Here is the beginning of one of my failed books. Working title, "From the inside out." As this new one starts to unfold, I will post it. (But with the house and such, that may be a few weeks/ month).
The TV is on, tuned to the only station I ever watch, Food Network. As usual, it’s muted and the radio is blaring the only local station I can tolerate. I take a sip of my first Mt. Dew for the day and set it back on my side table. As I dust the crumbs off my stomach, I notice the small hole forming in my tank top – same hole that I had in the one yesterday, and I’m pretty sure the day before.
As my tanks get older, they get downgraded to sleep shirts. And seeing as it is half after one in the afternoon, this one seems to be riding the fence between day and the night before. I haven’t showered today. But, it’s OK. I didn’t shower until almost three yesterday, so I haven’t exceeded the twenty-four hour mark.
I wasn’t always like this. Five short months ago, I had everything before me. I knew my life was going to change as I walked across that stage, shaking the hands of university staff that I had never met. I had earned my MBA. Life would be different.
Except it wasn’t. Life didn’t magically change, other than watching the chip on my shoulder double in size. The next day, I went to work at my mall job just the same. No instant promotion. My family didn’t fawn over me. Strangers did not stop me in the street to ask my opinion on everything. OK, maybe I didn’t exactly expect that. Either way, my life didn’t change, other than the fact that I had to start paying back some major student loans.
So, how did I end up on my couch in the middle of the day? This past Christmas, I was gearing up for my seventh holiday season in retail. We did the whole store meeting thing, and Black Friday went off without a hitch. But, the longer I was there, the angrier I became. Things that I used to let roll off my back were beginning to grate on my nerves. During the back to school season, I probably went a bit overboard, putting my foot down against an unruly customer. We were slammed, the fitting room line was out of control long, and I was doing my best to tame it. A woman and her bitchy daughter were a few people away from getting a room, and the girl who was in the last room walked away for a few minutes to find another top. The bitchy mom asks if the room is open. I tell her no, that the girl was getting something, as I run to the front. In addition to monitoring the fitting rooms, I was also the floor supervisor and needed to check on the rest of the staff. As I walk away, I hear a splash. I look back over my shoulder to see the bitchy daughter lifting her cup of water up from what looked like a ‘pouring position.’ The bitchy pair and a few others in line begin laughing. Not the day to mess with me. I circle back, grab a handful of paper towels and a trash can. As I got back, bitchy mom was kicking ice under one of the fixtures. I drop the trashcan and set the paper towels on the shelf. “Here you go; you guys can clean that up as soon as you get a chance!” I sing in a way too cheerful challenge. I walk off, watching the pair out of the corner of my eye. God, I hate selling cheap crap to teenagers. Two fitting rooms come open at the same time, so I let the next people in, making the rude duo the next in line. The paper towels are right where I left them. I try again, “You guys can feel free to clean that up whenever, if you need more paper towels, just let me know!”
I take the few pairs of jeans that the last girl didn’t want and ran them back up to the front. The size zeros tend to go fast, so I needed to get them back on the sales floor.
“Hey Allison, there’s a lady back here and I think her daughter threw water on the floor on purpose, and I have asked her to clean it up and she won’t. Can I ask her to leave?”
“On purpose?” My manager asks.
“Well, I think so. I didn’t actually see her pour it, but when I heard the splash, I saw her lifting it back up, and they were all laughing.”
“Sure, kick her out.” She tells me. I know that she permits it, but would never actually do it herself.
I nod. And run back to the fitting rooms just in time to catch a room coming open. I grab the clothes from bitchy daughter and walk her to the room. I close the door and turn to mom. “I noticed that you guys haven’t cleaned up that water, and it’s actually a slipping hazard, and we need it cleaned. “
She laughs a bit, and looks around. I walk away after a long awkward pause. I go to the register area and grab the phone, “Security? I need someone to come help with a customer situation. I’m going to ask them to leave and I would like someone here in case it gets out of hand.” They tell me someone is on their way.
With renewed anger, I walk back to the fitting rooms, ignoring the line forming at the cash wrap. I approach bitchy mom who starts talking before I can ask her anything, “We don’t want these, they didn’t work. But she loved this one and these socks.” I reach out and take the socks and other items from her hands. I hope she doesn’t notice that my hands are shaking. “No,” she says, “those are the ones we want.” As she reaches and tries to take them back from me.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you buy these things.” I begin. “I have to question what kind of parent would let their child intentionally pour water on the floor, and then not reprimand her, or make her clean it up, or even apologize for it.” She stares back at me, confused almost. “That’s not my responsibility. That’s your job.” She replies, and amazingly, I can tell she truly believes that, and a whole new wave of anger washes over me.
“What kind of example are you setting?” I ask, “You and your daughter are what is wrong with this society. And I am asking you to leave. The management team of this store is asking you to leave. We do not want your business. And I have already called mall security to escort you out, in case there are any problems.” My voice trembles slightly at the last threat. I just can’t stand customers any more. I refuse to clean up another puddle of adult piss. Refuse to let another customer tell me I am stupid. Refuse to cow-tail to someone just because they might buy a ten-dollar t-shirt. No more.
