My oldest daughter attended an online charter school in 7th grade that required a laptop. Because those were the days I was working three jobs and trying to home school, I had to find something I could afford. Luckily, we did just before she was to start.
Barely out of the box, one of us tripped over the charger, ripping it straight out of where it was plugged in. This was round number one to replace it.
A few weeks later, after we moved the computer to another location, someone else did the same exact thing, requiring a second run for another one.
The third mishap could have turned out way worse than it did. At the time, our dogs were puppies, and one of them chewed up the charger cord while it was plugged in. No one got fried in the process.
Except for me. I was beyond my tolerance for having this repeat itself. I was worn out from going through the double doors of the electronic store, becoming a regular like at a bar.
I thought we were out of the woods once we hit the six-month mark, but then the modem died. So it was back to the same store but with a different problem.
I was hoping to circumvent help, grab something and go. But, the options were endless, so I had to stay longer than I wanted, which then drew an employee’s attention. I was just fine on my own, but she took it upon herself to assist.
I must not have masked my feelings very well. I wasn’t taking my annoyance out on her, but I wasn’t exactly overly welcoming. My goal was to get out of there as quickly as I could. My youngest daughter was with me, also trying to speed up the process. I tried not to make much eye contact or speak, to rush it along. The “helper” was happily chirping away about various models and prices. And any other topic she thought would be of interest to me. She wasn’t picking up on my nonverbal cues, and I decided I might as well speak because she was there for the duration.
Finally, I said,
“This is my fourth time here.”
I explained my charger drama as I went back to looking on the shelf for what we needed. I began talking to make time go by faster and not complaining, just trying to make an awkward situation less uncomfortable since she seemed bored and wanted something to do.
She edged closer to me. I thought I was in her way, so I moved over. I picked up a box, decided that was the one, and turned to thank her for trying to help.
Out of absolutely nowhere, she said,
“You need a hug!” And she threw herself at me.
I was somewhat shocked that I hadn’t been fast enough to dodge out of the way.
I was highly skilled at this from having to face many overzealous church greeters. I learned quickly to avoid the double arm maneuver in the lobby.
It was first the handshake, then the forearm grab as you are pulled in before you can change your mind and run back to your car. Your limb is nearly dislocated, but you feel thoroughly greeted.
To avoid being involved with that, I would get so preoccupied with my purse and keys, pretending to juggle them so I didn’t have a free hand to spare. Instead, I would smile, say hi, look totally stressed out trying to handle my bag, and move on, bypassing the whole thing. I was a professional at it.
I had also been subjected to embracers as well, and my best excuse was to say I had to run to the bathroom. Even the most hardcore smotherer for the Lord won’t bother you if they think you have had a lot of water to drink before a service. They wish you well from afar and say they will catch you next time.
I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I decided my skirting around them was a win for all of us. I was freeing them up for the next unsuspecting victim.
I believed I had a rock solid barrier between myself and this type of behavior. I was completely surprised by her actions; I was frozen in place, hanging on to the modem box. My arms were at my sides, unmoving. Was this part of the employee of the month program? Was she going to have her picture posted on a wall somewhere just for ninja attacking me? She was not letting go quickly, and time for me had halted.
After the unwanted advance, she stepped back and said,
“I hope you feel better.”
I had dissociated from my body momentarily.
My daughter held in the biggest laugh of her life because she is well aware of my small personal bubble. I somewhat staggered backward to regain my independence.
“Have a great day!” she said.
I nodded and walked away like a zombie to the register. My daughter, no longer able to contain herself, said in between gasps for air,
“Your face! You should have seen it!”
“Why did she do that to me? That is not normal! We are in a store!” I said in a yell whisper.
I was afraid she was lurking nearby within listening range, and I didn’t want to give her any reason to feel sorry for me again. That was not my intention in the first place. I kept looking around as if she was going to pop up out of nowhere.
This only made her laugh more all the way to the car. Loudly.
I locked all the doors, which brought on another round of hysteria.
“I just can’t stop thinking of how you looked!”
“How am I supposed to look when someone lunges at me like that? Who does that?”
On the one hand, it’s nice to know that we have good hearted people in the world, but I couldn’t get past its oddity.
This is not the only time a worker has gone out of their way to console me but in a less invasive way.
