Almost every year, my family went shopping on Christmas Eve. We didn’t often buy anything, but it is an interesting time to shop. People and products are flying everywhere; it’s like standing in the middle of a time-lapse video as long as you can avoid being trampled while standing still in the middle of an aisle. Lately, I have been shopping on Christmas Eve because I just haven’t had time to finish off my list until the last minute. But this year, I was out shopping just for the fun of it, and I decided to go to a craft store. We have at least three major craft chains in town, and they each have their strengths. One of my favorite stores for the sheer selection they provide is also the bane of my fabric existence. They have implemented a number system where you have to draw a number in order to be served. Having worked in a fabric store for much of my high school career, I can appreciate the beauty of the number system, but I also hold fabric cutters to a certain standard of speed when applying said system (especially now that they have those newfangled bar code scanner do-dads – I bet they don’t have to walk to work barefoot, either…).
Several months ago, I walked into this store, immediately drew a number, and proceeded to walk around for over half an hour waiting for my number to be called. They had only gotten through three numbers before I had to leave, and they were still three numbers away from calling mine out. I wandered close to the table and looked for someone to give my number to, scanning the crowd for another impatient customer before finding the most likely candidate. There were two ladies standing near the table with fabric in their buggy, watching the proceedings and trying to figure out who was next in line. I correctly guessed that they didn’t have a number at all and passed mine on before heading for the exit sans fabric. From that night on, I have vowed to never buy fabric in that store unless I am either in dire straits or there is no one else in the store.
Imagine my surprise when there were only three other customers in the store on Christmas Eve, and none of them were near the fabric counter. I casually perused the aisles of fabric, taking my time with some fleece selections before walking, in no great hurry, to the cutting counter. I looked around and noted the following: the sign said they were serving number 32; there was no one and no fabric waiting at the counter; there was a staff person waiting and doing nothing else; the next number in the chute was 33. What follows was the actual exchange between me and Tiffany*.
Me: (In my friendliest polite customer voice) Do you really need me to draw a number since no one else is waiting?
Tiffany: (In her not-so-friendly-bordering-on-rude customer service voice) Oh, you HAVE to draw a number if you want some fabric cut.
Me: (Drawing a number) Okay.
Tiffany: (Walks over to the intercom and uses her best announcer voice) Now serving number 33. Number 33, now being served at the counter. (Hangs up the intercom phone and looks around the store, waiting for Number 33)
Me: (Trying desperately not to be sarcastic on Christmas Eve) Well, that would be me…
Tiffany: (In her friendliest customer service voice) How can I help you?
I was trying not to laugh out loud or say something sarcastic, but this was definitely a situation of procedure run amuck. Not only that, but I was terribly sure that I was on Candid Camera or maybe dropped into a live SNL skit – I kept waiting for someone to jump out and say, “Gotcha!” My mom wondered why I didn’t jump up and down and excitedly yell, “Ooh, ooh! That’s me! Number 33!” If I had thought of that, I would have (and now you understand why I had to fight the sarcastic impulse…). I did manage to leave the store before completely cracking up – receiving strange glances in the parking lot is nothing unusual for me, and at least I didn’t ruin Tiffany’s day at work. I left that for number 34.
*Name changed to protect the not-so-innocent (and because I can’t remember what her nametag said anyway)