A Good Dressing Down

By Louise Ure

Okay, the good news is I’m not in jail.

The bad news is that I’ve probably been banned for life from the only grocery store within walking distance.

Here’s what happened. God’s Own Truth. Well, as close to that as I’m ever likely to go; I do have a horse in this race.

It started last week. It was about twelve noon. I hadn’t showered yet (hell, sometimes I don’t get around to that until four o’clock or so), the teensy ever-so-healthy yogurt I’d had for breakfast wasn’t do its job, and there was not a scrap of food in the house.

What’s a girl to do? I hotfooted it down to the corner grocery store in my scrubs.

Have I mentioned the hospital scrubs before? No? They are my usual sit-at-the-computer wear. No sweat pants and bunny slippers for me. I learned long ago that the dog’s diarrhea or the impatient Fed Ex guy pounding on the door would not wait for me to put on anything remotely presentable to the outside world, so I opted for scrubs.

None of those cheesy pastel shades, either. If you’re a woman walking the dog at high noon in a pair of pink scrubs, the neighbors either think you’ve got one of those jobs emptying bedpans or they ask if you’ve got an extra day in your schedule to be nanny to their little ones.

No, I only wear black scrubs. No matter the time of day, black scrubs either say “I’m on my way back from a Tae Kwan Do class,” or “I’m a cardiac surgeon so don’t bother me with anything trivial like the fact that my dog’s pee is killing your lawn.” I’ve even been tempted to get the stethoscope out of my father’s old medical bag and drape it around my neck to achieve the desired approbation.

So I’m in the “10 items or less” line at the grocery store with my ever-so-healthy lunch — (OK, It was hot dogs and buns and these giant pickle spears) – and the young girl behind the register scans the items – bink, bink, bink – looks up at me and says:

“Eating for two are we?”

As anyone who has ever read the consumption/nutrition label on a canned soft drink knows, of course I’m eating for two! Those idiots at the nutritional guideline place think even a can of Coke has two servings.

But could she … does she mean … not possible. I wicked my hand down across my belly to flatten the blousy black cloth.

“Why on earth would you say that?” I purred in the most syrupy, Southern accent I could muster with my teeth clenched. What I wanted to say was, “May your lips be eaten by that cherry-popsicle lipstick you’re wearing and may your teeth all fall out.”

“No reason,” she says looking down. “Just the pickles.”

The pickles? Does any man who comes in here buying pickles get this same kind of presumptive inquisition about whether or not his significant other is pregnant? Does it matter if they’re sweet pickles versus dill?

I harrumphed and left the premises before I could tell her exactly what I thought of her medical diagnostic skills. And her intelligence. And her lack of courtesy. And her greasy hair. And her cudlike gum-chewing visage. And that fact that I’ve already lost twenty pounds this year, thank you very much.

The hot dogs quelled my tantrum and I’d practically forgotten the episode … until yesterday.

Once again I needed a few key ingredients for dinner. Like the meat. And the potatoes. And the vegetables. But I’d had appointments earlier in the day at the hairdresser and the vet’s so this time I was already sparkly clean and wearing real, outside clothes. Dark-washed, straight-leg jeans that Stacy and Clinton would have approved of. A real, ironed blouse that already had all the darts and seaming in place to hug the body. High-heeled lime green sandals. I had it going on.

Once again, only the “10 items or less” station is open (does this store have any customers who buy more than ten items?), and once again, my nemesis is there. Her eyes say that she remembers our last encounter. She nods at me and starts to pull the items one by one across the scanner.

Fine with me. I don’t need a new friend, especially one who knows I go for 100% proof mayonnaise and canned corned beef hash. I take my small bag and receipt and turn to the door.

That’s when I saw it. There, the penultimate inky line on the receipt.

“5% Senior Discount = $1.16”

I froze, the muscles in my jaw clenched. Imagine a female Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino mode.

“Make up your mind,” I said, turning back to her. “Am I young and pregnant? Or am I old and fat? Take your time. There’s a lot riding on your answer.”

