Monday, August 27, 2012
After the episode with the old man, I realized he instilled in me a fear of other old men. Any time an elderly man came into my department, the heat in my chest increased. I was both annoyed and frightened and felt pressured to drop everything and engage them in a friendly welcome. Some were receptive while others gave me dirty looks and interrupted my "hello" with a grouchy "I'm just looking!"
I couldn't win. I say hello and get ignored or don't say hello and I'm being a jerk.
For a long time after the incident, my anxiety grew exponentially any time I saw gray hair and liver spots. And in my town, that's basically the only people who inhabit the area. So I was anxious a lot.
It all culminated with the return of the original a-hole himself. I was quietly folding a stack of shirts on my counter when I looked up and saw him. No joke, my cheeks flushed a hot red and my chest literally burned. I wasn't sure it was him at first but as he got closer to me, I recognized his hunched back, glasses, the same red cap he wore during his first verbal assault, and the scowl on his face.
As he got closer to me, I breathed in deeply. "Hello, how are you, sir?" My voice was deadpan, icy yet respectful.
"I'm fine, how are you?"
"Good," I said as I focused my attention back onto the stack of shirts I was folding. Was it possible he didn't remember me? Did the old man disease that ate his manners also devour his memories? No, I wasn't that lucky.
I wasn't sure what to do. Help him out or call someone? No, screw that. I was going to call someone. I told myself I would if I ever crossed him or anyone like him again. Fortunately, my devout Christian coworker came into my department, holding up the same coat I sold the man.
"Hey, Brannon," she said in her monotone Lurch-in-a-tunnel voice. "This gentleman says he wants to exchange the coat."
"That's the man who verbally abused me and I don't want to deal with him," I said.
"Okay, I'll deal with him," she said. "Can you watch my department for me?"
After the man left, I spoke with my coworker again.
"How was he?"
"He was...he was okay," she said, a hint of reluctance in her voice. "He was appreciative of your help last time."
"Was he being sarcastic?"
"Uh, no, I was."
"He said you made too much of a fuss over the sleeves."
So, he remembered me all right. It was bad enough he haunted my head but why did I have to be reminded of him? Why, out of all the people I interact with on a daily basis, does he have to come back and bring up the incident all over again, especially to someone else? I didn't want to be made to look bad in front of her.
"Actually, he did," I said and proceeded to explain to her what happened.
"Well, he's from the old school," she said. "He comes from a time when people popped out of the aisles to sell people suits because they worked on commission and that's how they ate."
I understood all that but I almost felt like she was defending him. I know she probably wasn't, most likely trying to soothe my feelings over the guy by just explaining his thought process. It still rubbed me the wrong way a little bit. But I got over it after a time because I knew it was probably my screwed up perspective making me take it the wrong way. I tend to do that. Shocking, I know, since I'm usually so good with people.
I've got another customer follow up for you as well. Remember the guy and his mother with the homemade tattoos coming in and buying dress shirts? Well, the mom came back in the other day and once again jutted her shiny blue slider cell phone in my face and said, "My son wants to talk to you again. I got him the same shirt he already has."
I got on the phone with him and he said he wanted the same size shirt but in a different color. "Yeah, man, hey, hey, I dun got four shirts that same color, bud. I need anothern. What other colors y'all got?"
I told him we didn't have any other colors in his size. But like last time, he had to check for himself.
"Hey, hey, man, hey, uh, hey, can I come up in there barefoot?"
Oh sweet gravy.
"Barefoot? I, uh, I don't know." I wasn't sure about the dress code for customers. I mean, I definitely do my share of complaining about them but they at least come in clothed. They usually have stains on them or holes in them and sometimes they contain the occasionally turd or two but they're always clothed. In my nearly four years of working there, I never had that question come up. A majority of people (not all) wear shoes out in public, even if it's their ratty old bedroom shoes.
"Well, hey partner, hey, uh, hey, hey, I came up in there a couple of weeks ago and wudn't wearin' any so I'm gonna try it again."
"Well, okay," I said. I had no idea how to respond.
Sure enough, he came in with his milky white feet exposed to the elements and our carpet. And sure enough, he couldn't find another shirt.
"I guess I'll just have to return this and wait until you get more in stock," he said.
"Sorry about that."
"Hey, bud, hey, hey, it ain't no problem. Hey." At least he was nice.
When he left, another old man came into my department. Still reeling from revisiting the the grouchy geezer, I walked up to this new man.
"Hey, sir, how are...."
"I'm just browsing!" he said, and waved me away.
I went back to my stack of shirts.