i haven’t told you the birthday story yet. this story is from the middle of april and explains why, when my my fellow employees and i are experiencing a particularly high level of frustration or chaos we will look at each other and sarcastically exclaim, “happy birthday !”
during the middle of april, the thirteenth to be exact, two of the four people that i work with were going to be out of town for five days. the two people leaving were my manager and assistant manager. they were leaving for arizona for one of the biannual manager retreats that our company holds. this meant that me and my coworker nick were to be in charge of the store. he and i had only so much authoritative power since we were both, at the time, considered to be just clerks. when the managers go away to a retreat it is understood that they will be hard to contact in case of emergency since they are busy 90% of the time and much of that time is spent talking to the big wigs from corporate (who are actually all very cool people) and cell phones are likely to be off or silenced at almost all times. that said, we have seventeen stores nationwide and in the case of an emergency, we have sixteen other stores we could call for help if need be.
now, running an art store is no easy task when the manager or assistant manager is around, but between nick and i we both felt confident that we could handle any curve balls that were thrown our way. and to be honest ? aside from keeping the store running smoothly, the customers happy, and making money – nick and myself just wanted to make sure that the real basics were covered. as in, don’t set the store on fire, try not to get robbed, avoid serious injuries, and pray that no natural disasters hit during the five days that the boss ladies were out of town. it was just five days, how hard could it be to keep our ship from sinking ?
the first day was a wednesday. the store was opened on time, we made some good money, and everything went as it should. i like to consider that particular wednesday, april thirteenth, to be the calm before the storm.
on thursday morning i woke up around 7:30am to start getting ready for work to arrive at around 8:30 so that i could be ready to open the doors by 9:00. it just so happened that that was also nick’s birthday. he was scheduled to come in at 10:30 and i was prepared to get balloons and a card before work from safeway so that he’d have a little fun on his birthday at work.
at 7:45am with a bare right foot, i stepped on a glass pipe. it wasn’t mine, but i guess that doesn’t really matter. all that matters is that i stepped smack in the middle of a twelve inch glass pipe. it promptly snapped when i’d applied my full weight on it. the pipe itself was a dark color, as was the rug that it was sitting on – which was why i didn’t see it in the first place. not to mention the fact that i was a little sleepy eyed and i am also a professional klutz. i run into things all the time, but in my defense this was the first time i’d ever snapped a glass pipe in half with my foot.
when you step on a glass pipe and hear a loud POP! you may think that a serious amount of blood and pain will be involved – and it is – but not if the gash is well plugged. i’d managed to slice open the bottom and side of my foot, so i actually couldn’t really see the damage. i stopped dead in my tracks, looked at the floor, realized it was the pipe i’d stepped on, and promptly sat down on the couch that was directly next to me. i saw no blood and felt little pain, so i figured i was lucky. it was at that point that i twisted my foot just so so that i could get a better look. sure enough, there was a large shard of glass in my foot. without a second thought, i pulled the piece of glass out because really ? who wants to walk around with a piece of glass in their foot ? at the time, i immediately remembered the tale of the little dutch boy who stuck his finger into a dyke when he noticed a leak on his way to school. however, unlike the little dutch boy who kept his finger in the dyke and heroically saved his town from flooding, i removed the shard of glass from my foot and a river of blood began to flow from my foot which was now, by this time, feeling pretty darn sore.
a small pool of blood formed on the carpet and i pulled a small trash can under my foot so that i at least had a receptacle to contain the obscene amount of blood gushing from my foot. it was at this point that i called to the person who was with me (who had heard the POP! and asked if i was ok – to which i had first replied, “yeah, i’m fine”) and told him that he’d better come help me out. he saw the damage, gasped, exclaimed he saw bone (and so did i), and ran to his bathroom to retrieve gauze pads, a cotton bandage, and an ace bandage. i have to admit, if this had happened in my house i wouldn’t have been so prepared. i would have been lucky to find enough to paper towel or toilet paper to absorb all of the blood coming out of my foot.
while he frantically bandaged my foot (and props to him because he was on it like white on rice), i kept saying, “i need to get to work.. i have to open the store by nine..” – come hell or high water i had to make sure the store would be open by 9:00am, despite my current condition. he informed me that i would need stitches. i more or less scoffed at this because i wanted to consider this a flesh wound. there’s no good time to get stitches in your foot, much less when you live in a city that requires a lot of walking. much less a city with painfully steep hills that are a b*tch to climb when your feet are free of stitches. so, i called nick. and then i called him again. i called him five times. no answer.
