Friday, April 17, 2009

Just Another Saturday

Today was an interesting day. Mary and I both woke up a little snappy, but not so much at each other as at the world in general. We recently discovered a mammoth pile of items in our garage that, for months, we had been intending to return to various stores, so we decided that would be the most efficient use of our Saturday. Stupid people really get under our skin in a way that makes it nearly impossible for us to resist messing with them. And little things kept triggering our aggravation during the course of the day, fueling our already-established ire. An unbelievably slow driver on the highway held up traffic for miles. Can you not see the speed limit signs posted every twenty feet that say “70 MPH”? Don’t the countless cars passing you like you were sitting still provide you with even the tiniest hint that you need to go faster than 48 freakin’ miles per hour? Then a Hummer with what had to be at least 28 kids in it was front of us at the McDonald’s drive thru. The tiny little female driver stuck her head out the window, on her cell phone, and proceeded to peruse the menu board as if she were seeing these selections for the first time. She then attempted to ask questions about menu items while still carrying on a cell phone conversation, a situation I wouldn’t wish on any drive-thru employee. She continued to hem and haw over the menu with a look of genuine confusion on her face. For the love of Pete—it’s McDonald’s, lady! They’ve only been in business for 50 years! If you don’t know by now what comes on an Egg McMuffin, you should have your U.S. citizenship revoked and be forced to live with a remote tribe in South Africa, where they have to order at the drive-thru speaking with only a series of clicking sounds. Eventually, we made it around, picked up our food, and parked in a nearby spot. After finishing up, we started the long day of returns.

The art of customer service has deteriorated over the years, and we’ve all become so conditioned that we’re not even surprised anymore when someone is annoyed that they’re being forced to do their job. Most of the customer service desks we stood at were staffed by girls in their late teens, girls who, if I had to guess, were forced by their parents to get a job to show that they were capable of being responsible. “If Daddy and I are going to pay for you to go backpacking in Europe for a year, you’re going to have to show us that you’re a big girl.” We trudged in and out of one store after another, each more frustrating than the last, sending our aggravation to dangerous levels. But, as is most often the case, instead of taking it out on each other, we stood back-to-back—figuratively speaking—and let the world have it. Or at least those within range. I dropped Mary off at a clothing store to return some jeans and a shirt while I scooted across the road to an electronics store to return an adapter that didn’t fit the cable I had intended it for. In my return episode, Jeremy, the “friendly associate” at the return desk, took a look at my receipt and, noting it was several months old, asked if there was a problem with it and why I had kept it so long. It didn’t matter why I had kept it so long; I had the receipt and I just wanted to return it. I tried to keep from coming back with a smart answer, but it was out before I could stop it. I calmly explained that I had been in Japan for the last several months competing in a Sumo wrestling tournament and, upon my return, discovered that the adapter still needed to be returned. This seemed to throw him, as it should have, and he cocked his head like a beagle hearing the sound of a kazoo.
“Dude, you’re a Sumo wrestler?”
“Yep. Been slammin’ the fat for nearly twenty years now.”
“That’s awesome! And you were in Japan?”
“Downtown Tokyo. At the Satin Thong Sumo Arena.”

Now enamored with my international celebrity status, he processed my return with an almost giddy enthusiasm, the way he might if I were Tom Hanks or Vin Diesel. Once the transaction was complete, I offered a slight bow and squeezed out a very Japanese-sounding “Arigato.” Moments later I picked Mary up from her return, and as she got in the car I was still laughing and couldn’t help but share with her.
She shrieked, “Get out!! I just did the same thing!”
“You told the sales chick you were a Sumo wrestler?”
“No! I told her I’d been in a coma.”
“You what?!”
“She asked me why I was returning the clothes, and I told her I’d bought them just a few days before an accident where I got hit in the head with a piece of lumber. I was in a coma for four months, and when I woke up my clothes didn’t fit.”
I stared at her for a moment, slack-jawed and wide-eyed, as if she had a squid on her head.
“What?!” she demanded. “She should have just returned them and kept her pie hole shut!”
“Is your blood sugar low? You’re a little moody.”
“No, my blood sugar’s not low! Although I am a little hungry. Are you hungry?”
“I am, actually,” I said. “What sounds good?”
“Let’s try the new pizza place.” Making the loop out of the mall, we turned onto the main road and began heading for the restaurant. As we approached a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, Chuck E. himself was out on the sidewalk waving to everyone passing by.
“We could go to Chuck E. Cheese’s,” I said playfully.
“Here’s what I think about that idea,” she said, and casually gave him a one-finger salute.
I sputtered, “Did you just—I can’t believe you just flipped off Chuck E. Cheese!! What kind of person flips off Chuck E. Cheese?!”
“Well, what kind of restaurant has a rat for a mascot? I mean, really?! Besides, I’m moody, remember?”