The Woolly Mammoth in the Room


When salespeople come up to me in the store an ask “are you ok?” “You still doing ok?” “Are you finding everything ok?” “Do you need any help?” I really want to say, “No, I’m not ok. The price of these jeans has just influenced an existential crisis. Oh, and now I’m wondering if clothes are even all that necessary. Maybe we’d all be happier if we were naked!” And when she looks at me, bewildered. I’ll say, “Oh, you meant did I want you tell help me spend more money than I have on clothes that will probably be useless the first time I wash them? No thanks! I’m pretty damn good at that.” And I hope that when this happens I have a pair of sunglasses I can put on dramatically and say, “Oh yeah.”

If I ever own a store, which is entirely unlikely because I worked in the special tenth level of hell and wouldn’t subject anyone to that, but if I did, All the salespeople would be busy doing other things. You’d have to ask them for help. When you asked, you’d probably have 15 of them working on the problem, getting you hot coffee and a chair with a footstool while you wait for the problem to be solved. But I certainly wouldn’t have a store with any Nosey Nellies working in them.

When I worked retail at an incredibly large, popular, and unusually evil (ok, it’s probably not really evil; I probably just don’t like working there.) store that I will not name for fear that they will sue me and find that the only asset I have is this blog and it makes nothin’. So let’s just call the woolly mammoth in the room eh? Anyway, I’m rambling, but when I worked for the fossilized elephant-like megafauna in the room management insisted that we stop customers to ask how they were doing. We were not allowed to say “Can I help you?” because that phrase was taken over by passive-aggressive homeowners answering the doors to evangelists of varying religions and had thusly gained a certain kind of connotation. Rather, we were expected to say “How can I help you?” In the training videos, a woman with bangs that she could’ve smuggled drugs under said that to a customer whose glasses were so large they were magnifying his teeth. She sounded like she was on a lot of Prozac. He responded with enthusiasm for the products our mystery store sells. An enthusiasm I never saw in any customer. Personally, I felt asking “How can I help you?” was only slightly more polite than walking up to a shopper and sticking random things in her cart. “Oh you look like you could sure use some jock itch cream, ma’am. How about an eight pack of teething rings?”

Anyway, my only consolation working there was that I met some really interesting characters, and I think I can actually thank that early retail work for my desire to stay in academia and find other ways of making a living. In the end, I think it can be a sorry job, and I’m grateful for those people who still manage to be cheerful while they do it.

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About charliegreenberry

I grew up in the wilds of New Mexico in a strange combination of free and restricted. Now, as I stumble unwillingly into adulthood, I find memories resurfacing. So I dust them off, sand them, slap on a coat of paint and display them with the hopes that at some point they'll make sense and pull the room together. The blog is a space for writing, for sharing, someday sharing without worrying about who is reading it, and a place to practice. Virginia Woolf said, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Well, here's to having a room at least.
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