That's Not Helpful!

Here’s a riddle:  how is a broken foot like being pregnant? 

(No, it has nothing to do with wait times.)
Mid-October I entirely missed the last two steps of the stairs to the basement floor and BLAM! Didn’t even experience the slip and fall. Hurt so much I didn’t even cuss, and only OW’d so folks would know I’d been hurt. My ankle really hurt, so I limped to my bedroom and pulled on an ankle elastic (which I keep in my purse because being hypermobile means easily spraining things). Hobbled around the rest of the day, giving it the usual Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation between doing stuff. That was a Friday.
The next day it was really swollen, with a purple bruise covering the entire upper surface, but it wasn’t horribly painful like a migraine. I called out from stocking work at the grocery, rested more, and tied on a foot brace. My son-in-law said it might be broken (it’s good to have a medic in the house).
Guess what? Broken bones are not always screamingly painful. Whoda thunk?
Sunday I went to the walk-in clinic, and yeup, two of my metatarsals were broken, in a displacement fracture, no less. (Meaning, the bones weren’t even lined up, but were slightly ajar.) They put on a splint. The next day I went to an orthopedist, and after due examination of the clinic’s radiographs, the doc sent me to get a boot-type cast, and make follow-up appointments. On my end, I remembered to get a ‘script for a temporary Disabled Parking permit. Whee.
That was the easy part. But OMG the annoying part is not the broken foot itself.

The annoying part is dealing with the public,
those discourteous, “well-intended”, damnably useless interactions!

Because you see, when you have a physically-apparent injury, one’s body suddenly becomes part of the public’s purview; they are free to make enquiries, “do help to you”, “charmingly” engage in the social distancing of pity, and give malcommendations.
(Hopefully I won’t use up my month’s share of sarcasm quote marks, but one must hazards risk.)
It’s intrusive. Being visibly disabled [sometimes] means losing status to where anyone can ask most anything of you.I don’t mind answering questions from family, coworkers, and friends about the event and my recuperative status. But seriously, why should every random stranger feel privileged to details? Were the issue nephrological, nobody would want to know what was wrong with my bladder, or why I had to make so many bathroom trips, about the thrills of contrast dye, or what my urologist recommended. Yet like when bearing a belly bump, it’s open season. WTF?
It’s unaccommodating disaccommodating. I had not even left the orthopedists office when I was first treated to un-wanted, un-needed, un-help. I had used crutches before (decades ago when I stepped into a rabbit hole, and you can imagine all the er, lame jokes that transpired), and it took but a couple of days to re-acquire my expertise. When I’m using crutches and opening a push-door, the dance goes as follows: swing my body around to back into the door and push against the bar with my buttocks, then after creating the useful gap, balance on the strong foot to turn again, and swing the crutch on my working side around to prop open the door with the rubber foot. Well, the doctors had removed the splint and were sending me down the hall to get the boot. So with my fractured foot all bare, I approached the door to the waiting room and had gotten as far as butting open the door when —
— some idjit hanging around the waiting room decided to be “helpful” and without saying anything, bounded over and suddenly yanked the door open! Mind you, I was balanced on one foot and leaning backwards against the door, so guess what?! Well, I may be clumsy (it comes with the large territory of hypermobility) but thankfully I also have lightning-fast reflexes, and was able to crash to the floor safely. (Dancers and gymnasts know whereof I speak.) That’s not helpful!
And then we have the other unwanted bits of the social model of disability.
It’s … infantilising. Such as when I’m doing something totally mundane, just minding my own beeswax and swinging through a store to get to the restrooms, when some complete stranger feels the need to comment upon my mobility,

“You’re really good at that!”

Except it doesn’t sound at all like admiration at my ability to execute stunning pivots around pyramids of produce, but rather like praising a school child who had colored between the lines on a Kindergarten worksheet.
It’s patronising. When I took advantage of the store’s motorcart to shop for groceries and am cruising at a whopping three miles per hour in a straight line down the middle of the bread-and-jam aisle, and receive a smarmy,

“Wow, look at you go!”

And of course, it’s pitying. 

“Oh, you poor thing!”

