So I’m at the high-end kitchen store, doing my job. People are walking in, I am directing them towards kitcheny stuff they want to buy, and all is well. Until. There’s always an “until,” isn’t there? This lady comes in and asks for paring knives in bright colors.
I take her to the “Cookin’ Utensils, Etc,” bins and show her the knives. They come in red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and apparently
“Purple,” says the lady, “I saw them at your other store in a lovely shade of lavender.”
“Which store?” I inquire.
“The Other Kitchen Place.”
I take a breath.
“We’re not The Other Kitchen Place. We are The High-End Kitchen Store. Our logo is the golden bumblebee. Theirs is a squirrel on an olive branch throwing orange confetti. See?” I pick up one of our catalogs with the classy bee on the front and point at it helpfully. “Bee.”
She is not happy with my explanation. “No, what I meant was: purple.” She dons a fake smile, the kind that says, I-would-not-even-stoop-to-hold-a-conversation-with-you-you-loser-if-I-didn’t-need-the-knives-you-sell.
I know what purple is. I know we don’t carry purple paring knives, nor have we ever carried purple paring knives, nor do we have any plans in the immediate future to carry purple paring knives. (And between you and me, what kind of lunatic wants a purple paring knife, anyway?)
“I said, PURPLE,” she shout-whines, like a petulant teen-ager.
I stare at her pretty face. She looks like an exotic doll, black silky hair, shimmery dark eyes the color of shadows, olive skin to make tanning booths jealous, all ruined by her snotty attitude.
“I am very sorry, miss,” I say sincerely, “but there is no purple. Maybe you would like red? The red is very nice.”
She makes a little squeak noise, like, “Eihnh.” Followed by, “Well, then you’d better look in the back.”
I love love love when customers tell me to look in the back. They think “the back” is a Costco warehouse with all kinds of discontinued coffee machines and purple paring knives.
I debate my options. Option one: Tell her again that we do not carry purple. Option two:
“Sure. No problem. I’ll be right back.”
I disappear for a sensible amount of time, say three minutes. All the while I am wanting to call out to the Cookin’ Utensils, Etc: Here, knifey-knifey-knifey, like the purple knife is a stray dog that we recently adopted from the Humane Society (Kitchen Division) and it somehow got loose in our back room, which, by the way, is not the size of Costco, but more the size of my basement linen closet.
I walk back out, empty-handed. She looks at me, assesses my pale hands holding nothing but air and space and time and bad luck, and asks,
“Well? Did you find any?”
What I want to say: I was able to procure purple knives for you after all. Because I’m magic.
What I do say: “Nope, sorry.” I shrug, a gesture to cement the futility of my search.
“I think you need to talk to the manager then, he would know for sure,” says the exceedingly beautiful but now totally on my personal-Bad-List customer. “Get him now.”
I walk over to Holden, who has been doing his very best to hide behind the new feature of “Taste of Autumn.” He is suddenly quite engrossed in studying the exact pyramid formation of a stack of Harvest Apple Jam jars and comparing it to our corporate photo sheet.
“Holden, this customer wants to know if we sell purple knives?”
He looks at me like I may have lost my mind, or at least temporarily misplaced it in the linens aisle.
“MOV, you know that I have only worked here two years, and you have worked here, what—four years? Have you ever seen a purple knife? Lilac? Lavender? Violet? Periwinkle? Mauve? Fuchsia?” He rattles off color variations faster than any straight guy not employed by Benjamin Moore has a right to. Working retail can do that to a person.
I lean in toward him and whisper, “Will you tell her? Please? She does not seem to believe me.”
“Ma’am?” Holden approaches the woman, who is now in the process of taking every cookbook off our shelves and putting them all back in the wrong places, “We do not sell purple knives.”
“But I saw it in the catalog, I know that I—”
“Are you saying it's discontinued then? Because I—”
“We. Do. Not. Carry. It.”
At this very moment, straight or not, married or not, I want to hug Holden for not backing down to Purple Knife Lady. He is my new hero in a bumblebee embroidered apron.
“Are you sure?” she asks, one last time to emphasize her own personal brand of OCD-ness.
“In that case, I will go ahead and buy the red one. Close enough.”
Now she abandons her preferred color choice as if it were a crumpled napkin at a picnic that got rained out.
She walks up to the cash register and hands me the red paring knife. I dutifully ring up her purchase, when she catches sight of some purple spatulas in a display.
“You carry spatulas!” she beams, as if she has only seen them in movies but never in real life. “Do these come in black?”
("Mystery Of Violet")