Thursday, October 31, 2013

But It was Halloween!

Like many stores on Halloween, we were giving out small hard candies to children who came in with their parents. It was only an hour until closing, and a fair amount of fairies, zombies, superheros and goblins had paraded in and out of the store loaded with sugar and excitement.

"Do ya have candy here?"

I turned to see a short, African-American boy standing in front of me. He had on suspenders, thick glasses taped in the middle, a shirt pocket full of pens, and a bow tie. Best costume I had seen of the night!

"Well of course we do!" I smiled at him "Are you Steve Urkle?"

Immediately his parents nearly collapsed to the ground in laughter while he he exclaimed "No! Who is that? I didn't even dress up!"

Shoot me now. SHOOT ME NOW.  After turning four shades of red, I grabbed an associate to help them with their order while I hid behind the counter for the rest of the evening.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hocus Pocus

Her wiry, gray hair defied the law of gravity by sticking straight out from her head in all directions. Several large warts decorated her face, particularly her prominent nose. She didn't respond to my greeting. Instead, she stood silently at my counter staring at me with a lopsided grin. Her purchas? It was a single, black taper candle.

I tried to not think about croaking around a bonfire in the woods. I tried to not think about her stirring a cauldron of batwings, frogs eyes, and newts tongue. I tried to not think about her luring innocent children into her home for a tasty snack—but I didn't succeed. She seemed too much like the part!

Oh well, it isn't as though she could read my mind. Or could she? Because as she walked away from my counter she suddenly burst out into a high-pitched cackle that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!

I informed my coworkers to not expect me to be at my register in the morning; I would most likely wake up as a toad.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Here? Right Here? Next to My Spleen???

I bagged the man's artwork and wished him a good day. They were several dark, heavily shaded charcoal sketches of human anatomy, though far from being precise. Their twisted, odd poses made me think they had been taken from Wednesday Adams' sketchbook.

"Is he gone yet?" My coworker from our framing department asked me over the phone.


"The creepy guy with the charcoal sketches! He was in your line!"

"Oh, he is gone. Why was he creepy? His artwork might have been a little dark but that doesn't mean—"

"NO! He was creepy. He kept talking about how you could see God in a person's body. Not the outside mind you, but if you 'opened up a person' you could see him there in a person's insides."


"Seriously! He said even his artwork didn't show it all, you had to ACTUALLY OPEN SOMEONE UP!"

"...should we have called the police?"

"I don't know! Probably? But you guys are walking the girls to our cars tonight after we close. That is not a request."

Monday, October 21, 2013

No, that Sounds Legit—Perfectly Legit.

I answered the store phone with our usual greeting, expecting the typical question of our store hours, when I heard "Yeah, I wuz wondrin', do y'all sell phlebotomy bags?"

I stared at the receiver, as though trying to peer through it to catch a glimpse of the woman on the other end of the line. Her voice was rather reedy and heavy with the Appalachian dialect. She sounded to be roughly a hundred years old and it was rather difficult to understand her.

"No—no Ma'am I am afraid we do not."

"Now I wuz told ya did! Meby I'm not sayin' it right. Lissen here, if you take the blood out of a person, and ya want to hold on to that blood, the bags that you use ta hold the blood in—do ya sell those?"

"No, like I said we do not. Perhaps a medical supply store? I'm not sure really."

"Well that's too bad. Talk to ya later then."


No—I really hope we don't talk again. I for one, was not about to ask her why she needed phlebotomy bags. More than likely she had to hang up the phone to go stir her cauldron again.Frankly, I did not want to be turned into a frog for asking one too many questions.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Brilliance of Miss Nora.

I can't see Auras, nor do I claim to be an empath, yet Miss Nora's spirit was so tangible you could feel yourself becoming relaxed and cheerful moments after meeting her. It was something about her bright smile, tiny, birdlike frame and chipper, almost nonstop conversation that made you want to be friends with her. Actually, scratch that. It made you feel as though you were already friends with her.

Miss Nora would come to the store a mere twenty to thirty minutes before we closed and stay long afterwards. For weeks and weeks this happened almost every night until one of our managers reluctantly asked to her leave at closing.

"I don't mean to be a bother," she said to me later, "it's just that my husband passed away right around Christmas time. It was always our favorite time of year. He would decorate for weeks, I would bake for weeks—we just loved it! Seeing all of the neat things in your store makes me think of him and how he would like to be planning for Christmas."

I was crushed.

She continued to stop in the store quite often, and always made it a point to find me and to chat briefly. Once she knew I had originally studied music, she never failed invite me to come sing with her in her church choir before wishing me a good evening.

One night after closing my store, I ran into her while I was buying groceries elsewhere.

"Where are you from anyway? Did you move here for school?" She suddenly asked me.

"Well that is a big complicated." I gave her the polite, short story of my haphazard career in life.

"You never know how life is going to play out. I studied music too. Though I did get a teachers license, I didn't really think I would teach that much. Do you know it was much different back then; there weren't many music teachers in public schools. It wasn't until that math teacher started cussing all the time about the special needs children that couldn't pass her class that I was even really noticed a problem with our schools. She wasn't helping these few kids, I thought I should try. We didn't have training back then like you do now..."