There is the assumption of Injury As Tragedy; they have to know when it’s going to be better. Well, what if it’s never going to get “better”? What if it’s permanent, or chronic and intermittent?  It’s the sort of pity where people can’t see past the “broken” part and are uncomfortable; they’re full of Schadenfreude, relieved that the Bad Thing didn’t happen to them. Sometimes the coin of pity they pass along is a kind of magical thinking, token payment to Fate to avert similar disaster.
That’s not helpful.
And let us not forget the malcommendations, a subject of such amazing WhatTheFuckery that it deserved its own post. To wit:

You can tell that you’re running into the lousy end of helpers when the need for social recognition outweighs and over-rules the negative feedback from the recipients. You can tell when they lose the “take it or leave it” perspective and insist that what you need is what they have to offer. Protesting the inappropriateness of their pet form of aid is often useless; you get condescending responses about how they are “specially” qualified, and how you are being unappreciative, and cannot know what is best for you simply because you are of the recipient class.

Such dread Helpers and Fixers want not just the ego-boost and recognition; they want status, and will even sometimes create their own imaginary status markers as proof of why others should recognise their special knowledge and munificent public service. At worst they are narcissistic, at best, merely clueless.

One of the oddest things I have run into with such types is not just the insistence that their pet solution is what is needed, but that any solution they have heard of should be helpful and tried. The advice is coming from them and they want what’s best for you, therefor it’s automatically good advice. I have at times been left so amazed that someone could suggest doing something so far off base with my needs, so profoundly inappropriate, that I was all but sputtering. It wasn’t just an off-target bit of advice, an unhelpful recommendation. It was, I decided later, a malcommendation, a bad recommendation (usually inadvertent) but still bad advice nonetheless.

To take that abstract description to a real-life example, I offer this:
I was at one of my jobs, and a coworker said she would do thus-and-such for me. “Oh, no-no, that’s okay; I’m fine,” I politely dismissed, because I had already sussed out how I was going to perform my duties with my own modifications. But no, she was insistent; after all, she was (at her other job) a medical assistant of some sort,

“No no — I know all about that,” she asserted, her smugness wafting over in a perfumed cloud.

::CRINGE::
Look, as a medical assistant or what-have-you, you don’t know “all about that”; it’s obvious that the doctors know LOTS more.
Secondly, you’re presuming that you know what is best to do TO me, or to do FOR me. Apparently you’ve not realised that I don’t want to be a passive recipient of your “expertise”.
Seriously, when doctors-medics-aides-ancillary-healthcare-professionals know things I don’t know, that’s great! That’s why I’m here visiting your officies. But please, presume some self-awareness of my actual needs, and competency on my part. Work WITH me.
Otherwise, that’s not helpful.

Someone left the Internetz

in my car!
“It’s a system of tubes.”

a system of tubes
a large boxful of cardboard tubes in the back seat

(My son salvaged them from his job because he thought his nephew & niece would enjoy playing with them.)

~#~

And while at work:
Brain’s a little off today; mis-read a woman’s tee shirt as, “Bitchy is my nipple name”. [middle name]
APD (Auditory Processing Disorder) moment: mis-heard a customer’s location query for raisins as “razors” (which, unfortunately, are at opposite ends of the store).
Another APD moment, listening to the radio on the way home: “And now, the Snooze.” [this news]

Singing teh Brain-Dead Workin-Hard Blues: Remodeling

Had a migraine this morning
Cancelled on my shrink.
Need to clean and organise
But I can’t even think.
Moved bedrooms three days ago
O where is my daily pill box?
Boxes and piles everywhere
O where are my clean socks?
I need to go out and garden
Weeds have eaten the side yard.
I need to finish planting
Heat’n’humidity too damn hard.
I need more hours at my job
Stocking groceries at the store;
717 pounds of charcoal
Added bruises to the score.
Need to hammer and hang things
But grandchildren are asleep.
Need to paint and put away stuff
Always more work and I just keep–
Charging for hardware I gotta buy
Like a frequent flier down at Lowe’s.
Wish everything was at the Restore*
Spending too much goodness knows.
Had a migraine this morning
Cancelled on my shrink.
Need to clean and organise
But I can’t even think.
Moved bedrooms three days ago
O where is my daily pill box?
Boxes and piles everywhere
O where are my clean socks?

* Restores are where Habitat for Humanity sells new/gently used building materials; they are a great way to reduce-reuse-recycle and save lots of money on building supplies!  The hitch of course is that the items vary daily at stores.

Choose from the handy menu.

