Heard of him?
If you live in the northeast and are of a certain generational vintage, you most certainly have.
His were the ads for absolutely every type of late 1970s and early 1980s “cutting-edge” electronic equipment, from stereo speakers to, well, whatever you could buy back in the day.
You couldn’t ignore these ads. Crazy Eddie himself was the star, and like every bad train-wreck, have-to-watch metaphor, Crazy Eddie’s was the ultimate low-budget ad you couldn’t not watch. He screamed, he jumped up and down, he screamed some more. You hated him, but you couldn’t stop watching him. In fact, if you were willing to admit it, you actually waited for him to reappear. He completely mezmerized you as he hawked the same cheap electronic gizmos over and over, screaming in his trademark pack-and-a-half-a-day hoarse voice about how great his prices were.
How could you NOT buy an in-dash tape player for your rusted-out Pinto?
My step father loved Crazy Eddie. Loved to hate his ads. Loved to hate to watch him.
My step father loved to hate him so much, he bought the cheapest, most useless products with one goal in mind–to get a Crazy Eddie T-shirt. Being insane himself, and willing to buy just about anything to get the T-shirt, he bought so much junk, that Crazy Eddie sent him two T-shirts.
He gave the T-shirts to me, the thrill of the chase now over. I proudly wore these bright yellow shirts, emblazoned with the trademark “Insane” slogan, for years and years.
I also saved what eventually became faded yellow shirts and passed them on. Restaurant Gal Son and Daughter proudly wore them, too, fully appreciating their out-of-control wackiness, despite never having seen a Crazy Eddie ad, even once.
And when Restaurant Gal Daughter lent her Crazy Eddie T-shirt to a friend, and he failed to return it right away, she annoyed him for a year and eight full months to get it back. “We better wash it, Mom,” she said, gingerly placing it on top of the dirty clothes pile in the basement. “I have no idea how many times he wore it.”
Today, I had what could only be described as a Crazy Eddie day.
I watched as a trainee went on a rant and walked out at the start of the shift, leaving me alone to work a double. I wanted to shout at her, in all her lack of professionalism, “Are you some kind of INSANE freak?”
Early into my double, I was pulled aside by my manager, who asked, “So, how’s it going?” I went on for a full five minutes about my entire day, when all he wanted to know was why a couple had complained that I had been rude to them five minutes ago. All I had done, that I could remember, was direct them to a host for seating.
A complaint? About me? What? Seriously, I may feel angry, frustrated, tired at work when things are rocking a little out of control–but I never, ever, NEVER take it out on a guest.
So when the unhappy guest approached me as she and her girlfriend were leaving the restaurant–as I was very knee-deep in training an entire night shift to buy into a new system of seating walk-ins and logging in reservations–and she said a little too close to my face, “What is your name?” I stopped everything I was doing to give both of them my full attention. Because she asked my name in the way that customers ask, when what they really mean is: “What is your name, you hopeless employee, because I am so going to complain about you as far up the ladder as I can and hope you get fired.”
I replied with my sunniest smile, “Restaurant Gal!”
But what I really thought was: “What on earth could I possibly have done to make you so INSANE?”
Much later, when I finally got off after 10 hours without a break–any break at all–I got a call from Restaurant Gal daughter, who is sick out in Colorado, too many hours and miles away for me to be there to make sure she gets the care she needs, and all I wanted to scream was, “Has the whole world gone INSANE?”
I was supposed to go to Ohio this weekend to see Restaurant Gal son. Now I might be in Colorado. I hope Ohio wins this contest. I hope Colorado is just a momentary worry that doesn’t need to be reckoned with.
I am going to trust in the power of antibiotics and decent out-West doctors, and then I am going to make a sacrifice to Crazy Eddie himself:
–I promise to iron his T-shirts that my kids left here at home, casually tossed on their closet floors.
–I promise to stop thinking ill of coworkers who act stupid and claim I don’t train them properly and then walk out, simply because they don’t want to work too hard.
–I promise to never give any guest a reason to complain about me ever again, for real or imagined reasons, unless the guest is nothing less than certifiable, at which point I promise to relinquish control to the MOD–smiling my sunny smile, of course.
Work with me Crazy Eddie. Your prices are insane.