My Finest Hour

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Image via Flikr by brew books.

A few weeks ago, shortly after Borders announced they were closing, I found myself walking through the aisles thinking about how much I was going to miss it. It was late and near closing. The manager on duty got on the intercom to let shoppers know to bring their goods to the registers. His last announcement went something like this, “Ladies and gentlemen, the time is now 9:55 and the store will be closing in 5 minutes. Please bring any purchases to the register. Thank you for shopping with us tonight and for shopping with us throughout the years. We appreciate your business. We’ll be open tomorrow and have been told we’ll be open for at least another 6 to 8 weeks…”

It may seem like a simple message but I could hear emotion in his voice. I think it was sadness but maybe that’s just what I wanted it to be and it was really just anger. Whatever it was, it came across really sincere. Whatever he was feeling, it was a lot.

A few days later, I stopped in with my daughters who have been going to the bookstore with me since they were both in utero. I overheard one employee telling a customer she was having a tough time not crying some days. She had worked there for years and had built some really great relationships. Then, this is what got me, she said there were some customers she saw more often than she saw her own family. She was holding back tears.

When I told our 4 year old they were closing her favorite bookstore, she asked why. I told her not enough people were spending money to keep it open. Immediately, she made the connection to a favorite restaurant of hers which had recently closed for the same reason. Since we’ve found out about the closing, we’ve made it a point to stop in as often as we can. It’s a place where we have some really great memories. We used to sit on the stairs and read books together. We’ve faced some of our biggest tantrums there over books. My daughters have learned how you build relationships with the people you see on a regular basis. It’s a special place for us.

Special indeed which is why I was so terribly disappointed last night when we stopped in. Let me break it down.

My daughters and I arrive. We head towards some books for me and run into a friend and her daughter. We take a seat in the aisle and start chatting. The kids, as kids do, begin to play and get a little loud. Louder than I usually let my kids get but they were having a good time with a friend they don’t often see. And considering the store is liquidating everything, most folks are there for the savings, not the experience of hanging out at a bookstore for a few hours. Disgruntled lady worker person walks by and in a very not polite voice with some serious attitude, scolds us to quiet our kids because they’ve gotten complaints and people are trying to shop.

Bull crap.

I hold my kids to some high expectations in terms of their behavior in stores. Completely unrealistic expectations. I also am very much aware of the people around me. My kids had not crossed into the icky waters of being “those kids” and no one had walked by disturbed enough or so engrossed in a book to warrant complaining. Unless of course they were related to said disgruntled lady worker. I smiled and very passively aggressively and way too cheerily said certainly, thanks so much, have a good evening.

I’m very good at being passive aggressive.

My blood was boiling. On fire. However, true to my passive aggressive nature, I sat there with my friend and just laughed it off even though we were both really not happy with the tone we were spoken to. I even made a joke of what I should have said, “If you hope to be gainfully employed after the doors close here, you might want to consider being a bit nicer.” Ooooooooooooh, bad ass, right? I know. Lame and only slightly less passive aggressive.

So we make our way to the children’s section. Disgruntled lady worker is there. I’m festering, replaying all the ways I could have stood up to her. I’ve convinced myself to go over and tell her my very snappy little line about gainful employment. Then I catch a glimpse of my kids and I decide, despite my inner bitch, to take the high road and talk to her like a grown ass adult.

I say excuse me and let her know I agree the kids were being a tad loud. I proceed to tell her I just didn’t appreciate being spoken to the way she did. At which point she turns around and gets way beyond normal bounds of personal space and looks me dead in the eye and says, “I don’t care.” I’m stunned and fuming so much I can barely hear her spew something about the disaster zone that she’s working in everyday. Zen me responds by saying in a pissy voice, “Well, I hope you find happiness. ”

“I am happy.” She snorts like a rhino and starts to go about her business when chipper customer lady says excuse me and asks for assistance.

Which evil gone poastal disgruntled lady worker bitch provides…pleasantly.

