Welcome to my short story called Attack of the Foyer.
Between two shoe dog jobs, I did a short gig as a furniture salesperson. Burned out from working years at a certain department store, I decided to try something different. And I knew that if the furniture business wasn’t my cup of tea, I could easily find another shoe dog job.
In the first weeks after our grand opening I made a bundle of money, but then as with any business, we moved to a normal pace of trade. Over the next few weeks the less productive salespeople left us with about a staff of 10 people and three managers.
Our show room was an impressive affair, measuring about one hundred by one hundred feet and contained many vignettes. In the middle of the store was a place called the customer center.
When a customer wanted to buy furniture, you would sit them down at one of the four long tables in the customer center. Eventually, you would get on one of the archaic computers, and punch in the right series of numbers and letters that corresponded to the furniture they picked out.
In the customer center, hanging on racks, were swatches of fabric and leather that was available to go on the furniture in the showroom. Near the racks of swatches was a row of about fifty big rugs hanging from long rods. In the back of the customer center was a kitchenette complete with a coffee maker, sink, microwave and mini-frig. In addition, there was an oven for baking the cookies we served to our customers.
The customer center had four entrances that faced the cardinal directions. The north entrance lined up exactly to the customer entrance of the store. Many times in the morning when I was doing my thank you notes, I would sit at the table near the north entrance. This way I could get first crack at the customers when they came in. The kitchenette lay near the south entrance of the customer center. Just outside the south entrance, across a hard aisle, was a short hallway. To the left of the short hallway were the public restrooms. To right of the short hallway was a long hallway. This long hallway led to the break room, the conference room, the manager’s office and the warehouse. The east and west entrance led directly to all the vignettes of furniture.
Projecting from and attached to the front entrance of the building was a large foyer with two sets of double doors. The doors were manual. On the east and west side of the foyer were two large panes of thick glass. On the north side were the outer double doors. Across a red tiled floor to the south side of the foyer were the inner double doors that were generally propped open except in times of cold weather. Facing the foyer from inside of the store the cashier stand was on the left.
To me and to the average person in the world, there was a very clear distinction as to what side of the foyer was an entrance. Also to me, and to the average person in the world, there was a very clear distinction as what part of the foyer did not constitute being an entrance.
Unfortunately, for a few weeks in the month of October, we had an outbreak of furniture shopping old people who couldn’t tell where the entrance to our establishment was.
Before I delve into these odd occurrences, let me you tell a little something about myself.
You know sometimes, some things are so bad and bizarre you just have to laugh.
Like some of my fellow human beings, I sometimes laugh in the wrong situations. Once I get started I can’t stop, and I have to run off. This is why I don’t go to funerals often.
On the first day these odd events started, I was sitting at the table near the north entrance of the customer center. I just got through processing a large sale and it was almost eleven o’clock in the morning. As I was stapling some papers together, I happened to look up. From an angle at the corner of the northwest side of the foyer was an old lady advancing at a quick pace toward the entrance. I thought to myself, this lady is on a mission. I got up from my chair. As I exited the customer center to intercept the old lady, I couldn’t believe what I saw next. Veering off to my left the advancing old lady suddenly headed toward the west side of the foyer. My eyes growing big and my head tilted from confusion I picked up my pace. I was going to try and steer the old lady toward the front doors. But I was too late. Just as I went past the second set of doors that were open, with a big thud that reverberated throughout store she ran head first into the pane of glass. The glass pane bore no damage. Quickly the young male cashier and I ran outside to the aid of the old lady.
The old lady had fallen on her back. Her limbs were splayed out like a Raggedy Ann doll. Her mouth was open like she was snoring. The wind had kicked up her floral pink dress revealing her panty hose and her white granny panties. I thought about pulling her dress down, but I was afraid that at the time that I was pulling her dress down she would wake up. Then I would be accused of a rather bizarre and very bad crime.
I could see it now. Somebody puts in their zip code to one of those databases that tell you where the bad people are in your neighborhood and my sad face pops up.
Later on I learned that the male cashier had the same thought going through his mind. So we just left her that way.