“A not-so-subtle clue that your coworker isn’t interested in cubicle small talk”.
My caption for the image from passive-aggressive notes.com site: 
A bulleted list pinned to the corner of a generic grey cubicle says:

  • YES THIS IS MY NEW HOME (FOR NOW)
  • YES THE SPACE IS SMALLER
  • YES IT’S A LONGER WALK TO THE COPIER
  • YEST IT’S A SHORTER WALK TO THE BATHROOM
  • NO I’M NOT SETTLED IN
  • NO I HAVEN’T ADJUSTED YET
  • NO IT’S NOT QUIETER
  • NO I DON’T KNOW WHY

I can SO sympathize!

~#~

When I’m stocking groceries, I’m also supposed to help customers find things “with a smile!”.  Sometimes it’s pretty obvious that someone can’t find an item because they wander back and forth (the toothpicks take up a small “footprint” of shelf space, and are set up relatively high on the back wall), or are squinting at the aisle signs.
But sometimes people are just thinking about what they need to get, or any number of other things.  Plus, there are some men who don’t want to ask where something is, or will ask but certainly don’t want you to to them to it (our preferred store policy ). I have trouble reading people’s nonverbal cues, and will at times err to either ignoring those in need (once in a while I don’t even notice there are people there until they, “Excuse me-“), or will go too far the other way and over-inform (what I call “data-bombing”), “The plastic bags and boxes are in aisle 8, but the cling wrap, foil, wax paper and such are in the baking aisle 4.  The zipper-baggies on the right side of the aisle, to the front of the store, near the top.  Is there anything else for which you are looking?”
In my highly-visual mind, I imagine this cartoon also hung in the aisles:

To our patrons:  please mark your Thought Balloon so we may assist you promptly.

  • Where is the _____ ?
  • I’m just waiting for a slow spouse.
  • I’m figuring out what to cook next.
  • I haven’t a clue why I came down this aisle.
  • I’m delaying my return home to the rest of the family.
  • I’m comparing products.
  • I’m keeping out of the weather.
  • I just come here to try the food samples.

________
Related posts:
Small Talk
Role-Playing

AD/HD Gaslight

Where is my grocery cart?
I’m pretty sure I left it down by the front end of the frozen aisles.
It’s not there.  Nor did someone move it out of the way behind the [rarely used] Register 1.
Huh.  Where is my cart?  Now I’m traipsing around for my trolley.
I’m not grocery shopping, when I stay in close proximity to my market merchandise.  This is my working wagon, a cart with my rubbish bag and duster, my list and notes, my repair tape and of course, the things I need to shelve.
With my ADHD brain set to Random and taxed by tiredness, yet trying to keep several tasks current on my mental “desktop”, it’s certainly not impossible for me to lose track of a thing to fetch or to put away, or the next task I’d set myself to do.  Generally my recursive tracks through the store are sufficient for me to come across either the item or the section of shelves that I need to “face” (straighten up).
Sometimes my mental perambulations cross back over a previous line of thought, and the same mental note will thus occur to me again.
It’s inefficient to be sure, but eventually everything gets done.  I try to streamline my process progress by keeping a running list of Things To Do. The list is also great at the end of my shift, for when I leave a note to my boss telling what usual things I’d done, and also what extra tasks I had tended. Plus, there is the external randomness that happens all night long: periodic calls to cashier during a sudden influx of customers*, and sporadic customer queries that result in my taking them to the item location.
And then — oh bother!  Where DID I park my cart?
Because of course, if it’s a Truck day, I’m stocking dozens of cases of candy or baby formula or soap, then the cart stays put in the aisle. I remove each case of new stock to set, and then return the flattened cardboard to the cart.
That’s fine.  But other days there is no Truck of new stock to set, and I am simply filling in various shelves with Back Stock (B/S, not to be confused with BS).
And right now I can’t find my cart. I try to “retrace my steps”, which more resembles surveying the aisles I usually frequent, because nothing this evening was particularly memorable to imprint itself on my memory.  All too often, my memory is topical, not sequential.
No, it’s not around anywhere; which discounts the “distracted by sequential customer queries” process that results in me being far from my original departure point.
Another hypothesis is that since it’s neither in the usual aisles, nor by Register 1, maybe someone decided to take it to the back stock room.
I pace to the back room, thankfully uninterrupted by a customer, whose query would have restarted this whole recursive process all over again.
Hmn … there’s my cart and equipment, but not the case I was going to stock.  I guess one of the managers decided to do something with it.  Maybe it was one of those new items for which we do not yet have a shelf tag, and they needed to enter the item into the inventory system. Thank goodness; mystery solved.
So I wheel down to the stock bay where the B/S bird seed and dog chews are kept, to fetch more cases.  After loading my cart again, I realize that it’s time to take my Break — some food and water would probably help the whole tired brain thing.  And if I leave a full cart, no one is likely to unintentionally “gaslight” me by changing my surroundings and leaving me to wonder if I’ve lost track of my stuff or my mind altogether.

