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Let’s call her Bambi because she had large brown eyes and the vacant look of a newborn innocent. She was standing behind the counter with a big dopey grin on her face when I walked in with my blue plastic bag. I had purchased three pairs of pants for Little Guy on Monday, since he needed pants for gym (no jeans allowed) and had spent time that morning trying to add elastic to the only pair of pants Little Guy owned, that weren’t 2” too short. One pair didn’t fit so I was returning them to the children’s clothing store.

Bambi greeted me with a friendly, high-pitched “hello”. I told her I wanted to return some pants and I handed her the receipt. She pulled the pants out of the bag, and then her smile turned chilly. “Oh” she said, “I can’t give you a refund. There’s no tag on these pants.” I calmly explained that when I purchased the pants, it didn’t have a tag so the salesgirl scanned another pair of pants.

She looked at the pants, and looked at me with a blank look. “Oh” she said, “I can’t give you a refund…but I can exchange these for another size”. So I calmly explained again that it didn’t have a tag when I bought it…” I paused. She tilted her head to the side, then looked at the receipt again. “But the receipt has a number on it so the pants had a tag…and I can’t give you a refund without a tag”. “Yes,” I explained, taking a deep breath, “it has a number because the salesgirl scanned a different pair of pants because this pair (pointing to the pair on the counter) didn’t have a tag”. There was a long pause and I was certain I could smell smoke…“Oh! Well, I can’t give you a refund because there’s no tag”.

Sensing that this conversation could (and would likely) go around forever, and feeling the gray hair starting to sprout around my temples, I asked if I could get store credit instead. Our conversation cycled around the missing tag once more, before I noticed the yellow sign attached to her cash register. The sign said “As of August 1, all refunds require the original receipt”. There was no mention of a tag. I pointed it out to her, slowly and carefully annunciating my words…

Apparently I stuttered…because Bambi felt the need to point out that I was still missing the tag…By now, her voice and her face were dripping disdain. Meanwhile, I had spent the day preparing myself for a meeting with the vice-principal at the school, and while the meeting went surprisingly well, my nerves must still have been a little raw. I was (finally?) losing patience.

As my right eyelid started to twitch, and feeling the need to clarify, I asked, “So what you’re saying is, I am stuck with a pair of pants that don’t fit, even though it’s been 3 days, they’ve never been worn, and I have the original receipt… because someone in your store forgot to tag them”? I must have spooked Bambi because she shyly answered “yes” like she was guessing the answer to the question. Then she flashed me a nervous grin.

I was about to ask if there was someone else I could talk to when she decided maybe she should ask someone else…Another sales associate looked at the receipt as I explained about the missing tag and the other sales associate scanning another tag… “Oh,” she said, “I remember you! Give her the refund.”

Bambie reluctantly gave me the refund, and with a sour face, wished me a great day! She was almost as irritating as the guy at the passport office who told me he couldn’t process my application because my government-issued birth certificate, was the wrong “version”…

“That’s no reason to cry. One cries because one is sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid, and that makes me sad.” Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory (2013/14)

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This week’s writing challenge, That’s Absurd, hardly seemed like a challenge: “write a fictional piece that incorporates the everyday life we’re familiar with — work, family, errands — and add a surprise twist..or We all know that sometimes life itself is a bit nonsensical. Tell us a story when you were going about your own business and something completely ridiculous or inexplicable happened.” That’s pretty much every day. I have quested for snacks, fought with diabolical screws, danced to clean up the patio, turned food into crime scene photos, and survived assassination attempts. I enjoy writing about the Opera of the Everyday!

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