The Gloom Master
I’m ashamed to say that there have been times when I’ve perused the tills to see who was working them, so as to choose anyone but the Gloom Master to ring up my purchases. But yesterday I found myself again standing in queue as she dealt with customers ahead of me.
Just before me was a petite lady who I would guess was in her seventies. As Gloom Master scanned the woman’s items there was no dialogue between them. And when Gloom Master finished scanning the items, she simply stopped and waited for the woman to put her items in shopping bags. Still, no words were exchanged.
The senior shopper looked at Gloom Master and asked ‘well?’ Gloom Master responded with ‘Well what?’ With what appeared to be a hint of a twinkle in her eyes, the little lady told Gloom Master, ‘Well, dear, you’re supposed to tell me how much I owe for the groceries.’
You would have thought Gloom Master had taken an advanced training course in customer service from the staff of Ryanair. ‘The price is right there,’ replied the Till Nazi. Gloom Master barely lifted her arm to point to the till total displayed on the monitor.
It could have been a scene from When Harry Met Sally. The tiny lady slowly looked at the total displayed on the monitor, then looked back at Gloom Master. ‘Yes, dear,' she said. 'I see the screen, but you’re supposed to tell me what the total is.’ I couldn’t help but grin as I watched this battle of the minds. ‘No I don’t,’ retorted Gloom Master, ‘that’s what the display is for.’
I had anticipated that the lady was going to just give up and pay the total and possibly mutter to herself about the poor service. But how wrong I was! ‘ Dear,’ I loved how she used the word dear like a shovel to clean up a mess on the floor. ‘ We are humans and humans are supposed to talk to one another.’ At that, the small woman, who was growing very tall in my eyes, handed a twenty-pound note to Gloom Master.
Gloom Master didn’t look up. She gathered up the coins in change and dropped them on the counter, without offering any eye contact at all. I thought it was a wonderful exchange between the two women who age-wise were probably not that far apart, but in perspectives on life, they were miles apart. ‘Now say ‘Thank you,’ dear,’ the woman stood her ground in front of Gloom Master, all the while smiling such a sweet and loving smile.
Gloom Master ignored her and started to grab at my groceries. She had gotten one item past the scanner, but I quickly reached over, grabbing my groceries, preventing them from moving further down the belt.
‘You haven’t said thank you yet to the lady,’ I politely reminded her. Gloom Master instantly turned on what I can only describe as a ‘Bette Davis, Baby Jane Hudson’ theatrical smile and looked at me and said, ‘Thank you.’ And she turned to the woman, whilst maintaining the same rather possessed looking smile and said ‘thank you’ to the woman.
She didn’t miss a step. The little lady smiled back at Gloom Master and said, ‘You’re welcome. Have a lovely day.’ And at that she collected her small push trolley and proceeded out the store.
I could have said more to Gloom Master, but now wasn’t the time. I only had a few items and I wanted to catch up with the lady who had so valiantly stood her ground before old sourpuss. I found her heading towards the bus stop.
I introduced myself and told her I was pleased that she had stood up to Gloom Master, mentioning what I had named the woman. The lady told me that she had been a schoolteacher for 52 years and manners hold no age limit. I asked her if Gloom Master had been rude to her before. She tickled me greatly when she told me that she actually looks for Gloom Master whenever she comes to the store, because she’s determined to make the woman be nicer to customers.
I asked if she had ever complained to the store about her. The woman said ‘no,’ and explained that if she did all would happen is that the woman would either lose her job or have more reason to be miserable.
Who says I’m too old to learn from a teacher? I’ve decided that next week, before I go to the store, I’m going to buy a small bunch of flowers for old Gloom Master. And I’m going to present them to the store’s service desk with an anonymous card. I’ll write, ‘thank you for making someone smile last week.’
Let’s see what happens.