ErrandsThe jingle of bells attract no on in the busy AT&T store. The salesmen and women are already busy oozing discounts to customers. They do not notice the new client. A boy is playing with the latest phone, making strange ringtones play over and over again. He does not notice the woman. But she does not notice them either. All is fair and equal.
This new woman walks up to the counter. There is a man sitting behind it, talking on the phone. He holds up a finger and she nods. There is a parade of phones on the blue counter in front of her, but she takes no notice. She has a purpose, although her blank stare could fool anyone. Her frumpy mom jeans and ratty Hofstra sweatshirt look like any other outfit of a working mom running errands. But there is a missed swipe of mascara over her right eye, and she wears two different earrings.
The man finishes his phone call, and gently places the receiver back on its charger. Immediately a salesman’s air descends upon the pair. “Hello ma’am. My name is Steven. How can I be of service today?” He manages to get out through grinning teeth.
“Hello. I would like to cancel one of the phones on my account,” she answers, each word emphasized as if it controls its own sentence.
“Of course! What’s the main number?”
“555 273 4859.”
He viciously types in the number, then fools around with the computer for a moment.
“Give me just a sec,” he says before rushing off to back room. She nods, but he is already gone in a flash of cheap cologne. For the first time since entering the store the woman notices her surroundings.
She is not interested in the flashing and buzzing gadgets all around the store. Instead she focuses in on the boy, who has moved on from ringtones to taking pictures. One of the floor, the next of himself, another of a pudgy salesman. He has even begun to focus it on her but when he notices her stare he immediately averts his gaze and camera lens. She continues to inspect him as if there is a secret between the waves of his sandy blonde hair or written across his Gap sweatshirt. She has not noticed his display of discomfort, but he is still aware of her odd gaze so he returns to his mother’s side, back to comfort. The woman awakes from her day dreaming and turns back to counter.
The salesman has returned with a packet of papers. “What number are you cancelling?” He asks, pen hovering over the first page.
“555 273 5829.” He immediately scrawls her answer down.
“Alright ma’am. I’ll do the computer part if you’ll just fill in these few sheets here. Just a little bit of feedback, a real quicky.”
She considers the packet for a moment, as if she is wondering if there is any other choice. “May I do it in my car?”
“Of course!” He replies, already zoned into the computer.
She leaves the store, bells jangling again. Back into the discomfort of her 1999 Corolla. She presses the packet up against the steering wheel to write, but instead she blows the horn. She jumps, and almost bursts into tears. Instead, she maneuvers her body over the center console and into the passenger seat. For a moment she catches a scent of something she does not recognize. She sniffs, then once again fixates on the packet.
Question 1: How long have you used AT&T?
Next. How has the customer service been that you have received (check one).
How has the cell phone service been that you have received (check one).
How has the phone been that you have received (check one).
Do you plan to re-enroll with AT&T in the future (check one)?
Who helped you today?
She pauses for a moment, considering the smiling, senseless man from before.
What is your reason for cancelling this phone line?
The woman finishes with that last word, but she does not move to go back into the store. Instead, she inhales the faint scent again. It was just as she has expected. Cologne. For a moment she is caught up in its insignificance. Then she gets out of the car.
Bells ring. “All set ma’am?” Steven asks as if the answer to this question will explain the meaning of life.
“Yes.” He looks as relieved as if it really had.
She waits a moment as he punches in the information into the computer.
“You’re all set, ma’am! Have a great day.” And with that he whisks off into the back room.
She turns around, and begins to make her way outside. In a few seconds the bell will ring again.
But it doesn’t. She has stopped. The boy who had stared at her before is still with his mother. He seems to have made a favorable deal with her because he is smiling and she looks harangued. The two women look similar. Both are wearing poorly fitting clothes, both look incredibly tired. It is towards this pair that the first woman has directed herself. The mother doesn’t see her coming but the boy does. He tugs on her Parkway Elementary sweatshirt anxiously. She looks at him then at the woman.
“Can I help you.” She accuses.
“Don’t ever let him go.” The woman says, speaking to the mother but looking at the boy. She turns around.