While the cashier guy stood over the body and called 911 on his cell phone, I went back in and found the manager. The manager ran outside. He took the pulse of the lady, checked her eyes. And then pulling down her dress he said to both of us as he gave us a dirty look, “You know you could have at least pulled down her dress.”
We both remained silent for a moment and then in unison we said, “Sorry.”
I fought hard not to laugh. The whole thing seemed so weird that a person couldn’t tell where the doors of building was.
Soon the ambulance took her to the hospital. Healing from her concussion she was released a week later.
The day after this happen my manager had some big red lettering placed on the west and east side of the foyer that said, Not An Entrance.
Problem solved, right?
On this day I was once again was working the early shift and it was just a little before eleven o’clock. I had just given a middle age couple a tour of the show room. Feeling a little tired I decided to get myself a cup of coffee.
Just as I was standing in the middle of the customer center with my coffee in hand, I saw an old dark blue Cadillac enter our parking lot. After parking in a handicap place near the east side of the foyer, out from the old car emerged an old man in his eighties. He had a cane and was wearing a hat. He wore black dress pants and a brown short sleeve plaid shirt.
As I watched him step up on the curb I noticed that he was making a steady beeline for the east side of the foyer. As I sipped my coffee I thought surely that this gentleman would see the red sign on the pane of glass and would then move toward the direction of the entrance. I was wrong. Like a moth to a light bulb with a great big thud the old man’s head smacked right into the window pane.
I said in a low voice, “Damn it. Really?” I then quickly moved toward the front.
Dazed and his legs wobbling like he was dancing all of his weight sat squarely on his right hand which rested on the handle of the cane. I thought I had enough time to prevent him from falling to the ground. I was wrong. The moment I rushed out of the building and took a sharp right he collapsed and fell backwards. He now laid knocked out. Paralleled to the large pane his feet faced the parking lot. Oddly his cane was still in his hand. His mouth was gapping like a Wide Mouth Bass. I looked up at bold red sign on the large pane of glass and shook my head.
Just then in the corner of my eye I saw a blur go through the foyer. As I look to my right it was the young cashier who was now coming around the corner. He had heard the thud all the way from the sofa section. Just I was about to say something, the sudden the young cashier tripped on the thick rubber soles of his Doc Martins and fell on top of the old man.
For a moment it looked like the were making out. I lost it. I completely lost my composure. Needing to laugh, I left the unconscious old man and the younger cashier and ran into the building. Cutting through the customer center, I then quickly exited the south side of the customer center. Across the hard aisle I then went down the little hallway. Turning a right, I went down a long hallway and entered the break room. Quickly looking around to see if anyone was here, I then quickly shut the door. Getting into a nearby closet I shut the door of the closet and burst out into laughter.
For several minutes, every time I thought I had got my self under control and was about to head out the door, the image of the cashier on top of the old man, would cause me to burst out into laughter again.
The cashier had called 911 soon after I departed, so by the time I got myself under control and headed to the front, an ambulance had just arrived. Now, the unconscious old man was surrounded by several of my fellow salespeople, a few customers and my manager.
I was afraid that the cashier was going to narc on me and tell the manager about my desertion but he never did. Later I learned that the reason he didn’t narc on me is because had he done so, he was afraid I would retaliate by telling the manager that he had fallen on the old man. Ahh…nothing like mutual blackmail. The cornerstone of politics.
At the hospital the old man quickly recovered and was released a few days later.
I noticed that both old people who had run into the sides of the foyer had done so almost exactly at 11:00 a.m. in the morning.
The day following that event, my manager bought ten pots of three foot high rubber tree plants, He then placed five of the rubber tree plants on the inside of the west and east panes of the foyer. Surely he thought that this would stop the elderly from crashing into the large panes of glass.
On a gloomy rainy day, just few minutes before eleven, I was once again sitting at the my
favorite table in the customer center. I had just poured myself some hot coffee. At this time the cashier was hitting on a new sales lady in the sofa section of the store.
Because of the heavy rain not one customer came in, and I was getting bored. There were about ten sales people that day. Most were in the main back office checking their reports to see when furniture for their customers was coming, and a few were just milling about the sales floor.
Most of the sales people were men. And most of the men looked like me, white, tall with brown short hair. Soon, the commonality of these physical traits would prove to be a good thing for me.
