Sunday, September 29, 2013

Story Time Sunday- The Apology Pizza

I worked at a tattoo shop in South Carolina for 3 years. To this day, I'm always asked about the most difficult customer I ever had. That, dear readers, would be the story of the Apology Pizza.

This kid (and when I say "kid," he was like 21 or 22- that was young to me) worked with Hubby. He was that kid that, when he walked into a room, just joined into a conversation like he'd been there the whole time, making things extremely awkward. So, people in Hubby's shop generally steered clear of him. When he (over)heard that I was a tattoo artist, he immediately came in to see me, to have his tattoo cherry popped.

He had this idea for this huge back piece. It was to be a fight between good and evil on the two sides of his back, and straight down his spine would be 9 kanji symbols (the Asian characters) that represented the 9 levels of hell from Dante's Inferno.

Great idea. Amazing concept. I was excited.

Until the day came for his first session. Because he'd never had a tattoo done before, and was a little short on money, he wanted to just start with the first symbol and last symbol- that was it. The first symbol was placed right below his neck and the last symbol in the "tramp stamp" position of the lower back. I put him in the standard "tramp stamp" tattooing position, straddling a seat backwards, and started the tattoo.

He literally jumped out of the chair when the needle touched his skin. Not just moved a little- he lept up and over the back of the seat he was straddling. Up. And. Over.

I told him he couldn't be doing that shit. I explained to him how he needed to sit really still, and I was good at
working small lines on newbies, so I would definitely do that for him. I also reminded him that each symbol was one inch square, so if he sat still for a grand total of 10 minutes, the tattoos would be done. 10 little minutes. That was it.

He said he understood and promised to sit still this time.

He lied. And, to make matters worse, I decided to test him. I hit the tattoo pedal and then touched his back with my finger- not the machine. He jumped up and over the back of the seat again.

I took off my gloves and told him I wasn't continuing the tattoo. He begged me to keep going, and asked if he could lay down for the tattoo. Not ideal for a lower back tattoo, but I obliged.

He jumped off the table as soon as I touched him.

The guys in the shop were snickering at my problem. The 350 pound guy in the shop told me he'd hold the kid down so I could finish the tattoo, and he laughed, as it was a joke. The kid thought he was serious, and agreed.

So, the 350 pound guy in the shop sat next to me while I tattooed, and if the kid jumped, he held him down. We got through the tattoo in 15 minutes, and the kid was happy. I, on the other hand, was pissed as hell. I never wanted to deal with this kid again, and all he could do was talk about doing the other symbols. I told him he'd be better off finding another tattoo artist.

That's when he offered to pay me double my quote for the next session.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to the kid's next tattoo session. (He said double. Of course I accepted.) He scheduled it for a very busy Saturday, which happened to fall during tax season (our busiest time of the year). I told him from the get-go that we didn't have the help of the 350 pound co-worker this time, and that he was going to have to sit still on his own. All we were doing were the remaining 7 kanji symbols. He said he understood, handed me $250, and got into the chair.

First line of the first symbol, and he lept out of the chair. Deja vu. He took a few deep breaths and got back into the chair. Because of my previous session with this guy, my patience dropped to nothing, immediately. Next few lines, I put all of my weight into the guy (into him, not the tattoo- I wasn't going to scar him), and got a few more lines done before he lept out of the chair.

With my Give a Shit Meter bouncing on 0, I asked the guy if he was seriously going to be able to finish this tattoo. One more line, and one more time of him jumping out of the chair, and I knew that, no matter what he said, he wasn't able to sit through it. So, I had one final plea for him:

Let me finish the last 1" line of the symbol, and then we'd be done- I refused to finish the tattoo. He agreed, and as I drew that last line of the symbol, he jumped out of the chair, dragging my machine, and the line, straight across his back.

I couldn't have been more mortified... and pissed. Never in my life had I ever made an error that large on a tattoo, but it technically wasn't even my fault. I had gotten through 3/4 of the line- he had 1/4" left to go, and without warning, he just jumped. With previous jumps, his body twitched first, so I knew to lift the machine up quickly. This time, no twitch. Just a jump.

As he went to the mirror to see the damage done (what was supposed to be a 1" long line closing the kanji symbol turned into a 3" long line through the symbol and down below it), I took the $250 out of my pocket. He entered my booth, started to apologize for jumping out of the chair, realizing the extra ink he had acquired was his own fault, but I was done. I threw his money back at him and told him to get out and never to come back.

FYI, I got in trouble for giving him his money back. Most tattoo shops have a sign that says something along the lines of "Once the tattoo artist has the money, there are no refunds," and we definitely had that sign. Apparently, I was supposed to kick him out of the shop with a $250 royal screw up on his back, but my conscience wouldn't allow it. In hindsight, I should have at least kept the shop minimum of $60, to cover my set up, but I just wanted him out of the shop as soon as possible.

Why on earth is this story entitled "The Apology Pizza," you ask?

A few hours after the kid left the shop, and we got through the daily rush, we were all sitting in the back of the shop, relaxing, when we heard the bell at the front door.

In walked the kid, holding a $5 Little Caesar's pizza. We were shocked.

He walked over to me, put the pizza down in front of me and said, "I wanted to apologize for earlier, so I decided to bring you a pizza. Think of it as an Apology Pizza." 

I stared at the box in front of me. Putting my anger aside, I thanked him for the gesture, and he left.

The shop erupted in laughter. The kid had shit me out of a $250 tattoo, and brought me a $5 pizza to say he was sorry. When I opened the box, the laughter erupted again. It was a cheese pizza- not even pepperoni.

I do understand how nice the gesture was, and don't mean to be a bitch about that, but I would rather have never seen that kid again than to have him bring me a $5 meatless apology pizza. That was like pouring salt into the open wound he created- a $250 open wound.

I mean hell, he could have gotten an extra-large supreme from Domino's or Pizza Hut. At least that shit would have set him back $20 instead of $5. No. I got a $5 Hot-and-Ready.

That is by far the worst customer I have ever had in my time as a tattoo artist. I've had people pass out on me, a guy want flames tattooed around his penis, and a girl start seizing and making sounds that could only come from the depths of hell, after she got pierced, but the Apology Pizza... that's by far the worst.

Damn cheese pizza. Seriously?

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