#firstworldproblems

March 14th is National Pie Pi Day.  Which is fun for celebrating irrational numbers, but not so much fun when you work at the Bakery at The Grocery Store.  Because then National Pie Pi Day becomes all about baking off excessive amounts of sugar-and-fruit filled pastry shells, having to apologize over and over and over again to random guests for selling through the 3.14 250 pies that you’ve prepped for the sale by 6pm on a Friday Pi-Day night, and having to get up and dust yourself off after you’ve been run over by a shopping cart.

Whoever thought, “Hey, we should really promote pies on Pi Day at the store level!” should be locked up in the gallows.  Led straight to Guillotine.  Garroted.  At the least, that person should be run over by a shopping cart.  It doesn’t really hurt too much but getting knocked onto a concrete floor by a rolling metal basket full of children, organic tofu, and fair trade mangos is never much fun.  I’ll come back to this.

“What do you mean you’re out of large pies?!”

“I mean that we’re out of large pies.  I’m very sorry.  There are some frozen pies in the frozen grocery section, but the bakery has sold through all of the large pies already.”

“You know, I called The Grocery Store three times!” she said, holding her cell phone just off of her ear, bits of rabid foam leaking out of the corners of her mouth.  “No one ever answered the phone and the advertisements I heard kept talking about the large pies on sale today for $8.99 and I drove all the way over here from the other side of Bellevue to buy one and now you’re sold out!”

“I’m very sorry, Ma’am.  It seems that we didn’t bake off enough pies today,” I said, sounding genuinely apologetic, smiling sweetly, and standing just outside of her frothy spit range.

“You should have done better!” she said before harumphing loudly at me and stomping her way toward the wine section, cell phone now fully re-connected to her ear.

I didn’t disagree that we could have done better.  Baked off 300 pies, instead of 200, maybe?  And I thought of what I wanted to say to her as I watched She of the Rabid Mouth charge away from me.  That if she wanted a sale Pi Day pie from The Grocery Store, she should have probably done her shopping before 9pm on a Friday night.  That her drive “all the way over here” was only about five miles, which is one-third of my one-way work commute and that she shouldn’t be so stingy about her mileage.  I wanted to tell her to have some manners and put her phone down while she was talking to me.  Mostly, I wanted to tell her that if the worst thing that happened to her that day was missing out on a nine-dollar pie, then she was doing pretty damn good.  That that was a stupid first world problem and that, really, she should be kind of thankful, actually.  Missing out on a pie is the best kind of problem to have.

I didn’t tell her any of those things, of course, because I was on the clock.  But I did think them and, secretly, I was glad we didn’t have any pies left when she came in.  That lady didn’t deserve any pie.

*********

The Grocery Store doesn’t pay for external advertising.  We don’t have commercials to air or paper circulars for the Postman to stuff into mailboxes.  All of our advertising is done in-house or through social media.  And so, a few hours before my encounter with the woman from “the other side of Bellevue”, after we had sold the very last large Apple Cranberry Crunch Pi pie for $8.99, I found myself on my knees scrubbing paint off of the sales floor.  Literally.

A bottle of Windex in one hand and a dishtowel in the other, I sprayedsprayedsprayed the Windex onto the painted floor sign advertising the ONE DAY PIE SALE as I wipedwipedwiped away the Marketing Team’s effort to direct The Grocery Store’s guests to the place where all the pies had once lived.  Which is when I was run over by a shopping cart.

BLAMO! 

Hit by a shopping cart!

I surely would have face-planted right into the polished cement floor were it not for my super quick, feline-like reflexes.  It also helped that I was already low to the ground.  And that I’ve got some sweet roller skatin’ skills and know how to fall really well.  So when that contraption hit me from behind, I just rolled forward a bit, ditching the bottle of Windex that was in my left hand, and pressed forward into a half push-up before rocking over to my right and popping back into a crouch.

The man who had battered me with his over-sized shopping vehicle looked at me with big eyes and gave me a weird half-salute and a shrug, as if to say, “Hey, sorry.  Didn’t see you there scrubbing that paint off of the floor.  I mean, you’re practically invisible when you’re acting all Cinderella-like in the middle of this wide-open space even though there’s almost nothing around to block you from my view and whatnot.  My bad.”

