Working With People [fiction]

Overall, Sarah is a bit introverted. She is happiest when she is by herself. Office jobs are ideal.

One of the first part-time jobs Sarah worked at was in an accounting office at a large department store, holed-up out of sight from the rest of her coworkers and customers. Whenever she finished her work early, she volunteered to assist her coworkers on the sales floor.

One particular day, things began okay. She helped stock shelves with new toys, kitchen appliances, and fragrant candles. Then she assisted the photo department. They were busy and shorthanded. She knew enough about photography, digital media, cameras, tablets, and phones to help.

Trouble began when a portly man in need of a bath and a change of soiled undershirt and blue jeans came to the counter and wanted her to show him how to scan his Olan Mills portrait photos of his dead wife.

“These are professionally photographed photos,” she said. “Do you have the copyright release from the photographer that allows you to make copies?”

The man sniffed and stared blankly at her, so she explained that his photos were copyrighted, and if he wanted them reproduced, he would need to have a release form signed by the photographer saying it was okay. Otherwise, it was against the law.

He sniffed again, tossed the photos on the counter, and said, “Just make the damn copies.”

“Once again, sir, I will need a copyright release form signed by either the photographer or a legal representative from the studio.”

“Quit the legal bullshit and make me copies. They’re my fucking photos.”

“Yes sir, but—”

The man snatched his photos. “This store sucks. You suck. I want to see your manager right now.”

“Of course.” Sarah went to the phone and called the assistant managers’ office. She spoke to a manager named Darla and explained the situation. Darla came out and repeated almost verbatim what Sarah had told him already.

He cursed, grew very red in the face, and stormed away. Darla returned to her office and Sarah returned to packaging and pricing photos that the busy high-tech printer spat out from the eight kiosks outside the photo department. The kiosks were several yards away. A puffed up display of batteries partially hid them, so Sarah did not see the man return and use the next kiosk that became available. Nor did she see the white-haired woman next to him show him how to use the kiosk’s scanner.

When the high-tech printer printed the man’s photos, Sarah recognized them immediately.

The white-haired woman came for her pictures and Sarah took them to the register. Before she could put her security code into the register to activate it, the smug man came to her counter.

“I want my pictures.”

“I’ll be with you in a moment,” Sarah said.

The old woman smiled. “You take care of him.” She lifted her large, black purse. “I can’t find my debit card.”

Sarah took the photos to the man and explained again how she could not sell to him the copies of the professionally made pictures without a release form signed by the photographer.

Again, he whined and swore at her and even stomped his fat feet to the point where Sarah wondered if he had Asperger Syndrome. When he fired off a litany of profanities at her, she figured it was Tourette Syndrome. He waved his fleshy arms and fists at her and called her names she had not heard since elementary school. And then he snatched the photos from her hands and barreled away.

As she came out of her shock of disbelief, the old woman said, “If he can leave without paying for his pictures, I can too. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.” And to prove it, she shoved her packaged photos into her big-ass pigskin purse, then pivoted, and walked away with her nose in the air.

Sarah called Darla, who immediately called security, who quickly called the police, who rushed over and arrested the two shoplifters in the parking lot.

Later that day, after she returned to her office cubby and found solace behind her closed door, Sarah vowed never to help in the photo department again. Life was nicer and safer to her when she was holed-up from the rest of the world, just the way she liked it.

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