I went mommy-ing over the weekend, and it paid off. I’ll share.
Very soon, after I make my detective expert’s edits and read my book again and have a long talk with it on the porch about its journey and how to behave when I’m not there, I will be sending the first five pages to agents far and wide. God willing, several will put down their coffee and contact me immediately to request additional material. And with this possibility looming, what is the one thing I have run out of? Yes, paper. So I went to Staples, a place I heart as much as I heart Ann Taylor and possibly more, because things at Staples don’t go out of style or have to be tried on.
Under the influence of my high hopes I bought not a ream or two, but a box-grande of laser paper with six reams inside. With a decent amount of muscle, I carried it to the front, where, three days before every school in the land was to open, only two registers were open.
The line at Staples before school starts looks like this:
Behind each register stood a cashier with a name tag that said, “In Training.” My cashier in-training was Caitlin. When I took my place in line she had one customer in progress who was either a teacher or the mother of eight judging from the size of her order. Next, and in front of me, stood another woman buying toner cartridges. Periodically, Caitlin glanced over at the very long line that was forming with that unmistakable shell-shocked look of seasonal help – wide, unblinking eyes, hands hovering over the items stacked in front of her like she was putting out little fires. With each item she scanned and bagged, she reassured herself , “Okay, that’s all set,” before reaching for another. It took forever and I could no longer feel my arms.
But here is where I did not get frustrated. Here is where I thought about each of my daughters applying for their first jobs and about a mother like myself, who probably watched Caitlin hang up the phone after being hired, and said, like I would have, “Congratulations! They’ll love you!” At that point, Caitlin was not thinking about the hell that waited on this kind of a day. The hell that waited was the woman in front of me.
I watched as she grew agitated, the loud sighing, the watch-checking, and the shifting from one foot to the other while she muttered under her breath, “Unfreakingbelievable.” Then she turned to me: “Can’t believe this,” she said.
After another five or six minutes, Caitlin came to the end of the order and loudly enough for everyone to hear, the woman in front of me said, “Jesus, finally.” Caitlin asked her customer if she had a Rewards card to which the customer offered the dreaded response, “No, as a matter of fact, I don’t. Can I get one?” And Caitlin, looking like she’d now cry, scanned the floor for anyone wearing a red Staples tunic who might bail her out, but saw no one. “Sure, you can,” she soldiered on, pulling a binder from a shelf behind her.
The woman in front of me came undone. “What? WHAT? You’re going to do that NOW? With this FREAKING line? Are you KIDDING ME?”
While Caitlin kept her attention on the customer, the woman dropped her items on the floor in front of her and crossed her arms. “I can’t believe you’re doing this now,” she said three or four more times. She turned to me again.
“Can you believe this? Can you believe she’s doing this now?”
“It’s part of her job,” I said. “Give her a break. She’s new, she’s in training. Didn’t you read her tag?”
The woman stared at me so I asked, “What, you’ve never been new in a job? You think this is easy for her?”
“I should have gone to another line,” the woman said.
“You’re absolutely right,” I said, “Why don’t you just do that now?”
She gathered her things, swore a couple of times and stomped off.
I moved up and put my paper on the counter. “This will be a piece of cake,” I said to Caitlin, “And no, I don’t want a Rewards card.” With a smile of relief-grande Caitlin said, “Thank you.” But I was mommy-ing so I said, “You know, this is not easy what you’re doing, you’re very brave.” And she got a little teary then and said, “thank you for saying that.” I added, “And I think you’re doing a great job.” She smiled again and said thank you again and God said, “Okay, enough,” and so I signed my receipt and left.
Everyone needs a little mommy-ing now and then, and I’m just the mommy to do it.