Monday, December 14, 2015

Spilled Milk.

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

I had a blog post all written and ready to slide into this week’s slot, but then something happened on the way home tonight that was just too good to be true.
Okay, this is one of those times my blog will suffer because I’ve not yet developed the reflex to grab my phone and take  pictures when something happens.
Our parents like to complain about how things have changed, and in recent years I find I’ve joined them to a certain extent. The way kids dress (or don’t) nowadays, some of the music my son listens to, the fact that all it takes is a YouTube channel and the ability to play a videogame—and not even well for some of these guys—to become a hero to millions of kids . . . all of this just puts a wild hair across my ass. Sometimes I listen to myself and I know that somewhere, inside, and not even very deep inside, there’s a wrinkled old man with oversized ears and nose who just wants to stand on my porch in bermuda shorts and black socks, popping his dentures into place every time someone under the age of fifty goes by so he’s ready to yell at them to get the hell off my lawn!
But there’s something I’ve always agreed with my parents about, for as long as they’ve been bitching about it—which is as long as I can remember: kids working the register who can’t make change.
You’ve heard older folks bitching about this, I know you have. The register wasn’t working for some reason, and the total came out to $1.37, and they gave the kid working the till a dollar and a half and watched as a blank look came over their face and they started punching calculator buttons with desperate fingers. I get that. I’ve run into that. And they’re right, it’s goddamn infuriating. All you have to do is subtract 37 from 50 and you’re breaking out in a cold sweat and reaching for technology? Seriously? I can understand running the numbers through a calculator to verify your math, but not being able to do that math?
Well, tonight I did one better.
I went to the rear of the store, and I was moving fast. I was in a hurry, I’ll admit, and that very likely had something to do with what happened. I hooked a gallon jug of milk off the bottom cooler shelf, and my fingers slipped on the smooth plastic and I sent that gallon skidding across the floor. I didn’t spike it like I’d just run into the end zone, I lost it as I was swinging it up and sort of bowled it down the aisle. I’d felt my grip on the jug going, though, so I was right there chasing it along, trying to scoop it up before it tripped somebody—so I was right there watching as, on the first bounce, a three-inch gash appeared across the side of the bottle, right down near the bottom.
Milk was going everywhere.
I was quick, though, and was after that skipping jug like a pouncing cat . . . if a pouncing cat were to shout “Whup! Shit! . . . oop-oop-oop . . . well damn!” The thing had barely made it across eight feet of floor before I’d scooped it up with the gash on top, cradling it in an effort to keep the rest of the moo-juice on the inside of the bottle where it belonged. I looked at the small crowd of faces, all turned my way, some of them hiding their mouths behind cupped hands, others simply grinning outright.
“Wasn’t expecting that,” I said, and started toward the deli counter. I butt-bumped the door open and leaned in.
“Uh, guys?” I said. “I think I’m gonna need a mop over by the milk.”
“Oh,” said one of the four young men staring at me with wide, round eyes. “We’re going to have to tell them up front.”
“Up front?” I said. “Got it.” I headed toward the front of the store, my drippy fistfull of dairy goodness held high.
The first person I saw up front was the young dude working the express register. “I think we need a mop over in dairy,” I said. He just stared at me for a moment, a moment that stretched out to become uncomfortably long, and I was preparing myself for some sort of scathing reply about my clumsiness, but what he finally said was, “What?”
“A mop,” I said. “Over by the milk.” I held the leaking momento of my clumsiness out toward him, shaking it slightly for emphasis. His eyes followed the movement of the jug for a moment, then darted past me to the other cashiers.
“What?” said the girl behind me, so I half-turned to see all three of the young ladies running the registers as well as their two bag boys, all staring at me. “What,” said the girl closest to me again. “ . . . what do you . . .”
I held my wad of perforated plastic on high, two handed, like some ancient priest showing a new baby to the gods, and spoke in a clear, ringing voice: “This jug of milk was dropped and has become damaged. Some of the milk that was once inside has come outside. It’s currently pooling on the floor in front of the other milk, in the back corner of the store. Someone should get a mop and clean it up, before somebody slips in it and breaks their neck.”
Six sets of baffled eyes stared back at me. Not a word was spoken.
“It’s my fault,” I said, “so if you’re swamped, just get me the mop and I’ll clean it up.”
The boy running the express line, the first one I’d addressed in the front of the store, looked at the other five kids and said—and I shit you not—“What do we do?”
I looked from him to the five. The five looked from him to me. No ringing up of items was being done, as they all stared at each other. One of the girls tossed out “Don’t we . . .” and trailed off, hoping someone else was going to grab that opening and run with it, but nobody did. The bag boys exchanged a glance and shrugged. One of the customers, an older gentleman who had just one more item left to ring up, dropped his face into his hands as it came home to him just how close he’d been to being done and out of there, and that if I’d been just thirty seconds later in my run to the front of the store, he would have avoided this entire shitstorm of stupid.
A woman toward the back of the line who had the look of a teacher wept openly. All business had been stopped for close to sixty seconds by then. I’d broken the entire front-of-the-store staff with my dilemma: there was a puddle on the floor, and not one of them knew what to do.
Then a woman—an adult woman—sailed up from the back of the store with a perfect customer service smile on her face. “We’ll handle that for you, sir.”
In seconds a phone call had been made to the back of the store, and someone had taken the broken jug from my hands and placed it into a big plastic bag for non-drippy transport to a slop sink somewhere. All the kids’ eyes went back to normal, and the scanning of price codes began again. The teacher in the back of the line dried her tears. The older gentleman paid his bill, grabbed his grocery bag, and scurried for the door muttering something about damn kids these days . . .
And I still needed milk. I threaded my way through the people to the back of the store again and took a firm hold on another gallon of the bovine byproduct—and stopped.
There, in the middle of the aisle standing over a huge pile of something gray mounding on top of most of the spill, stood one of the store’s stockboys. The teen had a boxcutter in hand, and was using it to cut open a second forty pound bag of Tidy Cat (a brand of cat litter known for absorbency). Rather than simply spreading the mounded first bag so it covered the rest of the spill, he began to dump fresh kitty litter onto the floor.
“Wow,” I said.
“I know, huh?” he said.
“You guys don’t have,” I said, “you know, a mop anywhere?”
His shoulders slumped, and he looked over toward the empty spot on the shelf where, not long ago, eighty pounds of expensive kitty litter had taken up space. His face went a little pink. His posture and expression spoke volumes, but every word of it was some version of Oh, shit. He looked up at me. “No?”
I shook my head. “Seriously?”
He started rolling the top of the half-used bag of litter closed as I oh-so-carefully carried my purchase toward the front of the store.
Wow. Just . . . wow.

Talk to you later!

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