Looking ‘helpful’

So a couple days ago I was in Big Lots, just kind of toodling through the store, finding lots more stuff than what I actually came in for (stick to your list, Kara!). I was wearing one of Rick’s Volunteer orange polo shirts, the one with the name of the home health care company he works for stitched on the upper left breast, and faded jeans, and sneakers.

And then a gentleman asked me where the pump sprayers would be displayed. I said I didn’t know, because I DON’T WORK HERE. Nothing on me said “this woman will know the answers to your questions, and if not, she has the authority to find out.” He mumbled something about how it looked like I was putting stuff on the shelves (yeah, my PURSE sitting in my shopping cart really contributed to that image).

In the past when Cocker Companions Rescue has been out and about as an official group, and we all had our “Cocker Companions Rescue Volunteer” name badges on, I’ve been mistook for an official of whichever store we were at: AgriFeed or Mast General Store, or any other establishment I’ve worn the name badge into. Doesn’t seem to matter that the name badge doesn’t say “AgriFeed” or “Mast General Store”, and people don’t seem to pay attention to that anyway. While appearing in CCR capacity, I’ve just given up trying to explain that I’m not a store employee, and try to point the customer in the correct direction anyway. In AgriFeed, I’m getting pretty good at it because I’ve spent a lot of time there.

But in Big Lots, I wasn’t wearing a name tag of any kind and Big Lots doesn’t seem to have a particular uniform that I’d inadvertently matched, as some other stores do. For example, if you’re just meandering into Target, you do not want to be wearing a red shirt and khakis. In Best Buy, don’t wear your royal blue polo shirt if you don’t wish to be pressed into service, and you get the idea from there.

But at Big Lots, I wasn’t stocking shelves or running a register, had no name tag of any sort…so what would make people think I worked there?  Maybe it’s behavioral. When I came in to the store, I stopped to look at some sweatshirts piled in a cart at the front of the store, and instead of rooting about through them like a pig through oak leaves in search of truffles, I neatly folded the shirts I had looked at. I have no idea if that’s what the gentleman wanting the pump sprayers had cued in on, and by that time I had been in the store for about 15 or 20 minutes when he approached me so I’m not sure that’s what he saw me doing, but I’m grasping at straws.

In Kroger a couple weeks ago, I was again lacking any sort of name badge or ID associating me with the store in an official capacity, when a lady approached me in the dairy department. She asked me why there were no ham steaks, only packages of cubed pieces of country ham on the display. I had to tell her I didn’t know, earning a filthy look in return, and then I pointed out an actual employee stocking eggs on the other side of the aisle. “Maybe he could tell you, ma’am.”

How often does this happen to you, Gentle Reader? With me, this is a pretty regular occurrence, sometimes as often as every week-and-a-half or so. I can’t imagine that I just look helpful and approachable enough that I draw people in need.

Eh. Then again, I definitely draw DOGS in need to me, so maybe that strange magnetism draws people as well.

The strangeness at Big Lots didn’t end there, either. While waiting in line at the register, I was minding my own business and texting my niece, Bethany. I don’t text very well. Typing with my thumbs is time-consuming and therefore annoying. I can hit 80 wpm + on a standard sized keyboard. So why would I want to piddle around making typos with my freaking arthritic thumbs on a cellphone keypad? I recognize that it’s a common and handy method of communication for the younger set however, so I will use it when appropriate. But keep in mind it is a sloooooow process for me, and I have to concentrate.

The line was moving very slowly at the register, so when a lady in back of me asked me to keep her place while she checked the price of something in one of the nearby aisles, I agreed. I didn’t really do anything, just kept texting and waiting for the line to advance. I finished and sent the text, which should give you an idea of the length of the delay in the line.

The lady returned to her cart, disappointed that the item was no longer on sale, and somehow this started a conversation. She leaned over to peer at the upper left breast of my polo shirt and said “Oh, you work in healthcare? What do you think about the healthcare bill?”

If she knew me, she wouldn’t have opened that can of worms. She would have looked into my black heart and realized that there’s NOTHING ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH THAT I WANTED TO DISCUSS LESS THAN THE HEALTHCARE BILL. And then she would have run off, screaming in fear.

I murmured that it was out of my hands and that I had no opinion, hoping to end this gambit where it stood. But no, she wanted to share her views. She commented that the bill would make insurance too expensive for everyone and that it would bring about the financial ruin of the country. I commented that the trillions of dollars worth of debt from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan probably wouldn’t contribute to the financial ruin of the country, and decisively turned away from her to end the conversation.

WHY do people do that? I am not an approachable person!  Or at least, I don’t want to be approachable. I want to appear as a confident, unremarkable person, to whom you’d apologise if you ran over their foot with your grocery cart, but otherwise ignore.

I guess until I find my ideal job working by myself from home or from a desert island somewhere, I’ll continue to be helpful and polite in the meantime.

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