Read the text carefully. Describe the encounter between the narrator and her customer.
Can I Help You?
By Sam B.
Her thin lips spread to reveal white teeth, too white. Or maybe it’s not that her teeth are too white, maybe it’s the contrast created by the pink, diseased, old-lady gums that makes her smile seem unnatural. Her eyes don’t help – they are far too squinty and sparkling, and day-old mascara clings to the inside corners. She wears a crisp white pantsuit. Expensive and appropriate. She smells of perfume and old money. A printed silk shirt hangs loosely off her frail shoulders. The baubles on her spider-fingers tap against the glass bakery counter, a call to attention for my co-workers and me. I stop stacking the bread shelf and turn to the counter where she stands, impatient. We make eye contact. Realizing my mistake, I shift my eyes and look pleadingly at Cassandra, my co-worker. She returns my gaze with a look that seems to say, you saw her first. You deal with her. James, the other cashier, is elbow-deep in dishes at the sink. Sighing, I brush the breadcrumbs from my hands and step up to the counter. “Can I help you?” I return her saccharine stare with one of my own. She begins to speak so rapidly and without pause that I can’t help wondering if she practices strategic breathing exercises. “Hello dear how are you oh wonderful I will take three of your plain croissants and oh no dear not that one it looks overdone yes those ones to the left and also two of these delicious looking scones oh they are just to die for dear me you’re so thin if I worked here well I would never be able to these wonderful treats would all be too hard to resist I need some bread what would you recommend never mind I will take a baguette – are the ones over here on this rack fresher than the ones you just gave me?” It takes me a couple of seconds to realize she has stopped talking. I blink. “Actually, ma’am, they’re all from the same batch, we just haven’t had a chance to put those loaves on display.” “Oh well those look better than the ones you’ve got there so would you be a dear and put those back and give me the new ones oh thank you dear.” I do as she asks. I’ve worked at this bakery for four years, and in that time have learned that for our affluent customers, the concepts of logic and sincerity are as foreign as the cleaning ladies they employ. It seems that reason and compassion are qualities reserved for the working class. I ring up her order at the register, and she walks out, high heels clicking. The stench of her perfume lingers. I turn to face Cassandra. We both smile. “Can you believe some of the people who come in here?” “I know, seriously.” [...]
(© Reprinted with the permission by Teen Ink magazine and TeenInk.com.)