This weekend I learned the place where quality customer service and the great gumbo soup of humanity come together is the ideal place for any up-and-coming existentialist playwrights to glean ideas.
Sartre had a room with no windows, no mirrors and and a locked door...
And me, I became trapped in a world which existed entirely outside of time and space, disguised as a women's clothing store we shall call, for the purposes of this tale, "Smashin Slug."
So as not to alienate my male readers, the item I was trying to purchase makes no difference to this story. Just suffice it to say, it was my Holy Grail of jewelry-- something specific I'd searched for, for over a year.
The important point is, once you find your Holy Grail-- whether it's the last Guitar Hero or the latest iPhone, or something completely girly no guy's gonna care about-- you're probably a little hesitant to just put it back on the rack, and leave. You don't easily let some other questing knight grab it and plop it in his trophy case, along with his jousting awards and boar heads.
There were two cash registers open. And the two cashiers were serving two customers. I was next.
I had thought, at the time, that this meant something.
One woman was waiting on her friend. And this was an elaborate, multi-tiered process involving different levels of purchasing, rating additional discounts and analysis, and nuclear arms negotations. All of it resulted in everyone in the store knowing what sort of free granny panties the customer was getting and where they would be shipped.
The second cashier was waiting on a woman buying her entire summer wardrobe for, from the looks of it, a Bingo Enthusiasts all-you-can-eat Hawaiian cruise. Only, none of it was she certain she really wanted, or whether it went together, or which went with what.
Somewhere along the way, she had mistaken the cashier as one of the presenters on "What Not To Wear" and decided that this would be a perfect time to get affirmation of her individual purchases, and the outfit potential therein.
I wasn't aware of this originally. No, I'd stood there in my own world, thinking about Life, the Universe and Everything, and just generally being happy about my find-- until what was happening before me started to seep into my ears.
"I think this shirt goes just perfectly with these pants, but is this necklace too dressy? Perhaps it should go with this one."
The shirt was a glaring purple-and-yellow floral number which I hesitated to look at for long because I value my retinas.
It had a wide ruffle at the collar, like something you might pick up at Olive Oyl's garage sale. The woman was holding it up to purple polyester capris and a necklace with giant plastic beads.
It looked like the Easter Bunny had exploded at Don Ho's luau.
"Or how about this? Is this better?" She held up a yellow and purple baby-doll mu-mu shirt with the pants and a necklace made of an entire garden of enamel flowers.
"But, you know, maybe this necklace is better, because I already have purple here." She indicated a third uber-purple item with some yellow and flowers and unnatural fiber and ruffles which, in a good Hawaiian breeze, might allow for some wind surfing.
I looked at the item in my hand. I took a deep breath. And I zoned out for another ten minutes.
It's possible to sleep standing up, if you lock your knees first in a really balanced stance.
When I came to, it was still going on. The one cashier was desperately trying to get the woman's credit card away from her to ring things up, but the Bird of Paradise fashion show just kept going on.
The other sales lady was running back for a hundredth pair of underpants and debating how much it would, or would not, ride up.
At this point I was starting to realize, I was never going to leave Smashin Slug unless I took evasive action. I glanced half-heartedly for a weapon. I thought I might be able to use a hanger, or possibly a heavy platform sandal.
But cold-cocking them both and thrusting money at the cashier would not do. This was true exisitentialism in retail. Dealing with the public is its own universe. It's own cycle of futility.
And sometimes, sometimes you get sucked into the action simply because you are there.
The difference is there's rarely so much Hawaiian print in existential plays.