“I demand to speak to the manager!” came a loud, masculine voice.
I was too busy to look. I was frantically burrowing in my purse for money, since I was next in line for the cashier. I could see Harshan craning his neck to see through the crowd.
“Somebody up there is very upset,” Harshan observed redundantly. He holding the window boxes in his hand, and Darryl was pulling the little wagon with the flowers.
“If he had to stand in line as long as we have, I can certainly sympathize,” I said, zipping my purse shut. I deeply regretted my idea of putting flower boxes in the living room windows of our apartment. Spring is certainly not a good time to visit the garden shop! We’ve been standing here nearly an hour!
“Are we going home soon?” Darryl whined.
“Not much longer, dear,” I replied. “I’m the next one in line.” Just then I dropped a half-ducat coin, and had to stoop to pick it up out of the gravel walkway.
“I said, I demand to see the manager,” came the voice again, but this time it sounder firmer and more urgent. Shortly after that, a tall, lanky black youth pushed his way through the crowd—and when I say pushed, I mean pushed! Thorgelfaynese don’t have any hesitation at all about touching strangers. A crowd is like a massage; and if you’re in the way when someone has to get through, look out!
It used to give me the willies, but this time I hardly noticed it when the youth groped (and I mean this almost literally), yes, groped his way past me! He bumped into me, and I nearly lost my balance.
“Excuse me, but I dropped my cap?” He said it as if it were a question, then I noticed why: I was standing on it! I quickly took my foot off it, and he scooped it up. Without that cap, no one would know he’s an employee.
My turn to pay! Thank goodness the waiting is over! I certainly hope that John won’t mind us borrowing his car a little longer than we had planned! We were jostled once more as an older woman smiled her way up to the irate customer. She was wearing a cap like all the other employees, but her name tag said ‘MANAGER’ in unmistakably large letters.
The cashier added everything up. Two window boxes, four small flowering bushes, a bag of gravel, a bag of fertilizer and two bags of potting soil. That will be 9.F2 Ducats, please.
“I want my money back for this!” the male voice demanded loudly. “It is dangerous and defective!”
“Certainly, sir,” came the woman’s calm voice. The crowd slowly grew quiet. “It is our policy to satisfy our customers.”
“Excuse me!” the clerk said insistently. “How are you going to hang these window boxes without brackets?”
“Oh!” I said, somewhat startled. I was paying attention to the manager’s problem instead of conducting my business. The cashier informed me that the hanging brackets were sold separately. Harshan dispatched Darryl to get them.
The manager’s mellow voice cut through the crowd. “When I send this back to the manufacturer, they will want to know what the defect is,” she said in a motherly tone. “Could you help me find it? I can’t seem to see it.”
“You better give me a refund!” the man demanded emotionally, “it nearly cut off my daughter’s toe!”
“My goodness!” the manager exclaimed in horror. “How did that happen?”
Darryl returned with the brackets and placed them on the make-shift wooden counter. The cashier proceeded to void the old sales receipt and make a new one.
“We were planting bushes in the back yard,” the man began, as if choked with painful remembrance, “when Morli—that’s my daughter’s name—started to cry. She cut herself on this tool and had to be rushed to the hospital!” The man’s voice began to quaver, “She’s being treated there right now this minute!”
“Oh, I see,” the manager said calmly. After a moment’s pause, she continued, “I will authorize a full refund, of course; but I would like to know how old your daughter is.”
The man told her.
“Goodness, it’s no wonder the accident happened!” The woman scolded him very gently, “A child that age should never be left to play with something like this! Those blades are sharp!”
The man said something in protest, but I couldn’t make out what he said.
“If the blades aren’t sharp then they won’t cut the weeds,” the manager said, raising her voice in frustration. “Now if the blades were dull, it would really be a defective product.”
A loud argument ensued, but I couldn’t hear the juicy details. I had to search for another coin. With the brackets, it came to A.04 Ducats, and I only had an eight Ducat bill and two Ducats in change. Harshan quietly slipped me a coin so I could pay.
In the meantime, the argument had grown even louder. The man was hysterically threatening to sue the garden shop, and the woman was becoming very, very defensive.
“These things can really get out of hand,” Harshan whispered to me.
“You don’t need to tell me about it,” I replied, “I’m Human, remember?”
When we got through the crowd, we discovered that we had to pass right through the eye of the storm to get to the car. It was not a pretty sight. The manager felt her good character was at stake, and was unnecessarily defending it. The unhappy customer was loud, hysterical, and completely unreasonable. His voice was quavering and his hands were shaking! I think his eyes could have spoiled milk at fifty paces.
“I’m going to sue you,” he threatened, “I’m going to sue you for injuring my daughter!”
We couldn’t watch this sad spectacle. It was embarrassing to listen to it! And I had thought such noble things about Homelanders!
Halfway to the car, Harshan stopped dead into his tracks, and I ran into him from behind. “What’s the matter?” I sputtered. “What are you stopping for?”
“Hush,” he said, and turned around. “They’re quiet now!”
I turned to look.
“Not scared now!” came a soothing Hugmup voice. The crowd cooed and laughed sympathetically. The manager collected herself and dispatched an employee to handle the refund. The man was awkwardly cuddling a Hugmup! He had a strange look on his face, like he had just come to his senses.
It was a very busy day after that. We drove home, dropped off our purchases, and returned the car to John Anderson. He insisted on driving us home (the bus would have been fine) and helped us with the window boxes. After that was dinner and television, but I still can’t get that incident out of my head.
Maybe Hugmups do make the difference.