Today I came back from work. It was a great day. We played bowling with a frozen bottle of water (those big ones in a plastic bottle), using yogurt for pins, and then played hockey with brooms and tomatoes as pucks. We had a blast, and there is nothing better than a good hockey game to cheer up the soul as you breath the fumes of tomatoe innards. As the store opened and I stepped into the ground which both clerks and humanity have to share, and I encountered the first few customers, I realized one thing: people's refusal to think.
When you see a cop, do you ask him what kind of job he does? Of course not. You can tell by the uniform. Same with the fireman, or a doctor, a nurse, or the guy that drives the bus. You know what job he does. You don't ask, for example, the guy sitting behind the wheel of a bus, if he's a bus driver. Chances are, he will kill you.
So this brought a thought to my mind. Why is it that everytime a customer stops me to ask me several questions, the first one always has to be: "do you work here?"
Well, gee, I dunno? Why do you think I am doing here dressed this way for with the name of the store all over myself? To make a fashion statement? Do you think I like having my name written on this tacky little tag for the world to see? To add insult to injury, if I'm visiting a near-by store at my lunch time, a store whose staff has clearly different uniforms than I do, people ask if I work there. If I say, "sorry, I do not, I work at no frills", some even get upset at my refusal to provide customer service... uh, hello?
I must say, I am quite stunned. Seriously, beloved customer, just stop and think for a second. It's not like I am wearing a pair of ripped jeans and a random T-shirt advertising my favourite death-metal band. And I'm not just sitting here picking my nose: I'm clearly working and, besides, I like to pick my nose in private so I can carefully examine my colourful discoveries. When working, I am wearing very distinctive apparel, which is quite significantly different from everyone else in the store.
Actually, let's examine my work apparel step by step: black pants, black shoes. Now, so far, I am not much of a difference, but the black is here for a vital purpose. For anyone that has taken those silly art courses in high school, you probably learned all that shit about balancing things out. So the black was introduced to bring out the red of the shirt. The shirt, before I forget, which is a bright red, has the letters "no frills" written in bold arial letters on the pocket, on my left breast. On top of my red shirt is an apron, this one black, with the same letters, this time however of a red colour. It clearly says "no frills". Add to this the an incredibly bright, yellow banana. That banana makes me visible at night almost. To make things more convenient, a white and yellow nametag with "no frills" written in black on it, stands in front of my apron. White stands out quite marvelously in front of the black. You'd think that whoever designed this thing was a genius.
One more thing: I don't usually dress like this, sit in a corner and start picking my nose. I do that when I am inside the "authorized personnel only" area. When I am outside I am usually doing something which clearly separates me from the rest of the mob shopping in there. I'm carrying a knife, cutting a box, wheeling a tray full of material, filling up a shelf, climbing a shelf like a trained monkey to reach the over-stock shelves at the top. Okay, maybe I don't work that hard, but I sure give the impression that I am, so nobody in management decides to give me some real work.
Of course, figuring out that I actually work in the grocery store where they are shopping, just by looking at me might seem all so logical. Well, apparently not for everyone. Out of 10 customers that stop me to ask questions, 9 will ask "do you work here?" or, worse, just what they're looking for, like: "tuna!"... uh, fish, ma'am?
If you ask me, after hearing this question almost everyday, it becomes downright frustrating to the point I want to kill. I know, I know, you've all got busy lives and are all in a rush and need to desperately find the pasta while you are in the pasta aisle, but just because I'm minimum wage, a little courtesy and common sense can go a long way.
At first I wanted to beat the customer silly with a wooden stick. Fortunately I limited myself in answering to things like "No, I am just a technician fixing the rip through the fabric in the space/time continuum" or even worse "no madame, I'm an optical illusion" and walk away. While I would get a good chuckle out of this that calmed my nerves, it would also get me in deep trouble.
I can still remember my manager who said to me once "Lansdowne, you're a great worker, and I have no complaints, but please, hold your sarcasm with the customers". Customers will complain if they find themselves being ridiculed at, just because they are too stupid to make a simple realization. And you know what? My manager is right: customers are the bread and butter of any business, but I wish customers didn't take that as their godly right to not think on their own.
But now I can proudly say that I have learned. Simply deny that you are working in whatever department they are looking in and put yourself somewhere else.
"Hey, you! You work here?"
"No madame, I'm the bread guy" and quickly walk away.
At times you don't even have to walk away. They sheepishly apologize and walk themselves away. Sometimes though you get a smart one, who will point out "but you are wearing a no frills shirt!"
Ah, so you saw the shirt eh? I have to resist here with the desire to opening their skulls like an old watermelon. I can picture myself a times jumping on top of them, and as I flash my grocery clerk issued knife, breathing heavily in their face (gives that moment of drama, and enough time for their short lives to pass by them), rip their hearts out while licking the blade (it's okay really, the blades in a no frills knife hardly cut paper, much less my tongue). Instead I answer as if they were the most stupid person in the world (mostly because I think too highly of myself):
"of course! It's a no frills!"
Think about it. It's like being surprised that a police officer who's only duty is to direct traffic, is wearing a police officer uniform.
I'm not sure what I am trying to prove with this article other than my obviously deranged bitterness with the lack of courtesy back from your average customer--though my shrink at the mental health hospital says I am making great progress. But one thing is for sure. Were grocery clerks allowed to carry loaded firearms and to use them for whatever need they saw fit, fully supported by the law, I'm sure that suddenly, everyone would know, when they come asking for the tuna, that we do work here.
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