“Meredith?” Bitchy mom yells over the door. “Get dressed. We have to leave.”
Meredith, unaware of the conversation taking place outside the door yells back in a whiny tone, “I’m not done!” God, she is such a cow. With every passing second, I become more certain of my decision.
Bitchy mom leans down, and hisses under the door, “We are being asked to leave. Get dressed, now!” Good. Maybe this situation will make her stand up to her spoiled daughter and change her before these bad habits make her a spoiled adult. Another group I truly despise. Meredith comes out and is totally confused. I am holding all the clothes at this point, and mom is ushering daughter towards the door, obviously embarrassed. I do a silent cheer in my head, striking a blow against horrible customers everywhere.
I let the next customer into the vacant room, and maintain an air of professionalism, pretending that nothing had just happened. And for the majority of the customers, nothing had happened. I throw the clothes at a new hire and ask them to put them all back. I called my district manager to let him know what had happened, just in case the lady calls to complain. I mop up the ice that is now nothing more than a growing puddle, and my day returned to normal. For about twenty minutes. That’s when the large police officer who I have referred to as ‘Deputy Doolittle’ since I called him for help with a shoplifter a few years ago and all he did was stare at my chest, which is a modest 34A.
He walks over to me and asks if I was the one who had kicked a shopper out earlier. I told him yes. “She wants to press charges.” He informs me.
“For what?” I demand. He tries not to laugh as he says harassment and embarrassment.
“What? You can sue for embarrassment? Wish I had known that in junior high.” I retort. Luckily for me, he laughs, indicating that he concurs with my assessment.
“She has been downstairs since the incident, and has been filling out paperwork and crying. We will need you to fill out a statement.”
“Statement? I don’t understand.”
“She wants to sue.”
Still confused, I ask, “Who?”
“You.” He says, “And your company.”
“Can she do that?”
“Well, anyone can sue anyone, for anything.” He laughs.
This is definitely the first for me. I was afraid we would get sued the one time a guy tackled a shoplifter, but we didn’t.
I filled out the form, and luckily, nothing ever came of that.
But that doesn’t really explain how I ended up sitting on the couch this February afternoon. My phone rings, I look down at the caller ID, it’s Monica, one of the new dealers. She makes my life more difficult than it should be. “Hearthfalls, this is Valerie!” I cheerfully say into the phone, pretending that I am sitting in an office full of people, rather than alone on my couch.
“Hey Valerie,” her thick Wisconsin accent makes my name sound like some foreign word, “I was looking at this brochure you sent me, and there are some errors in it. I just wanted to see if you could change it and get it back to me before the show next week.”
“Oh, sure. What’s wrong with it?” I ask, convinced that she must be making it up, because I never make mistakes.
“In two places it says, ‘you’ instead of, ‘your.’” I run to the office and grab it. Sure enough, in the second line, I wrote, ‘It will make you home into a showpiece.’ I’m really bad about that.
“I will get those changes made and sent over to you today.” I promise. Knowing that I might not, because that would require putting on clothes, and probably showering. I can’t wait until her home show next week is over. She has called me every day for the past two weeks with something new. She hasn’t even sold any inventory yet, and she’s directing me around like I’m her assistant, rather than the Vice President of a company. Which I am. Technically. OK, pretty much I am a glorified secretary, with an awesome title. Actually, it kind of makes me embarrassed when people ask what I do, and I say I am the Vice President of Operations for a small business. It just sounds silly. I do everything. I work with the dealers, and act as the intermediary between them and our manufacturer. I also sell product to customers via the Internet. I schedule flights for the owner. I work with his brother and have him ship out replacement parts from the warehouse in Atlanta. And I pay the bills, if there is any money in the account to do so. And usually there isn’t. So lately, my job has been to dodge calls from angry people that we owe money to. Or product. I have completely run out of excuses for one lady. And I feel awful when I have to listen to the messages on my machine, in my home, as she describes the situation that happened before I even started working here.
We finish our conversation, and I plunk myself back down on the couch. Mistake laden flyer in one hand, phone in the other. I think I deserve a snack. During my boredom yesterday, I baked a couple dozen cookies, so I help myself to a few of those, and re-read my flyer, just as I did when I stood in Kinko’s prior to having them printed. I skim right over the second mistake, even though I know it’s there. Oh well. I’ll do that tomorrow, I think as I set the flyer beside the empty soda can.
I push a button on my cell phone, so I can see the time. It’s close to three, which means I have managed to waste a couple more hours. Will won’t be home until after 7, so I don’t really need to start cooking until 6:30. I scan the living room, hoping that something exciting might jump out at me. Nothing. The TV is boring and the radio is beginning to grate on my nerves. I consider taking a nap. Not because I’m tired, but because I have nothing better to do. I do what is considered my version of cleaning – picking up scraps of what I consumed today and turn off the TV, and head to the bedroom for my afternoon nap.