A corporation-cluttered culture

I found a copy of Love The One You’re With by Emily Giffin in a used book shop my friend took me to yesterday. It’s been on my Shelfari page in the “I plan to read” section since my sophomore year of high school. Naturally, the $3.50 price tag said “BUY ME.” 

“That’ll be $2,” the shop owner told me at the counter.

Our corporation-cluttered world has forgotten this authenticity.

I can’t remember the last time something this nice and unexpected happened to me at the cash register in a store. The owner even chatted with us for awhile and talked about the novel he is currently working on. Cashiers at large corporations don’t have nearly as much personality or appreciation for customers.

I try to support small businesses as much as I can. I got my hair cut at a little barber shop in town on Friday instead of stopping at the new Supercuts in the plaza half a mile away. 

The owner of the book shop didn’t care about making a huge profit on my purchase. He opened the shop because he obviously has an intense love for books. 

That makes me want to go back there again and again.

The Terrible Freckled Girl

It was bound to happen.

“Are you all set?” I asked the older lady who approached my counter.

She answered quietly and indecipherably.

Considering her reply a confirmation to my question, I searched for the bar codes on her two items and quickly scanned them in.

BANG!

Her fist hit the counter.

“DID YOU EVEN LISTEN TO WHAT I SAID?!?!?” she screeched at me.

“N-no…I guess not – what did you say?” I asked her.

“I asked if I could borrow pen.” 

“Oh, that’s no problem,” I said and tossed the pen on the counter near where she had placed her checkbook. “It’s just that you muttered and I did not hear you.”

She gaped at me.

Oh! muttered?!?”

(Oh, this’ll be good, I thought.)

She continued, “I find that to be an insulting term. ‘Mutter’ is not a nice word to use when describing somebody! I’d like to speak to a manager about this!”

The manager appeared and sided with me, then commenced escorting her out the door. Instead of leaving, she made a beeline for the wheelchair near the door, plopped down in it, crossed her arms and pouted.

We ended up calling the police and finally – FINALLY – she left before they arrived, but not without taking down the manager’s name, the store’s phone number and a comment card to fill out.

***

The next day, her car appeared in the parking lot again. The store phone rang and she asked if she was allowed in to speak with the manager. (“I was evicted from your store last night,” she said.)

She started crying. I was dubbed “The Terrible Freckled Girl,” my coworker, “The Horrible Girl At The Counter,” and she now doesn’t like the boy she used to think was nice because he defended The Terrible Freckled Girl.

***

Needless to say, my eyes were opened wider this summer. I got a taste of the world and found that not everybody is nice and pleasant. Some people are notoriously cranky, some are always nice and others barely even acknowledge anyone’s existence.

I learned two very important things while working in retail:

  1. From now on I will be – and have been – very cordial with cashiers and those on the floor at all stores. Nobody wants to feel like a leper.
  2. Sometimes the money you make per hour is not enough to cover the stress people will cause you while you’re working.

***

Every customer after the aforementioned lady seemed like an angel. Sometimes it takes something bad to help you appreciate the good.

At least we can laugh about it

“Didn’t you just want to say to that guy, ‘We’re going on a road trip!!!!’?!?!?” my mom asked me, referring to the cashier at Wal-Mart. The idea of eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts had clearly gone to her head.

“Not really,” I said and yawned. Departure for South Carolina at 9:30 p.m. had dumped us at a Wal-Mart 40 minutes later.

We loaded the car and set off to hit a nearby Tim Hortons for Iced Cappuccinos. Mom rolled through a stop sign at the edge of Wal-Mart’s parking lot. Both of her hands left the steering wheel as she raised them in excitement on the main road. I noticed a cop sitting in the parking lot to our right.

“Mom…there’s a cop sitting right there.”

“So what? I’m not doing anything wrong.”

Lights turned on. His siren wailed. My mom’s face shone red and blue from the reflection in the rearview mirror.

“OH SHIT!” she said when she realized we were the culprits. She (just barely) pulled into the Tim Hortons parking lot and rolled down her window. “Hello, Officer.”

“Could I see your license and registration?”

I fished the registration out of the glove box, Mom retrieved her license from her wallet.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” he asked. We told him “no.”

“You have a headlight out on your car,” he said.

He let us go, but warned us that we’d better change it before setting out for South Carolina. We had three options: 1.) Give up, go home and start again tomorrow during the day. 2.) Carry on and risk getting pulled over again – or worse – ticketed. 3.) Change the damn headlight.

You have to know that my mom NEVER gives up and NEVER settles. Guess which option we chose?

