Tag Archives: The Man

Out Manned

 
The Man was already screaming at The Cashier by the time I turned off my iPod and caught on. I was buying bread and Drano®.[1] There was a line of people behind him, trying very hard to ignore what was happening or, like me, openly gawking at what was happening.

Cashiers have it hard. Sometimes they have it real bad.

There are certain inevitabilities to being a cashier and I think it has a lot to do with the obligations of the job and the expectations that surround it. Of being professionally servile and acting as if this were a feat of personality rather than a fact of cold hard survival.

Service with a smile.

This is true for a lot of places.

This may as well have happened: there was spittle flying from The Man’s bottom lip. He was, in any case, livid, screaming about The Cashier’s “stupid manners,” refusing to believe that the bouquet of flowers he wanted to purchase could be so “fucking expensive”. [2]

Taking abuse with poise and fortitude – keeping cool, absorbing it all until the incident passes or until management arrives to deal with the Difficult Situation – this is what separates committed employees from the unambitious dregs just out to get a paycheck.

The flowers were for The Man’s moth-er! Did the cashier not understand?

In this way, everyday abuses get disregarded, and managers don’t always come to help.

Hedging bets against the customer makes more sense than counting on them for anything.

The Man brandished that bouquet at the cashier. “Brandished” (vb. to wave or flourish [something, esp. a weapon] as a threat or in anger or excitement) is the word.  Had The Cashier been trained at all? How did she even get the fucking job since she obviously can’t even handle this obviously simple fucking transaction? No, he did not want a price check you stupid fucking girl.

I was a cashier for a while, and it was hard and sometimes real bad.  Working too few and too many shifts, standing for hours on end, earning next to nothing is hard; having to deal with other people’s total fucking bullshit is sometimes real bad.

Hell is.

The Cashier was poised and she had more fortitude than I imagined even possible in her difficult situation, but it was wearing heavy on her. It was very obvious by now that there was nothing she could say or do to appease The Man, even if she really wanted to.

Finally and thank god:

“Rachel,” the cashier next to The Cashier announced over our heads, “I’m calling The Manager.”

The Man scoffed, did not bother to turn around. “Go ahead and call the fucking manager! I’ll give her as good![3]

But The Manager did not come.  I don’t know why.  We waited forever until, finally, someone did come.

A man dressed in white.  A man whose motorhead mustache seemed to drip with the same blood that spattered his apron. A man whose solid, concrete frame and massive stature casually dwarfed those around him.

The Butcher.

The Butcher's Shop by Bartolomeo Passerotti c.1580

His arms knotted in work muscles – solid, but not quite defined – sleeves rolled up to reveal body hair as black as holy sin, he had come from the back of the store to tell The Cashier that The Manager was not there. He didn’t know why.

Service with a smile means survival of the fittest. You have to adapt.

“Hey! Over here, Bruce!” It was Rachel.

“What’s up?” asked The Butcher, looking at her curiously.  She directed his gaze with her gaze to The Man, standing there, agape.

Taking half a step, The Butcher turned to face The Man.

“What?” He may have barked it. He crossed his meaty butcher arms as he said it.

“I…nothing,” muttered The Man, wholly uncurious, the exact opposite of anything approaching curious.  Keeping at least one eye on The Butcher, he dropped a few bills and coins on the counter, hesitated, and took some back.

Rachael took his money, rang him up and tossed him his change. Hard. As soon as she was done, she excused herself to the old lady standing behind The Man and hurried to somewhere in the back of the store, away from the cash register.

You can’t pay someone to care.  You can’t not pay them to care, either.

I wondered idly how much of her shift she had left.

The Man shoved the change into a worn pocket. He left the store, flowers in hand, less now like a scepter than a lot of dead weight he had to drag all the way home.

They were limp. Obviously, he squeezed too hard.

 


[1] Mutually exclusive purchases, I assure you.

[2] Actual quotes.

[3] ???

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The Kindness of Strangers

 
I get greetings in the street all the time and this, I’ve long accepted, is not an outcome of anything specific to my being as a person, nor does it have much to do with my being as a person as it pertains to being a person walking in the street as the greetings happen overwhelmingly whenever I’m out walking with Lou.

To be completely honest about it, the greetings are overwhelmingly for Lou with – at most – a few offhand hellos and hi theres for me. I am oddly appreciative of this, since it at least relieves me of that great social burden of Small Talk with Strangers. I get to be less polite; I get away with a not insignificant rebuff of my own.

Nothing or nothing much for me?  Moving right on along!

Tit for tat.

Lou was with me the day at the Farmer’s Market with the encounter with The Man.

The St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market is a well-kept affair, refuge to bleary-eyed suburbanites, their dogs and children alike.  It’s a fine place to take the in-laws, if they’ve never been there before or haven’t been there for a Good Long Time.

It is a quaint but not without a certain flair; quaint, but not unassuming.

A double negative kind of place, with a petting zoo and buggy rides in the summer and year-round kettle corn.

You can get kale there, and baby chickens.

Handicrafts.

Meat and cheese.  Sorry.  Meats and cheeses.

You know it.

TUBS OF SAUCE? You know, you can get those too.

The Man was seated just outside the food court doors on a decorative, undoubtedly handcrafted bench.  He was clutching a bag of dog treats (you can get those at the Market too!) and scanning the passersby with his big, watery eyes. He saw Lou as we walked by and said hello to Lou, and as he said his hello to Lou, he reached deep into the bag, extracted one brown toasted treat and offered it to Lou, stopping just shy of Lou’s inquisitive doggy nose. It was a fluid, graceful motion, a well-practised almost instinct.

Seamless.

Lou backed away from the Man’s outstretched arm and open hand and retreated to his fallback position behind my legs. We backed away from him, intentions clear.

But the Man was not deterred.

Head up, big, watery eyes set to motion again, scanning, scanning, Lou and Lou’s rejection apparently totally forgotten, it didn’t take The Man long to find them: other dogs, other owners, many of whom were at first rather pleased by the attention and then rather perplexed by the situation.

For the Man, he had dog biscuits, LOTS of dog biscuits (possibly even expensive ones), but no dog.  Neither doggy hide nor doggy hair.

          Not.

A.

          One.

And no words spared for human ears; none so much as wasted.  He addressed the dogs and the dogs alone with man-sized, childish glee – “Hello little boy! Hello big girl! You a good doggy, hmmm?” – big watery eyes lighting up, for instance, when a little brown and white shih tzu pulled violently away from its wary owner and accepted a biscuit with manners that even by dog standards seemed voracious and sloppy.

The dog was happy, the man was happy, the owner, who knows? I was happy Lou refused the biscuit.

Which leads me to wonder.

How many inevitable rejections occurred that day? And for whom?

But for whom?

Looking at it from all sides, I cannot not conclude that that depends on who was really in control after all.

Dogs and all.

It knowingly nose.

The nose knows.

 

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