Years ago when I young and stupid, I worked as a stock boy in a large grocery store. My job involved unloading pallets of food in the back room and stocking them on the shelves. I got to know the rear of the store really well. But the merchandise in the front, like greeting cards and deodorant, were still a mystery. Shoppers would often ask me to locate items that I never stocked. It was a real scavenger hunt because I was often just as clueless as they were. After a few weeks, I not only improved, but I also could recognize all the habitual troublemakers, those who were too lazy to look for themselves.
One day when there was a nasty snowstorm, a really big, dirty, middle aged man with curly red hair stopped me as I was about to have lunch.
“I’m looking for some rubbers,” he said.
After making a quick eye scan around the store, I spotted the sign and told him the aisle number.
Just before I managed to duck into the break room, the man again stops me, scowling and breathing heavy.
“There’s no rubbers in that aisle!” he said, loudly. He might as well have announced it on the PA system as I’m sure half the store heard him.
I was a tad annoyed that a grown man could not understand simple directions. I had him follow me down aisle 6. “Here they are,” I said, with a bit of smugness in my voice.
He looked at the items, then back at me. His face was a scrambled, contorted mess. First it registered confusion, then sadness, then full blown anger.
“I don’t want rubber boots! I’m looking for prophylactics!”
By now the guy was exhibiting the classic signs of a heart attack. His face got dangerously red.
“Condoms, condoms, condoms!” He spat and sputtered. Twirling his arms in circular motions like some kind of weird sign language.
Finally, the light clicked on in my dense head and I felt my ears growing hot. I sheepishly told him it was next to the pharmacy. I was even nice enough to point to it before slinking away.