Those of you who used to work with me at Deseret Book will find this post reminiscent of the past. Actually, anyone who has worked in retail or any other job involving the public will likely appreciate this story.
How do I put this nicely....there are a lot of freaks out there, and last night all of those along the Wasatch front came to my store. Geesh, I had had it after the first fifteen minutes. Everyone was in a hurry, or frustrated because we didn't have something that they'd been looking for for a decade and can't find it anywhere, or they couldn't understand why they had to wait a minute while I finished up with another customer, or they didn't know why we didn't immediately know what they were talking about when they asked for a book on some former Olympic wrestler. That's not a joke. Some old man asked for a book on some guy who's name I can't remember, and then was pretty miffed when I looked a little lost. Honestly. Like I know the names of all of the Olympic wrestlers out there.
In the middle of this mess, my friends and coworkers Tom and Elise asked me if I would do a page for them. Someone on the phone wanted to talk a girl named Aloofa (I don't know how to spell it, but it's pronounced a-loof-a). Neither one of them wanted to do the page. The name was too embarrassing to say over a loudspeaker, I guess. Tom is a bit of a joker, so I made him swear on his life several times over that this was for real, and then I did the page, and then went back to ringing people up. A minute later, Tom was standing behind me with the phone and telling me that it was for me. I said, "Hello this is Angie", and an angry accent said, "Are you Aloofa?" Me, "No." Him, "Then why are you talking to me on the phone?!" I didn't know why I was talking to him, so I just put him back on hold. I should have slapped Tom upside the head at this point for dragging me into this.
I went back to my work, and after a couple of minutes realized that the elusive Aloofa had not answered the page by coming to the back desk, so I got back on the phone. "I'm sorry, but Aloofa hasn't answered the page. I don't think she's in the store." Holy smokes was that a mistake. This guy went off. "I WAS TALKING TO HER 5 SECONDS AGO! SHE CALLED ME FROM YOUR &#$% STORE! GIVE ME SOME HELP HERE! OH ##$%#$&$%#$%#^&%^&%$%$", and then I hung up on him. I don't care who you are, I don't have to listen to that.
Some time later, a guy called and asked to talk to the supervisor, held for about ten seconds, and then called back to let us know that the supervisor hadn't picked up. I think it was the same man. There have probably been several complaints filed against me for not magically giving him Aloofa on time. I'm still mad at Tom for all of this.
Later, Elise was working at the back register, where she was cornered by another man for about 45 minutes. I wandered back there a couple of times, and could tell that he was purposely dragging things out only because he wanted to talk. He had a thousand questions on everything, asked for her opinion, asked for her name, told her she needed to smile more, asked the lady standing behind him waiting in line if she didn't think that people needed to smile more...it just went on forever. Elise was getting uncomfortable, understandably. It's not that he said or did anything inappropriate, he just gave off this creepy vibe, and he would not go away. Luckily for her, she was paged to pick up a phone call, and went into the back room to take it. I tried to avoid going over to "help" this guy (by help I mean become his next hostage), but he caught me. I asked him if he was ready to check out (and leave!), but no, he had lots and lots of questions. If I have a talent, it is the ability to give a cold shoulder to people that I really do not want to talk to. All of my answers were short and to the point. Still, he wouldn't let go. There was the strangest feeling all around him, a desperate neediness that made me feel sorry for him, but at the same time made me put up my guard. You just know that if you get sucked in, you're never getting out again.
Long story short, Elise eventually came back from her phone call, I ran away, and after about ten more minutes, the guy paid for his stuff. He didn't leave right away, though. Instead, he found a female customer to talk to for another 30 minutes. Poor girl. Interesting side note - Tom told me that this man had been in the store before. He told Tom that he was in an article in Time magazine, asked if he wanted to see it, and then brought in from his car the framed page. Who does that? I don't know. Well, that guy apparently.
I always struggle with situations like this. Needy people really do make me put up my deflector shields. But later I feel a bit guilty about it. The nice little parts of me think that people just need some patience and compassion, and that I really should be friendlier. But most of me just wishes that they'd get out and never come back. That's usually the part of me that wins.
Working with the public is an interesting ride to say the least. You just never know what someone might want or expect or say or think. There's no guessing what's next. I've worked at the store for years now, and still wonder if I'm cut out for it. Patience is not my virtue.