Our paths crossed briefly …

… but it was a memorable encounter for both of us.

I saw her coming and wondered if she was the one.

I studied her as she approached.  She was in her mid-30’s, about my age.  She was attractively dressed in the style that we then called “preppy” — oxford cloth shirt, chino pants and loafers.  I had been prepared to feel instant disdain when I finally saw “the one”.  I had pictured  someone hard and foul-mouthed, or someone slovenly — certainly someone without any social graces.  But this was a very pleasant-looking, well-dressed woman.  She was probably very pretty when she looked you in the eye and smiled, but she wasn’t doing either right then.  She looked uncomfortable and reluctant to meet my eye.

From her demeanor even as she was still walking toward me, I’m guessing she could feel me watching her.  I’m sure she wondered if I knew she was the one.

As she got closer, she said without preamble, “Were some earrings found?”

I said, “Yes.  Can you describe the ones you lost?”

She described the earrings that I had found exactly — she was the one.

I handed her the earrings and our eyes met briefly.

She said thank you and hesitated as if she would say more.  But in the end she just gave me a guilty little smile.

Several things ran through my mind to say, but (totally out of character) I didn’t say any of them.  Seeing her discomfort made me think that was enough.  The fact that she knew I knew was enough.  So, I just said you’re welcome, and she walked away.

What I would really have liked to say to her was, “Didn’t your mother teach you better?!”

I was working part-time at a department store.  About an hour earlier I had gone in to do the routine pick-up of any clothes left hanging in the dressing rooms. But, when I opened the door to one room, I was shocked.

There was a huge pile of clothes thrown in one corner of the little room, and a pile of hangers in the other corner.  I couldn’t believe that someone had treated all those new clothes they had tried on like trash they had thrown away.  I immediately started re-hanging, buttoning and tying.  But as I worked, I noticed something on the little shelf in the corner — a pair of earrings.  I immediately thought, “So … I wonder if I’m going to get to meet the person who did this when she returns for her earrings?”  And I did.

I like to think that it was uncomfortable enough for that woman to have to come face-to-face with the person who knew what she had done and probably had had to clean up after her, that she never did that again.

And seeing her was a good reminder to me “not to judge a book by its cover.”  I had a preconceived notion of what kind of person would do something like that.  A notion that was dispelled when I finally got to see “the one”.

14 Responses to Our paths crossed briefly …

  1. This is just excellent writing. I was totally engrossed to see where this was going….all sorts of crazy things went through my mind. Great job.

  2. Sandra says:

    Thank you very much, Jennifer. You know, as your mother, no one’s praise means more to me. 🙂

  3. carlahoag says:

    Very well told. I, too, was trying to imagine what the connection was.

    Gross alert (- and please feel free to delete!) When I use a public restroom sometimes I cannot believe the condition the previous woman has left it in. Twice I’ve just seen them leave (it was a single user facility) and so I know who it was. Previously I had thought that it surely must have been young women but no. Both times it was a middle-aged woman, once very expensively dressed (at an upscale bakery), the other time a woman in regular work clothes (at an equipment rental place).

    Like you, I would’ve thought it would’ve been a slatternly type female.

    Your customer knew that what she did was wrong, and she knew that you knew. Knowing that, it would’ve gone better for her conscience if she’d apologized.

  4. Hilary says:

    Well done, Sandra. I had no idea where you were going with this.. you lured me into that dressing room and I quite easily saw the mess… and then the expression on her face. A fine story.

  5. Sandra says:

    Carla — I think that’s what the hesitation before she walked away was probably all about. But I would guess what went through her mind was, “Since this clerk didn’t mention it, I’m certainly not going to open a discussion about it myself!”

    I just read this to Hubby and he asked me if I knew if she had checked the room first, in hopes it hadn’t been discovered yet. I don’t really remember, but I bet she did. If I had been in her shoes, I certainly would have!

  6. Sandra says:

    Thank you, Hilary! This is one of those stories I’ve had wandering around in the back of my mind for quite a while, and I finally came up with a viewpoint from which I wanted to tell it. I read it to Hubby and said, “This is what I love about blogging. It’s fun to write for a wider audience (no offense) that just you!” He laughed and agreed.

  7. C. Beth says:

    I worked in retail for awhile in college, in the juniors (teenage) section of a department store. Unfortunately, that scenario was VERY common…clothes on the floor, strewn about. I hope most of those teenagers learned their lesson before they became well-dressed adults!

  8. Sandra says:

    Unfortunately, Beth, I have to admit that that was part of my preconceived idea of who was likely to do something like that. I would not have been nearly as surprised if it had been a teenager, instead of a middle-aged woman!

  9. Katharine says:

    Great story! Gifted storyteller! Thanks for sharing this, Sandra.

  10. Sandra says:

    Thank you, Katharine! 🙂

  11. You had me from the first sentence, Sandra! Very good post—and appearances can be deceiving can’t they? Coming through Arkansas anytime this year? Call us!

  12. Sandra says:

    V — We are going to Tulsa in about a month, but I don’t think we have time to swing over your way. I am definitely looking for an opportunity to get over to see you again. And, of course, there could always be a V&C road trip to Indiana! 🙂

  13. Nick says:

    Yeah, nothing like a story that takes you by surprise. Good one. Glad I found your site.

  14. Sandra says:

    Thank you, Nick. It is very flattering to have a professional writer like something I’ve written.

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