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I'm sure you've come across this person or even know them personally; Mr. or Ms. Buttinsky. They are annoying!
Last week I went to the building material store for supplies. The store was hectic, and only two people worked in the plumbing department; Deb seemed to know her plumbing products, whereas Rick was struggling. Deb had a line of customers waiting for her. I didn't want to wait, so when Rick finished with his customer, I asked, "Where do you keep the shower pan liner." He took me to a different aisle and showed me pre-fab shower floors.
"This isn't what I'm looking for," I said patiently. "I need the pan liner to build a custom shower floor."
"I don't think we carry that," Rick said.
I smiled and replied, "Yes, you do. You have it in four, five, and six-foot widths. The thick gray vinyl comes on a roll, so you can cut the piece to whatever length."
Rick led me back to the first aisle and showed me some rolls leaning against the wall. They were hidden behind other plumbing pieces people had left there. "Is this what you're looking for?"
"It sure is. I knew you could find it." I smiled, "Now, how do we measure and cut it? Do you have a mechanical device, or just roll it out on the floor?"
"I really don't know," Rick said. "I just started here two days ago; I've never sold any of this."
There was no space in the crowded aisle to roll out the vinyl, so I pulled out the material while Rick steadied the vertical roll. Rick tried cutting the sheet vinyl but was getting far off the marked line. "Let me try from this side," I said to Rick. He handed me the knife. While he held the material, I got on my knees to finish cutting the piece. It was awkward, but we were getting the job done. That's when he showed up.
"Do you work here?" Mr. Buttinsky demanded to know (as if I wasn't there). Rick said that he did. The obnoxious man held up an old corroded part, "Do you have one of these?"
Rick looked at the part, "I really don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?" The man was very condescending in his tone.
Rick looked confused and admitted, "I'm not sure what that is."
Mr. Buttinsky raised his voice, "How in the heck did you get this job?"
I stood up, "It's a faucet cartridge, Rick." Then I addressed the obnoxious customer, "It's bad enough the store is understaffed; you being rude isn't going to help."
"Well, I need help finding this part," Mr. Buttinsky justified. "He works here, and he should be able to help me. I'm in a hurry."
I shook my head, "You know, your problem isn't any more urgent than any other customer's, and your time isn't any more valuable than theirs." Then, I pointed to the far end of the aisle, "Why don't you go down there and wait for Deb. She's very knowledgeable; I'm sure she can help you find your cartridge."
Mr. Buttinsky glanced at the people waiting for Deb, offered me a few cuss words, then walked away, leaving the plumbing aisle. From around the corner, I heard him demand, "Do you work here?"
Rick was a bit timid. He seemed bothered by the confrontation, "I wish I knew more of this stuff," he said. "They don't give us very much training. I think I upset that gentleman."
"Gentleman?" I laughed. "He was acting like a jerk. But don't worry about him, Rick. There's a lot to learn here; you'll get it; it just takes time." Rick seemed relieved. "Now, I need another piece of four-foot liner…." After we cut the second piece, I asked Rick if I needed a tag or slip showing what I had.
"Just take it to the register," Rick said, "They'll know what to do."
Although I didn't think he would know the answer, I asked Rick another, more technical plumbing question. "I don't know," Rick said. "Another guy is coming in at two o'clock; he would know."
"That's okay," I said, "I can wait for Deb." I wished Rick a good day, then walked to the other end of the aisle.
While waiting for Deb, I explained to a lady and her husband how a compression fitting worked, then helped them find the parts needed. Next, I helped another young guy find a fitting he needed and helped a third man who had questions about PEX plumbing.
"Oh my gosh," I thought to myself after I helped the third customer, "Am I being a Mr. Buttinsky?" However, I was laughing to myself when Deb approached me.
Deb was finally caught up with her customers, "How would you like to work here?"
"I kind of feel like I do," I answered.
