She seemed to be somewhere around 75 or so, her white tipped grey hair thinned over a paled, wrinkled face that told stories I’m not sure I am worthy of hearing. Her back was bent slightly and her knuckles clung to the cart, white as she wobbled forward. I watched her for quite some time over near the necklaces and earrings. Then, feeling I should check on her, I meandered over and asked, “Is there anything I can help you with?” She didn’t smile at me but more kind of oomphed and huffed, “No one can help me,” she gruffly spoke under her breath. I reached out, put my hand on her cart, “I can.” She stopped, looked up at me and laughed. Not a small laugh, but a big, hearty laugh like when you survive the big roller coaster and realize you loved that feeling of almost puking your guts out. Then she handed me the necklace and said, “I don’t even need this. I just get out to prove to them I still can.” I told her the necklace was cheap anyway. We laughed for a long time.
He was upset that no one was in jewelry to help him when he hollered at me from across the way. I ran over quickly, helped him pick out a watch. It was between the silver diamond watch or the gold plated watch and I asked him, “Is this for your wife? Which color does she wear more often?” He lowered his head, “I’m not sure she even knows anymore.” I held the silver one close in my hand and moved it towards him, “I like silver. I think it reflects the light well.” His eyes misted up. He reached into his front pocket and slowly pulled out an old handkerchief, gently wiping his nose and dabbing his eyes before returning it, “She used to be filled with light. Before I had to put her in that God awful home.” I took the watch, put it into the box, and smiled, “Then silver it is.” He thanked me. As he walked away I saw my own husband, possibly many years from our own blessed time now and wondered … would someone comfort him too?
The woman had been seen putting a shirt up her shirt, after trying to rip off the security tag. Managers were called to monitor the customer, to carefully and without being too obvious, watch from a distance until security could be called. She went from one department to the next and I could hear her cursing other employee’s for “stalking me because I’m black,” and I anticipated her coming into cosmetics. She went to the men’s cologne counter. I stepped gently towards her, “M’am, is there anything I can help you with today?” She reared back, knocking several bottles over, “No you can’t f&*(ing help me you sorry stupid white girl, what do you think, I’m stupid? What do you think, I’m an idiot? Can’t even come into a white girl store without being accused of stealing. F&ck you and the horse your shi&t rode in on.” She began to come at me. I put my hand up and said, “I am not doing anything but asking you if you’d like some help with cologne. I do not deserve this.” She walked to the make up counter and knocked over several bottles of make up, throwing my brushes, “Bullsh*t, b(tc&, you are accusing me like everyone else.” I wondered, was I? I didn’t see it, only heard about it. Now, this enraged woman was coming at me and throwing my stuff everywhere. Was it my fault? Did I do something wrong? Wow. This sh*t is really real. The security guard was called and she made her way out of the store, security blocks beeping like crazy as she exited, screaming profanities and giving everyone the bird. And I thought to myself …. “I wish we could just all be kind.” One of the employees made a comment afterwards about that customer having “gone bi-polar” and I whispered, “I’m bi-polar.” And then, that was the end of all of that.
My best friend died this year. Her favorite color was purple and her favorite family symbol was the tree of life. A customer came up to purchase a lot of items and I admit I was upset because none of it was anything I could get commission on. She piled my counter high and then handed me five jewelry boxes that I had to, one by one, open and price. I opened the third one and lost my mind. Crying – not the kind where you slowly get the sniffles and your eyes barely tear over and drip slightly like in the movies but the kind of gutteral cry that comes up and out from a place in your soul you didn’t even know existed. The tears fell hard and the snot followed fast. I felt bad for my customer who was leaning over the counter, “Are you okay? Do I need to call someone?” I finally got myself gathered and though I debated telling her why I was crying, I felt her. I felt her hard, fast, and gently all at once. She said, “Hi Corky. I’m here.” I told the woman. I told the woman why her purple stoned bracelet with a tree of life symbol in silver shook my world. She smiled, “Well, we have to get you one! C’mon!” She led me to the place in the store where they were but sadly, it had been the last one. Back at my register, she whispered, “Take it.” I didn’t want to put her out but she said, “If I take it and wear it I’ll only feel guilty. Please, take it.” I did. Later than evening driving home with the bracelet I heard Amy again, my Angel. She whispered, “Will you please give that to my mom for Christmas for me?” So I did. Thank you customer.
Retail New Year. It’s not always good but when it’s good its great and when it’s bad it’s a reminder of how much better we can truly make our world if we care enough. Be that next customer. Be that next person that someone goes home and tells their family about. Or their blog.
Happy New Year Retailers!