Credit: Illustration by Emily Flake

Patty Connolly went through high school and college and could count on one finger her social network. It wasn’t until she got a job at the Tysons Tower in the late ’90s that she found people who “liked the same stuff.” “I met all my friends at Tower,” she says. Tower ended up being high school all over again, only this time it was high school on her terms. This time she was cool.

“You could get away with anything,” Connolly says.

Like fuck with customers. “Sometimes I would recommend stuff I knew they would hate—like Style Council,” she admits.

And Connolly used her perch to stick up for good music—an imperative best accomplished through selective implementation of Tower’s refund policy. One time, Connolly recalls, a customer attempted to return Morrissey’s Your Arsenal—an album she had recommended. “I told them it was wrong,” she says, still amazed at her brazenness. “I said that I wouldn’t do it.” She says the no-return policy extended to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.

Customers with bad taste, music fiends going crazy for concert tickets, the daily parade of eccentrics—Connolly was sold. “I enjoyed the chaos,” she says. Employees, too, added to the freak show. Connolly remembers the female employee who stalked a male co-worker. She once followed the guy all the way to his second job at PetSmart.

After a few years, Connolly got fired for ripping her boss; she won’t say what she called him—only that it might be something close to “wussy.” “At first I was kind of bummed, but it worked out for the best,” she explains. “I ended up moving to London and doing other things. I went to art school.”

Now, two days before Tower’s closing, the 30-year-old Connolly idles next to the “tributes” rack in her Army jacket studded with band buttons and a Misfits patch. In her hands, she’s carrying two Radio Birdman DVDs.

This might be her last time here. “It was just a good time in my life,” Connolly explains. “I met people I got, and they got me. Especially in this area, it’s kind of hard to meet people. All my friends—my whole life—changed working here.”