* Why “everyone” wants to check out at once — no matter when they came in — is one of the mysteries of retail.

I need to write a letter to my boss*

[* THIS POST IS A PART OF BLOGGING AGAINST DISABLISM DAY 2010]
Or perhaps, just deliver an explanatory document to my boss and the HR (Human Resources) person at my second job.
My annual review was okay; very good on some things, okay on others, some recommendations (there always are — no one is perfect after all).  But something mentioned was to get to know the regular customers by name.  I have, after all, been here a year, and grocery stores have a core set of regular customers that come through once, if not several times, a week.  It’s not hard to learn names when you’re checking them out, as the names appear on their check or on the register (till) screen when they use a debit or credit card.
But of course, most people have no difficulty distinguishing or remembering faces.
I on the other hand, have that lovely invisible disability of prosopagnosia, or face-blindness.  I don’t recognize people by their faces.  I cannot easily or quickly identify people.  And, I cannot remember faces.  Sure, I’ve learned to (consciously, relatively slowly) identify a core set of the people with whom I work regularly.  I know my immediate bosses, the store manager, some of the other managers, and several of the checkers and sackers, a few stockers, and one each of several butchers, florists, pharmacists, and cooks.
But they are likely less than 25% of the total employees.  I’m not sure how many there really are, because part-timers tend to come and go, and also, to me the other employees form a general mass of generic persons, all of whom follow the same prescribed dress code.
Ah yes, the dress code.  The great thing about jobs I have is that the school and the grocery both require people to wear name tags.  Not only can I be sure with whom I’m speaking, but they also allow me to check and memorize the names once I have figured out how to identify that person regularly.  Whee!
But, unlike the school, the grocery has a dress code.  It’s not overly fastidious, just along the lines of slacks + collared shirt, except when we are to wear a specific color of shirt on Fridays & weekends.  Of course, there’s a down side — when I need to find say, my assistant manager to ask him a question, there’s an entire giant supermarket just riddled with people in blue button-down or polo [golf, tennis] shirts — and some of those are customers!
I cannot just glance over a crowd of people and instantly spot the person I need.  They don’t “pop out”.  (No, not even my family members!)  Instead, I must examine each person and compare their overall size, haircut, gender, and coloration to my mental gestalt.  Of course, it’s easier if I’m looking for say, a taller, brown person — that means I only have to scan each aisle for (1) blue shirts, (2) tall people, (3) brown-skinned people, and (4) the particular haircut, gait and voice that is one of the assistant managers.
That sounds fairly easy, or at least efficient, right?  But that’s still walking down some 15+ aisles and side-aisles, visually sorting each adult-size person.  And quite possibly the guy’s in the back scanning office or stock room or upstairs office or break room or in a restroom or retrieving something from the outside loading dock or where-ever-the-hell managers go when they go poof and disappear.
Thank heavens I can get on the intercom and page him to call extension 137 or whatever.  In turn, when I’m needed to be an extra checker or to meet with someone, the various managers have been very nice about paging me by my name-and-department or by my whole name.  I’ve not really bothered to explain the whole Auditory Processing Disorder thing; I’ve just said that it’s hard for me to understand the pages sometimes, especially if my head’s down in a refrigerated case  with its noisy fans, or I’m in the back room pulling stuff out of shipping cartons.
But you know, it’s difficult to explain faceblindness in 25-words-or-less.  No one’s heard of it, and the fact that I can in some manner still identify some people enough of the time makes it even more baffling to people.  And of course, there’s the old, “Oh, I have trouble remembering names and faces sometimes, too.”
Well, yeah.  But you still recognize people, in a split-second of unconscious thought.  You are aware that you know these people.  You may even know where you know all those people from. You just have trouble remembering the names that go with those faces.
I never do.  And except for the couple-dozen very morphologically distinctive customers, I’m not likely to remember any of them.
Silly people, they keep changing their physical characteristics, wearing different clothes through the seasons, changing their hairstyles, their purses, their hats or glasses, and so on.  Sometimes they have family members with them, and sometimes not.  Their children have this incredible ability to grow and morph dramatically.  And of course, the customers keep changing the details of how they interact with me, and will need my help finding something in one aisle or another, or check out at different times of day, or whatever.  Good heavens, sometimes people whom I know from other parts of my life will come through — the pharmacist will be shopping in their street clothes instead of standing behind their counter in a lab coat, my neighbor, or a former student will greet me, and they usually expect me to know them when they are out of their usual environments.  (At least my ophthalmologist understands that I’ve hardly ever seen him with my glasses on.)
Alas, the world is too full of generic people seen on an intermittent basis.  Once in a great while, somebody comes by to ask me a question, and it isn’t until they begin to speak to me that everything clicks, and I realize this is my daughter or son-in-law!
I’m really quite helpful to customers, am conscientious about getting the stock rotated and shelved with the right price tag, do a great job of setting up displays, make a point to be sure that the back stock is checked so it gets on the floor, am careful when bagging so the cold items are together and the eggs are all okay and the bread and produce doesn’t get squished, and so on.
It’s just that I will never be able to learn very many customers, or even all the employees.  And much as I would like to have this magical skill that 98% of the rest of the population has, my disability is far outweighed by all the other things that I can do well.  I’m not lazy or stupid.  It’s just that I have an invisible disability.

