April 09, 2014 - 6:59 AM
I can't wait to get off work
and see my baby
she'll be waiting up with a magazine for me
clean the bathrooms, clean um good
oh you're lovin I wish you would
come down here and sweepameoffmyfeet
this broom'll have to be my baby
if I hurry I just might
get off before the dawns early light
Tom Waits, “Can’t Wait To Get Off Work”
For those of us not priming our cigarette boats for yet another season of befouling Lake Okanagan, work is what we do for the biggest portion of most days of the week. And for the true professional in the sales game, we actually love what we do. We get to meet interesting folks, we get to buy and sell some pretty incredible things, and we get to make some true friends along the way. A sense of community develops.
But a guy needs some time off the killing floor, at least temporarily. Right?
Wrong. Not in this day and age of 24/7 availability via email and the many contrivances of the detestable smartfreakingphone. And, incredibly, even if you grind your smartphone under your elegant heel leaving it cracked and crumbling on the concrete, you’ll always have someone petitioning you for service. Maybe that some is YOU, gentle reader.
And this is where my honest-to-goodness-true tale begins…
Christmas 2013 was a few weeks away. And as a music instrument seller, I was awash in the desires and lustings of Christmas shoppers for some time. And I was tired. Dog tired. But not tired enough to resist a sale down at The Bay where I wanted to snag a few dress shirt deals for myself. So I found a slot to wedge the wagon into at the Mall, and while awaiting my Wendy to get off work herself, I busied myself in the cramped aisle of Canada’s oldest retailer looking for dress shirts.
But something was amiss.
Out of the corner of my eye, I sensed a presence: a turtle’s head of sorts, bobbing in and out of the aisle from behind a line of knits on a waterfall display.
I tried to ignore it; but something told me someone was in distress. And then (let’s call him) Petey emerged, rolling up towards me in his motorized cart.
“Hey there. I’ve been rollin’ around this joint for hours, and I can’t find a goddamn soul to help me out. Can you help me, Mr. Man?”
Petey’s voice sounded like a cross between an angry crow and a rusty door hinge. And there he was: an aged and decrepit man in full, old-guy brown wide-wale corduroys worn to a gauzy palimpsest at the knees, requisite checkered flannel shirt tucked into the waistband, and a Bay bag in his lap.
An uncomfortable silence gathered, his eyes boring into mine, while his mouth opened and closed, slick with a viscousy whip of cloudy spittle lengthening and contracting at the corners of his mouth. I was hypnotized.
“The wife bought me the wrong size socks again. She might be mental! And all I want is for you to find the right size. See? I got the receipt right here…” showing me the socks and sales slip from inside the bag resting on his lap. “And, if you play your cards right, I might even buy this here sport shirt offa you!” pointing at yet another flannel checked shirt in the frayed wicker basket duct-taped to his cross bar.
Looking around the department desperately for a saviour and finding none, I noted to old Petey.
“Listen, good sir. I hate to tell you; but I don’t work here. But there’s a sales desk just around the corner at the end of the aisle…”
“C’mon,” said old Pete, “You work here. Don’t tell me different. Look at you! It looks like you own the goddamn place.”
“Honestly, sir. I don’t work here. I’m a customer just like you trying to find the right size shirts.”
“Awwww…” There it was, the crow’s call again. “So that’s how you’re gonna’ play it, eh? You don’t wanna help an Old Guy.”
“NO, sir. I’m telling you, I don’t work here. In fact, I sell instruments just down the highway for a living, and I am honestly here to shop.”
Petey wasn’t having any of it. And he continued staring into my soul as he bent down and seemed to pluck something out of an imaginary bag lying at the foot of his scooter.
“Well… Lemme see… Lemme just reach down here and tuck into my little bag and bring out my tiny violin; and I’ll play you a song.” And with that he raised his arm and fist within inches of my mug and began rubbing his middle finger and thumb together creating no doubt a violin concerto in his mind for my benefit.
Needless to say, I was getting a little antsy already and ended it. “Listen, my good man. I am not an employee here and if you can’t roll on down to a sales desk for help, I don’t know what to say. But I’m DONE!”
And with that, old Petey receeded like a suppressed memory and disappeared into another part of the shop. Phew.
That’s when the smartfreakingphone buzzed in my pocket and picking it up I heard my buddy Adam. I decided to take a break from the shirt-shopping and settled into a nearby sectional to tell Adam my crazy experience, when old Petey rolled up, undeterred, from another of the shop’s flanks. “Adam, I gotta go. You have no idea…”
The scooter was almost on top of my brogues, when old Petey cawed, “Sooo? You just about ready to give a guy some help?” Unbelieveable…
“Sure thing, sir. Happy to. Follow me.”
And with that, I got up off the sectional and led the Old Guy to the sales desk, explained the situation to the helpful employees and wished Petey a Merry Christmas.
“I gotta’ say, Chief,” Petey said. “You’re the best goddamn manager this joint has ever had… And you’ve got a pretty good sense of humour too.”
And with that I was gone. Wendy had finally found me, and we chuckled as we headed back through the shop; but not before an intersecting couple spotted me and asked, “Hey. Can you give us a hand? We’re thinking about buying this sectional….”
No probs, miss. No probs. I’m here to serve you. 24/7.
— Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014