One of his kids was slightly jolted by the impact but never took his eyes away from the iPad he was poking at.  The other kid said, “Oh, pie!  The floor says pie! Daddy, can we have some 3.14 pie?!”

Don’t ask me for pie.  Do not even think about asking me for pie, Mister.  Do. Not.  Fucking. Ask me for. Fucking. Pie.

My thoughts at that moment were so intense, my gaze so piercing, the crouch so crouch-y that he uttered not a word.  He simply backed his cart up, turned slowly, and creeped away.  Like prey sensing predatory danger, he disappeared back into the jungle of grocery aisles from whence he had come.

And I just went back to scrubbing that pie sign off of the floor.

*********

About a half an hour before the end of my shift, I walked through my department, picking up odds and ends, bundling up the recycling, gathering up the compost, tying up the trash.  I heard some laughter and looked up to see Annie and Cait laughing with a guest at the Bakery counter.

“I don’t know but that sounds like a great night!” Cait said.

“Hmmm…for a 21st birthday?” Annie asked the guest.

“What do you think, Christina?” Cait asked me.

“Yeah, you’re the writer! What should we write on the birthday cake?” Annie asked.  “It’s a 21st birthday and they’re going salsa dancing!  She wants something edgy!”

I walked over to where the girls were standing and asked our guest, who was smiling at me, “You’re wanting a fun cake inscription?”

“Yeah,” she said, still smiling.  “21st birthday.  Salsa dancing.”

I looked at her after a beat and said, “I’m usually really good at this.”  I took another moment, “It’s been a really long day.  I’m sorry”

“We got really slammed at work today, too,” she said.

I looked at her some more, looked at Annie and Cait who were just looking back at me with smiles, waiting for me to say something.

I looked down, my mind stalled.  I saw the orange paint that had streaked onto the right knee of my jeans from when I had crawled around on the floor earlier in the day, scrubbing signs off of the floor, and after being run over by a shopping cart.  I saw the streaks of food coloring on my chef coat from when I’d wiped my hands after pouring some Bakery food coloring out into a to-go container for a young couple who wanted to go home and decorate cupcakes with their toddler and asked me if I could spare just a bit of coloring for their cause.  Of course I could spare it.  I saw the cocoa powder that had smudged into my cuffs from when, after I had dusted the top of some tiramisu cakes, I had pushed my sleeves back up my arms.  I hadn’t noticed any of these things before that moment.

James piped up from the dish pit, “How about ‘If you’re classy, shake your ass-y?”

I looked back up at our now-laughing guest, at Annie and Cait who were also laughing, “‘Shoot it and shake it'” I said to her, smiling back.  “As in ‘Drinking and Dancing’.  ‘Shoot it and shake it’.”

“‘Shoot it and shake it’.  I really like that!” she said. “Let’s do that!  Perfect!”

I got home at the end of a very long day feeling totally worn out, a little bit beat up, and smelling of vanilla and almond paste.  Mr. SoHo met me at the door with some major tail wags, eager to show me the bone that he’d hijacked from my roommate’s dog, Hutch.

I changed my clothes, cracked a beer, and took a moment to myself to reflect on the day.  I appreciated the lack of first world problems in my life.  Sure, I’d been run over by a metal cart with wheels by a negligent father in my workplace, but I was okay.  I guess it’s all about perspective, you know?  Nothing was broken.  The paint will probably wash out of my jeans.  I pre-washed them with Windex.  No big whoop.  Whatevs.  I’ve been through worse.

Much worse.

Mr. SoHo jumped up next to me during my moment of reflection, slapping one of his giant paws onto my thigh and leaning his big ol’ blue Dobe head solidly into my shoulder while happy-groaning and sighing up toward my face as if to say, “Hey.  I missed you.  I don’t know where you went, but I’m really glad that you came back.  Can I have an avocado?”

And, somewhere in King County, a girl got a 21st birthday cake with the words “Shoot it and Shake it” written onto it.  I bet she took pictures of that cake.  She probably Facebooked the shit out of it.  Her friends probably did, too.

Which is great for me.

Because that means that people are reading the words that I write, into whatever medium that I write them.  And that almost makes 3.14 Pie National Pi Day totally worth it.

Almost.

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