I’ve spoken before about my need for reindoctrination into the concept of people being ‘nice’ after living in London for so long, but I thought I’d share a story to illustrate how severely afflicted I was. This was a couple of weeks after moving to Edinburgh and I still wasn’t used to the whole idea of good customer service. Or any kind of customer service. Actually it was all rather weird.
My kitten had been driving me nuts for days, so, determined to sort her the hell out, and despite the fact it was called Simply Dogs, I walked to the pet store half a block from my house. I didn’t know for sure, but I was fairly confident Simply Dogs wasn’t a literal interpretation of their services, just like the launch of Virgin Airlines years ago didn’t convince me I’d be ineligible to fly with them.
I had a quick look at the window displays and yes, there we go, cat toys. I pushed the white, wooden door open with some effort and stepped in. Although only about as big as your average famous person’s walk in closet, Simply Dogs was crammed full of what was quite possibly every single animal product available to mankind. Precariously stacked shelves of name tags, leashes and fetch toys reached the ceiling. Cat and dog baskets, bicycle carriers, litter, dry food, wet food, fish food, bird food, automatic laser beams, dog hurdles and curious things called Wiggly Giggly and Kong Wobblers filled almost every bit of floor space. These too were arranged just as alarmingly as the shelves.
I stood there, stuck staring in amazement, before being startled by a small “hello…”
Turning my head to the right I was surprised to see a lady seated behind a small glass counter. She was crouched so low, for all I knew she might have been sitting on the floor.
“Oh. Hello.” I replied, feeling giant-like as I looked down at the top of her head.
She smiled widely and stood up. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
She had soft blue eyes and a kind, round face, but her hair was a most unusual pale yellow, so much like creamed butter that I felt a sudden urge to lick a cake bowl. She wore a grubby, blue windcheater with the name “Pedigree” embroidered on it and her plump hands were clasped together, resting on her belly as she spoke.
“Well, my kitten has developed a new routine where she claws the sides of my bed at 3am every morning. Have you got a scratching post? But not those stand up, ugly carpet ones? Are there any other kinds?” I asked hopefully.
Her eyebrows lifted toward her buttery fringe. “Oh aye,” she said, coming round from behind the counter and negotiating two display racks in the middle of the store. She squeezed in front of me, her right foot kicking a bottom shelf as she passed. A pyramid of Sheba Chicken Liver spilled to the floor.
“Oh.” she said, absentmindedly looking back to see what she’d knocked over, but making no move to pick them up. “I’ve got a wee something back here, the last one I think.”
Balancing one hand on a box of disposable puppy nappies, she reached behind a row of super-size Royal Canin dog food bags and presented me with what looked like a skateboard made of porous cardboard. ”There we are,” she said, pleased.
As she handed it to me, I noticed a small, plastic bag of suspicious looking herbs taped to it.
“It comes with Catnip. You sprinkle it all over it. Cats love it.” she explained.
“Ah,” I said, moving the packet toward me for a closer look, somehow managing to stop the urge to sniff.
She walked back around the counter and waited patiently while I performed the kind of thorough pat-down on myself one normally only ‘randomly’ gets subjected to at airports. Slightly embarrassed, I realised I didn’t have enough money.
My apology was waved away “Och, you can pay me later.”
I looked at her like she’d just spoken Klingon. “What?”
“You can come back later with the money.”
“What?” I repeated, the concept still not sinking in.
She started to look confused herself.
“Sorry”, I laughed. “I’m just having a hard time adjusting to people being nice.”
Now she looked at me like I was the alien.
“I’ve just moved here from London.”
“Oh, aye” she replied, understanding now. “I dinnae ken how people live there.” She smiled at me again. “I’m here every day. Just pay me next time.”
“Every day?” I asked, astonished.
“Mmm hmm,” she replied with a small nod. “It’s a new business.”
“So when was the last time you had a break?”
She seemed surprised at the question. Looking up at the ceiling, she calculated in her head. “Not the Christmas gone, but the one before that, I had three days off.”
My mouth fell open.
She looked back at me and gave a ‘Well, what can you do?’ kind of shrug.
I wanted to say something encouraging, but all that came out was, “OK, well I’ll bring you the money soon. Thanks again.”
Then she disappeared under the counter and I went home to get my kitten stoned.