So just as I was making some notes on my day planner I looked up and saw a stocky, short middle age lady come into the foyer. She had coke bottom glasses.
She stood there, shaking the water off her umbrella onto the mat below her feet, when suddenly an old person ran into the west pane of the foyer. The thud scared the middle age lady so badly she lost her footing and fell on the plants on the east side of the foyer.
As the old lady on the outside fell to her side, her black umbrella took off into the wind. And just like the first old lady, the wind lifted her skirt up toward her chest.
In a low voice, as though I was talking to the old lady who was unconscious I said, “Really? Are you kidding me? Seriously? “How many businesses have you gone to where you have step over a line of three foot plants to enter the premises?”
As I got up from the table the middle age lady got up. And just as I was about to head out through the doorway of the customer center she turned toward me. The site of her glasses tilted on her nose and the dirt and leafs that still clung to her baby blue pants suit was too much for me. As she pointed to the old lady and said, “There’s an old lady that fallen! Call 911!” I busted out laughing.
Puzzled and angry the middle age lady tilted her head. Not able to stop laughing I ran the other way and went and hid in the restrooms. Sitting on a toilet I put both of my hands to my mouth as I tried in vain to stop my laughter.
Just at the time that I was running toward the restrooms two of the female sales people and the cashier were running toward the front. They heard that familiar noise.
The middle age lady was angry and furious. Immediately the cashier called the manager. As I heard the manager foot steps go quickly past the restroom door I waited a couple of seconds and then quickly left the restrooms and went down a hallway across from the restrooms. Past the close door of the break room, manager office and other rooms I went into the warehouse. To my luck it was empty.
Up front, as the two sales people were carrying in the old lady from out of the rain, the cashier was calling 911. As my manager approached the middle age woman he got an ear full of rage that lasted for several minutes.
She told him that one of his salespeople had laughed when the old lady hurt her self. She then said that the salesperson didn’t even bother to help, he just turned around and left as he kept on laughing.
Upset, shocked and angry, my manager asked her, “what did the salesperson look like?” She replied that he was, white, tall with short brown hair. With all sincerity, my manager promised that he would find the salesperson who laughed and ran away from the injured old lady who was in dire need of aid. He promised that this evil salesperson would then be fired.
My manager’s promise of job termination didn’t satisfy the middle age woman. Before leaving abruptly, she stated she would call our corporate headquarters and tell about the evil salesperson (she never did), and that she would never shop here again.
After the ambulance took the old lady to the hospital the manager asked all of the salespeople, including me, if they saw the person that laughed and then ran away from the hurt old lady. Thankfully none of my other fellow employees saw me. I knew that the cashier suspected it was me, but for some reason he never said anything. Finally the manager asked me and six other men that were white, tall, and had short brown hair, where we were during the time that the old lady ran into the glass pane. At the time of this sad event, I said I was in the warehouse inspecting some furniture that had just came in, that I was about to ship to a nearby customer. He bought the lie.
That day the manger took the three foot rubber tree plants and replaced them all with five foot palms.
Did this measure resolve the problem?
The next day, at our morning meeting, my manager told us if he ever found out who it was that was laughing as they ran from the hurt old lady, they would be fired. I fought hard to maintain a serious composure. During the entire meeting I looked like I was angry and I kept on looking at the other male salespeople suspiciously.
In the meeting, one of salesladies commented that the three occurrences of the people running into the panes of glass had happen at around 11:00 a.m. But no one, including me, could figure why it was happening around this particular time. To this day I have no theory.
The day before the 21st I had spent half a day helping this beautiful, but shallow young couple pick out their furniture and accessories for their new house. Throughout the time I was showing them all of the furniture they both were always interrupting me by taking business calls on their phones.
At the end of our time together the husband said that he wanted to buy all of the furniture and accessories I had picked out. He said that he wanted to pay for most if it with cash. He promised that he and his wife would come again the next morning and at that time, have me place their order. I smiled and said that would be fine and bid them a professional goodbye. I prayed that the husband was really telling the truth and that they weren’t both just crocks.
Crock : A person that waste a sales person’s time and doesn’t buy.
