Friday, November 21, 2008

May I help you?

I generally avoid drug stores as fervently as I avoid Las Vegas, but since I recently sucked it up and went to Vegas because of an event being held there, I figured I could handle the brand-spanking new Walgreens near our house. When I was younger (like 8) I loooved drugstores. They had all kinds of things that were either in my price range (49 cents) or at least not so expensive that I couldn’t beg my mom for them (99 cents). From smelly lotions to cough drops, crayons, and chapstick to cheap toys on cardboard backers, drug stores rocked my pre-adolescent world. Now I recognize they’re just a depressing, fluorescently-lit club for old people. Really old people. Who like to discuss nickels. And prescriptions. And how young people suck. Now that I think of it, trade out the fluorescent for neon, and Vegas has a lot in common with Walgreens.

Necessity called, though, so I steeled myself for easy listening instrumentals, lineoleum and well-worn citizens with time on their hands and their ailments on their minds.

I ducked in without being seen by anyone I knew or security cameras, found what I needed, and was about to make an escape to the register, when two ladies in walkers approached me. I already knew what they would say. Since the age of 15, I’ve somehow had the look of a retail worker who is slacking off. It doesn't matter if it's a grocery store or Neiman Marcus, auto parts shop or ski rental outlet. I can be wearing a coat or hair curlers, carrying a purse or an infant, it doesn’t matter. Some person is going to walk up slightly irritated and ask me, “Excuse me? Do you work here?” with a tone that says, “Oh yeah, I know you work here, and I just caught you ignoring customers and filling up that cart with items! Gotcha. Now help me, dammit.”

So, my elderly pals rolled on up side by side, completely blocking the aisle and trapping me. One of them asked me the question. I answered, “No ma’am. I’m sorry. I don’t. Can I help you find someone that does?” Which I thought was pretty big of me considering their scowls.

They looked at me with disgust, knowing full well that I was in fact LYING to them boldface, that yessir, I did too work there and I was just trying to avoid doing something helpful. Damn youth of this generation. Don’t know how easy they’ve got it. You know what we’d have done to score a fancy job in a Walgreens? But back then, women weren’t allowed out of the home to have ultra luxurious high powered Walgreens jobs. We had to stay home and sit under giant hair dryers and drink rob roys and listen to vacuum cleaner salesmen interrupt The Edge of Night.

They thought all of that. I swear to you. But what one of them said was, “Where are the Christmas cards?” And not in a sweet Aunt Bea sort of way. More in a mean, Dieting Lunch Lady sort of a way. Since we happened to be standing in the card aisle, I said slowly, “Ummm. Well, probably right around here somewhere…?” while pointing all around us.

To which Gladys Evelyn Whooserass replied, “No. Not these. Where’s the ones on sale?”

Now too damned deep to get out of it, and still trying to remain somewhat helpful, I said, “Oh, did you see an ad or something?”

Matilda Maybell Whatserbucket scolded me. “NO. We did NOT "see an ad” miss. We are just not going to pay these kinds of prices for Christmas cards! Now, show us where the clearance ones are!”

Now, I like grouchy mean old people as much as the next person who has been evilly trapped by them, but I was growing weary of them. I quickly gave a little bitty lecture on supply and demand, pricing and promotion, the Gregorian calendar, the officially recognized date for Christmas, the current date, and suggested that maybe, just maybe, the Christmas cards would not actually be put on clearance sale until AFTER Christmas.

They looked at me with complete contempt. Then, Matilda turned to Gladys, rolled her eyes and said, just loud enough for me to hear, “I guess we’re going to have to find them OURSELVES.”

And that is why I will only shop on-line for the next 30 years. After that, I’m rounding up some buddies and hanging at the Walgreen’s just to annoy people.

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