I wrote this in July of 2015, on a Tumblr account that no longer exists. It is about what happened while I was waiting (in a store that no longer exists) for my newly fixed computer to be returned to me.
I read this in episode 12 of my Words of Jen podcast.
My husband, Shawn, and I were at a computer store for the purpose of picking up my computer. The video card died, the lovely people at the computer store fixed it, and I was super happy about having my computer back in my life.
Shawn and I arrived at the computer store about twenty minutes or so before they were going to close. All we needed was to sign a receipt thing, pay for the repair, and have a worker fish my computer out of the back room and hand it over. Super easy.
While we waited, a woman opened the front door of the store, stuck her head inside, and yelled: “Are you guys open?” One of the workers reluctantly responded that yes, they were, and stressed that they were closing soon.
Things got weird after that.
The store was running with what one worker described as “a skeleton crew”, which is understandable considering they were within an hour of closing time.
One worker was sitting at a desk area and helping a granny with her laptop. From what I could overhear, she had come in because she believed that someone had tried to scam her.
A very kind worker, a young man, was patiently going through her computer, explaining everything he did, and making sure she understood what he was doing. He noticed Shawn and I standing there, and asked what we needed help with.
“We’re here for a pick-up.”
He seemed visibly relieved that all we needed was a quick pick-up, apologized that he couldn’t immediately help us, and assured us someone would be with us soon. In the few minutes that we were waiting for help, the manager was releasing the cashiers and collecting their cash register drawers. It was the usual “the store is going to close soon” kind of preparations.
While this was happening, the same woman returned, opened the front door, stuck her head in, and yelled “Are you guys still open?” As a former retail worker, that phase still makes me cringe, even though I haven’t worked a retail job since 2009.
I could feel the tension level in the room rise from the workers who were so close to being able to go home for the day. The last cashier informed her that they were open “for about fifteen minutes”.
Without a word, the woman turned around and left. The manager shrugged, and everyone seemed to write that off as just another “quirk” that happens in retail.
The manager, now finished with most of the cashiers, was ready to help us. She explained the repair costs, and ran Shawn’s card for the payment. Problems started when she tried to print out the receipt. The printer, being a printer, wouldn’t cooperate. She ended up having to tell the computer to print the receipt out of a printer that was located in the back room.
The woman who left a minute ago reappeared. She stuck her head in the door, and yelled “I have to go park my car!” She left the store again. Right then, I knew she was going to return and be a difficult customer.
Sure enough, she did. The woman held an iMac computer in her arms, that looked like the same kind that I had. They are heavy, and she was struggling. It didn’t help that she still had all of the cords and cables attached, and that some were dragging on the floor. I could see that one of them was the cord that attached the computer to a modem.
She managed to get the computer all the way through the store to the back area where people can get help with their computers. The woman was wearing shorts that were too big for her, and I turned my head away when it became apparent that she was about to lose them. I did not need that image in my head!
The worker who was now finished helping the nice granny asked the woman what the problem was with her computer.
“I need it fixed.”
The worker informed her that the store was about to close, and that he had two options for her. She could leave the computer at the store, let them diagnose it, and return after they figured out what was wrong with it. Or, she could take the computer with her and return another day for help.
“Well, I need it fixed.”
“Can you tell me what isn’t working?,” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
The worker, again, suggested that she leave the computer there and let them work on it. They would call her after they figured out what was wrong.
“Well, I’m an animal rights activist, and I get attacked all the time,” the woman said. The worker had a blank expression on his face, one that retail workers get when a customer tells them something that doesn’t appear to be related to …. well, anything else.
This woman looked like she was younger than the nice granny who was in the store a little while ago, but not by much. Her long grey/blond hair was disheveled. She had to keep picking up her shorts that threatened to fall down, and her tank top was stretched over a large stomach that resembled a “beer belly”. (She couldn’t possibly be pregnant, at her age.)
It took more than one worker’s attempt to have her “get” that the store was still open, and she hadn’t yet grasped that it was on the verge of closing. I was starting to question if she was under the influence of something.
The worker didn’t quite know how to respond to the woman’s announcement that she gets “attacked all the time”. He asked, “Do you think there might be a virus on your computer? Or, was there something else…?”
“It’s not starting up like it used to.”
“Will the computer start?”
“Well, yeah, but not like it used to.”
By this time, another worker came out of the back room with my computer. The dead video card had been replaced with a new one. Unfortunately, something happened when they were working on my iMac, and it resulted in a little “ding” in the glass at the top of the computer.
They are going to replace the glass, free of charge, but couldn’t do it today. So, my computer is going to return to the shop once again, after the glass comes in, and a simple repair can be made. I’m cool with that. Accidents happen, and they are going to fix things. No worries.
The woman decided to leave her computer at the shop so it could be repaired. She wandered to the front of the store, and asked another worker about one of the computers.
It seemed that she believed that this brand new computer was on sale for $100, which wasn’t true at all. The worker tried to explain that that wasn’t what the sign said, that it was actually talking about an upgrade, or a warrantee, or something like that… but the woman didn’t understand. She asked where the computer was that was selling for one hundred bucks, if that one wasn’t it.
As Shawn and I left the store, we were still wondering about the strange woman who arrived at the store shortly before it was going to close. What was her story? We wondered what she considered to be “animal rights” and/or “activism”.
I cannot image why she would choose to wear a pair of shorts that must have been falling down all day. A rational person would probably go find something else to wear before they ran to the computer store, moments before it was set to close.
That’s one of the odd things about retail work. You get these people who come to you for help with something, when it is clear that there is something much bigger in their lives that they should be seeking help for.
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