That night after I left work I realized I was coming down with a cold. I decided to take some cold medicine that would knock out the symptoms.
I wanted to show up for work the next day in case the couple came back. If I was sneezing and coughing during our time together that could kill the sale. The final closing of a sale is a very critical time.
The next day, to my delight ,just a few minutes after we opened at ten, the beautiful couple arrived at our store. The husband said that they had the money and they were ready to order the furniture and take home the accessories. I led them to the customer center and I sat them down at my favorite table.
Though I didn’t exhibit any cold symptoms the medicine had left me numb, lethargic and very passive. During the process of ordering the furniture on the computer I fought hard to look like I was chipper. I also took my time to make sure I was putting in the right numbers and letters for the furniture they wanted.
Just a few minutes before eleven, just like clock work, just as I had finished completing the order it happened again. As they were signing the order form a loud reverberating thud occurring from the front traveled throughout the store. So mellow from the cold medicine I didn’t even get up. Slowly I looked at my watch.
With wide eyes the wife then looked at me and asked, “What was that?”
Slowly I turned to her sighed and said, “Oh…it must be eleven o’clock again.”
From my view I could see that another old person had run into the west side of the foyer. Lucky for me the couple was sitting on the other end of the table across from me at an angle.
With tightened faces and tilted heads they both look at me. They were confused, and I could tell that they were about to asked me to explain the meaning of what I just said. Fortunately around that time, the wife’s phone rang and killed the awkward moment.
Then, as I was about to distract the husband from the odd thing I had said by offering him some cookies, his phone went off. Looking at me with a bird eye stare he immediately answered the phone. Turning his head from me he then quickly became in engrossed in his phone call.
Rising up from my chair I grinned and told them, “I will let you have some privacy.”
They didn’t even acknowledge me.
Tightening my jaw I went up to the front. Outside of the foyer on the west side of the foyer through the crowd that consisted of my manger and my fellow employees I saw the sprawled out legs of an old lady.
As I approached the small crowd of people the manager and two other men who were on their knees were turning the old lady over on her back. Summoning a look of horror I put the palm of my right hand on my chest and said, “Oh my gosh! Not another one?”
The manager, who I could tell bought my horrible acting, looked up at me and with a sincere face he shook his head and said, “Yeah, it happened it again.”
I asked the next question I realizing how stupid it was as I asked it, “You think she’s hurt?”
Stunned by that stupid question my manager tilted his head, squinted his eyes at me and said, “Yeah Tim! She’s hurt! Did you think she just here taking a nap?”
Looking guilty, feeling stupid and fighting hard not to laugh I said to my manager, “I’m sorry I asked that stupid question. It’s just so shocking to see this happen again…and again.”
He briefly patted me on the shoulder and said, “That’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.” He then said to me, “We just called 911 a few minutes ago, and they should be here pretty soon.”
A bitter saleslady named Donna was standing near the old lady with her arms crossed. Out of the blue, she commented, “Well one thing’s for sure, the paramedics are not going to have a problem finding this place.”
Looking up at her the manager shook his head and said, “That’s not funny.”
Shrugging her shoulders a smirk of indifference came across Donna’s face.
The manager then turned to me and asked, “Didn’t you hear the noise?”
Quickly I came up with a good lie. I replied, “Yes I did. I was in between helping customers at the time, and using my asthma inhaler .”
Satisfied with the answer, my manager said, “Oh. Okay.”
I asked, “Is there anything I can do?”
The manager replied, “Just go in there and make sure all of the customers have been greeted. I don’t think we have a salesperson in the building.”
Nodding my head I said, “No problem, will do.”
Still maintaining my fake stoic look I went back to the beautiful couple, and just as I thought it would be, they were still on their phones.
Just about two minutes after the ambulance took the old lady way the couple, within a few seconds of each other, got off their phones.
To my luck they didn’t rehash the conversation concerning the loud thud had they heard and the odd thing I had said after the loud thud. They were ready to leave. They had things to do.
After giving them a copy of their order and a receipt, I told them expect the furniture in four to six weeks and then bided them a cheery goodbye.
A few hours later the manager came to me and congratulated me on my eleven thousand dollar sale I made to the beautiful couple. He then drew me close and asked if I knew who was the one that had laughed and then ran when that old lady fell.
