I’m the front end manager of a really busy grocery store. We’re currently in the middle of a global pandemic. That’s really all the backstory you need.
I’m standing behind our customer service booth, which is closed until noon (new pandemic hours.) It is not yet noon. There are ropes and stanchions blocking access to the booth. I am looking something up on the computer.
VOICE TO MY RIGHT: Excuuuuuuuuse me? How am I supposed to get under there?
I turn. An elderly woman is gesturing at the rope and stanchions with a tray containing a half-eaten enchilada from our deli.
I am intrigued.
ME: I’m sorry, ma’am, but the booth is closed until noon.
She is undeterred by this knowledge and continues to gesture at me with her enchilada.
ME: Uhh…is there something I can help you with?
The elderly woman, having successfully captured my attention, ceases her gesturing and begins to eat the enchilada.
WOMAN: I bought this is your deli to heat up and eat, and you don’t have anywhere for me to sit and eat it!
She’s right. We closed off our seating area due to the pandemic. We still have some benches up front. Also, I presume she has a home to go to that also contains chairs. I am perplexed.
ME: …That is correct.
WOMAN: Well, I don’t want it then.
She says this through a mouthful of enchilada, tossing the tray on the counter, causing bits of uneaten enchilada to splatter here and there.
My brain short-circuits. I can almost smell the burning.
ME: So…you want a refund for the enchilada you were literally just eating in front of me…because you can’t sit in the grocery store to eat it?
WOMAN: That’s right!
I can definitely smell burning now.
ME: … OK!
I’m caught between bewilderment and rage, I think, at the sheer absurd audacity of this woman. I process the refund. It’s not quite over yet.
WOMAN: Why would you shut down your seating area?
ME: Well, ma’am, we closed it to protect our employees and customers during…the…pandemic.
I begin to count her cash refund.
WOMAN: Well, you should close the whole store, then!
I hand her money to her.
ME: Well, ma’am, that’s not up to me. Have a great day.