How we keep going…

I was telling a customer this afternoon about some (just some) of the funny, eccentric, irreverent, sweet exchanges I had had with customers on just this one day.  He said, “That’s how we keep going.”  I felt totally understood.  I said, “That’s it – I’m going to write a blog post about this and that’s going to be the title, ‘How we keep going’.”  It’s probably true that “you had to be there”.   In the written word, none of these exchanges may be as funny as they were real time – and manic – but they may give you some idea of the kinds of things that keep us going, at Earth Fare and maybe at any retail job.

  1. The 65ish woman holds up the wrapped package from the meat department and playfully says, “I almost walked out without paying for this.”  I, more playfully, say “I would have chased you down and tackled you.”  She, with a big twinkle in her eye, says “Maybe I should do it.”
  2. The young woman, trying to puzzle her way through all the steps of the keypad, says ”I think I just screwed this all up…no, I think it’s going to be all right.”  I say “Everything’s gonna be alright.”  I break into song, “Don’t worry…”  She misses just three bars before joining in  “…about a thing” and we continue to sing, to reach other as, with her transaction successfully complete, she heads for the door “cuz every little thing gonna be alright.”  It was an exceptionally sweet moment – so perfect that, relating it here, I tear up.
  3. This guy picks up an item from the “impulse purchase” rack next to my cash register.  “Is this Spry gum good for you?”  “Everything in the store is good for you – including the Coca Cola.”  I love it that we consider the “Mexico Coke” healthy because it has real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  Sometimes when someone is buying a bottle, I will hold it up and proudly proclaim: “It’s health food!  It’s got sugar!”
  4. This guy says “Your card is on our frig – I think my wife has plans to read your blog, maybe someday.”  I assume she has the card from this grocery store blog and give him the card from my activism blog (releasingtheforce.com).  “Here, you can add this to the collection.”
  5. I know the guy who hesitates with his cart at the head of my empty line.  “Are you ready to check out?”  “I’ve got to get one other thing.”  “Well your time is up – you have to leave now.”
  6. I know the six year old girl riding in her mother’s shopping cart.  As they pull by me to leave, she asks if I have any stickers.  “Gee honey, I’m sorry but I don’t.”  When they get several steps away, I’m moved to call out “I’m still a nice man!”  Without hesitating or turning around, she calls out “I know you are.”
  7. My shift is over and I am organizing my stuff at the front end to go home.  One of my colleagues asks, in front of several customers, “Are you going home?”  I say, “Yes, because I can’t stand it any more!”  It’s part play, part for real – and really kind of thrilling to say.
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More talking trash – BS primero

Here’s the most over-the-top piece of BS I have ever purveyed to a customer.  It’s up against some stiff competition – I do go on – but I think this is genuinely the most outrageous bit of craziness I have slung.

This young woman was having a lot of trouble finding her “Healthy Rewards” frequent shopping card in her wallet.  She was getting pretty frustrated – maybe part of me was just trying to take her off the hook.

“Did they teach you the song?”

“Song?”

“Yeah, the Healthy Rewards song.”

“No.” (What’s going on here?)

“Yeah, the card can get kind of shy in your wallet and the song helps it relax and come out.” (OMG, she’s still kind of buying it!  I can’t believe this.  It’s a little scary to be so far out over my skis, but it’s also a blast!)

“Really?” (This guy is nuts, but I don’t know how to get out of this so I’ll play along.)

“Yeah, let’s try it.”  By the time I actually wrapped my hands around her wallet and started to hum this little made up song, it had all gotten so out of control that I could barely take it.  Then her eyes caught mine and I knew that she had finally woken up from the spell – and we both laughed really hard.

Talking trash in the checkout line

I don’t know where I got my penchant for bullshit, but definitely one thing that for me helps the day go by at work is saying a lot of stuff that there is no way I mean.

My son was definitely on to this quality of mine at an early age.  I think he was probably ten, maybe twelve, when he heard me giving a line of shit to some friend who was buying it hook, line and sinker.  Now part of the joy of this shit-slinging is to make it so over the top that the receiver could really see right away that they are being teased – but to do it with such feigned seriousness that, unless they know this part of you, they still are sucked in by the story.  When I really had this person way out over the edge and they still had not fully caught on to me, Terry jumped in with lots of enthusiasm.  “No, he doesn’t mean it!  There’s this thing he does – he kind of hesitates a moment before he starts.  This is all made up!” (I don’t think he was openly using the BS word at that age.)

So the other day – the day before Easter – a 60ish female customer was checking out and I had just swiped a plastic container full of olives.  Her male companion teased her, with some background information that I – having no memory of either of them – knew nothing about.  (It’s a little trickier doing bullshit teasing with people you have no history with, but I was on a roll that day.) He asked her, “So do you buy olives every year on the day before Easter?”

I thought he may  already have been teasing her – maybe that’s what inspired me.  I jumped in and answered for her.  “Yes, it’s a Latvian thing” (a long dramatic pause to give them a chance to already catch on that I’m BS’ing, but they apparently were still on the hook: “Where is he going with this?”)  “Yes…”(“There’s this thing he does – he kind of hesitates.”)  “According to the Latvians, if you eat olives the day before Easter, you get good luck for an hour.”

It was the “for an hour” part that was intended to take it so far over the top that the jig is up. And the guy, bless his soul, was such a good little natural improv-person that he immediately gave me an improv “yes…and” response.  “So that would be a good time to buy lottery tickets.”  “Right, but you’ve got to do it within an hour.”  The woman was maybe a little slower to pick up on the joke, but by that point she was definitely following along – though I don’t remember her fully joining in with the fun.  But it was definitely a good time for all three of us.  And especially for me, having just risked some of my favorite kind of humor and had it work out.

Yesterday I was slinging some BS to a couple of co-workers.  Sepi and I had both worked at Greenlife, one of our competitor health-food supermarkets.  Sometimes it’s interesting or fun to compare that store with this one.  We were doing this.  One difference we have frequently noted is that Greenlife – for ten years now a subsidiary of Whole Foods – has more formal policies than our smaller 40-store chain.  I don’t know what got the three of us started on underwear – or in any way suggested that I could take the conversation in this direction – but I said in total apparent seriousness, “Well they do have a policy at Greenlife that you have to wear underwear, but we have no such policy here.”  Sheri Lynn, who has a great sense of humor and, even if she has only spotted the BS in the last little phrase, can pick it up and run with it said, “Well it’s a good thing we don’t have that policy here, because you would clearly be breaking it all the time.”

Sherri Lynn is a few years younger than me, but I moved from improv BS to reminiscing, “When you were growing up, were parents still teaching kids that you had to always wear clean underwear in case you got in an auto accident and they took you to the hospital?”  Sheri Lynn did definitely remember this, though I’m pretty sure if your audience got a little younger, people would just stare at you.

Ah, the things that help the day go by in the checkout line….