Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas is not only getting more commercial, it's getting more dangerous.

I was not in the best of moods last night. I had to go to the part-time job after a long day at the day job, and I'd been reminded of an ex-boyfriend's continued existence on this planet twice in one day, which I hate. Just because that pussy continues to walk these city streets doesn't mean I need to know about it. (Yeah yeah, I'm an evil, hateful wench. Save it. It's been a shit year in the relationship department for me and I have a right to be pissy.) I arrived at the part-time job with a black cloud hanging over me. I microwaved my dinner and started talking with a coworker about his son's birthday party on Sunday and it began to lighten my mood. After some food and a nice conversation, I went to work.

I don't really want to get into the part-time job's actual location, mainly because it's retail and public and allows for easier stalking than my day job. Let's just say the store sells home furnishings and knick-knacks to go along with the furnishings. It's a good part-time job for me since I don't have enough room in my apartment to put a ton of crap, so I don't spend my salary before it leaves the store like I would if I worked at J. Crew or Banana Republic. Generally, they keep me away from the cash registers and in the front of the store where I direct customers to whatever bric-a-brac they want. When I'm in the front of the store, I'm not supposed to leave unless absolutely necessary. Since the weeknights tend to run on a skeleton crew, I ended up showing customers around more than I'd like. Most customers just needed to have me show them where something was specifically. One customer, however, drove me nuts.

She walked in and said she was just looking around. I said that was fine, and to ask us if she had any questions. I recently figured out that saying "us" instead of "me" plants the idea that customers don't have to come back to me for answers, but can ask someone further back in the store. This woman, however, decided to come back to me.

"Can you show me something?" She asked.

I smiled, then inwardly groaned as I left the front of the store to follow the woman to whatever she had to ask me. She stopped at a mirrored plate.

"How heavy is this?" She asked. The mirrored plate was sitting on top of its box without anything else on top of it. She could have easily lifted the mirror to see how heavy it was without bothering me. I kind of looked at her and shifted the mirror off the box it came in and handed her the box.

"How much is it?"

I looked at the price tag and told her.

"Can you open it to see if it's not broken?"

I groaned inwardly, and went to find some scissors to open the box. The mirror wasn't broken. But as I repackaged the mirror, the woman wasn't sure if she wanted the large mirror and had me put it back as she picked up a smaller one. Frustrated, I went back to the front of the store and told my coworker that if I was to stay in the front of the store, he'd have to help the high-maintenance woman.

"She's intimidated by me," coworker said, after asking her if she needed help. "I didn't have to open a thing."

"Of course," I snitted. I began policing the front of the store, referred a couple more customers to other areas of the store, and tried to keep my eyes open.

"Excuse me, can you help me again?" High-Maintenance asked. I showed her a couple other things, went to put what she was holding behind the register, and got roped into ringing her up.

"I need to get some of those little twigs another time because I don't know where they are," High-Maintenance said. I left the register, which was developing a line of people waiting behind her, and grabbed the twigs. She then asked me to wait mid-transaction while she picked out a candle to go with the stuff she was buying. She picked up a gold candle and handed me her credit card. I swiped it, had her sign the receipt, and then asked if she could switch the candle for a different color.

"No, you'll need to return it and I'll have to re-ring you," I said, not even bothering to mask my growing impatience with the woman.

"I can't just switch it?" She asked.

"No," I replied, "it's a different item than what you bought."

She frowned, as did the people in line behind her with bigger packages than she had, and she went and stood by the candles for a good minute before returning with two candles.

"Which do you think is better?"

I think I actually rolled my eyes. My patience has been very short lately, and this woman was certainly trying it. My interior monologue went a little something like this:

Listen, lady. I would have gladly had this conversation with you before you got to the register, or would have at least referred you to someone else who would have been able to help you. Now you are holding up customers who actually know what they fucking want to buy, so either make up your damn mind now, or step aside and let me help one of the myriad people behind you who would also like to punch you in the bits.

Eventually, High-Maintenance caught her snap and bought both candles. "Can I pay the difference with cash?"

"No, I have to return what you just bought on your card and then ring you again."

"Well, do it quickly, please. I'm in a bit of a rush."

I turned around to grab something, and muttered "fuck you" under my breath. If you're in such a hurry, make up your goddamn mind before you extend this relatively quick process by ten minutes. God.

I got through the rest of the night relatively well. I walked home quickly, hoping to have a cup of tea and decompress well enough to get a good night's sleep. I opened my mailbox and found a card from the people I babysit for. I basically ignored the information that my health insurance wants me to use an inferior diagnostic company for my blood samples that also came in the mail, and happily opened up the card. Inside was the "family card" with a picture of Eldest with her science project, smiling happily; the mother and Baby on a playground; Baby wearing Eldest's clothes, Baby's face beaming in the big pink sweater; Boy riding a bike without training wheels; and the whole family in Colorado. The older kids had signed their names and the Baby's name and the parents had enclosed a gift certificate to Amazon.com as well as the kids' school pictures. Boy had on a blue button-down shirt and had what looked like trace elements of cookie crumbs around his mouth. Eldest had her hair in pigtails, with her face in the middle of smiling. It wasn't the best picture of her, but it completely made my day to have them smiling at me from the picture frame and to think how far they've come since I met them in 2001. While my ex-boyfriends and high-maintenance customers may still be a plague upon this city, there are also my friends and the kids I babysit to remind me why I live here.

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