Who knew that grocery stores’ security systems came with such high-pitched alarms? Once she released the button she scurried two stations down to put some distance between us. I was escorted out by the manager and a skinny little Asian security guy in a jacket that was two sizes too big for him.

I kept the $1.16 in savings.

So tell me, Rati, what are your Rudest Encounters of the Third Kind (either on your part or on theirs)? And don’t tell me I’m wound a little tight this week. I already know that part.



P.S. Come join us for this San Francisco treat!




41 thoughts on “A Good Dressing Down

  1. Jim Winter

    I had to call Time Warner one time when my Internet went out. I called the local line before the evening rush, got through, did my troubleshooting, and was referred to the national call center. Got through in five minutes.

    Unfortunately, this snot-nosed kid answers already talking down his nose to me for even deigning to call him. He neither gives his name nor asks mine. He’s too smart for me to know these things. So I explain my situation, than say, "And I pulled up the connection info for you." Well! How dare I do something technical!? He starts berating for running a command that clearly broke my computer. Never mind that I do this for a living. I gently reminded him that "ipconfig" is an informational command and I did nothing to my computer. "I am technical support, sir, and I think I know that!" I asked to speak to the supervisor. "The supervisors are not technical and can’t help you!" "Yes, but they can fire you." Click.

    Went through two hours of on-hold hell to get back through, got a couple of reasonable techs who scheduled a service call, then called back to speak to Geek Boy’s supervisor.

    I didn’t have his name, but as soon as I described his voice and the time of day I called, the supervisor sighed and said, "I’ll listen to the tape."

  2. Katherine Howell

    Wow, Louise, this is fantastic! Mine hardly compares, but still …. I gave a copy of my first novel to this down and outer who lives in my building. He saw me a couple of weeks later and said he’d read it, and nodding thoughtfully he said, "it’s not bad, a bit second-third-personish, but then again it’s only your first, isn’t it’. I just nodded sadly back, refraining from mentioning my overseas sales, my award, and the fact that I make a living from my writing.

  3. billie

    Louise, that is hysterical! I’m sure not so much in the moment, but your retelling of it is perfect.

    I had a check-out girl say something incredibly rude one time when I was pregnant. I can’t even remember what it was – but I remember being shocked that she had the nerve to be so mean. And that my husband, who was with me, audibly gasped. I ignored the comment, but after she finished checking the groceries I asked her if the store had those little customer satisfaction comment cards. She did this big sarcastic scowl and told me they were "over there."

    I asked her to get one for me. She didn’t want to, but I think she knew by that time she had gotten in a bit deeper than she intended with the Crazy Pregnant Lady, so she retrieved it. Then she had to go get a pen.

    I stood there and completed it while people waited in line. There was an instruction typed at the bottom that it should be given to the store manager. I asked her to call for the manager. She said (in a slightly nicer voice) that she would give it to him. I said I preferred to do it myself and could she please call him. She REALLY didn’t want to do that, but her line was getting longer and longer and people were by now watching to see what happened. I was standing in pretty obvious heels dug in position.

    She finally made the call and I handed the card over to the man who came to the register. Later that afternoon I got a phone call offering me free groceries.

    I generally do confront rudeness, but usually in a much less protracted way. I think pregnancy put me in the mindset that I was going to rid the world of rudeness, one comment card at a time – before my child entered the world!

    To be honest, it’s far more often that I get the other extreme – people being overly nice and telling me their life story while I’m standing in line.

    On a side note, I’m now getting complimentary copies of the AARP magazine in my mailbox – that was a bit of a shocker and I felt I couldn’t blame the carrier for that one!

  4. Jude Hardin

    I recently learned that the girl I dated in high school and college is currently pregnant with her first child. She’ll be 49 this month. So, you know, it’s possible to be old AND pregnant…

  5. karen from mentor

    I’m going to echo Kaye….didn’t quite pee….but gawd the snorting and gleeful laughing and kicking of my little feet.

    oh man.

    btw….I bet you ROCKED those sandals.

