I never have the right answer to those complicated questions.
Today, I was helping a customer with knives. After he’d looked at a few, he politely said, “I’ll think about it,” which is the retail equivalent of “I’ll call you.”
He walked away from me, and I turned to walk the other way to approach another customer. Now, this is the part where I tell you I’m not klutzy. Not klutzy, not ever. Very graceful, in fact. I took ballet lessons for many years during my childhood. Most people—friends, neighbors, UPS guy, Starbucks barista, whoever—would say, if you asked, that the animal I am most like is a gazelle.
So it came as somewhat of a shock when I knocked over an entire display tower of cast iron Le Creuset pans. That’s right, an Eiffel Tower of very expensive Le Creuset came crashing to the ground in an angry clatter due to your truly.
It was not one of my prouder moments. But the funny thing is: as soon as I bumped into it and I knew that the entire thing was about to collapse, I did nothing to stop it. It teetered for about two seconds, and I realized I could either try super-hard to save all the pans and end up with 10 Le Creuset pots pummeling me from all directions (have you picked one of these up? they’re very heavy), or I could jump out of the way and hope for the best.
Guess which option I chose?
You know how sometimes something bad is happening to you and it’s almost like it’s not even happening to you, but actually to someone else?
That’s what that moment was.
I was watching myself, like watching an actor in a play, and wondering what would happen next:
- Would the girl/ star/ me be severely injured (perhaps brain-damaged, killed, or permanently humiliated) by the rogue Le Creuset pans?
- Would some heroic customer/ angel/ alien jump in to save her/ Reese Witherspoon/ MOV?
- Would the Hollywood sound stage be able to accurately reproduce the type of sound that 10 Le Creuset pans make when dropped simultaneously?
People five states away heard the pans fall. Immediately afterwards, CNN reported a minor earthquake in our area, but we knew the truth.
If this sort of thing had happened to me at home, I could do what I do best: blame my young sons. The thought crossed my mind, but I realized they weren’t at work with me. I couldn’t blame the customer, I couldn’t blame the earthquake (we don’t even live in California); I had to think fast.
The Boss saw the disarray of pans, and she was approaching quickly. I could see a genuine look of concern on her face. I'm sure my face registered adequate concern for the (broken) merchandise as well.
“I’m sorry,” I squeaked out.
She asked if I was okay, and then she helped me scoop up the pans. One by one, we inspected them all: they were fine. Only the tea kettle that had been at the very top of the tower was chipped and had to be thrown away, but everything else was pristine.
The Boss held up the last pan to put back in the tower. “MOV,” she said, “Amazingly, this one’s fine, too! You know, I think this might be a very attractive selling feature: chip resistant.”
Yep, that’s why they hired me: product testing.