Mata in Gardenland
Yesterday I went out to get the last bit of plants for my garden. (YeahRightSure said the garden addict.) It is a porch garden and my screened in porch is a flight up. My bedroom opens onto it with French doors. Here is a snap of last year's garden so you get the idea. This year's is more involved. I also plant outside the door along the walkway, so it is a major undertaking for one person. Plus, I (with my bad back) have to lug all this stuff upstairs - dirt, plants, hanging baskets, etc. But it is worth it; and I have developed some ways to make it much easier.
Until yesterday. What follows is a light hearted mini-rant about the checkout lady at the garden center and me. Actually is about me fighting myself to not be a jerk of the first order.
OK here is the scene. It is about 90 degrees. I have a shopping cart with about a dozen plants on it. I am standing in a long line outside in the sun waiting to get to the outdoor checkout stand.
This stand is supposed to make it convenient for everyone. It is like a little booth. The woman inside is cool as a cucumber because she has two big fans blasting and a large iced tea.
People outside are not cool. They are standing in line complaining. The wait is long. The sun is hot. In front of me and behind me people are surley. My back is doing the equivalent of howling in silent pain. No matter, think I -- this will be over soon and I can get the plants upstairs...oh gee, that flight of stairs is gonna hurt...OK, no matter, the plants are lovely and it will make me happy.
I finally get to the clerk. She is about my age, but looks a lot tougher. I get this instant mental image of her cracking chewing gum and waiting on big, burley drunks in a roadside bar. They are afraid of her. OK, I think, let that image go -- she is probably a delightful granny.
"Didja have to put them in the cart THAT way?" she scowls at me. "I have to reach to see the prices."
I look at my cart and cannot see how I might have made it easier for her -- unless I had only bought a plant or two. The people behind me are now starting to argue between themselves about whether or not they should have shopped today. I hear phrases like "your mother" or "why do you ALWAYS.."
This is not good. By now the sun is beating down in earnest and I feel a small rivulet of sweat in front of my ear.
I look at the clerk. "How can I help?" (I think this is the Christian response. I will be a good person. That will be my approach. I will rise above the stress and do the right thing.)
"You want to help? Get all these people to go home."
She isn't joking.
"Short of that?" I ask. I smile at her.
She gives me a bad look. "VISA or Mastercharge?" she asks. I hand her the card. I hesitantly ask her "Could you put those plants in plastic bags for me?"
"You want them in bags? Take a tray over there instead."
"Actually, the tray doesn't work for me. I have to get them up a flight of stairs and it is easier for me to carry them in bags."
"Take the tray."
I take a deep breath, reminding myself that this woman is my sister in Christ. I run my mind by about 25 unkind things I want to say as the sweat starts to drip down my back. The people behind me are now almost hissing at eachother and the phrases have changed to things like "I never should have..." "When we get home..." "If you think you ever..."
I ask politely "Is there a problem with getting bags?"
"It is just that a tray is a better choice."
The woman behind me now hisses to her husband "If the &^%$^;ing idiot in front of us would just take the &*^$ing tray..."
"Just ring it up -- I'll pass on the tray if you don't have bags. It's OK. " By this point I figure I will just stop off at the supermarket on the way home and get a few things and ask for some extra bags. Problem solved.
The clerk looks at me "Oh, I HAVE bags."
I say nothing but I imagine that my face looks as though she had just hit it with a wet mackeral. I assemble my composure and ask, "May I have them then? I'll bag my plants myself if that is the problem."
"No. You cannot have them. I only have a few bags."
I try to figure this out. It is not computing. By now the people behind me are speaking in an Eastern European language. At least I do not recall ever hearing phrases like that in English. I can feel my shirt clinging with sweat unattractively to my upper back.
"I can't have any of them?"
"If I give YOU any of these bags, then I won't have enough for the next person who wants bags, now, will I." She looks at me as though I would get the Olympic Gold Medal for Stupidity.
I realize that I have a few choices. I could go postal. Bad idea. I could just say something sarcastic. Nah, I'd feel bad later. I can no longer manage to say anything sympathetic. My good-will-angel-wings appear to have been shot off.
I just say, with a tone of utter defeat -- "No problem. I'll just ..er...um..go." I have lost the ability to be pleasant, but am determined to not be mean. I want to be mean. I want to compare her to anything but a summer's day. The best I can manage is a retreat.
I start to leave. She says "Don't forget the bags," and heaps the small bunch of them into my cart.
And then, as I walk to my car I hear the obligatory phrase -- "Thank you for shopping with us. Have a nice day."
I am dumbfounded. I understand nothing about the above communication. Perhaps I was momentarily abducted to Pluto?