  6. PK the Bookeemonster

    Oh, I’ll bet that little checker has LOTS of little passive-aggressive games she plays throughout the day. Can’t be an easy job, I’ll say that, but as the song goes "love the one you’re with" while you’re getting the paycheck.
    Unfortunately, there are so many examples of rude/bad behavior out there, it’s practically the natural state of the world now. Ending rant before it even starts. 🙂

  7. Dana King

    You gave her the perfect answer. It’s the manager and stroe security who overreacted.

    I was once involved in a dispute with the phone company that necessitated having to actually go to the Phone Store. (Remember those? When you had to go to them for your phone?) I was pretty much dismissed. I asked for the manager. The manager wasn’t there. Neither was the assistant manager. I asked who was in charge. Looks were exchanged. I asked, "If the building catches fire, who will the firemen ask to identify the bodies? Gte his ass out here."

    I have my phone five minutes later.

    I’m not advocating that kind of behavior, but when you gotta, you gotta.

  8. Sylvia

    Oh my god. And I agree with Karen that yes, I bet you did rock those lime green sandals!

    The only rude encounters I’ve had worth telling about, I was pregnant – big 8 months ready to blow pregnant and the stories were within weeks of each other. Wow, I never get to tell these so thank you Louise!

    Starbucks & the Preggo Madwoman
    Happily in line at the local Starbucks at around 5:30 in the when I get to the front of the line and order a large coffee. The pimply kid behind the register tells me "I’m sorry, but I can’t serve you that. Would you like a juice?"

    I can see the machines are full and they are pouring…. "are you out of coffee?" I asked

    "No, but pregnant women shouldn’t have caffeine so I can’t serve you."

    I was stunned in addition to being cranky. It was early, I was big and want to haul my preggo butt into the Bay for a swim and I needed my coffee. I had on sweatshirt which I pulled off to reveal a swimsuit much to the surprise of those in line behind me. I’m quite sure they weren’t expecting such a display. Tough because they weren’t sticking up for me either.

    "Listen, I swim 3 times or more a week in the f*cking San Francisco Bay and this baby’s already had a few trips to Alcatraz and back. You either serve me my f*cking coffee NOW or you’ll be joining me in the water this morning." I slapped my $2.00 onto the counter.

    Yes folks, absolute silence. What I hadn’t noticed in line the CHP officer who was witnessing all of this. Great. I was going to be one of those women giving birth in prison.

    The officer, nice as can be put his hands on my shoulders and leaned towards pimply-boy and said, "kid, no where does it say you can’t serve a pregnant woman coffee. I suggest you give her a cup on the house and maybe even a pound to take home."

    There were a few giggles from the line and by this time the barista was waking up enough to see what was going on. She rushed and gave me a cup, grabbed a bag of beans and shoved them at me and out the door I went.

    I was sure to give the CHP a hearty thanks and a hug before I left.

    Now, before you get story #2 for the day, I really do need MORE COFFEE.

  9. Kaye Barley

    Now that I have a grip.
    Louise – you being escorted out of the store.
    What’s the name of the store, please? I’m calling to beg for the video recording. You looking all properly stern being escorted out of the store.
    I will NEVER be able to banish the image.
    I agree with PK. This is a person who has passive aggressive down pat. Bless her heart.
    When it comes to reacting – I’m in Dana’s camp. I’m afraid I just don’t have the patience with stupidity I probably should have, so now start every customer service problem call with "I’d like to speak to a supervisor, please."

  10. Louise Ure

    Jim, you have so much more patience than I do! To keep at it until you spoke to the supervisor! No-name boy is looking for a job by now, I’m betting.

    Katherine, a pox on all "friends" who disparage our novels to our face! I had a guy at a neighbor’s BBQ tell me that my work couldn’t possibly be any good because "the big New York publishers only pay for work that’s derivative."

  11. Louise Ure

    Dear Crazy Pregnant Lady Billie,

    You go girl! Changing the world, one comment card at a time.