For twenty minutes I stood there in the fresh produce section stunned to hear her story. She was looking at me, but her eyes were seeing the faces of many Down Syndrome, Autistic, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome children she spent her life for. She told me of fighting to be allowed to give them cotton to place in their ears because the other teachers refused to believe some were being traumatized by the loud fire drills and band music. She grew misty-eyed talking about about finding a craft project that one student could finally do himself. She spoke of the struggle to broaden one little girls scope of music beyond playing "The Muffin Man" over and over—even though she was the one who, using the colors and shapes, had succeeded to teach her to play at all. When she told me about the little boy who had to be led away from the class room for lunch and would stare longingly back at her asking for more "Music? Piano? Music?" I wanted to hug her for the innocent lives she had poured love, respect and value into.

"Well I am sure we have been talking long enough here, you better get your things and go home and rest after your long day at work. Listen, I like you. If you ever need a surrogate mom, I'm here for you. You should come sing with me in the choir sometime. You have a good evening ok?"

With a wave of her tiny hand she was gone done another isle. I stood there stunned by the unsung hero who had been in and out of my store so many times—and I knew I wanted to honor her efforts the only way I could: Here is a toast to Miss Nora and all those like her in our world. You have made the world a better place with your spirit, and I intend to pass it along to every person I can. Thank you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It.

I smiled as I handed the woman her bag of purchases, not that she noticed. It must have been a very important conversation she was having over the phone because her contribution to it largely consisted of "Girl! No way girl. GIRL! Now I'm telling you... Uh-HUH!" I didn't mind; I was finding it humorous.

"Can you believe how RUDE people are?" The woman next in line asked me. "She never acknowledged you or anything. It's just so rude how people behave to service people these days."

Of course, I would have appreciated her sympathetic comment more, had she not been using her purse to push my obviously placed "closed" sign aside so that she could load my counter with her purchases.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

A PSA: Your Credit Card

Pardon me, could you take out your credit card for a moment? You don't use one, just your debit card? That's okay, take it out. Yes, right now. Alright now that you are looking at it, do you see all those numbers on the front? They look very important don't they? They are not.

Flip the card over. Yeah, to the back—you got it. Now do you see that smooth band running along the top? That is the magnetic strip. It is actually the brains of the whole card. Touch it. Go ahead, you get to feel a card's brain! All the information your card contains is located in that strip.

When you make a purchase, this strip is the section that needs to be inserted into the machine—not your bumpy numbers. Does that make sense? So the next time you force your card repeatedly through the machine, and you hear a grinding sound and a message like "card reader error" keeps flashing in front of you, please don't assume that somehow the stores machine isn't working properly. I can almost guarantee you that the cashier will ask you to reinsert your card the correct way.

What? They all make them differently? Well that is true, they do. I think there are programmers out there saying "Now how can me mess with the American Consumer's mind today?" as they work on yet another model. Having said that, ALL MODELS READ THE MAGNETIC STRIP! And there you have it. So take a moment, and become familiar with your card. You will do yourself, your future cashiers, and the world at large a huge service. Thank you.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Whatever Happened to Baking Cookies?

She barely cleared my countertop. Short, comfortably round, and smiling behind large round glasses, she began to gather the many skeins of ruffled yarn out of her shopping cart. Now this was a sweet grandma. I bet she makes great cookies.

"What do you think about these colors?" She asked me with a warm smile. "I think they will show up quite nicely don't you think?"

I realized every skein was practically glowing in neon tones. Yellow, Blue, Pink, Green, Magenta—it was like someone had condensed the 80's into a pile of yarn. "They are—um, pretty bright! I am sure you will be able to see it well in the dark."

"That's what I thought too. I am making long scarves for the strippers. I sell them to them. See they can't use feather boas because they shed too much, and management doesn't like it. So I can crochet these frilly scarves and it gives the girls something to work with. I think they will look great under the blacklites."

"That's, um, wow. Your total is $45.68 Ma'am."

"Okay. I gotta get these home, then head over to the ladies club at church. We make items for charitable organizations to use."

Like long, neon frilled scarves perhaps?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Tranquility! I Need Tranquility!

"Excuse me! I need some help. Where are your incense burners?" I looked up at the wiry woman in front of me. Her thick, brown curls sprung from her head seemingly creating a halo of exclamation points around her head, emphasising the necessity of the matter.

I showed her our selection only to have her jaw drop in amazement. "That's it? That's all you carry? Nooo!" She began to fidget, "I need INCENSE BURNERS! I can't believe this. You need to carry some!"

I looked back at the shelf. Yes, the product was still there hanging directly in front of our eyes.

"I need the kind you just let the oils set in. You know, like a dish."

"Oh! Well, I also have oil fragrance diffusers on these two shelves here."

"No! Well, maybe—no. Nooooooo! I need a manager. I need somebody to start stocking these. I need incense burners! I NEED IT!"

"So, you need to heat the fragrance oils?"


"Like this one here? See? Or perhaps this one?"

"Noooo," She moaned, "That's just not right. You know what I'm talking about? It This isn't what I need. Why don't you stock them?? I need it!"