People are intriguing.
I work two retails jobs and I often see various examples of the uniqueness of humans. Tonight was no exception.
I spend my Wednesday nights monotonously sweeping the floors in front of my Robin’s egg blue register at Toys R Us, where a kid can be a kid but an employee is still an employee.
Tonight as I pushed Dum Dum sucker wrappers and pearls of dirt across the tile, a tall man with sandy gray hair and glasses rushed in looking for gift cards. I directed him to the gift card shelf and kept on pushing.
When he approached my register, he kept apologizing for the small amount - $20 each on two cards - he was spending, as if I was the kid recipient. I thought, “Dude, if I were a kid, you’d be handing me a license to run around a toy store and piss off my mom. I’d love you.”
He was remorseful because he was tight on money - this dang economy, you know - and couldn’t afford more. He declined the offer to donate $1 to Autism Speaks because money was tight, and unlike most customers who refuse to help children, he seemed to be genuinely sorry.
Attempting empathy, I related to him noting that I’m in college and have about as much money as I can fit in the palm of my hand - which is half true. I don’t even have that much.
He mentioned that he wasn’t in school too long ago - he went to school to be a lawyer. We then briefly debated who was in a worse fix in the job market. We discussed that we both, in our lines of profession, believe in honesty and ethics and that neither will get us a job. He lamented that, while working in family law, he dealt with a lot of greed, cheating, dishonesty and other features I wouldn’t look for in someone with whom I’d start a family.
We spoke for minutes after I finished what was a 30-second transaction. We wished each other luck and care and I went back to pushing.
Not five or ten minutes later, a woman with a short haircut and a sour face came to my register. She was looking for iPod nanos and Nintendo DSi systems. We have what are called Buyer Protection Plans for these expensive items and I offered them, explaining the benefits.
Not only did she decline, like most people, but she snapped “Nos” at me with a complaining moan every time, as if she were my teenage daughter and I was her mom asking if she wanted to go to the mall together or join a Mother-Daughter knitting class. She even gave me a couple “Oh my Gods” and “You’ve gotta be kidding mes” under her breath.
All for doing my job. I asked politely each time and only once per item, and she treated me like I was the most frustrating part of her day. So I resolved to get back at her with my worst revenge tactic: kill her with kindness.
I smiled and continued to ask all my questions politely, asked for a donation, asked if she wanted her receipt in the bag, and wished her a good night. And as I finished transactions for other customers, I thought things about her that I shouldn’t write.
The best part about this woman? She was wearing a t-shirt that read “Life is good.” Yeah, life’s clearly great for you, lady.
But I can’t entirely fault her. I’ve taken my bad day out on others before. Granted, I don’t do it to people I don’t know, especially those who are helping me - and that comes from working in retail I’m sure - but I take it out on my friends, my roommates, my boyfriend. And at the end of the day, I don’t know why she was upset. She could have had a very legitimate reason to be unhappy.
It’s interesting. We all have our stories - the toy store clerk, the geeky guy buying gift cards, the woman wearing a “Life is Good” t-shirt - but how often do we stop to listen, or even think to care?
That’s why I love journalism: not only do I get to hear someone else’s story, but I get to tell it and make other people care - or attempt.
So I hope the sour-faced woman’s life is like her t-shirt, and I hope the recipients of those gift cards like their gifts, and I will continue to be amused by and document the ever-intriguing happenings of human nature.