Thursday, May 19, 2011

Embarrassing Moments: Paint Spill

Not only have I had adventures and misadventures in other countries but I have had many here in this one as in the following anecdote. From time to time I will share some, which are from a booklet I wrote quite a few years ago titled The Adventures of Hopalong Ganny.

Celebrate Secretary’s Day? There was one year in particular when my boss, the manager of the paint department of a large retail store in Midwest City, Oklahoma did not feel particularly inclined to celebrate. I wasn’t his secretary, exactly—he didn’t have one—but I was the assistant manager of the department and because I was a woman, certain “secretarial” duties fell to me, i.e., dusting and polishing. (Yes, we had janitors but they never touched the shelves.) However, I was determined to prove that a woman could do everything a man could do—mix paint, stock shelves, carry paint cans to customers’ cars, and certainly wait on customers. After a year of learning the paint business, I felt that I could handle any problem that might arise.

One day my boss mixed a can of paint for a lady who then proceeded to walk through the store with it. She had assured him that she could handle one can while she continued to shop in other departments. Several minutes after the lady had departed the paint department, my boss got a call from the TV department. The lady had dropped her can of paint and spilled it. My boss grabbed two pieces of cardboard that had always been by the register but I had never known what they were for.

“Follow me,” he said.

We both rushed to the TV department where he quickly, efficiently, and expertly scooped up the paint and put it back into the can. I was amazed that he had not only gotten almost every bit of the paint back into the can but that there was practically no evidence that anything had happened! He handed the paint can back to the lady and explained that since she was the one who had dropped it she would have to keep it. If he had dropped it then he would have had to mix another can. The lady accepted this quite nicely and left.

“Now you know what to do if you or a customer should drop and spill a can of paint,” he said to me.

Since in my one year on the job this was the only time that had happened, I didn’t think I had anything to worry about. Besides after observing my boss, I knew how easy it would be to scoop up the paint.

A few days later while he was on his lunch break, I mixed a can of dark olive-green paint for a customer, rang up the sale, and, as I turned to hand the can to the gentleman, either one or both of us misjudged the timing and I let go of the handle before he had grasped it.

Plop-plop-plop—I shall never forget that sound as the paint and the can fell to the floor. The paint spilled everywhere—especially on other customers who had lined up to pay for their merchandise. And I? I was standing in the middle of a spreading puddle of green paint.

Another salesperson hustled away the gentleman who had purchased the paint and mixed him another can. The poor customers who had been splashed were advised to go immediately to the restrooms to wash off the latex paint. I found myself abandoned in my sea of green paint.

I looked down at my clothes—a dark green plaid jumper, long sleeve white blouse, nylons, and dressy sandals—and thought, I can handle this and I bet I won’t even get paint on me. I grabbed my boss’s two pieces of cardboard and began scooping paint into the can. Miraculously, I did get most of it back and very little on my jumper and white blouse. But my shoes and nylons were not so lucky! My feet and legs were covered in green paint and it felt like the paint had a life of its own as it oozed up my legs toward my thighs under my jumper. I couldn’t move without making a mess.

By now my fellow salespeople had gathered around—at a distance—and were laughing themselves silly. But one salesman across the aisle in hardware stared at me intently, not laughing. Later he told me that he was wondering how to get me out of my mess. He said that he had thought about picking me up and carrying me to the restroom but then he would get paint on himself. Then, he said, he had the brilliant idea of wheeling me out on a dolly.

Thus to my rescue he came. “Here,” he said, “hop on.”

I did so to the applause of salespeople and customers as he wheeled me away. I looked back at the register and saw that I had done a pretty good job of scooping up the paint. What had not gone into the can had gone up my legs!

He wheeled me to the ladies’ restroom and before getting off the dolly I removed my shoes. I walked in, then removed my nylons and washed both them and my sandals. As I was leaving I saw that the paint must have soaked through my sandals to the bottoms of my feet because I had left little green footprints across the floor of the ladies’ lounge.

Secretary’s Day came soon after and for some reason my boss managed to be out of the store all day. No special lunch with him that year!

And those little green footprints in the ladies’ lounge? They were still there when I left a year later!

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