“You’re doing great,” said the customer, her three big bags of returns flopped open on the counter between us.
Snarl, snarl, I said. Inwardly.
“Really,” she said.
“Why, you are too,” I beamed sarcastically, as I knew I shouldn’t.
She called out to her friend, who was waiting for her. “I can’t believe my husband got me these things,” she said. Her friend called back, “Isn’t this top the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen?”
I feel defensive about The Somewhat Fancy Ladies’ Clothing Store, now that I’ve been here four weeks. My sister-in-law came in and I tried to sell her on a sweater. And I’m good at helping women buy outfits. But there are things I’m bad at.
Ringing up returns, for example, at which I am fumble fingered and slow, peering at the various icons on the terminal screen like the foreign language that they are. Don’t get me started on store coupons.
I’m also lame at “putbacks,” dealing with the mountain of merchandise that has to be returned to the proper racks. I’ll walk around the store three times to find where a given pair of black pants lives. There are at least ten nearly identical kinds of black pants in the store, and I have no idea where to stash one in a timely manner.
Then there’s clearing out the dressing rooms, something you’re supposed to hop to as soon as a customer vacates the premises. Well, I have already moved on to something when they leave (struggling with returns at the register, for example) and the explosive mess of garments left behind falls to a more responsible sales associate to clean up.
I am bad at things. I have never done them before. Don’t hate me because I am ignorant. That I am at midlife somehow makes it worse. I know my accomplishments in the fields of writing and research — but retail is another universe.
This has been an instructive experience. When I go into Starbucks and the service lags, I’m not the one tapping on my watch and frowning. Mellow out, let the sales clerks make their grande flat whites at their own pace. It’s only their due with the money they make.
And maybe it’ll come back to me as a karmic blessing behind the cash register.