Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Oh, Erica

We were in Durango this summer. I was too busy actually enjoying my vacation to blog about it, but I was recently reminded of this story and wanted to write it down before I forget it like I have a million other things recently...

My older daughters and I were touring Durango with my uncle, Jim, and on our way home to meet the rest of my family and my aunt. Knowing happy hour was coming up soon, I asked Jim if we could stop at the liquor store on the way to their house for a little gluten-free beer for my husband.

(Car rides are MUCH more pleasant the less gluten he has... um... passing through his system)

Jim agreed and pulled into a gravel parking lot just off the main drag out of downtown to a small white shack. Paint peeling off the sides, heavy construction in the rest of the vacant lot and two signs - Beware of Dog & Crew Cut My Phone Line, No Credit Cards Today - told me all I needed to know before entering.

Erica stood at the register immediately to the right as I entered, talking on the phone and getting ready to ring up a ZZ Top impersonator. As I made my way to the back of the store to grab ice cold sorghum beer out of the fridge, I heard Erica explaining her case to customer service on the other end.

"It's fucking ridiculous," she eloquently replied. "I've been down all fucking day. My fucking customers don't all have cash, you know?"

Now I'm far from bothered by the f bomb. But she had no way of knowing that. And in my years of HR training, "Do not audibly or even in a visible lip-reading sort of way utter the F word" usually made the Top 10 of every How Not to Treat a Customer list I'd been given to study. But, with said dog of "Beware of" fame lurking nearby, I was not about to point that out to Erica.

So I grabbed my six-pack and dutifully made my way to the counter just as Erica hung up the phone.

"Sorry, crew cut my fucking phone line this morning," she said with the same enthusiasm one might tell a friend about an upcoming mammogram. "Fucking internet went down yesterday; couldn't even pay my fucking sales tax online."

She kind of smiled at the last part, so I did too as I asked, "Is this beer any good?"

Erica gave it a half glance before responding, "I don't know. I don't drink retard beer."

This was probably the opportunity for educating Erica that, while "fuck" will almost always fly in a liquor store, "retard" really won't.

But I didn't.

Caught so off guard, and slightly afraid she thought I lacked some sort of mental capacity, I decided to set the record straight.

"It's not for me, it's for my husband," I replied as I gently placed my husband under her bus.

"Oh," she said, startled, I assume, by my marriage to a presumed retard. "I'm sorry. People buy it. Must be okay. Your total comes to $10.50."

(gluten-free beer is not cheap)

I pulled a ten and a five out of my purse and handed it over. She gave me my change: two $2 bills and a Kennedy half dollar. I had not seen either of those things since Easter '85 when my grandparents dished out what I had previously assumed were the last two-dollar bills ever to be in circulation.

Confused by the whole experience, I thanked her for my perfectly normal, functional change and left.

The beer was terrible, but my time with Erica was priceless.

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