A woman double-parked her luxury car in front of a dollar store in a working-class stretch of Route 40 in New Castle, Delaware. Never mind she was parked along a red curb. She could afford a ticket. What she couldn’t afford was time.
Teetering in on expensive high heels—the kind with the red soles that likely cost more than most the other customers earned in a month, she caught manager Vicki’s eye as she rang up an old woman’s generic denture cream, vinyl placemats, and loaf of bread in her checkout line.
“Do you have plastic balls?” the woman asked in a clarion voice, clearly accustomed to people dropping everything to see to her needs.
As this loaded question ricocheted about waiting for a response, the man who delivers bread to the store happened to be passing by, carrying a tray of hotdog buns.
That bread guy was my husband, Paul, whom everyone knows as Breadicus—he’s that good at his job and a real character to boot. So when I heard this much of the story over dinner that night, my lips quirked into an anticipatory grin.
Knowing his sense of humor, alarm bells also sounded in my head. “Danger. Danger. Abort. Abort.” Whatever he said, I knew trouble must have followed it.
In his defense, however, you just can’t call out “Do you have plastic balls?” in the vicinity of a man without expecting an answer.
So Paul, cutting through the store, called out to the manager, “I didn’t know you have plastic balls,” which caused both Vicki and a few nearby customers to chuckle.
Pretty tame, I thought, hearing this quip. I had braced myself for something much more, well, ballsy. The woman who wanted plastic balls, however, wasn’t one of those laughing.
“Is this the kind of people you have working here?” the woman asked, gazing down her long nose as if sniffing out a rogue turd in church. “And is this how you all speak to one another?”
Apparently, she thought Paul worked for the dollar store, which he doesn’t. He’s an independent/owner operator. A small businessman. Worse case scenario, he loses the account, but frankly it doesn’t add much on our family’s bottom line. Paul serves the account because he likes the people who work there. Because of this, he had no intention on causing trouble for Vicki with her bosses.
Paul stepped forward to assure the woman he meant no disrespect and apologized for offending her. Her response was not one of grace. Instead, she announced to Vicki, “Do you have any idea how much money I spend in this place?”
- I am a very important person who is single-handedly keeping this dump in business and you should be kissing my lily-white ass;
- I am your superior and don’t you forget it, and;
- Get rid of this uncouth peon or else.
She turned on her expensive heels and left the store in a huff.
In a perfect world, Mrs. Huff would have found a parking ticket on her illegally parked car, or done a face-plant on the sidewalk out front scuffing up her expensive shoes. But nothing like that happened.
Instead, she drove off in a sleek Jag in search of dignity and plastic balls.