Lessons in theology, politics, and working retail.
When I was in college, I worked at a Borders Books near my hometown every summer and Christmas. Christmas was always daunting, especially for the first couple of years, when I worked a cash register. My normally sleepy suburban store would have a never-ending line, all day, every day of December.
I was a pretty good retail worker. Always helpful and cheerful. I really loved working at Borders and tried to do well there. I didn’t even make snide remarks to people who were buying Ayn Rand or Bill O’Reilly books. (This was well before 2016, when my GiveAFuck™ broke.)
Because I was good at my job, I got a lot of hours over the winter holiday season. This particular winter break, which must have been December of 2003 or 2004, I ended up working 9-hour days for about two weeks straight in the run-up to Christmas. My last shift of madness was a short shift on Christmas Eve afternoon.
That’s when I found out I was damned.
“She was just condemned to eternal hell, you think a 10 minute break is going to fix it?”
I was a few hours into my Christmas Eve shift when an older woman came to my register, looking for something we had special ordered for her. I found it and cheerfully rang her up, making sure to point out that we had free gift wrapping in the cafe.
The entire time, she glared at me.
Trying not to pay the angry lady too much mind, I finished ringing her up and handed her the receipt. Still, she glared.
Eventually, she spoke.
“If the Good Lord wanted you to have a hole in your lip, he’d have put it there himself,” spat the woman. She was apparently blissfully unaware that she, herself had pierced ears, blueish-white hair, and a face caked with makeup.
It’s possible that my mouth literally dropped open at this point. Bitch, you said WHAT?!
(Yes, I did have a hole in my lip. I was a punk rocker in a former life. It’s a good thing I didn’t also have my septum pierced then. She might have had an aneurysm.)
I politely informed the witch that I had read the Bible and was fairly certain that it did not contain any prohibitions on lip piercings. (It’s true; I had. In high school, I was religious, taught Sunday School at my church, and regularly went to Bible study with my friends and my boyfriend.)
This was apparently the wrong thing to say, as Karen sputtered for a moment, looking as though she was about to burst, before finally blurting out“YOU’VE NEVER READ THE BIBLE! YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!”
For a moment, I stood there, stunned. Then I plastered on a big smile and yelled a cheerful “Happy Holidays!” after her as she stormed away.
My supervisor, who had witnessed the entire interaction, awkwardly asked me if I was okay and told me I could take a 10-minute break.
One of my friends standing nearby replied, “She was just condemned to eternal hell, you think a 10-minute break is going to fix it?”