    And Jude, 49 and first time pregnant? Yikes. That’s old and pregnant and in for a surprise as she tries to keep up with a two-year old’s energy.

  12. Louise Ure

    Kay and Karen, you two could never be in the middle of a Rude Match! Never happen!

    And PK, no Bookeemonster stories? Yeah, I’m afraid that the Jerry Springer mentality has taken over most facets of life.

  13. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Um, Louise? You ARE wound a little tight…

    Fortunately, there’s a grocery store on every street corner in San Francisco. Unfortunately, your photo’s in every one of them.

  14. Louise Ure

    Dana, only a mystery writer/reader could have come up with a question like "who would you ask to identify the bodies?" Ah me, the implied threat is delicious!

    Sylvia, I’ve seen you in Full Rant Mode and I would have been shaking in fear if I had been that barrista. The strip down was absolutely the perfect response. But what an ass to decide whether or not he would serve you coffee. Sheesh.

  15. Pari

    I loved this story, Louise. I can picture the entire thing.

    As for rude moments . . . I’ve had quite a few and usually once you get me piqued, you’ve got a problem. When I don’t care about the place or person I confront head on — such as, "You’re being rude."

    Other times, I find someone who is in a position of power and complain very, very nicely (yeah, it takes a lot of control). This technique is incredibly effective and usually gets better results than I ever could anticipate — such as the time I ended up with two bottles of really good wine and an enormous fruit/cheese basket at a hotel where I nicely complained to the concierge about a bad experience on premises. I ended up receiving apology notes from the manager of the hotel, the corporate office and president of the corp too.

  16. Louise Ure

    Yeah, Stephen. My photos right behind the registers and underneath it says: "Looks old. Looks pregnant. Carries a loud mouth."

    Pari, on the other hand, would out-polite everybody in the room and still get her way! Wish I had the mind-set to do the same.

  17. Sara J. Henry

    Fairly recently I bellowed from my balcony at the rather loud and obnoxious tourists tubing down the river: Would you shut up! People live here! Because they truly seem to think they are at Disneyland and apparently have no concept how sound carries across water.

    Now they do. At least this batch does.

  18. Louise Ure

    Sara, a house with a balcony view of a tubable river? I’m jealous. I would have shouted the same. But I probably would have started it with "Hey, you a**holes!"

  19. Rae

    Fab story Louise, but it must have sucked at the time. I agree with whoever talked about the store manager being out of line – if you care enough, you should get in touch with the owner and make sure they understand what kind of rotten service their staff are providing. I’d bet good money that there are more stories like yours emanating from that place.

    The bad service story that comes to mind at the moment took place at the first Thrillerfest, in Phoenix. We decided to have dinner at the resort restaurant, and asked for an outside table. The hostess, who seemed a bit confused by life, led us to a table and disappeared. To be followed by….nothing. Minutes passed, then more minutes passed. So, I pulled out my cell phone, had the directory service connect me to the hotel’s front desk, and said "Hi, I’m sitting on the patio of the restaurant and would love to see a menu sometime tonight". Took about a nanosecond to get service, and at least part of the meal (can’t remember any more) was comped. Heh.


  20. Louise Ure

    Rae, I hadn’t heard that story, but based on my own meals there, I can totally imagine it. I do love the notion of you solving this while seated. Solutions? Only a phone call away.

  21. Sara J. Henry

    Louise, admittedly they can’t quite see my house (I can barely see them through the trees) but they can certainly see my neighbors’ houses. And yes, I’m spoiled rotten living here, and only complain about it on weekends when the tourists from NYC, Connecticut, and Boston make their way to southern Vermont.

  22. JT Ellison

    Oh, Louise. I’m sorry, but this is really funny. I applaud you not smacking the little twit. You are stunning, and no number on a driver’s license or stupid, ignorant checker will change that.

