And so, I found myself warily entering the local movie and music outlet in town one fateful afternoon, specifically to find a couple of Elmore Leonard westerns on DVD, having recently polished off a couple of novels on which they were based had me itching to see them again. Anyways, all they had was a copy of Valdez is Coming, and with that and a copy of Charles Kaufman's vastly underrated Mother's Day tucked under an arm, with an eye on the clock, hoping to beat out of there before the after-school rush arrived, I headed to the checkout lines.
I thought luck was with me when I reached the front of the store and found all four check-out lines empty and made a bee-line for the one whose in-service lamp was lit. Of course, the cash-register sat unattended, and a quick glance showed two employees at the customer service desk -- one of them looking up an item for a costumer on the computer, the other desperately trying to avoid eye-contact with me. This silent non-stare-off continued unabated for several minutes until a little old lady, five-foot nothing, and easily in her mid-80's puttered up to the occupied customer service desk, several lanes over from me, to check out, which, at this point, finally caused the unoccupied clerk to wave me over with a friendly "I can help you over here, sir."
Of course, how stupid of me to go to the line with the lit lamp. *sigh* Right. Now, having served a seven year stint at a retail outlet that is far as my frustration goes. Having dealt with many an obnoxious asshole -- I mean pompous jerk-off, I mean valued customer, during my register-jockey sentence myself, I gave the no-eye-contact gal a polite smile, gathered up my booty and moved to the appropriate line, right behind the little old lady and her healthy stack of CD's. We both have to wait until the other clerk finishes up with guy looking for a movie whose name escapes me as it soon become apparent that the other clerk is a trainee. And with his expert tutelage, the trainee starts to ring up the person in front of me and in no-time flat sends the register into terminal vapor-lock. The trainer takes over, the old lady apologizes, though she has nothing to apologize for, but between the two of them they kill the register. Kill the register dead.
Not a problem, he says, and instructs us to move to another register, the register where I first got in line, mind you. Here, I pull a Dudley Do-Right and help the elderly lady navigate her way around all the holiday impulse-buy junk clogging the check-out area and into the proper lane. (She couldn't see over the displays.) Her sincere thank you brings another smile to face as I wave it off as no big deal. But then she starts talking to the clerk about how she couldn't find any Elvis Presley gospel or Christmas albums and my fading smile reversed course and grew even wider. Seems this sweet little old lady -- seriously, picture in your head a little old lady and that's exactly who was standing in line in front of me -- had heard Presley bump and grind through "Hound Dog" back in the 1950's and thought that was enough of that guy. She punctuated the point by rattling off the refrain of the same, cocked a hip, laughed, and I failed to stifle one of my own. We continued to laugh, the clerks joining in, as she mea culpas, saying something about seeing a documentary on Presley recently and had no idea about his spiritual side, and how one should never judge.
At this point, I wanted to give this lady a hug to end all hugs, but I refrain. The clerk chimes in, swearing they have several Elvis albums in the racks, and I even offer to help her go and look for some, but she nixes this, saying her pile is big enough. She then starts to write a check, this takes awhile, I don't care, I'm still smiling, and then there's some trouble with the electronic signature, until, finally, her transaction is completed. She apologizes to everyone again for taking so long. Luckily, there was no one else in line to ruin the moment, and I tell her, again, not a problem; anything for a fellow Elvis fan.
W.B. Kelso in the wild (Artist Interpretation).
As she gathered up her purse I felt compelled to offer to help her go and look one last time, but, I fear I look a little too intimidating (-- as I towered over her by nearly a foot and half) and so she declined once more. And as I rattled off a couple of albums she should be on the lookout for, she asked if I could write them down, which, with a lone of pen from the clerk, I did. And with that, and one final wave, she puttered out of the store
And that, folks, totally made my day.