A touch of Hell

What a week. I’m so drained and I can’t remember the last time a string of hugely bad events have come my way. There was the out of town trip that costed me a back injury which caused me to leave my beautiful Sofi out in the rain and humidity for just over a week. When I was well enough to get into her, I discovered an entirely wet interior and a thick layer of mold on her back and front seats. But it didn’t end there and as horrible as I felt, it was nothing compared to what was to come.

Saturday I left Sofi at the auto detail store and picked up a white Chevy Spark from Enterprise Car Rental to drive until she was repaired. The inside of the car is sweet, but the outside – well, it’s definitely not cute like Sofi. Ira, Amelia and I drove to Minneapolis to pick up a desk I bought off Craigslist and then later, while I transferred contents from my big roll top to my smaller one, they went out for sushi. It would be the last peaceful time alone I would have for a while.

Sunday I was busy setting up the new television and after that still arranging my desk. After Ira and Amelia left, I left too – I wanted to run to Office Max to buy a file frame to hang all my files. When I arrived at the strip mall, I was shocked to see that a thrift store now occupied the building where Office Max used to be. I couldn’t believe it!

I was just going to turn around and go home when I noticed a Burlington Coat Factory two doors away. Thinking they might have what I needed, I went inside. About 40 minutes later I paid for a Betsey Johnson lunch tote for Amelia and leopard print sweater for myself. Once out at my car, I realized I did not have my rental car key.  This is where the nightmare really got started.

Back inside the store, the associate at the register confirmed that I had not left my keys on the counter when I paid for my purchase. I searched the entire store, retracing my steps and looking at every single item I had picked up. Still, 40 minutes later, I had not found my key. Another trip to the register where I was told no one had returned my key, only made me want to cry. I did not intend to leave the dogs for that long and I was tired of walking around too. My back was beginning to ache and I could feel a headache coming on. Once again I retraced my steps, being careful not to miss a single item that had previously caught my eye. I never thought I’d say this, but I was getting sick of this whole shopping experience.

Finally I called Ira who as expected, wasn’t very happy. I got off the phone as quickly as I could, telling him I had to keep searching for *that damn key.* I’m not sure why I even called him as I was now more even upset than before the call. I wanted to cry, but couldn’t allow myself that luxury, knowing how badly I needed to find the key. More time went by and I was really beginning to wonder if I’d ever find it. I looked at my phone to see the time and noticed a message from Ira, but to my utter shock, disbelief and dismay, the phone died – just seconds after reading the first part of the text, *If you can’t find the key. … * What? What? What about *the can’t find the key* text?  What came after that? I didn’t see because the phone died!

I went back to the register to ask if anyone could charge my phone. Nope. The staff at the register were busy and had no time to worry about my problem. I was told they couldn’t do that for me and no one had an iPhone anyway. I searched the store for an electronics area where I might be able to purchase a charger. Luckily I found one, but unluckily, it did not come with a cord and was useless as it was.

Another round around the store and as I passed an associate, I told him of my predicament, emphasizing it was a rental car and I didn’t have a second set of keys. He offered little help except to say he’d keep an eye out for my missing key. Thirty minutes later and glancing at my watch, I realized I had been circling that store for three hours! I was so sure I’d eventually find that key and just couldn’t believe this was happening. I have never lost a set of keys in my entire life! Why now?

I searched everywhere, and everywhere again, and kept coming up empty-handed. Over the loudspeaker I heard that the store would be closing in thirty minutes. Oh my God – my tears were so very close and I was beginning to believe that key was lost for good. Fifteen minutes later the voice on the loudspeaker reminded customers they needed to finish their purchases. I saw the sales associate I talked to before and told him I hadn’t found the key, and needed to use a phone to call someone. He informed me they could not give me a phone to use. *My phone is completely dead,* I told him! *You told me your phone died nearly an hour ago,* he said. *You should have charged it by now!* I told him my charger was locked in the car, but he apparently didn’t care, telling me, *You should have bought one then!* I started telling him about the charger and the lack of a cord, when I was interrupted by another associate who said he could show me where they were.

Time was running out and I quickly purchased the cord and the charger and asked the associate at the register where I could charge the phone. *You can’t come back here,* she said, *and I can’t take your phone back here either.* Are you kidding? Why did they tell me to buy a charger? Another mad dash around the store, looking for any trace of an electric outlet. Finally, finally I was able to find one and plugged in my phone.

*You’ve got five minutes,* I was told by the male associate as he walked by. *Those are the rules and we can’t change them.*

Oh my gawd, I thought as I looked at my battery level. I had to get enough of a charge to call someone! A few minutes later I was approached again and told it was 9:35 and I needed to leave. Your five minutes are up. *It’s dark out there,* I said, *And it looks like it’s going to rain!*

Not my problem, I was told. You had plenty of time to recharge your phone.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. *If anything happens to me, you are to blame,* I told the associate in my calmest voice. I left the store and thankfully was able to get a text out to Papa John asking him to come get me, but wasn’t completely sure if he got my message. It was dark and no other stores were open and I was so afraid standing in the dark parking lot all alone like a duck that sits.

