When I was in high school, especially during my senior year, my parents were quite intent on me getting a job. They claimed it was because they wanted me to contribute to my pending *massive* tuition bill. In retrospect I am fairly certain they were looking for ways to get me out of the house. An over-achieving pubescent female facing a major life-change is no treat. You’ll say anything to get away from these strange creatures so closely resembling your dear loved baby.
Whatever their reasoning, I took the suggestion of my parents and applied for a job at a craft store. I had always been interested in crafts. In fact, anything befitting any 87-year-old woman I had felt keenly was also befitting me. I was called grandma more than once during this stage of my life, although I never did get one of those plastic bonnets. I figured that getting a job at a craft store would be the perfect way for me to proceed in spending every penny that I earned. It was job security. That store would always have at least one customer, and I knew it. Amazingly, and for the one of the only times in my life, I was hired after my first interview.
Working at a craft store is an interesting experience. One expects everyone to be sweet and charming because after all, only sweet and charming people do crafty things. My experience was a little astray from my expectations. One time when I was cashing out a customer, a seemingly sweet older lady, I found many “notions” (those being needles, pins, and the like for you craft-jargon impaired) rolled up in some fabric she had purchased. Surely she had simply neglected to unroll her fabric at the counter, I told myself. Only I had been warned that this was the most common way people shoplifted merchandise. I also learned that craft store aisles apparently have signs, invisible to me, that say, “Please fart here.” I would be walking around “putting things away” (code for shopping) and would walk through the most impossible clouds of methane you could possible imagine. Sometimes the guilty party would be nearby and I would swear they would grin as they watched me, subtly, out of the corner of their eye, walk through their vomitous wreckage. Sometimes no one was around. That was almost more disturbing. A fart with staying power is something to lament in this world.
The most educational part of this job for me was discovering, first-hand, that people do not become more mature or more sensitive as they age. I had perhaps naively assumed that this was a natural progression. Of course you get picked on in high school, I reckoned, but once you get out of those hellish halls, you will be around adults, and adults are more aware of their impact on others. You see, as fate would have it, I am 4’5 instead of 5’4 or 6’4. I got picked on rather mercilessly at school. I started my job at the craft store ready to be exposed to the world of grown-ups, where I would be accepted simply for who I was, green apron and all.
The thing about humanity is that when there is a lesson to learn you don’t just learn it once and move on. The universe has a way of hammering these lessons into your head. My years at the craft store exposed me to some fantastic ways in which people can be educational.
I learned, for example, that people do not really understand anatomy. A lady asked me one day to help her find a particular kind of fake flower. Finding anything in the floral section was enough to give me the trembles. All of that smelly eucalyptus and tangly ivy. Nightmarish. But ultimately I found what she was looking for, high up on the top of the shelf, of course. I pointed, using my finger. The nice one. Instead of saying “thanks” the woman inexplicably said, “Wow, that’s so high. I bet you can’t even see that high.” Forgetting for a moment that I clearly could see that high as I had just pointed to something up there, let’s take this moment to note that no matter how short you are, your neck still enables you to tilt your head back so you can look up. Granted, there are some people of any height who may be encumbered in this regard, but it is not in fact size-related.
I learned that some people require something familiar in order to understand the strange. I was helping a customer once and out of the blue they blurted out, “You remind me of my aunt. She was also little.” <Pregnant pause as I certainly had no idea what to say. Does one thank a person for this information?> “She was a real spitfire.” Was this granting me permission to respond in a repulsive and unladylike way? I had no idea.
I learned that people don’t really understand relative size differences or references. I was checking out a customer’s items close to closing time one night when suddenly she said, “You are so tiny. You must keep your shoes in an index card box.” Of course a million brilliant comebacks entered my mind. After the fact. In the moment I was simply so dumbfounded by the comment that I had nothing to say.
Perhaps the best thing I learned, however, is that people can be deliciously gifted in not noticing the obvious. I was working one day, busily sewing buttons to cards (we had to look busy even when the store was empty because this would make “CORPORATE” happy) when someone rang the customer bell. I walked over and began checking the man’s items out. Suddenly he said, “Well, aren’t you going to stand up while you do that?” Bear in mind, now, that at the cash register I had a five-inch tall platform I stood on, so this gentleman had actually watched me grow 5 inches right in front of his eyes. Also bear in mind that I had walked, using my two legs, over to where he was. Unfortunately, and I assure you, much to my chagrin, even standing on a slightly elevated platform, I was still short. So short, in fact, that a man thought I was sitting in an invisible chair whilst ringing him out.
Do not be confused. Do not feel deceived. Even though I am not as tall as you are when I stand all the way up, I can assure that yes…I am really standing. Believe it or not.