The Accidental Name Change

When I began working for that company, whose name rhymes with Ball Mart, back in the mid 90’s (why, yes, I’m feeling old) it wasn’t long before I transferred to 3rd shift for the night shift pay differential.

Working 3rd shift is a, well, unique experience. Working when everyone else is asleep, and vice versa, takes a lot of getting used to. Weird people go shopping in the middle of the night. Shoplifters shoplift in the middle of the night. The darkness also seems to bring out the crossdressers. At least, around here.

There was a nightly meeting before each shift began. The manager would discuss sales numbers and any other pertinent news. Then, we all had to do stretches. Yes, you read that correctly. There was mandatory stretching before we went out there and busted our asses.

Safety first. You know that company cares for its employees.

One of the stretches we had to do was to reach our arms as far back behind our, um, backs, as we possibly could and hold it while we counted to ten.

One particular night, a coworker – we’ll call her Opal because, you know, that’s her name – performed this particular stretch, but her hand ran into something. Instead of turning around to look at what her hand had struck, she decided to try to figure out what she had found by feeling it.

When I looked over I saw it all unfold. A male coworker was standing there with his arms behind him like he was on jet-powered roller skates, and his jaw was on the floor because his junk was being fondled by Opal, who was completely unaware of the service she was providing.

I burst out into laughter. Donnie, my male coworker, had been shocked into silence. Either that or he was enjoying it. Opal finally turned around to see what she had discovered only to find her hand all over Donnie’s crotch. There was an intense and awkward moment of silence while realization smacked her, and then she snatched her hand back. She repeatedly apologized to Donnie, her face as red as a Starbucks Holiday cup, while Donnie, a good-natured fellow, just laughed it all off.

And that, my friends, is how Opal got her name changed to Gropal.

The Racist Register

Once upon a time, in a retail store not so far away, I was working the customer service desk of a major retailer. I was a manager at the time, but the store was busy so I was helping out at the service desk.

The company (let’s just say its name rhymes with Y’all Fart) for which I worked had just started cashing payroll checks just a few short weeks ago. A woman walked up to me and handed me a paycheck from Staples (yeah, we’ve got that) and told me she’d like to cash it.

Now, the way the check cashing worked is we had to run the check through the register so that the check reader could read (duh) the check number and determine if the check could be cashed. I have no idea what criteria were used to determine whether or not a check could be cashed; all I know is that the register determined whether or not we could.

So I accepted the check from her and ran it through the register. It was declined. I tried again thinking that maybe the check wasn’t read correctly. It was denied again.

I inhaled sharply (as bad news never goes over well) before I informed her that I wouldn’t be able to cash her check. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but the check has been declined.”

This (obviously) dampened her mood.

“I’ve had a check cashed here before.  Now all of a sudden you can’t cash my checks?” she growled.

“I apologize, ma’am, but the register has declined your check and there’s nothing I can do about it.” I explained unhelpfully. There really was nothing I could do. We were forbidden from overriding the register’s decision to decline a check.

“Is it because I’m black?” she asked angrily.

Her accusation hit me like a punch in the gut. I was shocked. She could see perfectly well that the register had declined the check because there was a display facing her that said so. I had never been accused of being racist before. I’m not a person who’s often at a loss for something to say. I have a quick wit and a sharp, sarcastic tongue. But her question straight dumbfounded me. It would never even occur to me to deny somebody service based on any physical attributes a person possessed.

“Ma’am, I assure you that the register has no idea what color you are. I apologize again, but if the register denies the check there’s really nothing I can do,” I tried again.

“I wanna talk to a manager,” she demanded.

Now, at this particular time, the managers at the store I worked at had a choice between wearing a dress shirt and tie or wearing a polo shirt underneath a company vest.  I hate (fucking hate) dress shirts and ties, so I always wore a polo shirt and a vest.  I can see how that might be somewhat confusing, but the name badge I was wearing clearly stated that I was a manager.

“I am a manager, ma’am,” I informed her.

“No, you’re not. You’re wearing a vest. Managers don’t wear vests. Get me a manager,” she obstinately commanded.

I didn’t quite know how to argue with that “logic,” so I gave her a look which clearly asked, “Are you fucking serious?” but she didn’t budge. I left her stewing in her anger and found a manager who hadn’t made the mistake of wearing a vest to work. I explained what was going on and was rewarded with the same, “Are you fucking serious?” look I had just worn a few short moments before.

“I know,” I said, exasperated, “but she refuses to believe I’m a manager.  Can you go tell this woman we can’t cash her check?”

Now, this other manager was running a register because, as I said, we were busy. So I had to find someone to take over for him so he could come tell this stubborn woman that we couldn’t cash her check.

After I had found someone to take over for the other manager, we both headed back to the customer service desk where I stood behind the other manager and stoically listened to her tell him that I was a racist. The manager explained to her that I was, in fact, not racist and offered to try to cash the check again for her.  He signed on to the register and ran the check through. It was denied again. He explained to her the same thing I had. The register denied it and there’s nothing we can do for her.