Mis-Expressed Lane

Today I’m on the Express Lane. (“12 items or less” — that ought to read “12 items or fewer”, but groceries are hardly models of grammar and punctuation.)  I’m not a “number Nazi” — if the other registers are busy, I don’t care if you’ve two dozen items; my goal is to get you checked out and on your way.   It’s a good thing I’m on the express lane, because I have to keep pausing:
“Ah-CHOO! Ah-CHOO!” I remove my face from my elbow, and turn back to my register, where I rub my hands with sanitizer foam.
“Hi there!  Did you find everything for which you were looking?”  bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep “Any coupons?” bleep “Okay, that’ll be $14.67, if you please.”
“What if I don’t please?”  grins a puckish guy.
“That’ll still be $14.67,” I grin back.  “Out of $20?  That’s $5.33 in change, there’s the 33 cents, and 5 — ” I screw up my face long enough to turn away — “Ah-CHOO! Ah-CHOO!” I remove my face from my elbow, and return back to my register, where I rub my hands with sanitizer foam.
“I got my receipt.”
“Thank you; here’s your bag. You have a good day.”
Two hours later, I’m still sneezing.  (Twice at a time; I sneeze twice, my kids sneeze twice, and my grandson sneezes twice.  Funny what-all the genome encodes.)
One of the mysteries of retail is that no matter when people arrive at the store, “everybody” wants to check out at once.  There are lulls, and then there are lines, and lulls again that enable me to wipe the schmutz off the scanner glass, straighten up the candy bars, and finish unwrapping partially-peeled rolls of coins.
Hah-CHOO! Hah-CHOO!” Once again, I remove my face from my elbow, and return back to my register, where I re-rub my now-chapped hands with sanitizer foam.
During such a lull, I speak across the eight-feet gap to another checker, “Are you wearing perfume?”  When she replies affirmatively, I surmise, “Oh, that must be why I’m sneezing.”
“Oh, it’s not very strong.  And I only use a little.  It smells very nice,” she asserts, sniffing her sleeve, “I put it on at 5:30 this morning!”
So what if that was hours ago? Hun, if I’m sneezing this far away, it’s stronger than you think.
Ah-pppbllh! Ah-pppbllh! *sniff*” I go up to the Customer Service desk for a handful of tissues, and return to check the next cluster of customers.
Come the next lull, she wanders over, defensively insisting that her perfume isn’t strong.  “Maybe I’m catching something,” I offer as a conciliatory alternative, wondering if my affect had not come across the right way earlier.  She appears to be one of those really social people who liked to chit-chat with others, and I’ve begun to realize that in such interchanges, style trumps content, and “verbal grooming” trumps practical considerations.
Thankfully this was just a four-hour shift, because my night’s sleep had not been much longer than that.  I go home for lunch and after my short nap, am not surprised to find that I’m no longer sneezing.
And that, O Best Beloved, is why I don’t wear scented body products during any of my jobs.