"How would you like to work here and get paid?" We shared a good laugh about that. Deb quickly answered my question and asked, "Did Rick give you a slip to take to the register for the shower pan liner." I told her he did not. She said, "He's new and just learning the system."
Deb started to walk to the other end of the aisle with me. A pushy lady tapped Deb on the shoulder, "Do you work here, miss?" Oh, my Lord, it's Ms. Buttinsky. She could clearly see Deb was with another customer but interrupted anyway, "I just have a quick question…" (as if I wasn't standing there). I told Deb to go ahead and help the lady, and I would get a slip from Rick.
I told Rick I needed a slip, explaining what it was for. He dug through a junk basket and pulled out a wrinkled-up pad, "Is this it?"
"That's it," I said. Next, I felt my shirt and pants pockets and asked Rick, "Do you have a pen." Rick felt his pockets, looked through his waist pouch, and said he did not.
The couple with the compression fitting was back. I walked over and asked if they needed something else. "We're trying to decide if we should buy an extra fitting," the lady said.
How many fittings do you need," I asked? They only needed one but felt they should get a second in case they messed it up. "They come three in a pack," I told her, then asked, "Would you happen to have a pen I could borrow?"
The lady dug through her purse, pulled out a pen, handing it to me. "I'll be right back with your pen," I promised her. Pens are one of those things I borrow, and I naturally put them in my pocket when I'm done writing, forgetting to return them.
"Don't worry about it," the lady said. "I want you to keep it as a gift for helping us." Her gesture of kindness warmed my heart.
Rick wasn't sure how to fill out the form. So I took the pad, "What's the skew number," I asked, then showed him how to fill out the slip. When I was done, I offered the pen, "Would you like a pen, Rick?"
Rick reached into his pouch, pulling out a pen. "I found mine," he said. Then he pulled out another, "Actually, I found both of them." We shared a good laugh about that.
Rick extended his hand. As I shook his hand, he said, "Thank you. You've taught me a few more things about my new job." Again, my heart was warmed, this time by his sincerity.
"Stick with it, Rick. You've got this." We said our farewells and I left the store a happy man on what could have been a frustrating day.
The next morning, I put a load of my work clothes in the washer. I wash them separately from other clothes because they're really grungy. I sat at the table while I waited for the washing machine. The pen was in front of me.
It's an aqua pen with glittery sparkles in the transparent barrel. It has a lighter blue gel grip for writing. Pushing the top of the pen extends the tip, and pressing the clip retracts it. It's a pretty cool pen, and it writes smoothly but has aqua-colored ink – it's kind of a girly pen like my daughters had when they were little. Maybe I'll give it to one of my granddaughters. Just then, the timer sounded, and the washer was done.
I grabbed a handful of my work clothes and tossed them into the dryer, then another, and another. On the third handful, I heard something fall back into the washer. It made a ting sound, but not metallic like a coin would make. I looked down into the washer. "Oh no." I had that sinking feeling. I ran a black Sharpie pen through the laundry. I put the last few clothing items in the dryer.
I sighed with relief as I remembered these were all work clothes. Black ink spots wouldn’t hurt them. "I've got to be more careful," I told myself. "This could have been a disaster if these were Melissa's good clothes." I knew this from experience.
The cap was still on the Sharpie. I removed it and drew a line on a piece of paper. "Hey, it still works!" I was happy. A few minutes later, I used the Sharpie to write a grocery list. "What's all over my hands?" I examined the Sharpie. Apparently, the barrel had cracked, but under the cap. "What a mess," I complained as I threw the marker in the trash. I washed my hands in vain. Sharpie ink does not wash off; it eventually wears off.
I looked at the pen the lady gave me again. I thought about the tension stirred by some people at the building material store. I reminded myself how that pen brought me a calm, peaceful feeling. Then I looked at the palms of my hands, with splotches of black ink stains all about where the Sharpie assaulted me.
One pen brought me peace and another anguish. I smiled warmly, "Maybe it's true; the pen is mightier than the sword."