Tuesday: Exercises in Writing #11



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Today’s writing idea comes from Melissa Donovan, one of 25 writing prompts at her “Writing Forward” blog.

Tell bad drivers, rude customers, and evil dictators how grateful you are for what they’ve done. Do it with a wink and a smile.

First, let me say how very fortunate I am to have found this writing prompt at this particular time of year. I have just made it through the busiest part of our summer season, the most stressful period in the whole year. I’ve been feeling pretty good about it, too. I work long hours in customer service at a hardware store in a tourist destination.

Every single time an item was brought to the register, and wouldn’t scan, the customer said, “Must be free.” Young, old, rich or poor, it made no difference, when an item doesn’t scan as it should with the bar-code reader (which is, after all, a fallible and fairly new invention), the universal suggestion is “Must be free.” Hearing it a hundred times over the summer allowed me to perfect my response, which is, “That is so rarely the case, Sir [or Ma’am or even precocious toddler], that I hate to have you get your hopes up.”

Customers often charge in the door, look me square in the eye, and bellow, “Hammers!” or “Duct Tape!” or “Floor Leveler!” Their day, I guess, does not allow for the time it would take to speak in entire sentences, as in “Hello! Where would I find the duct tape?” I answer this way: “Well, Duct Tape to you, too, sir! That’s an unusual greeting, but a fine one anyway. Walk with me and I’ll show you where to find it.”

Others begin their greeting with, “You ain’t got no…” which is annoying for its negativity, even when spoken with proper grammar. Why did they even come in the door if they’re so sure we don’t have it? My responses vary, depending on my mood. I might say, with horror, “We don’t? Oh, my gosh! We’ve always had it before…” or, “Yes, Mr. Negative, I hate to contradict, but we do carry that item…” or a simple, “Do, too!”

My boss and my co-workers, though, generally greet me with a glance at the clock. Because otherwise, I guess, I might not realize the time, or be aware that I’m late. I used to offer reasons, but I’m sure they’re as tired of hearing them as I am of telling them. It’s always something. First, there is the alarm clock, and all the things that can go wrong there, what with batteries and snooze button and accidentally falling back asleep after turning it off.  There is coffee to make and a thermos to be filled. I check my Email over morning coffee, which sometimes leads to something else that needs to be dealt with. If I wasn’t awake at three AM writing it, I write my daily blog. I often pack a lunch. Shower. Dress.

There are the dogs, who want belly rubs and ear scratches on awakening. They need at least a stroll around the yard if not a walk down the road in the morning. Before I leave, Rosa Parks needs to have her medicine crushed in the mortar and pestle, mixed with a little wet food and served in her little flowered porcelain dish (which sometimes has to be found first) as I tell her, “You take care of things!” Darla needs the same, without the medicine, just to be fair.

I travel to work on narrow, gravel roads that are also used by bicyclists, joggers, dog walkers and one elderly driver who insists on a snail’s pace for his pick-up truck. In addition, I have to watch for deer, squirrels, chipmunks, turtles and flocks of roving wild turkeys. Sometimes, depending on the time of year, the sun is blinding through my dusty windshield. At other times, ice or snow play a part.

If customers call, running late, on their way to town for an emergency purchase, I am happy to stay after hours for them. When my boss expands our hours for summer, I am fine with taking most of those late days. When tourists wander in right at closing time to look around or for a last minute purchase, I am always pleasant. At the beginning of the day, though, I am always late. Thank goodness there is always someone there to bring it to my attention!

I did not walk off my job this year; I did not yell at customers, co-workers or my boss; I did not fall apart. Surprising, when you think about it. Now, thanks to this generous – and spot-on timing – writing prompt, I have been invited to vent! I may be looking at early retirement after all. I could be banished from the island!


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