I ran an errand at lunch today, picking up ink cartridges for my home printer. It sounds simple, I know, but it was actually a fairly complex task requiring in-depth conversation with a young man behind the counter at Staples.
As we talked, I became aware of an unpleasant odor — like from those guys at the gym who repeatedly put their workout gear back into their lockers to re-wear until it ferments, and invariably gravitate to the treadmill next to mine. You know those guys. “I launder my gym clothes every 10 days, whether they need it or not!”
The owner of the odor was standing at the register to my left. She looked to be at least 50 years old, and was disheveled and carrying a stack of tattered folders and a paperback novel that would have looked at home in the discount bin of a used book store.
Without making eye contact with her clerk, she explained that she was Kate Hudson’s personal assistant. Ms. Hudson was back at the Sheraton Hotel in need of a large stack of office supplies. The implication was… she’d sent her assistant to pick them up, but had sent no money to pay for them.
My eyes were watering, and the lack of oxygen was impeding my concentration — but I needed to stick around to see where this was going. I tried to breathe through my mouth.
The clerk’s eyes were as big as silver dollars. He knew something wasn’t passing the smell test. (No pun intended.) “Does she have a Staples Rewards card?”
The customer was shocked — SHOCKED — at such impertinence. “Ms. Hudson is a billionaire Hollywood actress, she doesn’t need a DISCOUNT,” she sniffed. She just needed credit.
The “assistant” urged the clerk to call the Sheraton to confirm the story. This lady had all the chutzpah — but apparently not the cell phone — of a flashy Hollywood assistant.
The poor clerk, who couldn’t have been a day over 21, was paralyzed. Was he really supposed to call the Sheraton? By this time, there was a sizable queue forming of real customers waiting to pay.
A store manager eventually arrived. He informed the woman that she’d need to have the Sheraton telephone Staples to request credit. “We don’t do the calling,” he said.
Impasse. The customer glared at both men for a long while. What was she going to say?
“You think that men are superior to women, don’t you?”
SNAP! Every man behind the counter wore the expression I remember from a Season 3 Seinfeld episode, when Elaine challenges a fellow partygoer about wearing real fur. Danger! Danger!
On that note, I left the store. On my way out, I passed what I suspected was the woman’s shopping cart filled with all her earthly possessions, which of course made me feel a little sad and guilty for chuckling during the exchange.
However if you happen to encounter Kate Hudson, and she looks like she is in need of, say, post-it notes or a glue stick… maybe you could just give her the benefit of the doubt and share yours. She’s probably been pretty busy, recruiting a new personal assistant.