Monday, August 31, 2009

Wishful Drinking & Spiked Sweet Tea

"Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on."
- Bob Newhart

Recommended tea: Spiked Sweet Tea

Sometimes at the bookstore, customers can get a little upset. Sometimes it's because we don't have the book that they want, or because we haven't heard of something that they consider an essential piece of literature. Most of the time, though, it's because of something else - their husband snapped at them on the phone before they walked in, their mother is in the hospital. Usually they're already upset when they walk in the door, and we just happen to be in their line of fire. 

One day, I was up at the registers and a very pregnant woman walked up with her two other children. One was a toddler, and the other was probably seven or eight. Now, for no reason that I've been able to understand, we have these very wobbly pedestals in front of the registers that are usually piled high with very heavy books. Attached to these pedestals are velvet ropes, which to children, look like swings. But what happens when a child puts any weight on one of these "swings"? Both pedestals will fall on top of them, along with all of the books on top of them. We do our best to keep this from happening.

Imagine my horror, then, when this particular customer's seven year old was holding the toddler up in the air, hopping over the velvet rope on one foot as if it were a jump rope. 

Immediately I said, in my Kindergarten teacher voice, "oooooOOOOOOH! Be careful!"

To which, the very pregnant woman replied, screaming in my face, "YOU KNOW WHAT!? WE'RE DOING THE BEST WE CAN!!!!!!!!!!!"

She then stated that she would never shop in our store again, and left all of her merchandise on the counter.

I would like to say that I laughed this off. My reaction, of course - being the strong, independent, Stevie Nicks-esque woman that I am - was to cry. I tried to stifle the tears, of course, but that only made them all the more determined to come streaming down my face. While sobbing, I continued to ring up the customers. 

"Did you-hoo-hoo f-f-find eve-eve-everything oka-a-a-ay?"

And what do you know? Those customers came to my rescue. 

"What I want to know, honey, is are you okay?"
"Well, obviously, she's not doing the best that she can!"
"My goodness - she needs a vacation."

One customer came around the counter and held my hand. "Honey," she said, "I've been pregnant twice before. Don't you worry! It's not you. It's the hormones. I would cry too if I were you! Just let it out!"

Later, one of my co-workers - let's call her best friend co-worker - was on the phone with a customer.

"WELL, I wanted to get this book, but you, of course, said it was on (dun-dun-dun) BACKORDER! Tell me, please, do any of you know what you are doing? I would like to speak to a manager."

To which, best friend co-worker replied, "Ma'am, I am a manager."

Crazy customer then said, "PFUH! I HIIIIGHLY doubt that!" and hung up.

And you know what best friend co-worker did? She laughed, being the strong, independent, Stevie Nicks-esque woman that she is. I know that my reaction would inevitably have been tears. 

This is when I realized - it takes more strength to laugh than it does to cry when faced with these situations. My reaction to problems has always been to look them in the face, sternly, seriously, and try my best not to let them break me. If they do break me, I usually cry. I usually cry even if they don't break me, to tell you the truth. 

But what would my life have been like if I had laughed instead? How many warriors among us are hiding their battle scars with clown noses? Do you really think it takes more strength, more sacrifice, to wallow in victimhood than it does to climb the victim mountain, stand on top, and move on with your life?

Carrie Fisher is most definitely a mountain climber. When I have looked at Carrie Fisher in the past, I have always seen her as someone that didn't take herself too seriously, but had a pretty privileged, easy life. 

HOO-DOGGY! I was way off. Ms Fisher has not only dealt with alcoholism and addiction (which she argues are the exact same thing), but divorce, death (her friend died next to her in her bed), Bipolar Disorder ("I'm a Pez Dispenser AND my picture is in the Abnormal Psychology textbook!" she says), and - oh yeah! - her dad, Eddie Fisher, leaving her mom, Debbie Reynolds, for Elizabeth Taylor. The kind of stuff we all have to deal with...right?

But in spite of all of this hardship, Carrie Fisher is able to look at it and smile, to laugh, to share these hardships with us wrapped up in a nice little chuckle package. It makes us as readers feel stronger, like we can get through anything. If she can survive, laugh, have a good attitude, and create something brilliant with these horrors... can't we? 

She says, "If my life wasn't funny, it would just be true - and that is unacceptable." 

Life of course hands you the bad, but the warriors - they take the bad and they turn it into something good, inspiring, something that can lighten someone else's load - something I like to call "art." In my opinion, this is the single most selfless act in humanity - to wipe off the tears, and bravely put on the clown nose or pick up the paintbrush or pick up the pen. What is art if not the ability to reach out to other humans and say "Hey! Look at this! I'm human, too, and we're human together!"

Ms Fisher has now officially been added to my "strong women I aspire to be/be like" list. And you know I want one of those knit Princess Leia hats. 

Hey! Look at this!

1 comment:

  1. Every little moment like that will only make you stronger.

    If I had a quarter for every time a customer snapped for no apparent reason... I'd have lotsa quarters, lady!!


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