At exactly 11:13am on Thursday morning, The Shop’s corporate cavalcade rolled into the parking lot. “The mother ship has landed!” I hissed into my headset. As The Shop’s Front End Specialist, I was on look out duty, and even though I devote a substantial portion of each day to hating my job, I took this role very seriously.
I had spent all morning thinking of cool things to say into the headset, lest The Shop’s corporate investors catch us unaware. My luck, they would arrive just as one of the other cashiers was picking her nose, and this would set into effect a great chain of Unfortunate Events. The corporate investors would be appalled by the nose-picking cashier, and threaten to withdraw their financial support from the company. They would complain to the Head Head Boss, who would place the blame on Head Boss (“Didn’t I tell you not to embarrass me?”). Head Boss, for her part, would place the blame on me (“Control your cashiers! Why did I promote you to Front End Specialist if you can’t keep the nose-picking at bay?”), and I would be fired. At least, I would be fired if there was still a Shop from which to fire me, but due to my negligence, the company would undoubtedly fold.
As such, hundreds of hardworking single moms up and down the east coast would lose their jobs. And don’t even get me started on our loyal customers (especially the annoying ones, who I wish weren’t so loyal). The art of scrapbooking would be lost to mankind. Knitting, as we know it, would cease to exist. Cake decorating, despite technological breakthroughs such as die cut machines and their corresponding sheets of icing, would all but disappear. And without the Cricut Personal Cutting Cake machine, we would have to sit around decorating cakes by hand with malleable icing, pastry bags and piping guns, like they did in the Stone Age.
While the loyal, civilized customers of New Jersey All-Star Shops (such as Store #1) might just get on with their lives, they would not in Philadelphia. There would be riots— “What do we want?” “SCRAPBOOKS!” “When do we want them?” “NOW!”—and given the deplorable lacks of gun control legislation in Pennsylvania, these riots would involve handguns. Mass chaos would ensue. The Wal-mart parking lot would take on apocalyptic proportions (a shame really, since I got my second Praise Card yesterday, which means I only need 28 more until I get to have a picnic lunch with the MODs) and life in So’ Philly would never been the same.
So yes, there was a lot at stake. I held the entire future of the arts and crafts industry, the fate of my co-workers and the safety of South Philadelphia in my hands. And that is why I took my role at The Shop’s lookout very seriously. I tried out different code-words, or code-phrases rather, such as “The British are coming, the British are coming!” and, my personal favorite, “Make way for the Pope-mobile!” (In my self-appointed role as The Shop’s new Guerilla Marketing Guru, I was planning to tell the CEO that it would be good for business if he drove around in a bedazzled car. And whenever people stopped to admire his rhinestone-encrusted hubcaps, he could say, “You wanna pimp your ride homie? Come’on down to The Shop! We’ve got sequins in every color. Sequins for Bloods and sequins for Crips!”).
In the end, I settled on “The mother ship has landed” because the Sci-Fi connotations allowed me to pretend, for a few blissful moments, that I have an exciting life. But it wasn’t The Shop’s official cavalcade. There was no bedazzled Pope-mobile. No CEO. No corporate investors. Just a blonde girl in Corporate’s standard-issue sweater vest.
Having never been to Corporate, I had only heard about the standard-issue sweater vest (in my role as Cash Office Nazi, I occasionally get to sit around “doing paperwork” when The Shop’s MODs engage in Smack Talk about Corporate’s office workers. And their standard-issue sweater vests are a source of great amusement, because, as Head Boss is so fond of saying, “They’re so lame! And all the office dorks wear them, everyday, as if it’s some sort of honor!” I find great irony in this—this coming from a woman who probably sleeps in her standard-issue polo shirts—but I keep my observations to myself. I don’t want to be cut out of Smack Talk, especially because Smack Talk can prove, as it did the morning of Corporate’s visit, vital to my surveillance duties). I recognized the blonde interloper for who she really was (a Corporate spy, obviously) and sounded the alarm (“The mother ship…”). But it was a false alarm.
She wasn’t part of the cavalcade. She was actually nice. On her way out, she paused at my register and asked for the visitor log book. I panicked momentarily (if the auditor arrives and we don’t ask him to sign the Log Book, we lose an audit point, but if the CEO arrives as we do ask him to sign the log book, we’re tarred and feathered and barred from the retail industry for life) but she just smiled. “I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself earlier,” she apologized, “but you looked very busy when I came in.”
This was a first. Someone who actually shook my hand, thereby acknowledging my existence in the world as something other than scum-of-the-earth-cashier-girl? “Sorry everyone,” I whispered into the microphone as she left, “False alarm. But I’m on the lookout!”
I dutifully guarded the shop, discouraging both nose-picking and general lollygagging, until 12:00. Upon taking my lunch, I found two almost pleasant things in the break room: free cupcakes (leftover from an old school cake-decorating demonstration) and Bad Cop who, having worked so many overtime hours this week, was too tired to be mean. Returning to Reggie #1, refreshed and rejuvenated, I decided I might even try to enjoy my job (of course, it was only a matter of minutes until the real cavalcade arrived, thereby discovering my talent and skyrocketing my career beyond the confines of the Front End).
“What kind of car do you think the CEO drives?” I asked another cashier.
“Probably a racecar,” she replied, “Sponsored by Cricut, of course.” The thought The Shop’s CEO zooming around in a Cricut-sponsored racecar, Nascar style, complete with a Cricut-colored leather jacket was so ridiculous that it afforded us both two full minutes of job enjoyment.
“What kind of car do you think he drives?” she asked.
“A bedazzled Pope-mobile.”
“Yeah. And feathers. Like the floats in the Mummer’s Parade, but an actual car.”
Two more minutes of job enjoyment. In fact, Head Boss caught wind of our conversation and actually smiled. But then a shadow crossed over her face. “It’s two o’clock,” she sighed. “They should be here by now.”
Two o’clock already? I finished my shift at three! How would I dazzle the investors with my color coordinated earrings, nail polish and hair clips (yes, in honor of Corporate’s visit, I had brought out the big guns) if I wasn’t there when they arrived? How would I land myself an invitation to meet the CEO and dazzle him with my brilliant marketing plan if three o’clock came before he did? Worst of all, how would I “accidently” drop my business card into the lap of a young and handsome investor if the investors didn’t bother to show up?
“They wouldn’t cancel, would they?” I asked Head Boss. Suddenly I forgot all about my chick-flick happily ever after dreams and got very angry on the behalf of Head Boss and my co-workers. “How could they?” I demanded. “Not after you’ve had everyone from Store #1 here all week, and the stock crew coming in at 4:00am, and the MODs working round the clock to re-set the scrapbooking section…” Not now that you’ve put the fear of God in me lest something go wrong at the Front End under my watch, I wanted to add. Not now that everyone has been on pins and needles all day, afraid to even sneeze, lest it upset and end cap. Not now that Bad Cop is too tired to be mean and Good Cop is too stressed out to make jokes. “They wouldn’t do that!” I concluded.
“They have before,” she replied. And they did again. Three o’clock came and went with no sign of the cavalcade. Rumor has it they spent the morning at Store #1, went to lunch somewhere in New Jersey and drove off into the sunset in their definitely-not-bedazzled SUVs.