Goofy Stuff by Vincent Cardegin
One night I loaded a cart with plant starter trays, but I kept thinking to myself, “I am loading solar lights,” and I was going down that aisle to stock. I held the idea firmly in mind, and actually went to that aisle. And sure enough, there was a customer looking at solar lights. Wow, it worked! I made that person go down an aisle I wasn’t stocking! I smiled a smug smile and strolled to the trays aisle. There stood a customer, looking at the trays. Okay, apparently those people read my mind from two different angles: one was fooled, and the other somehow knew better.
The next time, I loaded the cart with two categories, gardening tools and bug sprays, and all the while I thought of grilling accessories. Again I kept that aisle in mind: long-handled spatulas, tongs, and forks, lava rock and smoker boxes, etc. I pulled the cart there, and the aisle was empty! I was surprised, and relieved, and oh so happy...until I remembered I had nothing on the cart for that aisle. Dang. And sure enough, customers blocked both tools and sprays.
And it wasn’t just when I was stocking that it happened. Many times late at night a lone customer would come in and want a patio set, one that was fifteen feet up on the steel, naturally. No other customers were in garden. The whole store was practically empty. But when I came around the corner on the scissor-lift, there stood someone else exactly where I needed to park to get the set. That happened with frustrating regularity.
Eventually, whenever I worked early or late, I began to catch on to at least one explanation for some of those unlikely coincidences. I was pulling an L-cart of small plastic pots around the mess of displays on our floor and stopped when an elderly lady blocked my way with her shopping cart. I stopped by backing into the L-cart, and of course that terrible design of a contraption tried to take a bite out of my Achilles’ heel. And here’s what I saw from the distracted corner of my eyes: the lady didn’t look at me at all; she shot a lingering glance at the boxes on my cart, and then she moved forward. Thinking I might need to get a bandage for the back of my left foot, I rounded the stackbase and followed behind her. She moved slowly, looking down every aisle, and suddenly she stopped and backed up, and I stopped, too. And you can bet I kept my heels out of the way. The lady turned her cart and went down the very aisle I wanted to go, and she stopped exactly where I needed to stock.
That was deliberate, I am convinced. She saw what was on my cart and decided to interfere. I believe she was an associate, or had worked in some other store, and was familiar with boxed freight. There’s printing on most of those boxes describing what’s inside, but it’s often abbreviated, so she had a practiced eye about where to look and what it meant. I was disgusted. I pulled the cart out of the way, and went on early break. While mumbling to myself at the break table, it occurred to me that perhaps that’s what was going on all along. Maybe many of those customers had seen what I was doing and likewise interfered. Maybe some of them only subconsciously noted what was on my cart and only subconsciously decided to explore that aisle. In that case I was like a commercial, I guess; they didn’t think about that product until it came to their attention.
Well, I’m still not satisfied with that explanation. It doesn’t account for all the times when I was sure such a customer had not seen me. Always every month, usually weekly, sometimes daily, I encountered that creepy inconvenience, so there is something inexplicable in the air, the psychic air, and I am still perplexed by all that.