at this time, nick happened to be staying at my apartment because he was between apartments. i have three roommates so i called one of them. then another. no answer. i called my final roommate, the one i figured the least likely to answer, and as luck would have it – he answered. eureka ! i asked him to wake up nick and give him the phone so that i could deliver the news and ask nick, on the morning of his birthday, to wake early and do what i could not do because i was a cab ride away from the nearest emergency room. and during this rushed phone call i completely failed to wish nick a happy birthday. i still feel guilty about that.
it was at this point that we called our manager to let her know what had happened. it was an injury and therefore fell into the “call the manager” category – manager’s retreat or not. and believe it or not, the store was open by 9:05am. go nick !
the E.R. happened and eight stitches later i rather awkwardly gimped out of the hospital and hailed the first available cab. instead of giving him my work address, i asked him to take me to safeway. i still had birthday balloons to buy, you see. my friends are my heart. i will never miss an opportunity to celebrate them on their birthdays even if i have fresh stitches in my foot. in the cab i called nick to let him know i was on my way. his only request ? “whatever you do – please make sure that i have a TIARA to wear.” done and done. thanks be to god for walgreens and their kid’s section which offered a princess glamour set. tiara and balloons were acquired. i limped to work with these items in my arms and received many stares. not good stares. but more like, “oh that poor crazy person” stares. i’m okay with that. at that point, i think i was crazy-person qualified.
i arrived at work with balloons and tiara in tow. nick was happy to see all of that, but he was a bit preoccupied. you see, the computers had decided to go down for the morning. there were about ten people in line impatiently tapping their feet because the register was not cooperating. because this involved money, we had to place phone call number two to our manager. happy birthday.
after two plus hours on the phone with tech support, the matter was resolved. by this time, a few deliveries had arrived and i’d already spent the better part of the day just ringing people at the register with my foot elevated. any and all deliveries were (and had to be) received by nick because i could barely walk around the store, much less up and down a flight of stairs.
thursday came and went, the silver lining being that since nick had opened the store (instead of closing it) that afforded him to leave earlier than first expected which meant he could begin drinking sooner than expected. and boy oh boy did he earn every cocktail he drank that night.
on friday morning i opened the store by 9:00am, elevating my foot as often as i could before nick arrived at 10:30. since it was his birthday the day before, he’d done a fair bit o’ partying and was a wee bit hungover come friday morning. just after noon a man came downstairs. we receive deliveries on a near daily basis. most of them requiring signatures. when he asked for mine i blindly signed it without too much thought before asking what kind of delivery we had. it was at this point that he informed me he was not delivering any merchandise, but rather a summons. as in, lawsuit. happy birthday.
because our old location was in a basement, we had no wheelchair access. a couple years ago the city of san francisco passed a law that stated that all retail spaces must be wheelchair accessible a.k.a. ada compliant. at the time the law was passed, we asked our building manager if we could install a wheelchair ramp (at our own expense) to an elevator we had in the back of the store. our request was denied and that was that. as i later learned, we were not the first person to be hit with a lawsuit from this particular person. who, by the way, also happened to be a customer. someone who we had, in the past, run baskets of supplies up to in order to accommodate him as best as possible from our underground location. so, with that, we placed our third (and final) phone call to our manager.
on this same friday, at 2:30pm, not one – but three – pallets of canvases and wood panels arrived. at our old location, large deliveries like that would be placed on the sidewalk out front so that we could bring them in over the course of the day. with only two employees working, receiving that many pallets was daunting to say the least. with only one employee capable of walking up and down the stairs and carrying all of those panels and canvases was just, well, absurd.
i am usually a trooper when it comes to things like that. i will work through the pain and get the job done. and although i did manage to do some lifting, i really did not contribute much. i just couldn’t walk. i couldn’t put any weight on my right foot and hopping up and down the stairs was out of the question. not to mention the fact that we had customers and i was the designated cashier (for obvious reasons). so, nick heroically brought in three pallets worth of heavy wood panels and canvases in a three hour window of time. if we gave out gold medals or purple hearts, he’d have one of each. he’s a total champion.
so. upon my bank fiasco that just took place in the last twenty four hours i walked into work this morning greeted by a “happy birthday!” from my fellow employees. and even in the midst of such an event, i have to laugh because at the end of the day i have this theory we have a choice to make when faced with all things bad and out of our control. laugh or cry. and i do believe there is always a time and a place for a good cry, it’s so much easier to laugh. so, to anyone facing a something stressful in their life, happy birthday ! trust me, you are not alone.