July 11, 2007

The Keeper of the Key

Last Saturday after working for a couple hours, I left my office, locking the door behind me. When I turned toward my car, it seemed like I had walked into an eerie atmosphere. There was a dark, ominous cloud hanging low in the sky, and it felt as if my hair was electrically charged. I had such a strange feeling of impending doom that I half ran to my car, and kept the windows up just in case. I know I have a hard time believing that God exists these days, but I figured that IF he exists, I wasn't going to be his next lightning bolt target opportunity!

Driving west, I could see the storm gather power and I literally counted 20 lightning strikes within one minute. The storm looked to be right where I was headed: Albertsons. I debated the wisdom of shopping right then, but we had planned a fun night of movies with the kids, and I had to pick up dinner and snacks on my way home. It just started to rain as I walked inside the store.

As I stood in the checkout, the bagger walked up, dripping wet from being outside. I declined his offer of help, but when I stepped into the cart storage area by the exit doors, I stopped mid-stride. It was raining so hard, the lot had already flooded and the rain was coming down sideways, beating the windows and exit doors hard enough to make them shake. We don't get rain of that magnitude here very often, and when it happens, it only lasts for five minutes. I decided to wait it out. In rain like that, you get soaked through in seconds. I could see the lightning coming down all around the store, and was glad I had not gone out there. I later heard on the news that the storm had produced over 500 lightning strikes.

Suddenly the power went out. There was a collective gasp from the checkers, which only subsided once the generators kicked in, enabling them to continue working in the dark. I was surprised to see the assistant manager of the store come over to the exit doors and lock them. The power had only been out for a couple minutes. He informed me if I wished to leave, I could go to the other side of the store to the other entrance. I told him my car was right there, so I'd wait.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a man walking across the length of the parking lot (since the exit doors closest to the car were locked) with a poor bagger who was pushing a loaded cart. The lightning was coming down faster than ever, and I found myself holding my breath anxiously while the bagger hurried to finish, standing in that pond during an electrical storm. Of course, the macho man who insisted on leaving was waiting in the safety of his car. Unbelievable!

A few people pulled up and parked, running through the downpour only to find that the doors were locked. Albertsons employees were standing there, watching the storm, and they'd motion to the people to go through the rain to the other side of the store where the doors were not locked. By this time, an older woman and her grandkids were standing with me, waiting out the storm. Soon the manager returned with the key and let out a co-worker whose car was closest to the locked doors. A couple of shoppers saw him unlock the door, so they exited at the same time. After a while, the manager was needed elsewhere, so he handed his key to a co-worker, whom I'll call Dramaboy for the purposes of this story.

As soon as he was handed the responsibility of the key, Dramaboy underwent an interesting transformation. His chest puffed out, and he started talking a bit louder to the people around us, speculating about the storm and the power outage and jingling the keychain in his hand to remind us of his importance. His behavior surprised me because he looked to be in his mid-fifties. Then another shopper tried to leave the locked doors. I expected Dramaboy to jump up and unlock the doors, but instead, he asked the customer if he wanted to leave. The customer assured him he did. Dramaboy scratched his head, rocked back on his heels, and said, "We locked this door, but the other doors are open for people to use." The key was still jingling in his hand.

"Will you please unlock this door? My car is right there." The customer pointed to the car next to mine just outside the door.

"Welllll, I suppose I can. But we ARE supposed to keep this door locked during emergencies." He slooooooowly unlocked the door, making a big production out of it. I'd say that it took him 30 full seconds to unlock the door and move in order to let people go by. I looked at the woman beside me and we both raised our eyebrows. Her granddaughter asked why they locked the door. She didn't know why, so I leaned over and said, "I'm certain it's a loss-prevention thing. They don't want anyone walking out with free groceries."

This delay-before-unlocking-the-door drama went on for some time. It got bad enough that I started muttering under my breath to the woman beside me whenever someone would pass me, looking to leave. "Oh oh. Don't look now. Here comes another victim!" Sure enough, with each one, he'd explain first that the doors were locked, but that they could go to the other doors to exit the store. It was obvious he liked making people beg. One guy actually turned around to go to the other doors, but I stopped him by telling him that that guy had a key, he'd open the door.

If you think the people leaving were fun for Dramaboy.....

A car pulled up and parked. Two people ran through the downpour to the locked doors. Dramaboy motioned to them that these doors are locked, go around. He was waving his arms like a damn traffic control cop, shouting the words "THIS DOOR IS LOCKED. GO AROUND" with flair and drama. The key actually dangled in his hand as he waved his hands. They ran through the rain, already soaked clear through. I was astounded. I said to the woman beside me, "Wow. Can you believe that? He'd actually rather make them walk in that storm than unlock that precious door. Unbelievable." We stood there shaking our heads in amazement.