Trying my best not to laugh, or even grin for I was on the verge of losing it, I simple said, “No, but I will keep an ear out.”
He then asked me, “So what do you think we should do with the door? I’ve tried everything.”
As an idea came to my head I said, “Why don’t we just paint the sides of the foyer? That would probably keep the old people from running into the glass panes.
He nodded and said, “That’s a good idea, but I will have to get it approved by cooperate.” He sighed then said, “So why the hell are these old people running into the damn glass? You can see that there is no damn door there!”
Shaking my head I said, “I have no idea.” I then added, “Maybe their so used to automatic doors that they just assume our doors were automatic.”
The manager nodded.
On this day we were inundated with big corporate dogs, they were everywhere. They were in the offices and the warehouse in the back. They were everywhere on the showroom floor. And like a little puppy, my manager was nervously following and kissing up to the president of the company.
The evening before, I spent two hours showing a middle age couple several armoires. They wanted a new one for a large screen TV they were about to purchase. This was before LCD TVs were affordable. They had given me the measurements on the TV and with those stats I proved that most of the large armoires would accommodate the new TV. At the end of those two hours the couple had found an armoire they both liked, would go with the décor in the game room, and would fit the new TV.
The armoire was rather pricey and just at the time that I was trying to close the deal the husband politely told me that they wanted to sleep on it. Disappointed a little, but still professional I told them that this was no problem and that I understood. I then told them that this style of armoire was the last one in the company, and that I could probably talk the manager into taking a ten percent off the armoire because it was a floor model.
He then asked me if I would be working tomorrow. I said yes, I would be working the 9-6 shift. He then told me that if they did decide on the pricey armoire, he would call me in the morning and tell me to put a hold tag on it. Later, he would bring his checkbook and it buy. They both thanked me for my time. Shaking their hands, I wished them a goodnight.
The next morning, just about ten after nine, the husband called me and told me to put it on hold. He told me he and his wife would come to the store just as it opened. After hanging up with a smile on my face, I placed a hold tag on the four thousand dollar armoire.
As I sat in my usual place in the customer center, I kept myself busy writing thank you cards as I watched the front doors. All around me, several big dogs were milling about the showroom floor. I noticed that none of the big dogs looked like they would be suffering from anorexia anytime soon.
Just a little after ten the husband and wife came through the doors. I immediately stood up from my chair and went out to greet them. Just as I was about to usher them into the customer center to write them up, they said that they wanted to look at some of the accessories they saw yesterday. They told me while they were looking at accessories, they wanted the paper work readied for the armoire. The wife explained she had a dental appointment at twelve, and didn’t want to be late.
Leaving them, I went back to the customer center and starting writing up the sale. I looked on the computer to see the earliest date I could get the armoire delivered to them.
Just as I was sending my invoice to the printer in the customer center, I happened to glance at the front doors. At the time I didn’t know it, but the cashier was under the long counter of the cashier stand fixing his printer. Heading toward the door I saw an older couple walking quickly toward the building entrance. Both had coffee in their hands.
The wife, wearing a bitter look on her face was leading her husband by a yard. They were headed on a collision course with the east glass pane of the foyer. Without turning around and as she yelled at her husband, a loud thud suddenly occurred, followed quickly by a second loud thud.
As the old wife ran her head into the pane of glass she smashed her coffee container, splashing its hot contents on one of her hands and down her coat. A split second later, the old husband ran into the back of his wife. As the front of his head smacked into the back of her head, the front of her head smacked against the glass pane again. The coffee container he had been holding splashed onto his wife’s back, sending the hot contents onto one of his hands and down the back of his wife’s coat. Both then collapsed forward upon the cement. They landed, looking like they were consummating their marriage without the use of the common position.
As I fought not to burst out into a bellow of laughter I saw the cashier get up and look toward the door. Quickly I retreated from his line of vision.
I knew I had to find a hiding place to let myself snicker. In my mind I quickly wrote off the bathroom, the break room, the warehouse, and the sale office, I knew that they all would be filled with corporate dogs. Suddenly a place of hiding came to my mind. Signing myself off the computer, I grabbed my paper work. Hunched down I ran out of the east entrance of the customer center. Going toward the armoire that the middle age couple was going to buy, I open one side of the main cabinet doors. Crawling in I sat down with my knees up and then I shut the door from the inside. And as I thought of the way that the old couple had landed on the each other, I began to snicker.
