I haven’t uploaded a story in a long while, so I have turned this musing into a sort-of-story.
So, I was updating my CV today and when I reached the ‘Work’ section what can only be described as an accidental-opportunity-for-procrastination popped into my head. I call it accidental because I didn’t seek this thought out by staring blindly at the wall for fifteen minutes, or typing in ‘cat punches dog in the face’ instead of something remotely related to what I’m writing. Nope, my brain actually offered me this one.
A few years back, I remember reading about this woman (I forget her name) who worked in retail. She started a blog (I forget the name of it) and after making an insane amount of people happy about her observations of the general public, they made a book out of it, collecting together all her genius blog posts into one amusing read. Okay, I never actually read the blog, or the book, I just read an article about both, but it was the idea of the blog that popped into my head more than the actual details of the story.
This woman took her every day experience, one social media jokes about as being mundane and tiresome, and turned it into something that made people laugh, cry with said laughter, and take notice.When I heard about it, I remember thinking ‘I wouldn’t have enough funny, inspiring moments to make one post, never mind a whole blog.’
I’ve worked part-time for years in a variety of places, from shops, to supermarkets, to fast food restaurants (I lasted one shift in that one.) In one of my first jobs a guy – let’s call him Douchebag – shouted at me, to the point where my chin wobbled and I knew I was going to burst into tears right there, right in that very moment. It is the one and only time a customer has made me cry. After that, I got a grip of myself, and I toughened up. If people had asked me, I’d say in what I thought was in all honesty, that it took me years to like the general public again. But that isn’t true.
There are countless blog posts out there about how horrible retail is, how difficult, how mean the public are – and it’s true, people are just plain mean a lot of the time, but they’re not mean all the time. In this same job – a supermarket – where I’d had the unpleasant experience of meeting Douchebag, I also met a woman – let’s call her Lovely Lady. Now, Lovely Lady came into my work every Saturday and because I worked every Saturday at the same time, I always saw her. She’d come in, tell me about her husband’s apathy, her daughter’s marital woes, and her health worries. As an 18 year old, I didn’t have much experience in any of these areas to actually contribute, but then I don’t think she needed me to say anything. She just wanted me to stand with her for a few minutes, and give her a fresh, slightly bigger than usual sample of whatever we were trying to promote that day.
One Saturday I was working by myself, and a customer – Rushed Woman – popped away from my counter while I was preparing her order to grab a few items from the vegetable bit. At this moment, Irritable Woman strode up, and I quickly, but politely informed her that I would be right with her, that I was in the process of serving someone else, but I wouldn’t be long. I was then shouted at for about three minutes.
Irritable Woman informed me I was completely disregarding the rules of the ‘queue system.’ – Yes, I’m British, but I was unaware we actually had rules for queuing – Anyway, my counter argument of ‘whether or not Rushed Woman is standing at the counter, she is still in front of everyone else, her presence at the counter has already been established for her to place her order, thus completely rendering this conversation a waste of time,’ was ignored.
At this very moment, Lovely Lady appeared, just as Irritable Woman told me she was going to put in a complaint about me. Now, this was when my confidence started to waver, just a little. Rushed Woman appeared, collected her order and scuttled away, completely unaware of what had just happened. Lovely Lady had watched Irritable Woman leave, a look of outrage on her face. ‘I can’t believe she said that,’ Lovely Lady gasped. ‘And oh my goodness she’s striding off with purpose, and – oh, she’s actually talking to a manager.’ She turned to me and held up her hand. ‘You wait here, I’ll sort this.’
I could not, of course, go anywhere anyway. A queue had already formed again. So, I went back to my work. A considerable amount of time passed, and I just assumed I’d be getting spoken to later when my supervisor was in. When a manager finally appeared, I thought, oh no, this is it. This is going to be the first time I’m going to be told off at work.
Without waiting for me to say anything he said, ‘I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes listening to a customer -’ Oh no, is he really going to tell me off in front of all these people!? ‘talk my ear off about how incredibly amazing you are.’
There was a look on his face that I can only describe as part-bewilderment, part-amusement. Lovely Lady had apparently explained the whole situation and, without waiting for him to agree with her that yes, I had been in the right, that, no, he wasn’t going to give me a formal warning or fire me, she continued to list every single positive point she could think to say about me.
What, I guess, I have said in a rather long-winded way, is that working in retail can be exactly what it says on the tin: tiresome, a bit soul destroying, mundane, exhausting, and it can make you hate people just a little bit. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, though, in a world of horrible people that will make a stranger cry, or complain about someone because they’re having a bad day, there are other people who balance it out. For the rest of my life, I’ll remember Lovely Lady. She might not remember me, or what she did that day, but that memory does and always will put a smile on my face. It will, without a doubt, always stand out as one of the best moments I’ve had working in retail.
I feel like this story needs to end in the right way so…