During my years at Exwork I encountered something that still mystifies me. I had noted similar situations before in my other jobs there, but garden is where I mostly experienced the spooky goings on. It usually happened early in the morning or late in the evening, when the store had few customers.
The first time it happened in garden, I still didn’t think much of it; it was a coincidence. One morning a little after seven, while I was loading an L-cart with hoses and hose accessories, I noticed a lone customer walking into garden. She disappeared down one of the aisles. When I was done stacking as many boxes of hose freight as I could on the cart, I pulled it over to the hose aisle, and there was the customer, standing exactly where I needed to go, right at the shelf. Okay, so I waited. Eventually she left, and I stocked. I then loaded the cart with boxes of birdseed and feeders, and when I got to those shelves, there was another customer, whom I had not seen come in, standing exactly where I needed to stock the top boxes off the L-cart. It still didn’t register with me that something strange was happening. I waited, and when he left, I stocked.
When it happened a third time that morning, I began to suspect a conspiracy. I had plastic pots and cocoa liners on the cart, and sure enough when I got to that aisle there was a customer, slowly and oh so thoroughly examining the cocoa liners. What was going on? Were those customers actually agents sent by management to make stocking miserable? Were they watching me on camera, and when I was done loading the cart they would call their agent, who was waiting around the corner, and tell him, “He’s got cocoa liners on top. Go to that shelf.” Do I believe that? Of course not. But then, how was this happening? A few days later, when I worked two to eleven, I found the same thing. I’d see a customer coming into the garden center, from inside the store or from the patio, and find him or her right in my way down the aisle I needed to go. And that happened again and again.
Keep in mind, I’m not talking about when the store is busy, and garden is swamped. During the day such delays are inevitable. Our store does not have overnight people to stock shelves in garden, so whatever is brought out in the evening is left for first and second shift to deal with, and that is a miserable situation for associates and customers. The floor is already crowded with stackbases, dump bins, four-ways, and standing PDQs, and when pallets high with boxes are brought out, plugging all available spaces, there is practically no room to maneuver. The whole floor is a series of bottlenecks and dead ends. Many customers complained to me that this is ridiculous, intolerable! Oh well.
As I mentioned, the encounters happened early in the morning or late at night, when garden was mostly empty. The first time it really struck me that something peculiar was going on was around 9:30 pm. I was coming back from my last break and happened to see the very spot on a shelf I had been looking for earlier. I had a box of garden staples that had defied every attempt to locate its home. Checking the price didn’t help, Scan to Set didn’t help, wandering the aisles with the box in my hands was a waste of five minutes. There was certainly no place for them next to the garden stakes. I had decided that I was probably going to have to make room for the staples somewhere, and print a label, when suddenly there it was, its home, right above the rolls of weed-deterring fabric. Who would have thought? Delighted, I rushed over to the cart, picked that box off the top, and rushed over to the aisle. And there were three people standing right in front of the shelf.
I was stunned!
I started to turn away, but decided no, I was going to put those staples in their place. The customers looked like a family, a grandfather, a father, and a son, the boy being around sixteen. I pardoned myself, stocked that little PDQ, and flattened the cardboard cover as I walked back to the cart. I was in kind of a daze.
I began to wonder if there was some sort of psychic connection happening. If there was, it was a most inconvenient one. I refuse to admit that I ever once actually thought of those odd situations as being supernatural. Nevertheless, one can deny the existence of ghosts and still be afraid of them. So I entertained the idea. It seemed to me something was going on, and I wasn’t ruling anything out. But to make sure, I tried a few tricks.
(continued next week)