The other day, a grandfatherly looking gentleman came into the toy store where I work with two toddler sized children. I greeted them with my usual charming “hi”, to which they did not reply. I didn’t take it personally. It’s the plight of many a retail worker. Besides, Gramps looked overwhelmed by his shopping companions and in need of a stiff drink.
The toddlers yanked Gramps to the back of the store and began having a game with some of the toys. I helped a customer and then did some tidying up and pretty much forgot about them until I had to put something away near where they were playing. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation. Gramps was desperate to leave. He kept telling the boys that the store was about to close and that “The Lady” was going to be very mad. Customers often do this. Children are smarter than they look. They know that the store does not close at two o’clock in the afternoon and they have absolutely no fear of “The Lady”. I am “The Lady” and I’m about as scary as those kittens in the Royale commercials.
Poor Gramps. I could feel his desperation as he offered up the promise of ice cream cones, candies and a trip to the park in exchange for their timely exit from the store. A few more minutes and I bet Gramps would have bought them each a pony or a lazer gun or ponies wielding lazer guns.
All of a sudden, I realized that Gramps was trying to flag me down like a Taxi in Times Square. My insides filled with dread.
“Can I help you with something”, I said in my sweet as sunshine retail voice.
“Yes. You have something to say to the boys, don’t you?” Said Gramps.
I knew the drill. He wanted me to help him get the boys out of the store tantrum free. I’ve had customers ask me to do this before, but I had never been put on the spot. Who did this guy think he was? Just because he was too much of a ding dong to muster up enough courage to tell his kids something they didn’t want to hear, didn’t mean that I was automatically obliged to do his dirty work. If he’d asked politely or given me some sort of a head’s up, I would have totally helped him out. What grinded my gears was that he assumed I would be the bad cop to his good cop.
I took a few breaths to steady myself as I felt my sunny retail disposition fade away. I begrudgingly decided to be the better person and humour grumpy old Gramps. I looked at the toddlers and said, “I think your grandfather wants to leave now. You can come back and play another day”. I was pleased that I sounded as monotone as Ben Stein. Gramps seemed satisfied with my work as he told the boys that “The Lady” was very mad and that they needed to leave. I promptly turned around and walked away before I lost my shit on grumpy old Gramps.
Within seconds, the boys erupted into two epic tantrums. They cried and screamed until something miraculous happened; Gramps found his balls and was able to drag the screaming boys out of the store. I made sure to yell out and extra bubbly “buh-bye” as they left. Poor Gramps looked like he was about to spontaneously combust.
Now, if Gramps had been kind to me and asked politely if I would help him get the boys out of the store, I would have been pleased as punch to help out. I would have come up with some sort of elaborate plan to make their departure effortless and tear free.
Sadly Gramps did not follow the simple rule that if you treat people with kindness, they will return the favour. Gramps is a grump. Gramps probably treats all people like used toilet paper. Gramps is probably a sad person who lives under a bridge all alone and sleeps on a bed made of sharp rocks that dig into his back. I bet his only companion in life is a dog figurine that he made himself out of mud an old cigarette butts that he found in the murky creek that runs through his sad under bridge home.
The moral of the story is that if you are nice to others, they will be nice to you.
Or maybe it’s don’t bring cranky toddlers to a toy store at nap time?
Or maybe it’s be nice to me or I’ll imagine that you live under a bridge?