I had my first “freak out” at work yesterday morning. In the almost four years I’ve worked there (my god, has it been that long?) I have never cried at work from being angry, although I have shed the occasional tear when a couple of regulars have told me that their partners passed away. That’s always sad and disconcerting: “Hey, I haven’t seen you guys in a while! Where’s Joe?” “Oh, well, he passed away a couple of months ago. I haven’t been going out much.”
I don’t even know why it happened when it did because I’ve dealt with much more stressful situations at work, at other jobs, in life, and haven’t lost it. I don’t want to believe I’m this susceptible to suggestion, but I did just read a chapter in my week-by-week pregnancy book that states the third trimester can be an especially moody one for many women.
It all started Friday when Sarah and I were trying to determine how to cover Leticia’s morning shift because she was unable to come in. We’d known this for days, but hadn’t been able to find anyone to come in. Everyone was working at another store, an event, a different job, was out of town, or was already scheduled yesterday. The one person willing to work was a guy from a different store that I’ve never met. Sarah said our trainer vouched for him and said he was very capable.
But I still went in to work worried that we were going to be slammed and this guy wouldn’t be able to keep up. None of our other locations get as busy as we do and, on more than one occasion, someone has come over to fill in for us, only to return to their own store and tell their manager to never ask them to work at our store again.
When our usual Saturday morning rush was over, I was stressed out, but the kid had done a good job and I felt like I shouldn’t have worried so much. At one point, everyone in the store was standing around me. Charlie had come in to get a drink, Matt’s girlfriend was waiting on a bagel, the guy from the other store was handing me a drink order, and two customers were hovering in front of the bar.
One of them is a man known for being uber-cheap. He and his wife used to come in every day and, when we were much busier and had a higher turnover of employees, he was adept at sneaking around to get free refills (at the time he first did it to me, refills were eighty cents) by giving the new people the impression that he’d paid for it and was just waiting on their end of the bar. He made sure to do it when it was relatively busy and there could be some confusion.
His wife will stand in front of our newspaper rack and pull the papers apart, reading them for ten or fifteen minutes before she “decides” if she wants to buy it or not. Most of the time, they won’t buy the paper, but they’ll sit down with one, then put it back. And, more than once, she has snuck out the front door without paying for a Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. I’ve told the husband a few times that the college campus where he works offers several different newspapers for free.
His wife has been known to take money out of our tip jar — something that happens more often at the store than I would have imagined before working there — but not a few cents here and there the way some people do. She’ll pull out fifty cents or a dollar to pay for the paper and, when people have said something to her about it (“This is not a take-a-penny-leave-a-penny situation”) she’ll say, “I put money in there from time to time!” So I’ve made a habit of sliding the tip jar out of her reach whenever she comes up to the counter.
For a brief period of time, we had a suggestion box at the store. These two would fill out a comment card once every week or two. They wrote that we should not charge them for refills, and, in fact, they should not even be charged for coffee because they have been coming to and supporting the store since it first opened. When it became clear that no one was going to take their suggestions, they started bringing in styrofoam cups from the bank around the corner with the coffee the bank offered its customers for free. Eventually, that turned into them bringing in coffee mugs from home and filling those up with the bank’s coffee. They both (but the wife, especially), would smirk at us when they came in to use our cream and sugar, read our papers for free, and sit down for long periods of time, highly proud of how clever they were for working around our ridiculous policy of charging customers for a product.
A couple of customers feel sorry for them and buy them a cup of coffee here and there, but please don’t think they actually don’t have money. He’s a professor at a local university. They’re just incredibly cheap.
So, yesterday, I’m starting to make the drink he’s ordered – a small mocha in a mug for here, which surprised me because I’ve never known them to buy anything more expensive than a small decaf coffee. The new guy set down the mug for me and I made the drink and handed it over. The husband came up and said, “Oh, that’s not what I ordered. I paid for a big one!” My disbelief over this extravagant purchase, combined with the fact that I know he’s always trying to get something for nothing, caused me to snort, “Oh, did you, now?”
The new guy came around the corner apologizing and said the man had, in fact, ordered our larger size, and he had just given me the wrong cup. I was shocked. I said okay, and pulled down the next size up to make the drink over, when the cheap man started barking at me to just give him a refill later. And he said it over, and over, and over again while Matt’s girlfriend, Charlie, the new guy, Matt, and everyone and their brother was saying something to me at the same time. I’m trying to make this stupid mocha and the cheap man is going, “Just give me a refill later. Just give me a refill later. Just give me a free refill another time. Just make me another one later.”
My brain is working overtime to think of how to tell this guy off, like, hey, you don’t get a free refill on a f-ing four dollar mocha just because I made the wrong size, I’m almost done with it already, I am not going to give you anything for free, you thieving bastard . . .
Then Matt’s girlfriend starts saying my name over and over, and the new guy is asking me what kind of reffill the cheap man wants and I look over at Matt’s girlfriend and she’s going, “Courtney, he’s talking to you. Hey, Courtney, look,” and nodding at the cheap man and I just lost my shit. I threw up my hands in the middle of the bar area and shouted, “I heard! I HEARD EVERYBODY!” and went and slammed myself in the walk-in fridge where I started crying like a baby.
I was mad at myself for snapping at Matt’s girlfriend because it wasn’t really her I was mad at, and I was upset because I freaked out in front of the cheap bastard and his wife and the new guy, and all these people who probably thought I was a raving lunatic. I was upset because this cheap man is always looking for a way to get something for nothing, as are about 20% of our regular customers and I’m so sick of being put in this weird position of “Hey, you’re cool, right? Why don’t you just hand that to me and I won’t pay for it and we won’t tell anyone, okay?” Or all the people who come in that are friends with or acquaintances of or vaguely familiar with one employee or another and like to wander beyond the register, over to the pass-through side of the bar where they ask you to go ahead and make them the most expensive drink on the menu but don’t even bother to throw a buck in the tip jar, making sure to mention your co-worker who they don’t really know.
It was so stupid of me to get all bent out of shape, but it happened and there’s nothing I can do about it now. I came out of the walk-in after a couple of minutes, washed my face in the bathroom, and apologized to everyone. Matt’s girlfriend was already gone, but she added me to her friends on Facebook last week, so I sent her a message to say how sorry I was for snapping at her. When I went back out, though, the cheap man’s wife was giving me the stink eye for a good few minutes. I kept looking over at her and she kept glaring at me, so I finally made this face at her, the kind that clearly says, “WHAT, bitch?” and she looked away.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they emailed the owners to say I had been rude, although neither of them really got yelled at. Later on yesterday afternoon I had another crying fit when I got upset over our expensive stereo system not playing the iPod over this wireless speaker thingie. I’m going to go ahead and assume this is all related to the pregnancy. But I’m going to try not to freak out at work anymore. Only 6-8 more weeks and then I’ll be stressed out with a newborn, but at least I’ll only have one tough customer to deal with for a while.