Another car pulled up and parked. The people got out, and Dramaboy could see them headed his way, but rather than unlocking the door and giving them sanctuary, he turned and walked back into the store to chat with a co-worker. I told him someone was coming. He turned and slowly sauntered back toward the door. I watched in amazement as he stalled just long enough that the people ran instead toward the other entrance at the other corner of the store. I couldn't take it anymore. I had to say something.

"Oh, yes. It's much better to let people run through a dangerous storm than to unlock the door. Impressive."

He looked at me as if he couldn't believe I dared to question the Keeper of the Key. "Well. We keep the door locked because we don't want all the cool air to leave the building." Cold air?! Cold air is more valuable than human life, more important than human suffering. Holy. Hell. I had overheard him earlier telling a young employee that nobody knew why they locked one set of doors during emergencies. Only the manager had been trained and knew WHY.

About twenty minutes after that (about 45 minutes into waiting out the storm), the rain got somewhat lighter and the lightning storm seemed to have moved on, so the woman beside me and I decided to take our chances and make a run for it. I was half expecting Dramaboy to try to tell us that the other doors were open, and these were staying locked. I was glad (for his sake) he didn't.

As I was loading my groceries into my trunk, a car pulled into the handicapped parking space directly in front of my car. A tiny old man who looked at least ninety slowly and carefully got out of his car, fetched an umbrella out of his trunk, and carefully made his way toward his wife through the giant puddle of a parking lot. She had been trying the entire time to turn her frail body toward her open door, in order to get out with his help. He helped her to her feet, which obviously wasn't an easy task, while holding his umbrella over her head. She had a hunched back that hindered her from standing completely upright. They had walked maybe four or five tentative steps toward the store when I saw him.

There stood Dramaboy, standing outside his unlocked door, WAVING BOTH ARMS BACK AND FORTH IN UNISON, pointing his fingers toward the other entrance that was at least 50 yards away. His ugly mouth was enunciating like a silent movie villain (come to think of it, he actually had a razor-thin slash of beard along his jawline, with a goatee and moustache that totally indicated his melodramatic nature): "Use the other door! OTH (point) ER (point) DOOR! (point point)" His legs were spread wide to give his arms more leverage to wave in the worst dramatic display I have ever seen in my life. The old couple looked confused as they turned back toward their car to drive closer to the other entrance.

As I sat in my car, I stared at Dramaboy, absolutely astounded. I actually debated whether or not to go rip that asshole a new one, but I realized someone like him is simply not going to "get it" anyway.

That didn't stop me from hoping he got home that night to discover the wind had ripped his entire roof off, so he could enjoy the rain as much as he expected others to.


aka madre said...

Unfortunately, I have witnessed way too many of these situations in my life! It's totally disgusting. I do think a phone call to the manager would be appropriate...or a letter. Man's inhumanity to man is disgusting. But, whether there's a God or not...I do believe in Karma. We do get to experience what we dish out. aka madre

JulieAnn said...

What an asshole. Maybe he was one of the Three Nephites?

wry catcher said...

Whoa, that story is enough to make my hair stand on end, even without any lightning. That is DEFINITELY worth a very strongly worded letter to 'customer service' at Albertson's HQ.

Nothing like a little power to corrupt someone. Pathetic.

Robert said...

This story reminds me of a much more fun story of storm coming up like that. When I was a young boy on my way home from some event with my best friend, my Mom said "I just need to run in to the store for a few things before I can take you two home to play." We went inside, and about ten minutes into the stop the power went out. It ended up staying out for three hours, and about thirty minutes into it they started giving away all the ice cream from the in-store Baskin Robbins cart (or some similar ice cream store) so we just waited inside, ate ice cream to our heart's content, and wandered around a dark store. I think my Mom finally decided to brave the elements and pulled her car to the curb so we could load the groceries in water that was sloshing over the curb, but it was a fun "short stop" for me and my buddy. Ever since I've always wondered if I'd be lucky enough to get a lot of free stuff if the power goes out while I'm in a store. I don't recall any policy of door-locking that kept us from leaving, though.

mark said...

Great writing SML. I felt like I was right there with you in that store. A store clerk drunk with power is indeed a dangerous thing. I was sure that you were going to physically take that key away from "Mr Im now in charge in the White House err I mean, the grocery store" and insert it up his righteous ass where it belonged.

Melliferous Pants said...

