Saturday, October 31, 2015
It's 6:45 am on Halloween day and I'm sitting at the computer with a cup of coffee hoping that we can make it through just one more day.
I'm Susan, 'The one with a pony tail' who keeps roaming down the isles picking up things that have fallen off hangers or peg hooks or that have simply been left abandoned by customers who thought those items might be fun, but changed their minds. I answer questions, dig through boxes to find things, make suggestions, find accessories, give directions to the bathroom. I run to the stock rooms and come back with arms full of merchandise to try to fill up empty boxes or pegs, climb ladders to replace the masks that were sold. I laugh and joke with many people, hug customers who have been shopping with us for so long that they became friends somewhere along the way. I glance at my mother behind the counter and hope that she makes it through just one more day.
It's rough on me, all the running back and forth, climbing ladders, stepping over boxes in the stock room trying to find one more costume in the size a customer needs, hunting for 'please Lord just a little more white make up'. Sometimes the answer is just "No, sorry. We're sold out." Sometimes it's a personal victory to find the item that will make the day of a bright eyed child, a hopeful teen or an older person who has never lost their version of Peter Pan's heart that will never grow up. It's just as much fun for me as it is for them to find that perfect thing... almost as much disappointment when it's just to late. My ankles feel like broken glass, my knees sometimes give way unexpectedly, my thighs burn and my mind reels at the expected pain of climbing those attic stairs again, but I'll make it through just one more day.
The customers come and go. Most are happy and thrilled to be shopping for their favorite holiday and can't wait to get home with their newly found treasures. Their joy is palatable and infectious to all around them. I live for those people. Many shop alone or in small groups, find what they want, pay for it and slip away without notice. I do try to at least speak to each person and offer assistance. Some wave me off like I'm an annoying sales call that rings the phone in the middle of their favorite show. Most have a few questions which are easily answered and they are delighted to be aided on their quest. Some just seem to be lonely and want someone to talk to for a little while, even if it's just crazy woman with a pony tail and an arm load of stock that needs to be put away. Sometimes, those lonely people seem to need a smile from a stranger and maybe a pat on the arm or a quick little hug so they can make it through just one more day.
And then there are the few, the luckily far apart who seem hell bent on destroying the store and everything in it. The 'brats' who don't seem to think that rules apply to them. The tall young men who take down all the masks then half way put them back on the heads and randomly shove them back on the top shelf where I need to climb a ladder to straighten things back out. The bored youngsters who play with the hats and drop them in the floor or try to put them back as they push full stacks of other hats off the other side of the shelf. The people who pull everything out of the boxes and cram the packages roughly back in as if the plastic bags with bright photos have deliberately vexed them in some way. The 'hard to fit' young women who feel compelled to try on every single costume in the store looking for one that will actually make them look like the Photoshopped model on the front. The ones who bust seams or break zippers in the costumes, lose the accessories, tear the bags, wad up the photos in the front like yesterday's news paper. I clinch my teeth and clean up their mess and try to find my 'zen' as I repeat in my head like mantra that I only have to make it through one more day.
Through it all, I'm the lucky one because I am on the move. When someone really starts to get on my last nerve, I can walk away. I can 'run after stock' in the cool, quiet back room and take a moment catch my breath and clear my head before going back out into the Bedlam. I can find that ever present friendly customer who smiles and appreciates that someone is honestly trying to help them. I can get my grove back by simply remembering that 99.9% of my customers are wonderful people and joy to work with. I can shake it off and move on, happily working through that one more day.
My mother is not so lucky. She 'celebrated' her 85th birthday standing behind a cash register for 10 straight hours with very few breaks to even eat or go to the bathroom. It's been like that six days a week since the middle of October. My mother, Mary is the accountant so she comes in early to count the drawer down, get it set up for the day, fill out all the forms and run the bank deposit down the street before the customers arrive. Even the people who are nice to me as the sales person are rarely nice to the cashier. After all, she's taking your money. She's the one dealing with a slow credit card machine that takes forever to process checks and those cards with chips, the agitated and embarrassed customers who's card got declined, customers begging for discounts on items that are already marked down, customers who want to split methods of payment or change their minds in the middle of a transaction - or find One More Thing after she has already run the card. All issues that are normally no big deal, but it starts to wear on anyone after a dozen times a day with irate, tired, busy people standing in line glaring at her. She ends up being the default complaint department. She's not a young woman anymore. She has high blood pressure and diabetes. She stoically tries to just handle each problem as it comes along, but it takes a toll. If my soon to be 55 year old bones are hurting, I know hers with an extra 30 years on them have to be misery. Sometimes, it just gets to be to much and she snaps at people a little to harshly. Luckily, only one of those has lost her temper and found the need to track me down, get in my face and yell at ME that my mother snapped at her child. It was all I could do to not go all "Mama Bear" on that woman at scream "I only pray that MY MOTHER will LIVE to make it through one more day."
This is not a happy blog post to celebrate Halloween. It's just a therapeutic moment for me before I pull on my clothes and go back to work. It's a story to explain that while I am the one who loved Halloween and playing dress up so much that I dreamed of running a costume shop. My mother loved me enough to make it happen. She pays the bills. She keeps the doors open. This was not her dream, it was mine, but she's there every day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. In October, she works more than 60 hours a week dealing with people who are frequently angry and unkind to her. This is a gentle reminder to some that if I catch them being rude to my mother, they should feel lucky that I let them live through one more day.