There was trouble at the Walmart cheese case.
Debating the merits of shredded cheddar vs. shredded Colby Jack, I stood momentarily transfixed and no more than eight inches away from the edge of the refrigerated display.
Suddenly a streak wearing a blue nylon vest pushed me out of her way as she straightened the cheese packages in the case.
“Excuse me,” I said, always one to apologize for my very existence.
I repeated the phrase three times, keeping my voice more pleasant than I felt inside.
The employee, moving like the Tasmanian Devil and knocking into me again, continued working the cheese as she snarled, “I said excuse me,” but she never so much as looked at me.
Am I being punked? I wondered, looking from side to side.
But alas, Ashton Kutcher was not around, so I said, “You didn’t say excuse me.”
And then she lost it. “Jesus Christ, I said, ‘Excuse me.'”
My eyes widened in disbelief. “Why are you blaspheming at me?” Truly, I would have preferred her to tell me to F-off than to use God’s name in vain.
No response. Just turned her back to front the cheese.
I guess her boss must have told her she couldn’t leave until it was finished–that’s how determined she was to get it done stat.
I stood my ground and asked the woman for her name.
Three times I asked for the employee’s name, each time a little louder and more strident.
She finally turned and I could see her face for the first time.
She pulled at her name badge: Judy. A name that matched the vintage of the face and confirmed this woman was old enough to know better.
Then she butted me out of her way once again as she did another pass-through fronting the cheese.
I walked away sans cheese, finished my shopping, and then yes, I tracked down a manager.
Later, when I told my husband about Judy, he said Walmart wouldn’t fire her over anything short of theft.
Kind of makes me feel like I’ve landed in an alternate universe.
I remember working retail back in the day.
My employer required us to wear dresses or skirts, pantyhose and heels. Make-up was okay but had to be applied with a light touch. Ditto for jewelry. Double-ditto for hairstyles/color.
Most importantly, we had to wear a smile and present a positive attitude.
Today, retail-workplace dress codes are relaxed all the way around. Tattoos, piercings, earlobe mutilation, and unique hairstyles/colors are the norm. And I’m okay with that. At the very least, it can be entertaining.
I just don’t think a smile and kind words are ever out of style. Especially when you’re getting paid to represent.