“Pennywise Office Supply, they all float down here.”
That’s how I was tempted to answer the phone the entire three months I worked as a telephone customer service representative at Pennywise Office Supply when I was twenty. It was a depressing job — think along the lines of The Office, but with less lighting, more mildew, and a lot sketchier neighborhood. Even better were the Saturdays I was required to work ten-to-six, fielding maybe three phone calls the entire day while the warehouse below me loomed vast and dark (they didn’t turn those lights on, despite the fact that it was a solo shift, and no other workers were ever in the labyrinth-like building the long hours I sat there). The only breaks in the monotony were bouts of violence from the packs of junior thugs outside who’d, on occasion, beat the snot out of someone passing by — which only reminded me that I would have to take my chances with them in another few hours, as well.
Like I said, it was a great gig.
All this comes up because on the way back from Hershey Park on Saturday, my brother-in-law played It on the DVD player in his spaceship/car for his three kids — none of whom were impressed. I’d forgotten how bad that movie was. The only redeeming factor was Tim Curry playing Pennywise, but even my favorite line, “They all float down here,” was beaten to death by the end. And the big space turtle, well, we won’t even go there.
There’s something about Stephen King’s stories that just don’t translate well to celluloid. I think it has to do with his style, how he can make the most ridiculous things seem terrifying. But, when someone attempts to translate that imagery to film, it all falls apart. I think his exact words, his exact descriptions are necessary — which, of course, can’t happen when turning a manuscript into a film script. Even my favorite, The Shining wouldn’t have been very good if not for Jack Nicholson’s plastic face and rasping voice. The special effects were marginal, at best, and the essence of the story was mostly lost. This is especially true of Danny’s gift, and his relationship with the caretaker. There was just enough of his Shining mentioned in the movie to enable them to wrap up the ending. The real feel for what his gift was and what it meant to Danny was gone. By the time Hollywood was done with it, there wasn’t much Shine left to it at all.
Still, this reunion with Pennywise left me nostalgic for my teenage years when I plowed through every one of King’s books with a zealot’s fervor. I think I might have to find my old copy of It once more. After all, that’s the book that confirmed my long-held belief that clowns are seriously messed up.
As for Pennywise the office supply store, I don’t know of its fate. Maybe the entire building finally succumbed to dampness and gravity. Maybe Staples ran them out of business. Or, maybe there’s an unfortunate twenty year-old sitting in my former desk right now, suppressing with every shrill ring of the phone the urge to pick up and say, “Pennywise Office Supply, they all float down here.”