When did I get to be such an impatient witch?
After a long client meeting this afternoon, I decided to pop into Big Lots on the way back to the office. All I needed to do was exchange one size of cellophane bags for another. Same price – what could be easier? I went straight to the right section of the store, grabbed the 4 packages I needed and approached the service desk, bags and receipt in hand.
After waiting for the person in front of me to get checked out, it was my turn. The friendly cashier looked doubtfully at the bags. “I don’t know – they have different skew codes.” She went to confer with the cashier at the next register.
After their conference, she returned with bad news. “Looks like this is going to be a refund/exchange situation, so we can keep our stock information current. And I can’t do those. Rula is going to have to help you.” She led me over and deposited me in Rula’s line. Rula looked up with all the animation of one of the townspeople in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. After the pod. There was only one person in front of me, but this lady’s cart was loaded.
I couldn’t help thinking they could have switched registers. That way Employee 1 could take care of the basic checkout for which she was presumably qualified, and Rula could have helped me. As my checker pranced off to move stock, her friendliness began to strike me as singularly annoying.
Rula was moving as slowly as humanly possible. The elderly customer she was waiting on, whom I came to think fondly of as My Lady, did not help. She unloaded her cart with the careful attention of a bomb handler. There was one item that would not scan, naturally. Employee 3 was summoned forth from the bowels of the store. She examined the offending product intently, and then headed back to the farthest corner to try to find another one like it. She may have had to drive to Scranton to the warehouse for all I knew – it was certainly possible, time-wise.
I kept my eyes firmly fixed on the clock over our heads. I wasn’t counting all the minutes of my life that were being frittered away, never to come back. No, I was striving for calm. In Lamaze classes, you’re taught that when the pains are getting bad, and you’re feeling out of control, you should breathe deeply and concentrate on your focal point. That’s what I was doing. Kind of like self-hypnosis.
As I waited, customers came in, did all their holiday shopping, paid and left. My Lady was wavering on the advisability of buying the package of plastic cups she had put in her cart. You’ll be pleased to know common sense asserted itself and this giddy purchase was decided against. But Rula, somehow thinking that all the piles of stuff on the counter were there to get bought, scanned the cups. She didn’t at first understand that the cups had been set on the counter among all the other piles of stuff that My Lady DID want to buy, because she did NOT want to buy them. A credit scan had to be initiated.
Employee 4, checking in the next line, finished with his customers and stood there, ready for the next wave. I tapped him on the shoulder: “Can you do an exchange for me?”
“Nope” came the indifferent reply. “Rula has to do those.” His curiously vacant expression told the awful truth – the pods had gotten him too.
Wish I had Rula’s job security. Speedy, efficient and friendly customer service is not required when one is the only person in the building who knows the secret of doing exchanges. “Ohm, ohm” I breathed deeply from the lotus position on the floor, still in line and looking at the clock.
I had walked into the store with a young couple, admiring their tiny baby. They now passed Checkout Aisle 2, my new mailing address, with a cart full of dorm furniture for their now, much older son.
Did I mention I had just come from a long meeting? One during which I had single-handedly emptied the water carafe?
My Lady had a little trouble with the debit card machine. Remember when the service staff used to take care of stuff like that for you? They would actually take your money. And they were really glad to get it! Rula had to give My Lady a crash course on operation of the debit/credit machine.
I wish I had a mouth-guard. I know that gnashing your teeth for extended periods can really wear them down.
When it was finally my turn, the transaction took all of 1 minute. I took my 4 cellophane bags and left the store, gait unsteady due to lack of exercise (coupled with the necessity of walking with my legs tight together to prevent an accident). I walked out into the barely-remembered glare of the sun, shielding eyes grown sensitive from Big Lots gloom.
I like to think of myself as a nice person. Kind to children, old people and animals. But this experience forced me to confront the real me. The me who expects the sales staff to serve. The me who hopes her fellow shoppers have basic cognitive skills. And the me who is, apparently, an impatient witch.