I braced myself for a toddler-like outburst. I was ready for us all to be declared racists and the entire company a phantom branch of the KKK. Even as ready as I was for her rebuttal, her response still shocked me. She said, “Okay,” grabbed her check, and left the store.

That other manager was just as white as I am (I actually think he was whiter) but why was he not accused of racism? He didn’t do anything differently than I had. Was it because he was taller? Was it because of his kick-ass mustache? (Seriously, this guy’s mustache could give Tom Selleck’s mustache a run for its money.) Was I just the target of her initial rage upon learning she’d have to go elsewhere to cash her check?

Sigh…

People suck. This was but another brick in my wall of misanthropy.

Do You Guys Carry Bras?

I went into retail straight out of high school. I stayed in that horrid industry for the next 14 years. During that time I witnessed copious amounts of stupidity. Sometimes, not surprisingly, that stupidity was my own.

Not long after I started working for the largest retail chain in the world (AKA The Mecca – shout out to Evil Squirrel), I was deemed trustworthy enough to run an entire department. By myself. Obviously these guys didn’t know that I could barely keep my room organized, balance a checkbook, or put my shoes on the correct feet and they were going to give me an entire department to run? I guess my hard work, dedication, and massive intelligence duly impressed the management team. Or, as is more likely, I was the best of a plethora of unqualified candidates.

I was given the keys to the automotive department (get it? ha!), which would have been great if I had known the first thing about cars. At that point in my life the only thing I could successfully do to a car was fill it with gas and turn the ignition switch. Oh, and wreck it. I didn’t know the first thing about routine maintenance, car audio, or even how to properly apply a fresh coat of Turtle Wax®. I was, quite frankly, ill-equipped to perform this job. Luckily I’m a quick learner and within a couple of months I could adequately answer questions about the products we carried.

During those first couple of months, however, there were some growing pains. Not long after I accepted the position I was out on the sales floor placing orders for motor oil when a tall gentleman dressed simply in a flannel shirt and a pair of worn blue jeans approached me with an inquiry. “Do you guys carry bras?”

Of course we carry bras, you dolt, this is the largest retail chain in the world. We carry everything! We have an entire lingerie department!

I was befuddled by the man’s question. I mean, I could answer it, but I wasn’t sure why he was asking me. In the motor oil aisle of all places. Shouldn’t he be asking someone in the apparel department? You know, where the clothes are? Where the underwear is? Furthermore, why is this man shopping for bras? Is he a cross-dresser? Am I in the presence of a weirdo?

Doing my best not to convey what an idiot I thought this man was with my tone, I timidly responded. “Yes, we carry bras, but they’re over in the lingerie department. . .”

He chuckled. “No, not those bras.”

I was stumped. What other kind of bras are there? What kind of ass have I just made of myself?

“I meant car bras,” he explained.

The utterly bewildered expression on my face must have betrayed the fact that I had absolutely no freakin’ clue what he was talking about because he continued. “You know, the things that go over the front of a car? Over the headlights?”

A car bra. Or is it simply a mask for your car to hide the shame it feels from hauling your ignorant ass around?

Somewhere deep in my cavernous mind a light bulb flickered to life. I finally knew what he was talking about. I immediately began wondering why in the hell they’re called bras. What a dumb name for something that goes on a car. Then, the ardent shame of embarrassment began burning my cheeks and I very swiftly told him that, no, we don’t carry those kind of bras.

I then vanished as quickly as I could manage so that no one else could see my crimson cheeks or learn what I had just so ignorantly done.

Sadly, after having learned what a car bra was, I was never asked that question again as long as I worked there, which is just how my luck goes.

Isn’t that what a doctor does?

Editor’s Note: I have over three years worth of material from my old blog. I have decided to begin reposting some of that old material since most of my current audience wasn’t around during those times. I’m starting with this piece, because it is one of the most important things for you to understand here. There is a certain form to concurring, and this piece will explain it.

Originally posted on January 2, 2013…

Many, many years ago, in a retail store far, far away…  I was at work.  And it sucked.  But that’s not what I’m here to tell you about.  I’m at work now, and it sucks.  Some things never change.

Anyhow, a coworker and I were discussing…something.  I don’t remember the exact subject matter of our conversation, but the coworker expressed an opinion on something with which I agreed, so I said, “I concur.”

Then, a really, really dumb blonde (is there any other kind?) coworker who happened to overhear our conversation interrupted us with this gem:  “Concur?  Isn’t that something a doctor does?”

Well, there was a unicorn... and, ummm. I'm a terrible liar!

“Yes,” I quipped, “only a doctor can concur.  Didn’t you know I run a lucrative medical practice during the day and only moonlight as a destitute retail worker?”

That line is one of the most unintentionally hilarious lines I have ever heard. Evidently, someone had seen Catch Me If You Can one too many times.

From that moment on those in the know (you are now a part of this fortuitous group) always ensure the statement, “I concur,” is dutifully followed with, “like a doctor.”  In fact, if you are in the know, it is mandatory that you concur only like a doctor.

So you have a mission, oh faithful readers.  When somebody concurs, it is your mandate to ensure they do so just like a doctor.  Go forth, and spread the word.