I had taken my lawnmower in for an oil change and to get the blade sharpened. It’s not my favorite thing to do in the world as I am totally out of my element. I have a smaller, less crowded hardware store nearby, but it’s still very testosterone leaning, and the rows of unknown things are mind-blowing.
Who has time to browse the aisles looking at miles of gadgets and minuscule metal objects? From my observation: retired men. Of which I am not one. Who generally works there? The same demographic.
I don’t do this at the beginning of spring because everyone else does. I try to time it to go in after the onslaught of eager lawn fanatics so I will get it back faster. With fewer mowers, I wait a shorter time.
A week went by, and I heard nothing. That seemed unusual, so I called to ask if it had gotten taken care of.
“I don’t see it here,” the person who answered the phone said. “Our system says it’s still out for repair.”
That made me wonder if something was wrong with it that I didn’t know about.
“What is the date it has been promised to be done?”
“A week from today. But it’s always done way early when I bring it in at this time of the year.”
“Well, then wait until then. It’s not here.”
I felt like I was interrupting her life, so I did what she said. I always default to being the one who is wrong when it comes to not being confident in what I am dealing with.
Two whole weeks went by, which seemed off to me. This was the first time it had taken this long. I usually get a text saying it’s ready for pick up, but my promised date had passed. So I called to see if it had been overlooked.
“Nope, it’s not back yet,” she said. “It says it’s still out for service when I look it up.”
I hung up, realizing I was going to have to use their loaner. I drove over to get it. I’m accustomed to mine, which is self-propelled. What they gave me was similar to that metal clipper-type thing that has to be pushed. It was heavy and nearly broke my spirit by the time I finished both yards. I didn’t realize how nice I had it.
A week later, now three weeks of waiting, I went into the store again. I just felt that something wasn’t right, and there was no reason for this to be taking so long.
I told my story to another person, gave them my receipt, and waited while they went to check in storage. Within moments, my mower was coming through the door.
“The tag says it was back three weeks ago, and it only took a couple of days because the inventory was low.”
So, the very first time I called to ask, it was finished and waiting for me.
“I tried to get it, but no one had contacted me. When I called in, I was told it was still out, and I had to wait until the exact date I had been given.”
“It was sitting there the entire time. Whoever answered the phone should have double checked the storage room and not just the computer. That thing can be wrong all the time. I am sorry.”
“I’m just glad to get it out of jail,” I said.
She laughed and took my paperwork to the register. I hadn’t ever seen her before.
There was a long line to wait through, and I kept an eye on my mower so it wouldn’t be retaken hostage.
When I was going to pay, I was told a certain amount that seemed low.
“Are you sure you typed that in right?”
When I dropped it off, I had put down a deposit, and the remainder should have been more.
“The manager said you had some problems, so she wanted to make it right.”
I was stunned.
“She doesn’t have to do that. I’m not upset at all, and I’m just glad I got it back.”
“She wants to be sure you come back.”
“I always come here. This won’t change that.”
They wouldn’t charge me the full price no matter how much I insisted they should.
On my way to the car, I looked at the receipt; it had a personal note attached, professing their apologies and adoration for me. Very similar to the hugger many years ago, and just out of the ordinary.
God will show up in ways that seem strange. In neither of those incidents was I outwardly exhibiting my frustration, but I was polite and trying to navigate my way through unpleasant situations. Part of what I was trying to do was resolve problems that are areas of life I find unfamiliar, which is the root of the stress. Electronics and tools are just not high on my list of expertise, and God knows that. Every time I have been forced to deal with an issue that seems too big to handle, I have discovered that I can. And it makes it easier the next time.
In Isaiah 65:24 it says:
I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!(NLT)
So maybe all those times I got sent back to the same store was to purge my fear of the unknown. The repetition, even though maddening, created familiarity. Not that God wanted me to have bad things happen, but everything can be used to bring us up higher. I can now look back and say maybe, just maybe, the weird hug was to congratulate me on a job well done. I’m still not sure, and I don’t need it to happen again in the middle of the electronic department. Ever.
In Psalm 139, this comforting promise is made:
You have searched me
and known me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You understand my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down;
You are aware of all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
You know all about it.
You hem me in behind and before;
You have laid Your hand upon me.(NLT)
Isn’t the goal to live anxiety-free and to walk by faith? Then sometimes, we will be required to stop avoiding what we don’t like, face it, know it’s for our good, and check it off the list as no longer scary.
(My receipt..who wouldn’t keep this?)