February 16, 2009

The Customer vaulted into the shop in a blustering hurricane of self-righteous indignation.

“You, yes you there!” He was spitting with rage and now sounded much more British than he was… which was not British at all. Rachel had worked in the electronics shop for over five years now and had dealt with customers with all levels of displeasure. She felt confident that she could diffuse any situation. In fact she considered it her forte as a sales assistant. As this thought flashed through her mind, she briefly reflected on how she still found herself in this job. She considered it menial and not in the least bit stimulating. But her boss, Gary, loved having her around because she was so good at her job that it left him with very little to do. He regularly showered her with compliments about her work and often her appearance. If there was one thing in this world that Rachel craved more than anything else, it was compliments. She couldn’t get enough of them. So instead of taking a chance and pursuing a career with her first love, Crazy Golf Course Design, she stayed where the going was good and the kind words were plentiful. As this rather prolonged train of thought finally pulled into station, she realised that she had just been wistfully staring in silence into the middle distance for around fifteen seconds and that the angry customer standing before her was completely red with mad.
“Eh yes sir, how may I help you?”
“Don’t pretend like you’ve never seen me before! I was in here last week.” Rachel didn’t remember the man but played along.
“Oh yes, of course, sorry sir. How are you?”
“I’m furious.” He was.
“Yes I can see that sir. What is the nature of your problem?” Rachel now slipped into her low, pacifying tone of voice that made anyone responding to it with anything less than equal calm feeling thoroughly embarrassed and foolish. The Customer took a deep breath and rallied his dignified self.
“You sold me a defective item.” Rachel remained silent and raised her eyebrows encouragingly. “Look, I’m a very important business man in the film business and I often have to remember a lot of things that are also very important for the film business. So I bought a Dictaphone to help me remember the very important things I need to remember for the film business.”
“…I see.” She didn’t.
“I often come up with a quite brilliant idea and it’s a matter of the utmost importance that I remember this idea exactly how I thought of it first when I need to, at a later date.”
“Yes sir, I know how a Dictaphone works.” This was an ill-considered reply and Rachel knew it as soon as it left her mouth. The Customer started to turn red again and a vein on the left side of his nose swelled up and began to throb. In her many years of customer relations, Rachel had never seen a nose vein before. She was conscious now that she was staring. “Eh… Go on.” He retrieved a small black item from his jacket pocket and held it aloft.
“I bought this Dictaphone from you last week… and I think it’s possessed.”
‘Oh dear…’ thought Rachel, hovering her finger over the silent alarm button underneath the counter. “Possessed?” she ventured dubiously.
“Well perhaps you’d care then to offer another explanation, for this…” The Customer stabbed the ‘record’ button with his thumb and the tape began to roll. Clearing his throat, he spoke into the microphone in his clearest business-like boom. “Note to self, idea for summer blockbuster starring Bruce Willis and Vin Diesel in a remake of the 1969 classic ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’.” The Customer pressed stop and Rachel extended her bottom lip, signifying she was impressed. It wasn’t a popular opinion but she quite liked Vin Diesel and thought that he was underrated. The Customer quickly rewound the tape and pressed ‘play’. As the tape replayed, The Customer’s voice muffled its way out of the tiny speaker.
“Note to self, idea for summer blockbuster starring Bruce Willis and Vin Diesel in a remake of the 1991 classic ‘Thelma and Louise’.” Rachel considered her response carefully. This man was clearly insane, or perhaps the host of some dreadful hidden camera TV show. Either way, she surmised, remaining calm was the way to go from here.
“Well sir, we haven’t had any complaints about this model before.” The Customer just stared at her, utterly unimpressed.
“I pitched this last week in LA, and now I’m no longer a very important business man in the film business.” Rachel opened her mouth to reply but The Customer quickly stopped her dead with a single extended index finger pointed skywards. He pressed ‘record’ once more. “Note to self, earn brownie points with the wife by taking her favourite pet dog Bonzo down to the dog groomers to be pedicured and pampered.” Rachel frowned. The Customer rewound and replayed.
“Note to self, earn brownie points with the wife by taking her favourite pet dog Bonzo down to the taxidermist’s to be stuffed and mounted on the mantle-piece.” Rachel stifled a giggle. The Customer stifled a burst blood-vessel.
“Sir, surely you would have known that that was not what you had originally intended to do with the dog that day.”
“I don’t have time for a memory! I’m too important! That’s why I bought this. But now, my career is over, my wife has left me and my dog is dead. I’m holding this shop personally responsible.” Rachel quietly pondered whether an inanimate object like a shop could be held ‘personally’ anything, let alone responsible, but then realised that correcting the man’s grammar at this point would not be a smart move. “I want to talk to the manager!” Rachel looked down. Gary, who was curled up under the counter with a pillow and blanket, now awake having been woken by the shouting, waved his hands frantically and mouthed the words; ‘I’m not here.’ Rachel sighed and gritted her teeth.
“I’m afraid he’s not available at this time sir.” That was it. Maybe it was the dead career, marriage and dog, or maybe it was the anxiety caused by his arguing with Rachel, but The Customer’s patience had finally dissolved. He erupted. He flustered and shouted and stamped and spat. Gary rose silently from his nook and peered over the counter. The tumultuous sight of this middle-aged man losing all self-control and lashing out in all directions was enough though to send him cowering back down to his hiding place. The Customer showered the poor girl in a hail of insults and obscenities. All the while Rachel concentrated on staying calm and maintaining a cool facade. But all this did was make The Customer even madder. Finally his rage climaxed in a crescendo of blind frustration and he took the Dictaphone and hurled it at Rachel’s head with all his might. The device hit her squarely on the forehead and sent her flying back into the display cabinet. She slid down onto the floor. There was a brief quiet calm, only broken by the bell above the door, which nearly fell off as The Customer made his escape and dashed out of the shop into the lunchtime rush. Gary just stared at Rachel, wide-eyed and disbelieving.

“Are… you OK?” was apparently the cream of potential utterances that he lined up in his brain and was the one he eventually plumped for. Rachel was dazed and in shock, but she nodded in the affirmative. Gary finally rallied himself into action. “I’m going to call the police. Quick, write down what he looked like so I don’t forget.” But Rachel didn’t respond and now seemed to be concussed. “Sorry, never mind. I’ll do it.” Gary fumbled around for a pen but couldn’t find one. In an instant he spotted the Dictaphone and quickly thumbed the record button. “Eh…A white male, five foot nine, medium build, was wearing a dark suit and a red tie.” Pressing stop, he grabbed the telephone and quickly dialled 999.

As three local squad cars sounded their sirens and headed in the electronic store’s direction, dispatch sounded over their radios. “All available units, woman assaulted at Wilkins’s Electronics on Claremont Avenue. Be on the look out for a yellow and purple polka-dot skinned bodybuilder, seventeen foot twenty tall, wearing a luminous green space suit and holding a massive novelty sized statue of Harrison Ford dressed as Al Capone. All units, be on the look out. He is to be considered unstable and extremely strange, over.”

…Not Also, But Only


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