We drove back to Wal-Mart, purchased an H7 headlight, checked out at the jewelry counter (we didn’t feel like walking all the way down to the other end for registers) and set out to do what we needed. I called my brother to ask if he could help (he lives near the Wal-Mart), but he and his friends were too drunk.

My mom parked her red Suzuki Forenza (named Flo) under a light in the parking lot. I held the flash light while she rooted around under the hood, trying to extract the rotten bulb. When we got the bulb out, we realized we had taken out the high beam instead of the regular headlight. Well, fuck. We didn’t have the tools to get to the headlight. Dad wasn’t even able to change the left one on his own the week before; he’d taken it to a mechanic. But, remember, my mom NEVER gives up.

We piled back in and turned right out of the parking lot.

“Hey, there’s that cop again!” I said.

“Watch, he’ll pull us over… HE IS!!!” my mom exclaimed. Before he could turn his lights on, my mom turned into his parking lot. I rolled down the window and yelled “Hi, again!!!”

“Oh right… you’re the ones heading to South Carolina,” he said. (I think he thought we were lying. Who the fuck leaves for South Carolina at ten o’clock p.m.? We do.)

My mom explained that we were heading to our campsite fifteen minutes away to get the tools we needed.

“We’ll beep and wave when we drive by again!” she said. We drove away laughing our asses off.

At our campsite we broke fingernails trying to get the headlight into its place. Flo’s owner’s manual shows an easy way to extract the whole light unit from the car. We didn’t have the right tools to unscrew the bolt (of course). We worked with a pair of just-boughten pliers and our tiny hands.

Tempers rose. We screamed at each other. We threw around “Fuck!”s and “Goddammit!”s.

I tried to shove the bulb in its place. It got tangled in the wires and what we came to call the “spring thing.” I got frustrated.

Mom tried it. Got frustrated.

I tried it again.

It seemed to be an endless cycle.

Finally, over an hour later, “I THINK I GOT IT!” Mom exclaimed. “Quick! Get the cap on before it falls out of place!”

I screwed it in. We tested it. HALLELUJAH. It worked.

At one o’clock – four-and-a-half hours after our original departure – we set out again.

“This is a typical Steves family trip,” I said, laughing.

It took us over 16 hours to get to Columbia, South Carolina. It should have taken only 12.

It was well worth it.

 

I lived today

Creekside ParkI started early, took my bike

and visited the creek.

The sparkles on the water

came out to look at me.

For my new job I am both the writer and the photographer. So, for the story I am working on at this moment I set out early this morning to capture the necessary photographs.

I learned today that it is not all about me. For my job I am merely a bystander capturing happenings in the lives of others. I’m slowly adjusting to the fact that for my future I cannot write about myself, much as I want to. That’s what I have a blog for.

I rode my bike downtown with my rucksack in tow. My rucksack held my camera, two memory cards, Pandora, a bike lock, a notebook or two, a bottle of water and a pen (of course!). I timed myself and found that it took about twenty minutes to get all the way down to St. John’s park with Tilly and the Wall keeping me company the entire way. I got there, was shaking a little bit when I had to lock my bike up, but I swallowed my nervousness and got right to work. I wandered around snapping pictures left and right. 10-15 minutes later, I was finished. I unlocked my bike and rode off into the sunset (okay, not really).

I visited the office where I work and asked for my portfolio back, and then, with that added onto the load I was carrying on my back, I rode on to Tim Horton’s and got myself a well-deserved Iced Cap. The cashier (whose nametag revealed that her name was Hayley and that she was “in training”) told me that she loved my wallet and added an “Emily the Strange, right?” to which I nodded and said “I’m obsessed” and she added in her love for Emily as well. I was planning on staying in the restaurant and writing by myself, but I was surrounded by old people and the weather was too nice out to be inside.

I steered my bike with one hand over to Creekside Park and sat on the cement block that juts out of the ground. I enjoyed my Iced Cap and watched the water. Then I removed my notebooks and pen from my rucksack and added onto the assignment I already started. I sat there on that cement block just enjoying being really alone for the first time in a long time. I wrote a poem that I am really proud of and just enjoyed the little bit of nature hidden in our little village. I discovered that I really like being alone. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I didn’t have to deal with anyone. I didn’t have to worry whether or not my companion was having a good time or not because, well, I did not have a companion. Some people can’t deal with being alone, but I definitely handle it well.

After my realization I was in such a good mood that I mounted my bike with Tilly in my ears again and took a leisurely ride through the neighborhoods that surrounded me. I probably received several dirty looks for smiling for no reason (nobody seems to smile anymore!) and singing along to the music playing in my ears, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t stop. I haven’t been this happy in a long time. The weather was nice, I used all five of my senses, and I actually lived today. I took a couple hours off from reality and really lived. I enjoyed every minute of it.