Friday, July 28, 2006

Customers: Part 15 - Babushka‏

   "You Dachshund eater!"
   I looked over at the exit door and bowed my head slightly.
   "Nazi lover," she spat out angrily.
   "Thank you," I replied with a smile.
   "Jew lover."
   I disregarded the slight contradiction between being called a Nazi lover and a Jew lover.
   The customer, an elderly woman in a heavy black skirt, dark sweater, and floral shawl, was completely batty.
   I had helped this old bird for years. For awhile, I thought I had successfully off loaded her to The Professor. No chance. One, she bought cassettes, which he was even more dismissive of than I. Two, The Professor's attempts to educate her on composers or conductors never leached into her brain since her hearing aid was always switched to low volume. When customers wouldn't make the step to pupils, he became scornful. Three, she was off her rocker. Ooh, I already mentioned that.
   The woman looked ninety, was more likely in her seventies. Gray and white hair knotted in a tight bun. Stereotyped Babushka. No cane, no glasses. Just layers of clothing even though it was 80 outside. Always bought Classical, budget cassettes, basic repertoire. Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky. If we spoke, the conversation was minimal. Grandchildren, the weather, bus schedules, whatever floated to the surface in that rattling brain of hers.
   I could be patient with Babushka, I would undoubtedly wind up like her. I didn't care for most senior citizens. Most were sorry survivors of poor planning. Improper diet, budget mismanagement, dreadful choices. The opportunity of a lifetime, squandered. There were glorious exceptions, but most of humanity mucked about until expiration time. We had no clue what our purpose was. We flailed in darkness.
   Babushka had bought a Brahms Piano Concerto and a Rachmaninoff Symphony. I gave her the 3 for $5.00 price, even though she only bought two tapes. The store could swallow a 50¢ loss and this might dodge any potential arguments. The concept of buying three to achieve a discount was beyond many people. I rang her up, gave her her change, her bag.
   And she stood there.
   Mind frying away.
   Another quality moment brought to you by the Alzheimer's League. No telling, either, what her pharmaceutical dosage was. Better living through chemistry was the old slogan. When my generation shuffles out of nursing homes, unfortunate observers will dismiss most of us as suffering LSD flashbacks, or spilling bong water on ourselves again. I ignored Babushka and continued receiving New Releases for tomorrow.
   That deadline loomed and I didn't know if either Kristi or Matt would show up for their shift. The week previous, he had asked her out, she agreed, then stood him up. The woman's perogative, magnified in blondes. Now they weren't playing nice. I worked to ram as much product into the database while I manned front register. Odds were high that Kristi or Matt or both would phone in "sick" and the store would be short handed for the afternoon.
   Don't date coworkers.
   "What did you say to me?"
   "Pardon?" I looked up. Babushka stood just past the counter, teeth clenched, glaring at me.
   "I heard you," she snapped. "You said I ought to be sale priced!"
   "No, no, no," I gestured in the air. "I have fifty CD's of this title coming out tomorrow. It's not sale priced and it should be. I was talking to myself, not you. Can I help you with anything?"
   "I'm not some fifty cent piece!"
   Shit. Granny imploded at the exit door. Confused and furious.
   "You're a Jew hater, you are!"
   Hell, that could so easily be misinterpreted.
   "Ma'am ... "
   "You Dachshund eater!"
   I looked over at the exit door and bowed my head slightly.
   "Nazi lover," she spat out angrily.
   "Thank you," I replied with a smile.
   "Jew lover."
   I disregarded the slight contradiction between being called a Nazi lover and a Jew lover.
   "Thank you," I answered loudly, and tossed the Queen's wave.
   John walked past, then slowed to a crawl to more appreciate the merriment of a bonkers old lady giving me an ass kicking.
   "German Jew Nazi dog eater!"
   "Thank you!" I echoed with my fake disc jockey voice I answered the phone with. John moved to the far counter and trembled with suppressed laughter.
   "Burning dogs and fifty cents and camps and whores ... and ... and ... "
   "Thank you!"
   Babushka stood silently for a minute or two. Staring outside, fixing me with the evil eye, gazing around the store. Wild fury spent. She was still angry, but she had forgotten what she was upset over.
   Shoot me now, before I get old.
   Seconds later, her brain successfully sent a message to her feet and she tottered out the door.
   "What was that all about?" John asked, wiping tears from his eyes.
   "Oh, she was trying to get a threesome going with The Professor and me. I declined."
   Shouldn't have said that. John went into convulsions.
.

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