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I saw the world break today

Posted on | October 20, 2007 | No Comments

Today, I saw the world come to an end while I was shopping with my daughter in a book store. Specifically, I saw a globe go tumbling off of a shelf and then re-orient itself in smaller pieces on the store floor. I was carrying my daughter so that she could check out the inflatable kid’s globes that someone had mistakingly placed on the highest shelf.

The shelves in question were stacked 5 tiers high, the highest being approximately 6′ off of the ground (a little shy of my own height). The shelves were about 4 feet wide, each holding 5 – 6 globes, a predicament that placed the end globes on each shelf at great peril since their bases were only half seated on the shelves.

My daughter spun one of the globes as I was hoisting her up to see things more appropriate for her age (she’s 2), gravity took over and you’ve already read about the results. An army of store employees surrounded us as a lone messenger went to fetch the manager.

What happened next was sad.

Our daughter knows that when something breaks its usually bad. We don’t place an inordinate (unhealthy) value on objects, we don’t find the need to induce guilt within her as the result of a mistake. My daughter didn’t make any mistakes, globes are supposed to be spun. Gravity had other plans, it happens.

The manager appeared, a slightly older than middle aged woman conveying a consternatiously subtle demeanor. The army of store employees were very careful when selecting words that they spoke in the manager’s presence, I realized that this encounter might become interesting. It did.

Someone is going to pay for this” were her first words to us after a solid ten minutes of studying the broken pieces. “You will have to pay for this, someone must pay for this.” Due to her vehemence, I began to wonder if ‘this‘ continued to refer to the broken globe in her hand.

I explained to the manager how the globes were placed at peril, how the children’s globes were impossible to reach for children and how, sometimes, “this happens”. Again, the manager informed me that “Someone must pay for this!” I was in no danger of liberating this poor woman from her mantra.

On me, I had about $10. The globe cost about $45. I didn’t have a credit card with me, even if I wanted to, I was not paying for that globe. I didn’t want to pay for it, I didn’t need to pay for it, things happen – we call it the cost of doing business. I was a regular customer who visited once weekly to buy my daughter books and art supplies. If the store manager was going to tell me that I was going to “pay” in a very nasty tone four times without even introducing herself, I was going to consider my patronage past tense (and have).

Finally, I said “I’m not paying for that globe, anyone walking by would have caused it to fall. A breeze would have caused it to fall. My child is extremely upset. Perhaps you should consider adjusting your globe display a bit, it might prevent this sort of thing.”

The manager became quiet again for about ten minutes, then summoned the two employees who had arranged the globes that day. They appeared with badges that said that their names were “TRAINEE” (I wondered if they were related) and stood at military attention. Oh, bother.. here we go.

Sir,” the manager spoke, “you are correct. This was entirely our fault. Do you see these two girls? I will take the value of the globe from their salaries, as they were the ones who so foolishly placed them.

If someone farts in an elevator, we hold our breath. If someone attempts to strike us, we duck. If it rains, we hoist an umbrella. When someone tries to sew the seeds of guilt (a very fast growing weed) within you, deny them. I’m well aware of local laws and immediately realized that this woman, who manages the store, that gets my money once a week was trying to make me feel lousy and that her threats were illegal.

I looked at the manager and said “Do you have anything else to say?” , she remained silent, we left and took our daughter to the toy store to buy some bubbles and a bubble maker.

I was fortunate enough to see two things clearly demonstrated today:

  • The world, on any scale is quite fragile.
  • My serenity is valued by others at slightly less than 45 bucks, give or take.

It is fortunate for me that my serenity is not for sale, at any price, or I might have invented some new explicatives through discourse. What a curious day.

I wished that I owned a store, I would have hired those two girls named TRAINEE on the spot and taken them with me.


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