Parking lot radiating heat on a blastingly hot tax-free Sunday in August could make a person cranky. I am bracing myself. As we head towards the Sears entrance I say twice, “I am going to be patient.”
My husband scoffs.
“What?” I say. “You’re rigid. I’m impatient.”
It is a story we have played out in many variations for almost 27 years. It’s not a revelation so much as a minor act of atonement. Moments ago at the Dedham Street light, we were talking about how our younger son tends to get stuck in negative thinking. I asserted, “He gets his rigidity from you, you know.”
(Oh dear. Sometimes I AM my mother).
The list of back-to-school and life-with-dog purchases is long. Considerations of BTUs and counter space, closet space, floor attachments, and dirt retrieval systems. I can hardly focus on details like these at the best of times, never mind as it’s becoming clear that there’s no one available to help us. Thank Goodness Mr. Rigid is also Mr. Detail! Choices are made.
When it comes time to pay NO ONE is at the register. It had been staffed, but no more. I park myself there anyway and send K off to look for a toaster, noting that it might take a half an hour before help arrives. This is called ‘managing expectations.’
“Look upstairs in housewares,” I suggest. But he can’t shake the idea that little appliances ought to be next to big appliances and stays on Floor One.
Finally, a clerk arrives, but with a customer in tow. I’ve now stood there waiting (patiently?) for what feels like a long time. I’m glad they’ve arrived, not because it appears that I’ll be waited on any time soon, but because I had been considering taking $200 out of my wallet and waving it overhead while jumping and hooting, “Anyone take my money? Anyone?!!”
Because that’s how I think about moments like these.
K returns empty-handed. “It looks like we’re supposed to go ‘out there’ and FIND a clerk,” I say. What else can it be?!! The customer finishing up confirms. She is grey-haired and TALL, standing at LEAST five foot eleven. “There’s a woman with a clipboard out there who’s taking names so people can be served in order.” She adds, “To prevent hostility.”
Hostility is miles away, but patience? I’m still trying, though, and joke that at five feet, I can’t really SEE ‘out there’ (and in fact, I can’t… the rack with the vacuum attachments blocks my sight lines). It is both a nod to her tremendous height and a covert way of saying, “What good is a woman with a clipboard if you don’t know she exists?!!”
Fortunately, the clerk understands that the system might be backfiring at this very moment. “I’ll take you next,” she says.
Those four words rehabilitate me. Better yet, she tells K that toasters are “upstairs in housewares.” He gets a look. She sees the look. K says to her, “That’s funny, because I’m NEVER wrong!”
The clerk, who has by now completely won my heart, quips, “THAT is a brave man!”
A toaster-errand up on Two and an Ocean Job Lot run later, and I am hosing off two bricks in the front yard. Inside, I wrap them in foil. How nice that I made basil/garlic butter last week — it means I’m gonna serve my guys killer paninis.
And I do.
Another good day.