Monday, March 1, 2010

Consoler of the Lonely

It always amazes me how different people display their crazy. Some people enter the store looking completely normal, are able to carry on normal conversation and then suddenly they unzip their tiny purse and pull out a 2 pound, nearly hairless dog, wearing a pink sweater and a tiara. Then you have the people who wear their crazy like a badge of honor like the woman who walked into my store a week ago dressed head to toe in 5 different shades of purple. I’ve become almost immune to crazy since almost every customer brings their own unique brand into store but even with out her blinding ensemble I could tell immediately Ms Purple was a special case.

To say I heard her before I saw her is an understatement. Before she even hit the door I could hear screeching from outside in the mall about a salt stain she had gotten on her jacket. When she actually entered the store she was handed a paper towel and with out skipping a beat she immediately began pointing out different bags, telling me which ones she “LOVED” and saying “oh no honey no” to others, wiping her jacket as she went.

Talking a thousand miles a minute she began putting on a show in the full length mirrors that border the store. As she tried on nearly every bag, Ms Purple gave me a run down of her personal style. Matching was key, she told me. For every bag she tried on she described pieces in her closet that might work with that bag. Pants, blouses, jackets, shoes on and on she went. Then she asked me if I would try on the bags for her, so she could see them against a different outfit. Over and over the bags got passed between the two of us, all the while Ms. Purple rambled about great deals she’s scored on her shopping sprees and good places near by to get rare handbags. Finally she picked her two favorite bags and handed them to me. She asked me to put them aside and said she’d be back later. Sure, I’d heard that one before. When people spend hours in your store, making a mess they always try to make themselves feel better about being a pain by telling you they’ll “be back later”, most of the time they’re lying.

Imagine my surprise when hours later, about half an hour before closing Ms. Purple waltzes in with three huge Nordstrom bags. I hand her the two bags she had put aside and she does a brief bit in front of the mirror before telling me she wants them both. As I ring up the bags and run her card she is talking about Louboutin’s she got on sale at Neiman’s for $100. When I look up for her to sign her receipt I realize she has taken off her coat and sat down on the bench in the middle of the store. “What do you think of those Kardashian girls?” She asks me. “I think they’re a bunch of you know what’s, if you know what I mean.” Even though I don’t really know what she means, I nod my head. “That middle one even made that sex tape with that R-Jay. That’s trashy.” I’m not really sure what to say to this so I just nod my head again and listen as she continues on a little rant.

From the Kardashian sisters she moves on to talking about Sade, then Oprah and Alicia Keys. Before long she is telling me about her life long love for Michael Jackson and how his death had a real impact on her life. She was the president of his fan club growing up and felt she understood why he “was the way he was”. I can’t really explain why I just continued to listen to her. The conversation (or lecture) seemed to go on forever before I really started to panic that she might never stop talking and I would have to sleep in the store.

Then the CD that had been playing in the store stopped and the classical music the mall plays came tinkling in. Suddenly Ms Purple stopped talking and turned her head to the door. “Do you hear that?” She asked me. I realized she had actually paused and was looking at me, as if suddenly she needed me to actually participate. “Yes.” I said.

“Isn’t that beautiful? I just love music, I really do, I love it. My mother used to play the piano, she was really good too. She used to play this song. It’s so beautiful”

I wanted to say yeah that’s great lady but you need to go, when something horrific happened. Ms Purple started crying. Crying. In my store. I froze. I don’t usually know the appropriate way to respond when someone I know is crying forget the consoling of a complete stranger. All I could think was, this is awkward. It probably wasn’t any longer than a minute but it felt like she sat there sobbing for hours. She apologized then told me she just couldn’t listen to classical music with out crying since her mother passed away years ago. I felt sympathy for her and tried to reassure her that everything was ok but on the inside I just wanted her to leave. I’m a sales associate not a shrink! Finally the woman got up and put her coat on. She took her bags, thanked me and left.

On the way home I kept thinking about Ms Purple. She seemed like a nice woman who was just in desperate need of someone to talk to. All day she probably blabbed to different sales people about her expensive collection of handbags and her skills at scoring deals on designer shoes but this woman wasn’t trying to brag she just wanted some human interaction. She wasn’t crazy (ok maybe a little) Ms Purple was lonely and no bag or shoe or deal could make up for that. I’d like to think on one slow Thursday night Ms Purple found some real retail therapy in a sales associate who may have felt awkward but was willing to listen.

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