Re-tailored

Golly, it’s been some time since I’ve written a post. It’s not for a lack of thoughts, but rather energy.  My sleep has been disturbed by nightmares for, well, months, and the cumulative effect wears me down in the evenings.
This I had posted over years back.  As the saying describes, Friends come and go, but enemies hang around. I thought I had laid to rest some of those old demons, and perhaps I had, but now they reappear, previous horrors conflated with the memories of new experiences.

TAILOR-MADE

Tailor-made, I was.
Though all my clothes hung on me
And I was awkward as hell
Shoelaces usually tripped undone
And my hair ties came loose.
Tailor-made for being the victim
Geeky, younger, smaller, four-eyed,
Clumsy, studious, totally clueless
Socially awkward, unpopular
And best of all, face-blind.
I never knew who it was that poked me with pins
Stole my purse, squashed my lunch
Took my street clothes while in gym
Groped barely-developing breasts
Slammed me against the lockers.
Smeared clay on my chair like shit
Marked on my books, tore my assignments
Called me names, oh so many names
Or briefly pretended to befriend me
To make me the butt of a joke.
Not that I didn’t protest repeatedly
I reported the abuses properly
Told many official, protective people
Friends, family, teachers, administrators
But their responses were unilateral
“Boys will be boys,” said dad.
“You’re just being whiney,” said mom.
“If you can’t tell us who these people are,
that you ‘think’ are doing things to you,
then we can’t do anything,” said the officials.
Perhaps the real problem
Was not in what I said,
But that I was speaking up.
When I asserted myself
They redefined my reality.
Saying that what I perceived did not exist
That I was crazy, hallucinating, or on drugs
That I was just trying to attract attention
That I was making things up
When I wasn’t.
The perfect victim is someone
Who can’t identify the people that did things
Who tries to be good and please people
Who misses danger cues
Who is easy to silence.
The anger and frustration at being disbelieved
Turns into confusion and self-doubt
Maybe it’s just me
I must be wrong
Everyone says so.
Depression sinks in
I must be crazy
I keep perceiving this as reality
When everyone says it isn’t so
Isn’t that the logical conclusion?
You must trust people to help you
They are important people
They are the ones in charge
They know what’s best for you
They keep asserting you’re wrong.
When the reality is given to you by others
And they keep changing the story
It’s hard to keep your facts straight.
This is of course is only further proof
That you are crazy, and making things up.
Trust is earned, not demanded.
Funny how trust erodes
When reality is allowed to reassert itself
And I re-assert myself
Even though they re-assert:
I’m just acting out and making up stories.


"Attention grocery shoppers!"

“We have a special going on in our natural foods aisle, right now!  You can get your specialty questions answered by our very own over-educated scientist-grocery stocker!  That’s right, weekends and evenings only, over in our natural foods aisle!  And THANK YOU for shopping your local supermarket chain grocery!”

