Started my new job today.
Recently retired after twenty-two years of military police work, it seemed a good plan to fish all day and sleep all night. That didn’t work; didn’t feel natural. So I applied for and got a job as a Megastore security officer. To punish me for twenty-odd years’ experience, they put me to work “temporarily” at the main entrance, on the second shift, three to eleven PM.
Got fired from my new job today.
Things went well for the first six hours, customers were mostly respectful of the store, other customers, and even me. On behalf of the store, other patrons, and civil harmony, I had no trouble with the few I suggested do other than what they originally planned when they entered Megastore. For example, that they head directly to customer service to take care of return-destined merchandise nestled under their arms. Or they visit customer service to check their goodie bags from other stores – for safekeeping, you know? Or the one woman to whom I suggested it was best she leave the empty, oversized baby buggy outside while she shopped inside. That last example was a reasonable request, inasmuch as Megastore did not sell babies, there was no need for a truck to haul one out.
Even a confrontation with a pair of ruffians (they always travel in pairs) over loud and coarse language ended quickly, without incident, and with a return to subdued Megastore ambiance. Not so much for my no-nonsense military bearing as for twenty-odd years of learning how to handle the type.
With two hours to go before my first day ended, an over-padded, underdressed, unpleasant-to-look-at woman came through the door with about sixty pounds of mongrel dog on about thirty feet of leash. That’s probably unfair to the dog, since the animal probably had a better pedigree than the woman. By Megastore policy, I had no choice. Not that had it not been policy I would not have said something.
“Ma’am, I’m impressed with your dog.”
That caught her by surprise, I suppose, though I will not hazard a guess as to whether her surprise was that I, a Megastore employee, dared speak to her, or that she would be forced to converse with this employee so impudently addressing her, or that her dog got top billing. She responded mustering as much indignation as she could.
“Pardon?” I will let you imagine the indignation part. Paint whatever picture comes to mind, considering my brief introduction of the woman and the sad fact that we all deal with people like that, male and female, both.
“Well, I surmise you are not deaf,” I said to her, “since you are responding to my statement.” That was probably not the best second conversational contribution, but already I was ‘in for a penny, in for a pound.’
“Pardon?” The lady clearly had a limited vocabulary or was struggling to understand my audacity. I knew from experience she fully understood why I interrupted her march into the bowels of Megastore in search of fantabulous bargains, ‘tonight, and tonight only’…
“And clearly you are not blind. I see neither a cane nor the leader dog’s stiff harness.”
“Pardon?” You are beginning now to be bored with this tale, or succinctly understand the type. The woman’s indignation meter vacillated between, ‘did your mother not teach you better manners speaking to your superiors, you impudent snit?’ and ‘back-off, Jack!’
Only two hours left. Why not go for broke? “Which,” I suggested to the woman, “means only that you cannot read, so you have a service dog to read for you.”
Aha! Progress, perhaps. We moved from ‘Pardon?’ to ‘What?’ suggesting discomfort with pretense, and she was reverting to her normal delivery, to more scathingly put me in my proper place.
I offered, and I believe I did so respectfully, “That is what is impressive. That your dog can read. I will be even more impressed to see how he communicates what he has read to you. If he talks, why, I admit, that’s gonna be the first time I’ve ever seen such a thing.”
“My dog can’t read!” She told me through clenched teeth, not yet ready to raise her voice to entertain everyone within thirty yards of Megastore’s main entrance.
“That’s a shame.”
“That your dog can not read. Then to neither talk nor sign to you what the notice on the front door says.”
“Service animals for vision or otherwise physically impaired persons only allowed.” ‘Only,’ I remark, was italicized and bolded, and for those who have no service dog to describe color to them, in red. On the sign. On the front door. At eye-level. In English.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Or he has not yet found time to come back to tell you what the sign says, busy as he is sniffing for dangerous animals lurking in the floral display.”
“He is a service animal!”
“Ah. You are blind then?”
“Physically impaired, then, and from thirty feet away he will be able to cushion your fall?”
“I am not blind. I am not deaf. I am not physically impaired!”
“Then you cannot, Madam, bring that dog in here. As much as I’d like to see him read or communicate to you what the sign you did not see, but obviously know about, says.”
“Well, I never!”
“Obviously.” I kept my rejoinder painfully below the level of snide I’d rather have used.
The woman then launched into a tirade, putting aside indignation in favor of pure verbal bile accompanied by splutter and fussing to the point she actually spit more than words. She also had some cleverly ingenious names for me, with references to my character, my parentage, and my psychiatric health. She drew a crowd of onlookers. I was concerned she might grab something handy and heavy to bash my skull in. Watching her against that probability, I did not observe the crowd, so I cannot vouch for the feelings of the crowd one way or the other.
I can speak for the impression the woman made on two of my compatriots, burly Megastore Security Officers who risked their very lives to lift the woman from the floor, one on either side of the less than svelte woman. They carried her yelling and swearing, arms and legs flailing wildly, out Megastore’s front entrance. Her dog was at a loss. It chose to stay with me. I picked-up the leash and reeled-in all but twelve feet of it. We ambled to Megastore’s front door. The woman was preparing for mortal combat with the two burly guards who’d escorted her outside. When I handed her the leash, she reconsidered the bulk of the two gentlemen blocking her return through Megastore’s entrance.
It goes without saying the woman was less than impressed with me. She spun from the entrance and dragging her dog behind her, walked into the parking lot.
My manager was not impressed. She invited me to join her in her office in Megastore’s hinterlands.
I was fired.
I cannot honestly tell you what the dog thought.
© S P Wilcenski May 2020