Saturday, September 1, 2007

peanut butter and oatmeal.

friday: i worked a cosmetic promo. below is a descriptive, factual account of what happened as told in a present tense short story to fulfill one of my goals to write short stories more often.

Peanut butter and Oatmeal

As the world’s oldest couple moves in slow-motion past me, both of equal shortness, I wonder how they will manage to load their car with all of those heavy groceries. If I were that old, I doubt I’d buy in bulk.

An older man in his late 60s sees I have samples of lotion and chats me up about his razor burn. For some reason, there seems to be a plethora of senior citizens in this store.

“I just started growing this fuzzy button,” he says. “I used to have a bushy moustache. After I shaved it off, I looked forty years younger.”

It’s hard to imagine him forty years younger, but I try. He’s wearing a tropical print shirt with the first two buttons undone, allowing his chest hair to stick out – but not in a sleazy way. He reminds me of how my friend Kyle will act and look like when he's seventy.

He asks my name and thanks me for talking to him. He says he’s glad he finally had an excuse to stop over and talk to me and mentions something about my blue eyes. Since it’s my first time working in this store (and my eyes are green), I figure he's talking about one of the other girls or maybe just a young girl in general. He thanks me again for the lotion. It’s amazing how a small act of seemingly insignificant kindness seems to have made an impact. This trend continues until I finish my shift at 5 pm.

An older woman is interested in the makeup. She’s depressed she recently had to have cataract surgery. As she’s reading the back label on the lip liner lipstick duo, she tells me she buys makeup as a “lifter.” Based on her mannerisms and the deep creases in her expressionate face, I assume she implies a wrinkle lifter. After I realize she means “lifter” as in a “pick-me-up,” I dig through the cabinet for one of every sample I can find.

I only keep a handful of different samples on the counter and stash the good ones for costumers I deem as more deserving. (This method also discourages grubby freeloaders from hoarding them).

“Thank you,” she says. “I can’t wait to go home now!”

The older man returns with the razors he uses. He wants to call Gillette because the razors are making certain areas of his face red. He’s already called Pur – the water filter company.

“Keep all receipts,” he tells me. “They really appreciate knowing when you bought things. I bought that filter and it didn't work properly so found the receipt. It cost me eighty dollars. I called the number on the box and they sent me a new one. Then that one broke and they sent me another one.”

He changes the subject by telling me I should buy a box of Coach cookies.
“They’re so delicious and they’re right down there on the left at the end of the aisle.”
He won’t buy himself a box because he’ll finish them in one sitting. He seems to have stumbled upon a subject near to his heart – food. He tells me he’s a “Quaker Oats baby” who eats oatmeal every morning. Sometimes he adds a teaspoon of peanut butter.
“You like peanut butter, right? Try it – just a teaspoon. It tastes really good.”

After the cookies and oatmeal talk, the old man says good-bye again.
“It’s time to get my exercise.”

Throughout the day, I make a point to smile and say hello to every passerby, even the customers who could care less about the cosmetic line I’m supposed to be pushing. A forty-something-year-old man wearing work boots and shorts pushes a cart past my post. He gets flustered after I say hello, but coolly responds with a “How-are-you?” that sounds more sophisticated than he appears. I answer and return the question. Nearby, his mother and brother are waiting for him. I catch them grinning at me as if we were both fifteen. His bald brother can’t wait to tease him – “I look over and you’re picking up a girl!”

The old man returns once more, this time to say good-bye for real, he’s leaving the store. If not for the lotion samples he’s thanked me for numerous times, his cart would be empty. Even the razors were returned to their self.

“You’re not getting anything?” I ask.
“Oh no,” he says. “I only come here for the exercise.”

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