Friday, November 22, 2013

Do You Work Here?

Over the years I've had an off-and-on fancy with customer service positions. I like people. I enjoy people. And, when they irritate me beyond reason, I find myself wanting to go daffy duck on people.

Keep in mind that I'm not normally a tyrant outside of political rants on a certain "social utility network". I'd imagine that perhaps a hundred or so of my friends can attest to that, judging from the "we like you but we're hiding your timeline for the sake of our own mental health, Rob" I've been experiencing since November 2012. On that note, it's a cinch that the local newspaper (The Roanoke Times) won't hire me anytime soon, as I've issued an interesting how-dare-you or two to their editorial staff. I think what closed the deal was my parting shot: "I don't care for your myopic leftist slant. How do I go about subscribing to the Extra Section?" (Note to those trying to break into the columnist biz: antagonizing editors won't guarantee that they'll hire you.)

Anyway, I recall a time when I worked for Hill's Department Store which was half a rung below Kmart in merchandise quality and savings. Not a day went by when someone approached me with the Dreaded Question. It became such a sticking point with me that I'd hide in the stockroom for an hour at a time pretending to search for purchase orders or perhaps chase out the rat who kept devising clever ways to sneak in and enjoy the air conditioning.

It was usually about that point when our head cashier would broadcast her "Rob to the front" page which was code for "get your butt out of the stockroom. I know what you're up to."

I can't say that I was a big fan of running a cash register, though I was good at it if I say so myself. I could ring up a large number of items in the approximate time a clerk of courts could type "War And Peace" in shorthand. Not bad for a guy whose humble beginnings were in the Automotive and Hardware sections of the legendary business. Perhaps I wasn't the quickest cashier ever to grace Register Eleven, but I never made a single mistake with my world class-level keying. After an hour or so of "your toilet seat comes to $4.95", I'd be sent back to the sanctity of my department.

Ah, yes. Surrounded by hammers, hinges, brads, and Armor-All, I was content to hone my obsessive-compulsive disorder by facing the labels of each piece of merchandise in a way which would have honored both Monk and my former military training instructor from Lackland Air Force Base.

Getting back to the Dreaded Question, I was invariably approached by someone needing help in another aisle. The Question was issued by people, whom I believe to this day, were planted there by the Psychological Warfare department of the CIA in order to test the limits of human endurance. Dressed in full Hill's red vest regalia, embossed with the company logo and adorned with my name tag, and amidst price-gunning my way through Pennzoil's finest, Scooter would ask, "do you work here?"

Now, the law says that you can't take a swing at someone without just cause. But if I can inject a "yeah, but" here it is that anyone who asks that type of question needs to be hit. Not hard, mind you, but hard enough to discourage such a query. Also, Hill's frowned on a response such as, "no, I thought a bright red polyester vest would really make my brilliant blue eyes stand out." I'm sure that the amusement of making such a comment wouldn't have been worth the twenty minutes of scolding I'd have received from the matronly general manager after she received a vicious tongue lashing by an incensed shopper who drove thirty-five miles in order to save a dime. One might think that a company uniform will clear the confusion regarding who works in a store and who shops there. It turns out that such isn't the case. Maybe on my days off customers sneaked into my department, put on my vest, and shopped, in order to confuse other customers into wondering who actually worked there. That's entirely implausible, of course, but it's the only explanation I can derive. It's hard to say. I wouldn't know.

I only worked there.



  1. Love it! You are so funny! I thought the question was going to be, "where's the bathroom?" which would have nothing to do with shopping. I guess I should pay more attention to titles!

  2. Thanks for the positive feedback, e-laine! I actually kind of miss the days of jobs with simple responsibilities.