricks or any other such cliché. My first feeling isn’t something about love or optimism. I felt rage at the economy that forced me here and the demeaning nature of the job, but most of all at myself. It isn’t just the porn store, it was what I let my life become. 

I greet customers with a wide smile, telling them about my plans to leave the porn store and my new life writing, even if it was for slave wages. Much to my surprise, I still had a soul to save.

A soul to save and wounded souls to observe. How uncanny that a human being can choose the most decrepit and foul smelling antitheses of what he believes to be just and morally redeeming in order to come to terms with themselves? But then again in a society waiting to hang you for the slightest indiscretion perhaps the porn store is the perfect metaphor for where we can delve into the diabolical aspects of ourselves and try to come clean. Assuming of course we don’t prick ourselves with someone else’s discarded wet dream tosses aside heroin needle…

If only (self) love and sex made sense…

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