If my life were an episode of Ally McBeal, this is where I take the boxes she was putting away and smash one over her head so hard it turns into a clown collar around her neck followed by me shoving a copy of some kind of happiness book into her mouth (too much? it’s ok, I’m a pacifist really, only violent in my imagination).  Instead I stomp over to my kids and try to calm down. My daughter asks what’s wrong with the lady who just made me stomp over. I tell her she’s just very, very sad because she doesn’t have a job (which is probably really, really true).

Like a very reasonable adult, I proceed to take half the boxes she’s working on putting away and casually laying them around the children’s section.

I know. I’m a bad person. It gets worse, though. My oldest caught me putting the boxes everywhere and she asked what I was doing. I told her I wanted to help the sad lady. Bad, bad, bad, bad person. Shame on me. Totally not my finest hour. And so much for not being passive aggressive.

But dammit, it felt so good.

Later I attempted to tell a manager who also seems to be eating the same bitch stew and basically tells me I have no idea what it’s like for them because the store is trashed and blah blah blah. She could have cared less what I had to say. Apparently just about everyone on this shift had gone poastal and were nearing the scary flesh eating zombie stage.

What gets me is this – these people are losing their jobs. Yes, it sucks and it’s a sucky economy. However, each day they wake up and are able to take a breath. No one has said hey you’re losing your job and we’re taking away any possibility of your getting a job EVER and then we’re going to kill you. Nope, no one said that.

I’m an extreme kind of optimist to the point that I think I sometimes make my husband a bit sick. But I appreciate life for what it is – a gift. I have witnessed and heard about too many people losing their life way too soon, children being left parentless, senseless acts of violence, real things to be distraught and miserable over. Disgruntled worker lady (assuming she’s not enduring a tremendous tragedy in her personal life and I realize that’s completely possible in which case I accept my seat in hell for my mess making in the children’s section) needs to suck it up. You lost your J-O-B. Yes it’s a source of income and yes it puts food on the table and shelter over your head. Yes it must suck to work at the store when people trash the place looking for big bargains. But none of that warrants you being rude, mean or plain old unkind.

There are cities burning, children starving and a whole host of unfair events happening in the world right now. You losing your job? Be grateful that’s it. Put on your big girl pants and choose your next adventure. Because the people suffering through real shit are probably smiling a heck of a lot more than you and being a heck of a lot kinder. Your job does not define you. You define you. Scared shitless about how you’ll bring in money? Get resourceful. Everyone’s got skills they can bank on and there’s always someone willing to pay. However, no one will pay you for your shit attitude.

Ok, ok rant over. And now that I’ve said my passive aggressive piece on disgruntled worker lady, a happier tale.

At the same Borders, there are three women who are always exceptionally nice to my daughters and I. Even now as they wait for the place to shut its doors, they’re all smiles and sunshine. And all I can ever think about is how I wish I had a business of my own so I could employ them. That’s how amazing and great their customer service is. The second I heard Borders was closing, it’s these three women that I thought of. I was hoping some worthwhile business owner would snatch them up. These three women would be a gem in any business. And I know it’s not just that they love little kids and are wooed by my daughters. They are kind and sweet to everyone; I’ve seen them in action.

That’s another reason it’s worth something to be kind no matter what. You never know who you’re talking to. You could touch someone’s life with your kindness. They could be your next employer, your future best friend, your future in-law, your long lost sibling, the person who will save your life- you just never know. So while disgruntled worker lady pissed me off royally, she will disappear in my memory. And for years to come I’ll hold on to the sweet women who made going to the bookstore a cozy and welcoming experience.

Ay, ay, ay. Now I’m off to enjoy my Saturday. Promise I’ll be on good behavior today.

Are you passive aggressive? I’ve been trying my darnedest to be less p.a. so my daughters learn to stand up for themselves but it’s hard to shake it. Make me feel better, what’s the most passive aggressive thing you’ve ever done?

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