Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Things That Almost Never Happen

I happen to listen sometimes to this nationally syndicated radio show in the morning that I won't call out by name, mainly because I don't want to bother finding a link. This morning, the topic of their call-in session was horrible things that happened to you during the holiday season working in the service industry. I'm pretty sure they put it more succinctly than I did.

I haven't worked in retail for years and YEARS (for a reason) but I still remember the absolute panic that this time of year inspires in people. Normal people who can usually talk to you sensibly start screaming at you because the print is too light on the receipt or because you messed up their really complicated bagging instructions. Men, who normally don't shop that much say things like, "Well, my wife is about your size, but not as fat. What size would she be?" Dude, a hint, if you call me fat, she's whatever the biggest size we carry is. That way, I still get the sale, but I know that you're getting your rear chewed on Christmas morning.

I laughed maniacally listening to their stories of holiday woe. Including a woman who threw her shoes at a clerk and a man who tried to negotiate down the cost of jewelry at a department store using the current price of gold. One woman called in with a story of a pair of young girls who found her purse (with $500 cash in it) and stood by the customer service desk waiting for her to come back so they could return it. She said, "It was a really nice thing that they didn't have to do and I think that with all the stupid stuff that happens we sometimes forget all the nice stuff that people do, too."

Tonight, I went to the grocery. I loaded my purchases into the back of the car and then began looking around fitfully to determine if I was closer to the cart coral or the store. A very nice gentleman stopped and said, "Mam," (I'll forgive him for that.) "Would you like me just take that for you?"

I've always wondered why more people don't do this. Especially for moms with little ones rolling in the cart. It only takes a second and it's so helpful to the mom who no longer has to figure out how to get the cart where it belongs and the baby back in some horrible type of weather. And you're getting one anyway.

I was overcome I ended up acting a little crazy. Trying like mad to pull Maren out of the cart while her snowboots were stuck and in general panicking that he would shrug and walk away. I ended up taking off her boots in the parking lot and pulling her out without them.

This isn't the first nice thing anyone has done to me this time of year, either. When I was in retail, there was never any shortage of guys to tell me I was fat, but there was also no shortage of people going out of their way to put things back right and say thank you. And while there was always some stressed-put woman ready to cuss you out over the darkness of the receipt ink, there were three of four people waiting in line behind them to give you a sympathetic smile and make sure you knew you were appreciated.

I try to be one of those people. I almost never go in a store this time of year without picking a rack and straightening it. Turning all the hangers the right way and sizing the items. It's just one rack, but it's one rack that, hopefully, some stressed out college kid doesn't have to worry about in a couple of hours.

But frankly, I've been feeling lately like I've been wasting my time. No one else is being careful, I'm just a drop of rain in the desert. Today, it was nice having a couple of reminders that there really is a downpour, it's just that all that sand makes us hard to see. (And yes, terrible analogy, but it's what I got, kay?)

What's the nicest thing that has been done for you this time of year by a total stranger?


Suze said...

The patience people show my kids when they plant themselves in the middle of hte grocery aisle with the kiddie carts so no one can get by. It's one act of grace after another, really.

And my kids both started calling me "ma'am" the other day. I'm not sure where they learned about that (you don't hear "ma'am" much up north unless you are over 50) but I put a right stop to it.

Mrs. Allroro said...

Last night our neighbor came over and said, "I did a bad thing." She had our gas bill and had thought it was hers, which she had paid online long ago. She realized today that it was ours and due yesterday the day before. I thought it was super nice of her to bring it over personally, admit her mistake, apologize and make sure we were okay instead of just sticking it in our mailbox. (D had paid it online almost a month ago.) This was a very nice way to meet a neighbor. (She was a total stranger before that.) Another neighbor nice thing: he didn't actually know he was our neighbor. We had a flat and were fixing it in front of our house. We had to actually pull out the manual just to get the jack out of the trunk, if that tells you how inexperienced we were in fixing a flat tire. We'd spent over an hour studying the pictures, rigging and re-rigging the jack, etc, and D cranking at it so awkwardly to get the car high enough to get the spare on, when the car rolled back off the jack and crashed to the ground. A neighbor around the corner heard it and called out asking if we needed help. He came and fixed the whole thing in about ten minutes. (Late at night in the freezing cold.) We made conversation, and about 3/4 of the way into it, he realized we were actually his neighbors and lived in the house there. Again, a perfect stranger until this point.