Encounters in a Bookstore #537: The Trifecta

On a rainy and surprisingly busy Sunday, one of the managers at the bookstore where I work completed a trifecta that no one ever really sets out to accomplish.

Around 12:30 a little girl and her father bought a few items, and as he was putting his wallet away, she started shrieking and moving in little jerky circles. All things considered, he seems to have responded much too calmly. Turns out she wet herself, and the floor. He rifled through the stroller a little bit, she cried a little, and he said, “Looks like we don’t have a change of clothes.”

Then he turned to me, said, “A potty-training setback,” shrugged, and they both left. The puddle of urine, of course, remained.

So I called the manager on duty, and cryptically told him we needed maintenance at the cash wrap. He asked why.

“A little girl had an accident.”

“What kind? A food one, or a result-of-food one?”

“Result of food. She wet herself.”

He sighed, and hung up. I attempted to tell other customers to watch out for the puddle, but not one really listened. Since it was a rainy day, I suppose they all thought they were trudging and/or pushing their strollers through a puddle of water.

After plenty of people had traipsed through the puddle, the manager appeared with the mop and mop bucket. “These things always happen when Maintenance is on break,” he noted. And once he’d finished mopping, “Well, it’s taken me one week to complete the trifecta. First vomit, then feces, and now urine.”

I laughed. He laughed. I shared my own woes of completing a similar thing back when I worked at a video store. “We can add it to our resumes,” I said. We laughed again. Because it’s one of those near-inevitable retail experiences not quite awful enough to cry over.

As I was leaving the store that day, I walked through the Children’s department and came upon the same manager and three other employees, standing in a grim circle near a trash bag of children’s books. Apparently a child had projectile vomited all over a shelf of pop-up titles. Luckily for the manager this time around, Maintenance wasn’t on break.

Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.