Warning: this post is most definitely not politically correct.
I was planning on getting out to take some photos this evening but that didn’t work out. And as I haven’t taken any since the weekend, I decided to post about young Helen’s experiences working at the Dollar Tree (one of those stores where everything costs $1.25 or less) here in beautiful Canuckistan. You may remember her from when I reblogged a post she wrote about how she was experiencing her new town through an expat’s eyes. Her sense of humour might be described as being laced with sarcasm, irony and cynicism? Here we go – in her words. Mostly.
“When I get down to my last dime I’ll just walk over to skid row.”
“There are some real weirdos down there.”
“They’re everywhere.” – Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye
Whoever makes those Walmart memes should mosey on down to the Dollar Tree and stay a while. I started my glorious career as a Dollar Tree cashier in August, and over the last few months I’ve noticed that my till seems to attract the strangest, most, um, interesting people. As one of my managers often says, “We get a different kind of dumb here.”
On my first day on the job, a man ambled up to the till. After scanning his ten packages of craft feathers and two tubes of glitter glue, I asked him if he was interested in purchasing our deal of the week – electronics cleaning wipes. He stared at them for a few seconds, then at me, then back at them. Finally, fixing his gaze on my name tag he asked animatedly, “Helen. Will those clean my spaceship?”
“Perhaps,” I thought, “but I don’t think they’ll do anything for your state of mind.”
Then there is a rather large woman, broad-shouldered and with a profound alto voice, who comes by now and then with her adopted son. He walks through the aisles singing loudly and talking to the little stuffed monkeys. They buy a great assortment of Old Dutch chips, caramel supreme cookies, double fudge brownies and other-such calorie-stuffed goodies. On occasion the mother will buy a few packets of chips that have the word “slim” plastered across them and a diet coke to go with a case of sugar-laced Dr. Pepper pop. She is, in her own special way, making a genuine effort to lose weight (I assume). Initially I wondered about them – what story they might have to tell – but really they just seemed like regular customers: in a bizarre Dollar Tree kind of way. One day, in between begging for a chocolate bar and singing Amazing Grace at the top of his lungs, the little boy looked up at his mother and said, “Mommy, why in high school were you a boy and now you’re a girl?” Again, I had no words.
Old women are the most entertaining of course – particularly those who are a little hard of hearing. One in particular comes to mind, who sped her shopping cart up and down the aisles, loudly and indignantly proclaiming to anyone she encountered that the store was American and, therefore, did not carry the brand of tinned salmon she wanted! Unfortunately for me, I was in the aisle where the wrong tinned salmon was located, packing some spam onto the lowest shelves. I’d heard her coming and so anticipated her onslaught.
“Excuse me! Why are you on the floor??” she asked irritatedly.
“Oh. I’m unpacking some things down here,” I replied.
“WHAT?” she continued.
“I’m unpacking …” I tried to explain, being cut off by her, mid-sentence:
“WHERE IS THE SALMON?”
“It’s over here,” I pointed, knowing what was coming.
“That’s the wrong kind. THIS STORE MUST BE AMERICAN!! They are taking over EVERYTHING!”
“I’m sorry,” was all I could muster.
“WHAT? she asked again loudly. “I can’t understand you. You’re not American are you?!?”
“No ma’am, South African,” I replied again, as politely as possible.
“Well. I will be making a strong suggestion to your manager that she FIRE YOU. Foreigners are taking over this country!” At that she stormed out …
Another older woman shuffled towards the check-out a while later, parking her buggy at till 3 even though till 1’s light was on.
“I can help you on one” I called across to her.
“That is NOT a one! That’s a zero!” she responded indignantly, squinting through her thick eye glasses.
By now I was getting more confident in my role as check-out chick. “I can help you on zero,” I called over…
Most recently, an old woman who bought over 24 tins of peas asked me to double bag them, so that the bag wouldn’t rip while she carried them to the car. I did as she asked and handed them over. She narrowed her eyes at me and gave me a glimpse at my possible future. “Perhaps some day you too shall have artificial hips and not be able to bend over.” I prayed silently that God would take me home long before that fate befell me. Whatever happened to all the sweet old ladies, I wonder?
We’ve also had a couple of incidents concerning solar-powered “bobble-head” plastic turkeys. You know those cute little things you put on your car’s dash, or in the back window? Just before Thanksgiving I was unpacking a recently-arrived consignment of the birds when a customer came across. Looking down at the lifeless items, with nary a bobbling head in sight, she was irate.
“What’s wrong with these solar-powered turkeys,” she asked. “Surely you can’t expect to sell them, they’re broken!”
Explaining to her that I had only just unpacked them, and that they would start doing what they were designed to do as soon as they saw the sun, she responded as only a Dollar Tree customer could: “What’s the sun got to do with it?”
Another customer, not trusting my word for it, took one, marched boldly across to the store’s large front windows, mounted a display case and thrust the turkey valiantly towards the sunlight … at which, the bird started bobbing its little head violently. “Mmmmm, I guess you were telling the truth,” was her excuse for an apology.
I’m sad to say that this Dollar Tree “condition” seems to be contagious too. A while back I was standing at till 1 and my manager was at till 2, struggling to scan an item. “Ping Pong … Helen,” she called out on the store intercom, “please would you come to till 2. Ping Pong.” I turned around and asked what she needed.
“Oh, there you are. That was quick …”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just a short compilation of many stories I have to tell. If you are ever bored, come on down to the Dollar Tree. You won’t be disappointed.