Now don’t get me wrong. I am completely aware of how much temporary employment can mean to millions during the Holidays. And I do understand how necessary those temps are to stores of all sizes and denominations. I’m only making some simple observations here drawn on amused personal experience.
I’m not a ‘good’ shopper any more. Since my endurance level has dropped noticeably in my nineties, I now shop more like a man: I take the straightest line to Aisle A, move straight on to Aisle B, directly to the check stand, then out the door. I’m increasingly unashamed about upon entering, checking my destination with an employee so there will be fewer false moves. Hard for me to believe, but I’ve even dropped to the level of phoning a store to ask if such and such is in stock before leaving the house If that sounds not at all like how I used to shop, you’re right. But, oh well…
That aside, I do love the interaction between me, other shoppers, employees (excuse me, ‘assistants’), even checkers at the end. People are fun to watch, talk with. Come along with me for a few recent stops.
Dropping into my economic pillar, the Dollar store, I am on a mission for one simple item, a box for mailing. Circling around toward the back of the store, I spy a truck piled high with empty boxes on their way to the back to be smashed, I presume. I stop the cheery looking pusher lady and ask if I might take one of those boxes. She apparently tracks my eyes because she throws her body forward like a blanket across the skyline of the load, and during that embrace says, “I don’t know. This is only my second day and I don’t know if we give away boxes, but I’ll ask,” then releasing her hold, she and her load disappear through the double doors. In a couple of minutes the truck reappears followed by the cheery pusher lady who declares, “Oh yes, we do give them away…for free.”
Next: After having reworked the allotment for Christmas spending a number of times, I decide to go ahead and hit the big name electronics store in the mall for the specific gift that I had checked on a day earlier. Standing at the ready as I enter, the young lady steps toward me in a gesture of welcome. Her clothing is obviously more than ‘used’, her hair and makeup less than polished. She’s tall, wan, looks undernourished, tired. Or is it bored? “I’m looking for a home scanner,” I say. A look of quandary masks her face for a few seconds. “A scanner? Uhhhhhhhhh. we don’t have those, (pause) except (gesturing toward the counter) on the computer over there.” In a low voice so as not to let this get to the manager’s ears, I say, “Yes, I looked at a home scanner here yesterday, and now I want to purchase it. Let’s go over this way.” Eventually the memo arrives: “Oh.”
And last: In the middle of an absolute in-the-moment need for a few sprigs of fresh seasoning for the Thanksgiving turkey, I call the nearby big chain grocery store. This is the way it went down:
Me: “Hello, I’m urgently needing some fresh rosemary. Do you have some in stock?”
Phone voice: “One moment. I’ll connect you with the produce department.”
Deep voice: “This is Jeremy, how can I help you?”
Me: “Jeremy, I’m desperate to get some fresh rosemary right away. Do you have some in stock?”
“Yes, we do, but it’s going fast.”
“Great! Will you please hold a box for Peggy? I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
Jeremy, laughing (obviously amused at my panic), “Sure.”
On time at the store, I scan the horizon of the produce department for a male figure, thinking this will be easy – he’ll appear like a white knight, I’ll grab the rosemary and be out of here. But not so much. Not seeing any male employee in produce, I address the back of a bent over female employee who is stocking the cold fruit section. “I just talked to Jeremy who is holding a box of rosemary for me. I don’t see him anywhere. Could you please call him?” Met with a rather blank stare, I repeat, “Would you please call Jeremy for me?” She starts walking away toward a phone, then turns back to me and says, “Is he tall?”, raising arms aloft to confirm ‘tall’. “I don’t know because I just talked to him on the phone…” She didn’t get it. “Is he really tall?” I’m about to repeat my last sentence re the phone when way back by the meat counter I see a really big guy in black apron coming toward me, rosemary in hand. I ask Jeremy, “How tall are you, are you really tall?” “Six-four.”
There. She was right. I guess it was just that I couldn’t see him over the phone.