I could see a McDonalds store in the distance, but it was only open for drive-through at that time of night. Finally the store associates began exiting the store and going into the parking lot. There were four or five of them and they quickly got into their cars, intentionally ignoring me. It just so  happened the rude associate had parked pretty close to my car and as he got into his, I walked over and took a photo of his license plate. He threw open his car door and hurried over to me. *What the f*ck are you doing, you f*cking bitch,* he screamed at me. *I’ll delete the photo of your car once I take a photo of you,* I answered as I snapped his photo. *I’m going to email it to your corporate office after I talk to them tomorrow,* I added.

*I don’t give a f*ck what you do, you f*cking c*nt,* he said, moving toward me. I backed up, realizing how easy it would be for him to hit me or grab my camera, which by now was dead again, but he didn’t know that. I was so shocked and surprised and so dearly afraid, but tried not to show it. Finally he turned and got into his car, rolled down his window and drove away screaming, *You’re a f*cking c*nt, you b*tch.*

I was shaking by then and glad he wasn’t there to see. I waited I don’t know how long before Papa John showed up. Man was I lucky I thought. *Who talks like that,* I asked myself. How can a person be so horribly angry and mean! He was awful – and scary!

I got home and barely slept. I kept seeing his face, twisted and angry, and screaming at me as he sped away into the night. I thought of Cookie and how this probably wouldn’t have happened to her. I wished I could ask her how to get past this, but I knew my wishes would not be answered. By the time morning came I had added anger to my feelings. Determined not to let the store associate get away with talking to me like that, I called the corporate office like I had said I would. A women took my information and said someone would get back to me. My next call was to the store where I talked to the store manager Stephanie, who had not been at work that night.

Stephanie told me the store associates were following their rules about not allowing people in the store after closing. The only thing out of line she told me, was the language of the associate that swore at me. I told her I would be back in the store that morning to return everything I had purchased the night before and that I would not be shopping at her store again.

My phone rang and I answered it quickly, thinking it was the corporate office and they would be just as horrified as me when they heard about my ordeal. But no. It was the detail shop saying Sofi’s leak came from the rear window and unfortunately the entire roof needed to be replaced. This being a matter of normal wear and tear, would not be covered under insurance. I thanked him and said goodbye, imagining what the small fortune would be to pay for a new roof.

I took Monday off so I could deal with the lost car and replace the lost key if needed. Later that morning Papa John returned to the store with me where I returned the sweater, the lunch tote, the charger and the cord. The manager was a lot nicer in person than she was over the phone and I wondered why. Papa had a few things he wanted to say to her and while he was talking I looked at the purses again, pushing them aside and looking along the floor. By the time I returned to Papa John and Stephanie, they had arranged for the loss prevention associate to play the tape of the time I was in the store in hopes he could tell at what point I put down the key.

After an hour of looking at the tape, he realized he was looking at the wrong date. Loading the correct one, we started all over again. I was standing and my back hurt so bad, but I couldn’t bring myself to complain. For four hours we looked through the images of me making my way across the store. I hadn’t ever realized how much straightening up I did while shopping and the loss prevention associate made the comment that they should pay me. I couldn’t even smile at that. I was still hoping to find that key, especially after talking to Enterprise and being told the cost to replace the key was approximately $400.

Over and over we played that tape following me every step of the way. I was tired and hungry and getting more and more depressed with each passing moment. I was also grateful to the loss prevention associate who probably had better things to do than spend time with me. At one point the tape showed me trying on a beautiful pink jacket, but when I ran to the coats to check the pockets, it was not there, and most likely sold that morning.

It wasn’t until 4 p.m., that Papa finally said we should give up. I relented and resigned myself to calling a tow truck so the car could be towed to the Chevy dealership where the key would need to be made.

We were there until 8 p.m. because Papa insisted on waiting despite being told we could come back in a few hours. Problems occurred in the making of the key though and we eventually left car-less and key-less with instructions to return tomorrow after work.

What a nightmare. Papa drove me to work today and Wanda drove me home. When I told my co-workers what had been going on with me, they pitched in and bought me flowers. I have always thought I’m very fortunate to work with some of the nicest people around.

I’m so drained and going through such a myriad of feelings. I’m mad at myself for being a victim. Cookie always told me I needed to be stronger and to toughen up. How do you do that though? I’m so disappointed about amount of money my mistake brought about – especially since being told the back window on Sofi can’t just be resealed. The whole convertible top needs to be replaced and it’s no small matter. I’m upset about the string of events that occurred because of me going out of town and my back still hurts daily.

People always tell me I make them feel better. I’m not sure why I can’t do that for myself right now. I’m getting there though. I’ve got the key replaced. My rental car is in the parking lot and tomorrow is a new day. If I keep telling myself this over and over I think it’s possible I might start believing it. That’s the advice I’d give to someone else in this spot.

I feel like I experienced a touch of Hell this week and I hope I never  have to go through anything that mind wracking again, but if I do, perhaps I’ll be stronger and better equipped to deal with it. And no. The corporate office of Burlington Coat Factory has not gotten back to me. Apparently this is not as shocking and appalling to them as it was to me. That’s a damn shame. That is shocking in itself.

One Response to “A touch of Hell”

  • Shirliana, my heart and soul cries for you. You were mistreated, mishandled, humilitized, and abandoned. I hope some day those cruel people will get their Karma. I believe they will. You’re in my thoughts, and I’m shaking my head in utter disbelief. You did not deserve to be treated as you were. Love you, it’s bound to get better.

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