Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wise Men

Interior. Irish Pub. Afternoon During the Holidays.

A female BARTENDER sets a plate of waffle fries and dipping sauces on the bar between two men in their late 30’s. She follows with a pint of Guinness for each. The men pause for a moment to admire the sight of the appetizer and beer. The men look like they’ve wandered the desert gnawing their tongues and just stumbled over a dune to find an oasis shimmering with ice cold water.

BARTENDER: Waffle fries, sauce, and Guinness. Enjoy, guys!

AARON: (to the bartender) You, Miss, are a Christmas angel.

TAD: Thank you very much.

BARTENDER: (genuinely pleasant) You're welcome very much!

The BARTENDER walks away and begins serving customers at the other end of the bar. The bar is peppered with customers. It isn’t busy. Nat King Cole Christmas music plays soft in the background. Silent football highlights flash on the TV in the corner.

AARON: So what’s the deal with all this Miley Cyrus stuff?

TAD: I don’t know. I think it’s a cautionary tale about child fame and the potential side effects of long term mullet haircuts by fathers.

AARON: I am no longer allowing my daughters to watch any tv other than public television.

TAD: Me neither. So you got all your Christmas shopping done?

AARON: Oh yes. This morning I bought my last round of crap. It’s in the trunk as we speak.

TAD: Outstanding. I also have finished my holiday duties. Me and my slow-cooker are going to see these holidays through.

AARON: Slow cookers are not just a means of preparing food. They are magic cauldrons of man happiness.

TAD: Yes, that’s true.

AARON: I am not going to go into any department stores for the rest of my life by the way.

TAD: Neither am I.

AARON: Now, seriously. What do you do to stay sane when you’re in a busy store on the holidays? What’s your strategy? I’m a big fan of listening to music. Jam those ear buds into my earholes and block it all out. The lady who can’t decide what color M&M’s to get who blocks the whole aisle with her cart with no awareness of the six people who are trying to get passed her. The unsupervised kids who slam into your knees without warning running around on a pre-diabetes sugar high. The sweaty, pissy store associate getting chewed out by some lady because they don’t have the leather boot in her size even though the other store associate said they did. The guy in camo who looks like he’s gonna shoot the place up if everyone doesn’t get out of his way. I can’t stomach it. It’s unsafe. I’m gonna do all my Christmas shopping in July from now on.

TAD: I mostly read a lot of internet news about people who turn the tide on burglars. Like elderly veterans with shotguns. They’re watching Wheel of Fortune when an armed teenager decides to break into his house to steal his deceased wife’s jewelry for oxycodone money. The crusty old-timer, who always watches Wheel of Fortune with a loaded shotgun nearby--

AARON: As everyone should.

TAD: --blows the teenager all over the walls. That comforts me. That tells me that sometimes the good guys win. I mostly do that and buy gift cards online.

AARON: There you go. Amen. Gift cards online. That’s a wise man for you.

TAD: I got an idea the other day when I was checking out at Walmart. I was trying not to snap. I was relieved because I was finally checking out. I knew I was five minutes away from getting out of there. The cashier mumbled some sort of greeting to me. I could barely hear it. I think it was her effort at being personable. A guy in a Walmart shirt was standing nearby watching us who I thought might’ve been her manager. You know, he had the walkie-talkie and the lanyard. Maybe I was reading into things, but it looked like they might have had multiple extremely uncomfortable and irritating conversations about how she needed to be more personable with customers. I responded to her greeting by saying in a genuinely pleasant way, “Good, how are you?” She glanced up at me and with dead, medicated eyes, and she says, “Fantastic.” She said it like I was an a**hole for being genuinely pleasant.

AARON: (laughing) That’s awesome.

TAD: That’s when the idea came to me. I think there should be some sort of check on everyone’s power in the store whether customer or employee. For instance, at check-out when you slide your card. You get two options. Debit or credit. There should be three options. Debit, credit, or ejection. Everyone would know that they need to be civil and pleasant while they are in that place. If the customer was being a jerk, all the cashier would need to do is look at him, say “Really?” then hit the ejection button. That customer would get ejected right out of the store. At a high rate of speed. There could be some sort of concealed hydraulic air-bag type launcher built into the check-out area somewhere. The next guy in line would watch this jerk sailing through the roof and think, “I’m not gonna be a jerk. That guy just got launched right into the middle of next week for being a jerk. I don’t want to get launched into the middle of next week. Then I’d be stuck in the middle of next week with that jerk.”

AARON: Nice.

TAD: The same would go for the customer. If the cashier copped an attitude because the customer didn’t wrap the chicken in an extra plastic bag or bought some kind of rare vegetable which the cashier had to look up in the special book of UPC codes, then the customer could simply slide his card and select eject. The cashier would then get ejected into the middle of next week for being a jerk. The other cashiers would think, “I’m not gonna be a jerk. I’m going to be genuinely pleasant to the customers. I’m going to look up the UPC code in my book and type it in without complaining.

AARON: Customer and employee satisfaction would go through the roof.

TAD: (almost whispering) Literally.

AARON: All the people who got launched into the middle of next week could then be forced to perform community service projects in order to get released from the middle of next week. They would have to do dishes, shovel snow, mow lawns, and take the trash out for families who had kids in the pediatric cancer center. Stuff like that.

TAD: Exactly. We just solved some of the world’s problems. Me and you.

AARON: I needed this talk.

TAD: Me too. Just what I needed.

AARON: I think I’m ready to drive home.

TAD: I’m going to get that slow cooker fired up.

AARON and TAD hand the BARTENDER cash.

BARTENDER: Thanks, guys!

TAD: (genuinely pleasant) No, thank you.

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