Friday, June 09, 2006

On Gaping Head Wounds and Ava Gardner

Note: I tried to post this yesterday morning, but Blogger just wasn’t having it. Sure it’s not the best thing I’ve ever put out there—I wrote it in ten minutes—but I didn’t appreciate the electronic slam, Mr. Blogger.

I don’t think I mention it enough that I really, truly do love most of the customers that walk through my doors. They are delightful, intelligent people who love books or magazines and love that we love them too. My regulars distinguish themselves from the crowd not only by coming back, but entertaining us with their thoughts, stories and personal reviews. If only I took decent dictation my shelves would be covered with little slips of paper denoting customer reviews and recommendations.

One of my favorite customers is an older woman (who we’ll call Nell) who grew up in the Hollywood area before WWII. Nell used to baby-sit for the rich folks in the canyon, and she always has the best stories the stars of the time period (and her own sometimes unfortunate interactions with them). Given Nell’s fascination with Old Hollywood, and our fascination with Nell, we always try to keep her apprised of the latest celeb biographies, so when the Ava Gardner biography was released, we knew we had to show her right away. Upon being presented with the book, Nell leaned over the counter and in a whisper said, “She was a nympho, you know.”

When we gasped and covered our mouths—you never expect a woman old enough to be your grandma to say the word nympho—she continued in a normal conversational tone, “But a beautiful woman to be sure.”

While Nell is always good for an amusing story or a shocking comment, some of my other customers are just more shocking. My business is in the middle of downtown and surrounded by a bus mall. I get customers of all walks of life, on all sorts of different drugs, and I thank the book gods daily that I don’t have a public bathroom for them to enjoy (I don’t get paid for haz-mat duties). I’ve received bloody money, had people tweek out in the middle of my store, and regularly had to roust people who felt it was perfectly acceptable to sleep in the corner of my store. Until the other day, though, I’ve never had anyone openly bleeding from anything more dangerous than a papercut. This customer, however, was bleeding (more an ooze at that point than anything else) from a wound on her forehead where she was missing a large chunk of skin (about an inch across). Since I wasn’t on yet, the boss handled it, took her money, made pleasant conversation, and was basically able to ignore staring. The woman was functioning fine, and didn’t seem to out of it, but the entire time I kept wondering what the protocol was for bleeding customers? Do you offer them a tissue or band aide? Do you call an ambulance? Do you ask, “Hey, did you know you are bleeding?”

I really need to figure this out because I’m sure she won’t be my last injured customer.


Eileen said...

I love the story of Nell. I aspire to be a fasinating old lady. Not that I'm in a rush to get there.

quiche said...

Whoa. I don't think I could keep my composure to nonchalantly wait on a bleeding customer. Our big chain store has policies for just about everything but doesn't mention customer injuries (probably for legal reasons). I'd probably ask the woman if she was feeling OK, mention that she was bleeding and ask if she wanted to call someone but I'd be reluctant to offer much more than that. More likely I'd just gape at her and mumble.

lady t said...

At my old store,we kept bandaids in the staff bathroom(in case of papercuts and the like)and gave them to customers if neccessary. Never had anyone with major injuries but I did have to call 911 once for a lady who passed out right in the middle of the sales floor(she was diabetic and skimped on breakfast that day).

Your best bet is to keep some first aid supplies near the front register and only call for help if it looks like stitches are required.

Doug Hoffman said...

I see nothing rude or inappropriate about saying, "Did you know you're bleeding?" Milder: "You look like you've injured yourself. There's a bit of blood on your forehead."

"Um, you're not contagious, are you?" doesn't quite cut it.

I get to say far worse things to my patients, of course ;)

On the subject of blogger's bitchiness: one word. WordPress. You can import all of your past Blogger posts -- it's a bitch, but if I could do it, anyone can.