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.

 

As you would have done unto you

I have learned many lessons in my fifteen years. Not as many as other people have, I’m sure, but I am getting there.  I could sit here and try to think of them all, but there is only one that stands out to me everyday to show just how prominent it is. Being polite gets you far. No question about it.

My parents have always taught me to say “please” and “thank you” whenever the chance arises; to be courteous and open a door or two for people, and to help an old lady out by loading her groceries into her car. (Okay, so that hasn’t happened yet, but I am waiting for the chance to do so!) It’s not like we – or I – believe in karma, that what goes around comes around (in this case, it’s a good “what”), it’s more like we go by “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” It’s that sort of thing. So, when I have to pass in front of a person or need a person to move out of the way, I say “excuse me” and get what I needed accomplished complete in a polite and sincere manner. I hold doors open for people, and when I hear a simple “thank you” it makes me happy and brightens my day considerably. I am careful to lower my voice when in public so as to not annoy or aggravate those around me whom I do not know. I am considerate, courteous, and thoughtful. I think about not only what I need, but what others need and wish for as well.

Now, what’s the point of this insightful post? Well, today was one of those days where every person I met was not polite in any way whatsoever. In Walmart, my mother and I were in the produce department looking at the Clementine oranges, and this lady came over and leaned over where we were standing without a single uttering of “excuse me.” Each time someone does this to us, either my mother or myself will say “excuse me” for the person who lacked to do so. It is so rude to just barge in near a person whom you are not acquainted with. The nerve of some people!

Lastly, my mother and I went to Kohls to check out what kind of a selection of flannel shirts they carried. We purchased what we wanted, and headed out the door. Well, almost entering the  door we are heading out of troops three women. Okay, so my mom went on through and opened the outside door for them, and I opened the second door that led to the inside of the store. They walked on by. No acknowledgment. Not a single one of those three women said a tiny little “thank you.” They didn’t even look at us. Well, my mom yelled “you’re welcome!” and then we walked across the parking lot, ranting about how there are no polite people these days.

And it’s the truth. Honestly, some people have no class and are so rude that it kills me. No wonder our country is so messed up. People take the help they receive for granted, and don’t know how to feel thankful for anything. I was raised to be cordial and polite to everyone I ever come in contact with, whether I like the person or not. You’d better believe that my children will have manners and know how to say “thank you” more than every once in awhile. They will appreciate everything I have provided them with, and will hopefully spread it on to this thankless nation. The people in this state, in this country, no, in this world, need a little make-over. Maybe I shall build an arc and rid the world of all of these people with a teensy little flood. Start the world over with a group of people that know and adhere to my policy. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”