Oh, boy.
It’s one thing to be helping someone find the curious location where the grocery manager decided to stock the barley.  No, not with the rice and beans — that’d be too easy; it’s with the bouillon.
And it’s another thing — but I get ahead of myself.  (Alas, when I do that I’m likely to trip over my own feet and sprain an ankle, but that’s hypermobility for you).
One evening, every other row of fluorescent lights was off, as was the canned music.  Apparently they were filming a commercial or some advertising stills. Whatever, we had a couple hours of bliss.  Why can’t the store be so calm and pleasant all the time?  Because the people who study customer behavior say that noise and lights are important.  Or maybe the grocery industry just thinks that noise and lights are important.  Or maybe old research suggested such.  Or maybe stores are following some historical misinterpretation of behavioral research. Hell if I know.  As for me, the canned music just adds unnecessary background noise, aggravating my Auditory Processing Disorder.  Did someone just page Manager to the Customer Service Desk or Andrea to the Customer Service Desk?  Did my boss just page me to dial 14 or aisle 14?  “Oops, sorry, mis-heard you with all the background noise,” I apologise to an older gentleman, as I lead him away from the [recycled paper] brown plates to the bran flakes.
Sometimes a customer will ask for something not on the shelf, so I helpfully zip down to the back room to see if there’s any in backstock. Usually, there isn’t, because by definition, backstock is the overflow that won’t fit on the shelves.  Alas, if I’m in a distracted mood, I will forget to make a mental note of what the customer is wearing, and upon my return, will have that panicked second when I realise that they have moved onto another aisle, and I am supposed to find them.  Oh, the perils of being faceblind: I can’t remember people!  Were they alone, or with another adult, or children?  Did they have a large or small cart?  Do I have any idea of whether they were male, female, or some overbundled or indeterminately-coiffed gender?  Were they were pink- or brown-skinned?  Hat? Fancy purse?  Team jacket?  Why can’t everyone be as distinctive as the fellow who dressed like Eddie Izzard’s less-chic sibling?
My other problem of course, is that I actually answer the questions about the things we sell.  Some day, someone is going to get annoyed.
Once in a while I stock groceries over in the natural foods section.  It’s pretty much like stocking groceries over in the unnatural foods section, except that omitting artificial coloring makes food more expensive.  That and the aisles are narrower, so I have to park the flatbed down at the ends of the aisles and lug more cases.  One day I forgot my knee pads, and realised with a heavy note of irony that stocking all the arthritis treatments was making my knees ache.
“Um, where do you sell the sugar?”
“The sugar?” I repeat, buying a moment’s time while I re-engage my customer-conversation scripts, and activate my mental map of the store.
“Yes, I want the sugar without any chemicals.”
Omigod.  Aside from bottled water, the bags of sugar are probably one of the purest chemical resources in the entire store.
“But sugar is just sucrose; it doesn’t have any added chemicals,”  I manage to shut my mouth before going onto explain that sucrose is a disaccharide of glucose and fructose.  Nobody cares … “Here are our organically-grown sugars on this shelf.  And we also have sucanat and turbinado, if you’d like.”  (These latter two are less-processed forms of cane sugar; they have varying amounts of tasty molasses impurities that also make them brown.)
Honestly, a “chemical” is simply a substance with a defined composition.    You already know what H2O is.  Sucrose is C12H22O11 – there are 12 Carbon molecules, 22 Hydrogen molecules and 11 Oxygen molecules.  Of course, just knowing how many atoms of each element isn’t enough – other sugars such as lactose and maltose also have the same formula.  The differences are in how those atoms are arranged.
And if you’re shopping for plant fertilizer, a nitrate is a nitrate is a nitrate, and they’re all NO3-. The plant doesn’t care where the molecules came from, nor can it tell the difference if the nitrate came from an organic (naturally-derived) source or an artificially-manufactured source.  That said, organic fertilizers are more expensive and less concentrated, but are less likely to result in a build-up of salts atop the potting soil.
But please, don’t ask me for anything “chemical-free”; the only thing that is “chemical free” is an absolute vacuum.
I retrieve random things left on the shelves, where someone has left a box of Big Name mac & cheese amongst the organic mac & cheese, a shopping list, a wee sample cup given out by the guy flogging new flavors of hummus, and a box of Airborne.
“What does that do?” asks the other grocery stocker, gesturing at the colorful box that proclaimed, “Created by a school teacher!”
“Nothing.  There’s no research evidence to support it at all.  A grade-school teacher is not the same thing as a compounding pharmacologist.”  Were I in charge of ordering, we wouldn’t waste shelf space for nonsense like that, or for things like Bragg vinegar that is supposed to “help remove body sludge toxins”.  Body sludge toxins, what nonsense!  (I suppose it’d help the lime buildup in my sink drain.)
“Excuse me, where are your all-natural gummy candies?”
Because you know, gummy candies are so natural. Wow, I’d love to have a shrub that produced gummies, especially the cherry and liquorice sorts.  Does the soil have to be aerated by gummy worms?  I hope it’s not thorny …  “They’re over here, on the top shelf.  Is there anything else for which you’re looking?”

“Attention grocery shoppers!  Are you looking for holiday candy and merchandise?  You can find it all over in aisle 14, where we have a wide selection of holiday candies in Fun Sizes, all your same favorites as the last holiday, but wrapped in this holiday’s color themes!  Don’t forget to get some holiday-themed merchandise for your loved ones, and holiday-themed party goods as well. And THANK YOU for shopping your local supermarket chain grocery!”