Friday, August 18, 2006

Coworkers: Part 66 - Cracker Diplomacy‏

   There were fewer and fewer Country experts working the store. Kristi was the last, hard core aficionado, but she had left for the greener financial pastures of the brokerage world. Pat was more than qualified with mainstream, Top 20 hits, and her favorite artists. Sharon emerged as the dark horse. Without question, she was the sharpest with R'nB, but that cowboy expertise came as a surprise.
   Trouble was, many Country types were middle of the road types, both in listening habits and personalities. Sharon was an unpredictable firecracker.

   The woman had come in requesting some Gar Brook tune. The song in question was by Brooks & Dunn, climbing the charts.
   Sharon ought to have known better. She was attempting to assist the customer and educate. Big mistake.
   "Listen! I know this song," Sharon told her. "Radio was playing it when I drove to work."
   "I looked through all the Gar Brook CD's and don't find it."
   "That's because it was Brooks & Dunn. And the other singer's name is Garth Brooks, not Gar."
   "No, it's really Gar. He was named after a pond catfish,"
the woman corrected her. "Everybody knows that."
   Sharon doubled over laughing. "What? You're saying his real name is Gar Pond."
   "I read that in the grocery checkout lane."
   "Stick with the National Enquirer, not those copycat rags. You'll get ink all over your clothes."
   "Gar changed his last name from Pond cause some lawsuit. But Brook is close enough to Pond. They both mean running water."
   "A pond is still. A brook flows."
   "Do what?"
Sharon held out the Brooks & Dunn disc, "this is the song you requested. Here. See?"
   "I want the Gar Brook version."

   The woman was late 30's. Wore bright green stretch pants, which were stuffed to maximum, and a billowy peach blouse, sized for a baby elephant. She looked like a waffle cone, pinched on the bottom, overflowing at the top.
   Just then, two of the woman's children rushed up. She entered with three kids who had charged all through the store, screaming and fighting. This was a school day. When that mother made it to check out, I planned to ask why none of them were in school. I already had a good idea.
   Besides, Sharon beat me to it.
   "These your kids? Why aren't they in school?"
   "They are in school. We home school. I'm their teacher."
   "But ... this is the middle of the day,"
Sharon spoke the obvious.
   "Oh ... uh ... outing. This is a field trip."
   "An outing to buy some music?"
   "Yeah, Gar Brook."
   "I'm trying to help you. You don't even know what you want."
   "I know what I want. I ain't no ignorantus like you. Why my kids are home schooled and gonna grow up right."

   Sharon stared at her.
   "And if I wanted help from a piece of trash," the woman continued, "I'd pick through the sewer dumpster."
   The argument had grown loud. Mandy and Stacey looked up from the Listening Center. The Boss hurried to defuse the situation.
   Too late.
   "Screw you, lady." Sharon walked off.
   I think she said screw. Could have been another word, often used to describe a similar activity.
   The woman went wild. Stamped up and down, twirled like a noisy top. Wanted us to phone the police. She would call the landlord, Action News At 6:00, her Congressman. She threatened to contact District.
   That last one seemed the most serious. Most of the store did not think she would follow through. She wouldn't phone, and she sure as hell wouldn't write a letter, no matter how stellar her teaching qualifications. I mean, surely home school teachers had to get the same degrees and credentials as ordinary teachers.
   The Boss, anticipating the worst, blundered.
   He phoned the District Manager with a preemptive call. Tried to explain the situation. The DM was even more concerned, and co-opted the decision.
   Sharon was released.
   The furious customer, by the way, never bought Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, or Gar Brook. Never bought anything. Never wrote that letter, either.
   Sharon's dismissal turned into probation. Six months later, she was rehired.
   Still our Country expert.

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