What a power hungry useless asshole.

donangelo said...

I love all of you guys.but I must tell you guys that there is a God.because I just talked to him this morning and it was very refreshing and powerful.because remember that the HOLY BIBLE tells us in the beginning was the word.and the word was with GOD and the word was God,and also the bible teaches us God word is alive and working and sharper than any double edge sword and cuts all the way into us Hebrews 4-12.so you see beautiful people there is a God.and God is good

Anonymous said...


In one story you captured the reason I have always hated so-called Policy and Procedure" Manuals. There is no policy, and no procedure, that can substitute for simple old good judgment. I would bet that the owner of that Albertsons would benefit from knowing how the "air-conditioning conservation" plan was affecting his customers.

I plan to use this story in a class I am teaching today, on Total Quality Management, it serves as a nifty reverse barometer. Thanks!

Cele said...

I'm thinking a letter to the Alberson's regional and national office...completely with all the names of the guilty is appropriate.

dramaboy said...

with much power comes much responsibility

SML, you don't know the power of the key. It's so delicious and intoxicating, almost like sex. Although I wouldn't know what sex is like, I hear it's pretty good, like key holding good.

- Dramaboy

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Madre ~ Karma is a pleasant thought, I agree.

JA ~ LOL on the Three Nephites comment. Know how I know he wasn't? He had.......FACIAL HAIR! *GASP*

Wry ~ You know it. Power is a dangerous thing for some.

Robert ~ Hi! Glad to hear from you again. I wish I had gotten free ice cream. As it was, the ice cream I had bought got pretty soft while I waited.

Mark ~ I wasn't goin' anywhere NEAR his ass. I couldn't trust myself not to inflict permanent damage. I wish now, however, that I had escorted those two old people back up to that door and made him open it while also making Dramaboy look like the worm that he is.

Pants ~ You said it. Amazing how some people don't get just how pathetic they really are.

Phaedrus ~ I'd like to sit in on that class. Wonder how you introduced the story: "I have a friend out West, named Sister Mary Lisa...er, I mean, Lisa..."

Cele ~ I think I will be writing a letter. I do it so much better in writing than I do over the phone...plus, I know the store manager at this store, and he's a weenis, so I'll be writing the regional office.

Dramaboy ~ With you boys it's all about power, isn't it? Sheesh.

Molly The Mormon said...

It's obvious that all this man needed was a book of mormon and a born testimony. He is probably a democrat, and I'm sure he looks at gay porn.

1 brimstone point to him for each person he made walk in the rain.


Molly the Mormon

Janet M Kincaid said...

Wow! When I worked at Albertson's, I don't remember us locking the doors during business hours, ever. I'd be sorely tempted to say something to the manager the next time I was at that store. Dramaboy's behave was appalling! What an ass. Good for you for saying something to him, though.

By the way, the storm you described--did the news report later than night mention a tornado? Just curious.

paranoidfr33k said...

Unfortunately I've come to the conclusion that most people are idiots. This kind of thing happens wayyyyyy too often. Why do people insist on doing things that make no sense at all?

Just last night I found a parked police car breaking at least two laws. I thought out taking a picture and sending it into the city, but I find it hard to beleive that it would help. I tend to think that way, but you might get some action from Albertsons if you do something about it.

Great story. Riveting and captivating.


Sister Mary Lisa said...

Molly ~ I'm glad we are on the same side by thinking Dramaboy needs brimstone points.

Janet ~ I didn't listen to the news...the power was out at my house for another hour after I returned home, and then we watched a movie. I don't read the paper. (Don't hate on me now)

Fr33k ~ Seriously, you should have taken photos and posted them on your blog! What were you THINKING?? Next time, do it.

CV Rick said...

There is nothing - - - NOTHING - - - in this world that annoys me more than abuse of authority. Little people get keys and all of a sudden a Napoleon is born.


Great story. Really well written.

If I'd have been there you could've also written about the irate customer who took the keys from the idiot, unlocked the door and threw him out in the storm . . . and tossed the keys out after him.

Eight Hour Lunch said...

I've got a suggestion for where he should put the keys once he's through.

paranoidfr33k said...

SML, the same cop car was there again last night. I can see it from my back yard... I'll try to remember to take a picture if its there again tonight. :)


Jer said...

You always have the best stories, Lisa, and you tell them so well.

I'm with aka madre, karma's got this guy in it's sights.

Lemon Blossom said...

Ditto on what everyone else has said as well as a huge GGRRRRR! When I come out and visit you that man is in sooo much trouble. (ok, only in my dreams because I am such a wimp)