View Full Version : Take my car. Please.

06-06-2007, 11:01 PM
I'm not actually sure how to categorize this event but since I sympathize with the customer, I'll plop it down and let the mods move it as they will.

I wrote this account several years ago; back in the days when digital recorders were fancy-schmancy-geek-only gadgets. The one I carried had a work-related purpose but that's a whole other story.

I'm quoting my original text with one or two minor modifications.

This was a tough one.

She was in her late fifties. Her buggy was loaded down with balloons, flowers, baby food, pots, pans, frozen pizzas, strawberries...

I noticed her nervously looking around, stopped as others went through the line before her.

It was the beginning of my shift. My brain was in low gear. I assumed that she was just another crazy getting cold feet before trying to pass a bad check. My cashier knows how to handle them.

When he called me and told me that she told him that she'd lost her wallet, second gear kicked in. That's usually followed by, "It's in my car. I'll be right back." Whatever they've stuffed in their pants goes bye-bye.

This one hung around. Something was really bugging her.

"Keep an eye on her and call me if she starts making trouble", said I to my cashier.

*Ring* "She says that if she loses it to send her to St. Mary's and not the mental ward. She's offered her '04 Maxima as payment."

"On my way."

When we found her, she was in tears.

"I feel so stupid", she told me.

Since I could have easily nailed her with an elbow to the nose, I decided to look into her tears. Yup. I had the little recorder with me. Can't share it just yet.

Me: What can we do to help you, hon?
Her: Oh, thank you for being so nice to me. I feel so stupid for crying.
M: Are you down a little bit? What?
H: *Tears*
M: Here, let's go sit down up here for a little bit.
H: Thank you all for being kind. I'm sorry for crying.
M: No no no no no. Don't feel sorry.
H: I'm just feeling... K...
M: Have you had any problems in the past? I mean, is something bothering you?
H: Oh yeah. My son got killed. (noticed a surgical scar on the right side of her neck. Blocked artery? Stroke?)
M: Recently?
H: A year ago.
M: Starting to hurt, isn't it?
H: *sigh* Yeah.
M: I'll bet ya. I'll bet ya. (flashback)
M: Can you tell us what it looks like so we can help you search for it? (purse)
H: Brown
M: About how big is it?
H: (indicated something about the size of a paperback book)

Before sitting her down, I asked her if she wanted me to call the police since she might have some credit cards in there that a thief might try to use. She hadn't thought about that and encouraged me to call the cops.

I did and left her to herself. When I went back to check on her, she was gone. When I shrugged the question to my cashier, he pointed to the door. Out I went. She was sitting in her car with the door open, talking to another customer who was admiring her car. I memorized the plate first and then told her, "they're on their way, hon. Don't go anywhere."

H: Oh, I'm not. I just wanted a cigarette.
M: You hang tight. Help's right here.
H: Thank you so much.

I backed off but waited. Two cruisers pulled in from different directions. I pointed. They approached. I went back to work.

I played the audio for my wife after giving her a less detailed description than you've read.

Wife: She wanted her dead son's pictures back.

Now, go back to the top of this post and look at the shopping list.

I hope what I did was "good enough". I may never know. She was someone's mom.

Years later, I can't picture her in any detail but I can vividly recall the emotions I felt when it happened. Suffice it to say that she caused me to see customers in a different "initial light".

06-09-2007, 05:14 AM
Wow. Just wow.



06-09-2007, 03:31 PM
I... I really don't know what to say, except to echo Bella. Wow.

07-06-2007, 06:15 AM
As you can imagine, I appreciate the "wow" factor since I was there to experience it first-hand.

I can't pin down exactly when it was that I started actually feeling sorry for people who seem to make sport of griping at retail workers. Neither do I document the growth of my toenails. I simply deal with them as I must.

The experience in the first post is like a tattoo on my soul. Whenever some crotchety old hag bitches about not being able to purchase smoked sea salt from my store, the first thing that pops into my head is, "that person must have issues, they don't know how to deal with them and they're turning their angst on some faceless stranger".

Once I realized that the bitching was something to pity and not a personal attack, it made it easier for me to shove the reflexive emotions aside and at least act like their "problem" is of utmost importance. In most instances, (depending on the attitude level) their "problems" easily BECOME my primary concern. It's surprising what a few minutes of intense interest in someone else's troubles can do.

For instance:

My children went with me to get my vehicle registration renewed.
As I was helping them out on the passenger side, I noticed my daughter looking over my shoulder.

I glanced back and saw a woman with a walker hobbling in our direction.

My daughter, without so much as a word, made her way in the lady's direction and helped her to her car. She opened car doors and assisted folding the walker for stowage at which point I couldn't help but team up with her. I escorted her for perhaps five feet, arm in arm, and saw nothing but smiles in my peripheral vision.

My daughter was the super-hero. I contrived several ways of letting her know that fact but at some point, parental praise loses it's luster. Instead, I bragged to our unit manager about the good deed she did and asked if he would present her with a gift card I had purchased under one condition:

She was not to be told that it was from me.

More smiles happened at that point and the presentation made my daughter blush with excitement and pride.

That day, as I was leaving work, a traffic light bottlenecked ahead of me as a stalled vehicle with flashers going blocked the intersection. Several cars ahead of me simply pulled around and went on as the driver attempted to push his minivan to a nearby service station.

When I got behind him, I had that option.

Instead, inspired by my daughter, I pulled to the side, set my own flashers on, ran up to the passenger side and pushed.

Looking through the window toward the driver, I first saw a look of surprise on his face as he seemingly gained superpowers. Then I saw a smiling, elderly lady looking up at me from the passenger seat.

I gave neither of them the opportunity to say a word once the vehicle was safe. I just took in and mirrored their smiles before running back to my own vehicle.

I told my wife this story and she passed it on to my daughter with a specific message. Her reaction went like this:

Daughter: You mean I inspired Daddy?
Wife: You sure did.
D: So, if people help other people for no reason, they might be inspired to help someone else?
W: Sometimes it works that way.
D: Wow! I didn't know it was so easy to be a superhero!

As amazing as it sounds, she's absolutely right.

Enough of this sappy bullshit.
Note to self: Write about the ribs and the styro. Done.