    We had an incident over the weekend. And of course it involved coffee. For reasons that won’t be discussed here, I was in a bit of a mood. Knowing how much I adore Waffle House coffee, Randy suggested we go there for breakfast, thinking to calm the raging beast that was his wife. Yeah. We sat at the counter, literally two seconds after another couple. Four of us at the counter. Waitress comes to them, asks them what they want, takes a drink order, takes their breakfast order, then, without a glance at us, walks away. Okay, no worries, we know she’ll be back as soon as she calls the order. 5 minutes pass. 10 minutes pass. She’s bustling to and fro and managing not to make eye contact with either of us. After 15 minutes, we flagged another waitress down and asked if she could please get us some coffee. She went to our waitress, who told her no, she’d be with us in a minute. 2nd waitress apologizes with a shrug and goes to her own tables. And our waitress walked right past us and filled the coffee on the people who’d walked in two seconds before us.

    We didn’t even have to say it, we both just stood up and started out. But I was so pissed that I turned around and yelled "BYE!" as loud as I could and waved at the woman. Randy about died, he grabbed me and dragged me out. Of course it couldn’t end there. We went directly to Sonic, where they have no decaf. We went home to MAKE decaf, and two terrible pots later (I can’t make coffee to save my life) I ended up at McDonald’s, getting a cup. Took three hours to get my freakin’ coffee Sunday. Not the best thing for a cranky woman.

    What’s funny – the last time we were in Waffle House (like 2 weeks ago) the same waitress got called out by a family who had a total meltdown that she wasn’t serving them, just like us. So we’re going to make a point never to sit in her section again. Cause Lord knows I can’t give up their coffee.

  23. Louise Ure

    JT, that is just too funny. You and Sylvia have this serious coffee jones going on. And I would have been tempted to yell more than "BYE!" Maybe something like … "And here I was ready to share my lottery winnings with you!"

  24. Louise Ure

    Yeah, Toni. I’m going to write Dana’s line on my palm just so I’ll have it handy when I need it. And you know I’m going to need it, don’t you?

  25. Karen Olson

    This totally cracked me up. My first big laugh of the day…on a day when I had to get up at 6 and be on TV…so it was much needed!

    Rude comments? How about the woman who stopped me on the street as I was walking my daughter in a stroller. She looked at my beautiful daughter, whom I’d just returned with from China, and asked, "So how much did she cost?"

  26. Pammy D


    Eventually I’ll share my taxi-driver at the airport in 90 degree weather with 100% humidity story. He threw me out of the cab. I was hesitant about swearing in public. So instead, in true Italian fashion, I screamed that I was putting a curse on him.

    Very adult of me, I know.

  27. Louise Ure

    "So how much did she cost?" WTF? The proper response could only be "Less than your Emergency Room bill will be." Hope your TV appearance went well.

    Pammy, I have to hear the rest of that story!

  28. BCB

    ROFL! *gasp* SNORT! Oh god. I feel so much better. Thank you. I refrained today from ripping someone’s head off and handing it to him through the phone line. Because. I’m. Nice.

    I have a very long fuse. Really. But once I’m truly angry, there’s no going back. The last time I lost my temper I wrote a letter. Because I’m a writer. And because apparently in person I don’t appear to be much of a threat. People underestimate me at their own risk. I got the #%@^$ stove for the $^#%#@ price at which they had advertised it, they replaced my kitchen floor at their expense, and the CEO of Sears called to personally apologize for the inconvenience and then offered me a job. Said it was the best damn letter he’d ever read. Seeing as how I didn’t want to relocate to Chicago, I declined. Politely. Because. I’m. Nice.

    Thanks for the therapeutic laugh.

    PS- Pari, re the last post: read it and had a big lightbulb reminder-type moment about thinking outside the box and remembering to ask myself "what if" when it comes to plot. Thank you.

  29. BCB

    LOL! I simply pointed out, in three pages of invective, that I was neither young and pregnant nor old and fat. Same as you did. There was a lot riding on his answer.

  30. Rabid Fox

    Oh my. Banned from a grocery store. Can’t say that’s happened to me yet. I can only imagine how the story has been passed around the store in your absence.


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