One minute into my long burst of snickering I heard footstep coming down the aisle just outside of the armoire, it was my manager, the president and the president’s fellow cooperate dogs.
As I shut my snickering off I heard the president say, “Oh damn it! Did another old person slam into the glass again! I thought you had fixed this John!”
My manager exclaimed, “Everything I have done doesn’t work! I don’t know what to do!
When they had passed by I continued my snickering.
A few minutes later as I heard the sirens of the coming ambulance becoming louder, suddenly the doors of armoire opened. It was the middle age couple. For a split second my eyes when big, but then my ability to alibi kicked in. Faking a sneeze to cover my snickering I then said to them with a big grin, “Hi there!”
In unison and with confused faces they flatly answered “Hi.”
In control of my snickering I then asked with a smiled, “I guess you’re wondering what I am doing in here?”
They both just nodded.
I replied, “I was inspecting the compartment inside the armoire for cracks.”
Their faces lightening up a little the husband asked “Oh, is that why you had the doors close so you can see if there are any cracks?”
I grinned and said, “Yes! Yes. Yes that why I had the doors closed.”
The wife then asked, “And is everything okay with the armoire?”
I replied, “Yes. There are no cracks. No defects at all. Everything is perfect.”
“That great,” she smiled. We really appreciate your excellent service and how meticulous you are.”
As I got out of the main compartment of armoire I said, “Oh no problem. I want y’all to be happy with your purchase.”
She then said, “We’ve found some accessories we like to add to the purchase. But will need help carrying them to the car. My husband has back problems.”
I said, “sure, be glad to help.”
As I helped them with the accessories and rung up the sale, they asked me what happened up front. Trying not to laugh I merely said that I heard someone had fallen, maybe an older person, and that the store had called an ambulance to take the person to the hospital. I then quickly, but politely moved on to another topic.
Fortunately as I and another fellow sales person carried the accessories to the couple‘s truck, the ambulance was already gone.
With the armoire and the accessories, the sale was over seven thousand dollars. Five days later I received a call from the president of the company. He said that he had received a great email from the couple that I had sold the armoire to. He said that they had told him on how I crawled into the armoire to inspect it for any flaws. He then told me how proud he was of me that I would take the time and effort to make sure that the products we were selling to our customers were in tip-top shape. He then told me that he wished that he had more salespeople like me.
Trying not to laugh I said in the most humble manner I could mustard, “Thank you sir. And thanks for telling me about the email. I really do try to treat every customer like I would like to be treated. That’s why I’m so meticulous.”
Totally changing the subject, he then asked, “What the hell is going on with the foyer at our store? And why the hell do old people keep on crashing into it?”
Almost losing it, I snickered for a little, but then quickly regained my composure.
Being that I hadn’t said anything in about twenty seconds the president said, “Hello? Hello? Hello Tim are you there. Hello?”
Getting back on the phone I said, “I’m sorry it’s my allergies. I just was sneezing a few times.
He chuckled, “You gotta’ em’ too, huh?” He then chuckled and said, “For a moment there it sounded like you were laughing.”
I chuckled and said, “Oh no, I wasn’t.”
He then asked, “So what do you think we should do about the foyer? I have five lawsuits to deal with now.”
Off the top of my head I said, “I guess were just going to have to blackout the side panes of the foyer. That’s all I can think of.”
Not thrilled with my solution he said, “O-k-a-y.
There was then a pause of silence.
He then said, “Well, I need to get to a meeting. Anyway, thanks for the good service. And as a way of showing my appreciation for your good service I’m sending you a hundred dollars. Your manager will give it to you in a few days.”
I responded, “Why thank you sir. I appreciate that.”
Quickly after that the phone call ended.
A week later two men came out to our store in the early morning and with some type of sheeting they black out the sides panes of the foyer from within side. After that, we never had a problem with older people running into foyer again. We never did figure out why they were doing that in the first place. I guess it will always be a mystery.
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