The big box in my arms was heavy as well as just a little too big for me to hold comfortably, and I could feel the damn thing slipping out of my hands. I tried to tighten my fingers as best I could, even as I began to lose sensation. I was so close!
At least, I was close to the front of the line. In terms of absolutes, however, I was still far, far away from clawing my way back up to equal…
I scanned the line of harried looking employees just ahead of me, each one of them almost cowering in their bunkers back behind the counters. Insulated from the customers by that two-foot barrier, they held a disturbing level of power over us.
I just needed a single chink in their armor, enough to break through. Enough to get this damn boxed-up television sitting at my feet out of my life for good!
I cast my eyes along the row of employees and their paired angry customers, looking for an opening. Of course, I couldn’t stop my eyes from lingering on one young woman, waving her arms in exasperation as she glared daggers across the counter at the middle-aged balding man who appeared helpless in the face of her onslaught.
“Listen, you muppet!” I heard the girl yell out in impotent anger. “The thing’s screen was showing nothing but cracks from the moment I took it out of the box, and I’m not paying any damn ‘restocking fee’!”
Wait a minute. That young woman’s complaint sounded familiar. I pulled my eyes away from her bottom, even though it looked quite fetching in her tight, well-fitted jeans.
Instead, my eyes tracked upwards, settling on the large box sitting on the counter beside her. I was right! It was the same product!
Even though there still wasn’t another open position, I hefted the box in my own arms one last time, and moved forward to slam the box down on the counter next to the young woman’s item. She glanced over at me in surprise, but I did my best to give her a reassuring nod.
“I had exactly the same problem!” I called out to the middle-aged man, patting my box on the counter – which happened to be an exact twin to the young woman’s returned item. “As soon as I took it out of the box, I saw that it was covered in a spiderweb of cracks!”
The woman looked as though she was about to bite my head off for interrupting at first, but she was quick on the uptake. She soon ascertained that I was an ally, not a threat. “See? It’s a problem with this whole line of televisions – I read about it online!” she added, leaning forward to glare over the counter at the man behind it.
Gosh, when she leaned forward like that, her fitted jacket rose up to really show off that cute little rear I had been checking out earlier. The man in front of us in his blue polo shirt, however, couldn’t see that rear – and I doubted that he’d care much even if he could see.
“Look miss,” he tried to protest. His eyes tracked over to me, and he hastily amended his comment. “Er, sir, as well. Once you’ve opened the item, we’re happy to return it still – but we have to charge a fee to put the item back on the shelves! It’s standard!”
“But we got it broken!” we both yelled at exactly the same time.
Perhaps, if just one of us had been protesting, the man could have managed to hold his bureaucratic bulwark against us. But when faced with a dual onslaught, he just couldn’t throw up enough paper walls to hold off our twin fiery glares. He crumbled before us.
“Look, I suppose that I could waive the fee if you’re willing to take store credit,” he offered, holding up his hands as if to shield us off. “If you’re buying another television, well, you can go pick out a working one now?”
For a minute longer, we both glared at him, but his offer did make sense. “Well, all right,” I gave in, dropping my gaze slightly.
“Yeah, I can live with that,” the woman admitted a breath later.
As the man let out a very big sigh of relief and turned to bustle away, dealing with the return of the two broken televisions, I glanced at the young woman. I hadn’t gotten to see her face without the angry scowl on it, but now that her features had softened, I saw that she was actually quite cute. Chestnut brown tresses framed a round face in soft waves, and her eyes looked sharp and alert. If I had seen her at a coffee shop, I would have considered offering to pay for her cup.
“Hey, I’m Joe,” I spoke up, grinning at her as best I could manage after spending so long in line.
“Abigail,” she returns, managing to put on a quick smile.
“Nice to meet you,” I said, as the man behind the counter returned and handed us each a gift card. “Can I join you in checking out some TVs?”
Abigail looked at me up and down for a second, but then that smile bloomed on her face again. “Sure,” she said, and I saw a little dimple in her cheek as she slid her hand through the crook of my arm.
And then, hand in hand, we strolled through the store towards the television section.