Monday, September 24, 2007

Reflections of a former bookshop girl...

I once heard a saying along the lines of, "Ask me for somebody who has a hatred for mankind, and I will show you somebody who has worked retail."

While I think that is a pretty harsh statement (what, with wars, and starving children, and natural disasters, and diseases and all of that), I can't help but understand where they are coming from.

I worked retail (Barnes and Noble) for several years. I have been gone for over a year, and there are times when I miss it very much. (I even considered getting a part-time evening job at the Borders next-door to Penn Station for a few nights a week...then realized I was crazy for even considering adding that to my already crazy and exhausting commuting schedule).

I miss being on top of every new book that came out...I miss the comrodity I could only share with my Barnes and Noble coworkers (like those times we'd read trashy romance novels outloud to each other after closing, and when we'd break out into a conga-line to Michael Buble's "Save the Last Dance for Me" when we'd get punchy)...I miss my 30% discount...I miss the stripped books...I miss seeing children get excited over reading and dressing up as Hermione for Harry Potter parties...I do miss it all.

What I do NOT miss, however, is the occasional customer that is so unhappy and insecure with their own life that they must go to Barnes and Noble and pick on the random clerk making $8 an hour there.

One wintry, Sunday evening, I put on my coat and gloves and got ready to leave the bookstore for the night. There had been a family sitting in the children's department for a while...they had been rather rude and left quite a mess.

As I started to leave the bookstore, a man walking back into the store stopped me.

Man: Did you find my kid's hat?

Me: Excuse me? (then realizing it was the rude father/husband from before) Oh...I'm sorry, I'm actually on my way home right now, but if anybody found the hat, they would have turned it into Lost and Found over there...(point).

Then my manager called me over to talk about something, and after I finished, I went to my car, and noticed the same man being picked up by his wife in her car.

Wife: THERE'S THE GIRL WHO WORKS HERE! ASK HER IF SHE HAS THE HAT!

Man: I already ASKED her. And you know what the bitch F---ING SAID TO ME? (whiny voice) "I'm offfffffffffffffffff."

I was quite tired after a long day working retail, and spun around and went over to the family and said:

Diana: No, that is NOT what I said to you, I TOLD you that I was going home for the evening and told you where the lost and found was. I'm sorry, SIR, but it is NOT my responsibility to find your child's hat.

Man: (quite taken aback) Um...it's fine...don't worry about it.

Diana: Oh, I am NOT worried about it, but I also was not rude to you, and I don't appreciate you saying that I was.

When I got home, my friend from the bookstore called me to tell me that the ENTIRE FAMILY went back into the bookstore so the wife could complain to the manager about what a "nasty bitch" the girl who works in the children's department is, and how they "just wanted help finding her child's hat" and this "nasty bitch" snapped at them and was very rude.

My friend, who had overheard my first encounter with the man (when I politely explained that I was on my way home and directed him to the Lost and Found) rolled his eyes and shook his head at the woman. My manager, who knew me for a few years and also knew that "nasty bitch" was probably the LAST thing I was, listened to the woman and then laughed when she was out of view.

Makes me wonder...

Where do people get this sense of entitlement from?!

What if I had been a struggling single mother supporting three kids? What if this job was my means to feed them? What if my manager was looking for a reason to fire somebody, and when that mother complained about me, they used it as an excuse to get rid of me?

I try to feel nothing but SORRY for people like that woman who called me, Diana Rissetto, a nasty bitch.

The other day, I was shopping in that big shoestore by the train station. It was a busy Friday afternoon. Narrow aisles. Lots of bags and people and shoes. I knocked into a woman (who I had actually SAID, "Excuse me" to) and apologized right after. She gave me the NASTIEST look I had gotten in a while, and I couldn't help but exclaiming, "Okay, I SAID I was SORRY."

I felt deja vu coming when I was at the Broadway Flea Market on Sunday, and I heard a young woman shout out, "Um, EXCUSE ME, lady."

The lady who had knocked into her (who was an older lady) replied, "I SAID I WAS SORRY BITCH!" She put her hand over her mouth, shocked that the words had come from her.

I was standing next to her, and couldn't help but tell her, "Don't worry, the same thing happened to me in the shoe store the other day...seriously, these people act like you murdered their cat or something."

The lady thanked me, just as the young woman's mother came over and said, "You just called my daughter a bitch...AND SHE JUST GOT STICHES!"

The lady responded with, "At least your daughter is ALIVE! I lost one son to AIDS and one daughter to leukemia!"

There's a point to this...you never know what somebody else is going through.

So just relax.

Be polite.

Smile.

Don't freak out when somebody knocks into you.

We all make mistakes.

It's all going to be okay.