Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Appearance of Things

I have been working at the pastry shop for the summer. Almost every day, I pull on my skinny khakis and my green polo. Once at work, I tie on my apron and a little pastry shop hat. I enjoy the flow of customers and the displays of sweets. Throughout the summer, there have been some very odd customers. One day, a lady came in covered in tattoos and piercings seemingly from head to toe. Her entire body was a flamboyant piece of artwork. I had a hard time finding her face in all of the distraction. Yet, her sweet personality shone through and in the back of my mind I wondered what had inspired such a display on her own skin.

Then, there is the older man who comes in with his grown daughter to get his fresh cut apple pie with splenda. Every time, he enters he seems to make a beeline for me since I listen politely and take interest in what he says. He rants over the obesity rate in the United States and grumbles about the possible shortage of sugar in the world. This old gentleman amuses me to no end even as his daughter apologizes for his blunt frankness.

Of course, there is a man who comes in who shyly asks for different goodies from the breakfast case. He’s short with shy eyes that seem to shift back and forth. As he approaches the case, he almost appears to be apologetic for even considering buying pastries from us. After I bag or box up his goodies, I ring him up. Strangely, this man always seems to take every chance to absently brush hands with the girl he is getting helped by. Most customers seem to shy away from having direct physical contact with the shop girls but he seems to seek this possible touch of the hands.

Around lunch time, the pastry shop is frequented by a large amount of business people. One man came in quite dapper and excited. When I asked how his day was going, he literally sang the day praises. His world seemed to be full of sunshine. Then, his friend told him that we did not have cannoli. His aura of excitement faded a bit with this information and I could not help but coyly ask, “Is you day still ‘wonderful and fantastic’?” Immediately, he brightened, “Of course, it is. After all, I’m looking at you.” His answer greatly surprised me and if I hadn’t been at work, I would have raised my eyebrows. As it was, I was at work.

Then, there is the gangster man. He must make money illegally. There is such an air of mystery around him that there can be nothing but some dark secret that he is hiding. Every couple of months, this slight man will appear. His skin is that of a permanent tan and he has black hair. In every interaction at the bakery, he comes clad in a signature pair of tinted sunglasses. He has two sons and a beautiful wife. They expect the best and will have nothing less. He demands cakes of grandeur and whimsy. For one of his son’s birthdays, he demanded a “Nemo” cake. Unfortunately, my boss does not have the right to make that type of cake. He promptly offered her $500 flat and under the table for her to create such a cake. My boss refused. Eventually, they did come to a sort of compromise.

Once there was a woman of African descent who came to the pastry shop, she desired to have a coconut cake. After much hassle, we finally found a cake that my boss put coconut on for the customer. This woman with long stringy blonde hair who reeked of some unknown and awkward smell promptly ordered another cake to pick up the following day. She handed me her credit card and I swiped it. Suddenly, the machine stopped and flashed a message across the screen. I could barely believe my eyes and being a newbie had no idea what to do. The message was simply: CARD STOLEN. Calmly, I told the woman this disturbing news. Her eyes widened and she took the card back and paid with cash. Of course, when I told my co-workers this strange occurrence, there was a huge uproar about all the “should have’s” I should have done. The deed was done. My boss called the police but they could do nothing. The lady picked up
her ordered cake and nothing happened out of the ordinary except for her rank odor.

Occasionally, a man that no shop girl can forget comes into the pastry shop. He is a very tall man, but that is not the reason why he sticks indelibly in our minds. Perhaps, it is the lipstick that is smeared lopsidedly across his mouth or the blue eye shadow staining his eyelids. Or maybe it has something to do with his five o’clock shadow poking out through his foundation. No, I think what truly makes this specific customer unforgettable is the fact that he is seemingly still going through adolescence since he speaks in a high squeaky voice sometimes and then relaxes into a lower more masculine voice when he forgets himself. I’d like to ask him where he finds his shoes and how he finds shoes that big. This customer has a specific liking to a cookie referred to as the Florentine which is a caramel cookie only made in the winter. Although very sweet with a kind disposition, he is the oddest customer that I have ever come in contact.

We also have quite a few regulars. One of my favorite is a jeweler from next door. He comes in almost every day. Donald loves to have our cherry turnovers. He loves them best when they are almost burnt. The best thing about Donald is that his patience and calm seem to be as endless as the sky. He is an imposing man but appears to ooze kindness putting one right at ease with him. The regular customers are always a joy to see because you can trust them to have an even temperament and not have any hidden surprises of bursts of anger or resentment towards a poor shop girl.

Working as a shop girl has been great experience. A girl gets the opportunity to deal with all kinds of people. I try to patiently help crabby old women and to not gawk too much at a woman who has breast implants so large that it seems like she could tip over. A shop girl learns how to help an indecisive customer become decisive. Not only do we help hard of hearing customers, but we also get to cheerfully chat with those customers who have had a splendid day. We see customers so rushed that they seem rude. There are old men who come in and are shameless flirts. These particular old flirts always amuse me greatly because usually they are happily married. At the pastry shop, one can never know what type of people one will come in contact with for the day.