While waiting for my turn to see the doctor, I was surprised to see a large yellow dog stroll up behind the receptionist’s desk. Then he noticed me and stood with his front paws on the counter to get a better look. I was charmed. When he came out into the waiting room, I greeted him and let him sniff my belongings. It was comical, too, to find that on my way to the restroom, he was padding down the hall behind me.
I pumped the assistant who was taking my blood pressure. Whose dog was this? It had been newly adopted by the doctor, she explained. Since he lived on a rural property, he didn’t want to leave the animal all day to have it wander off. So was this a temporary arrangement? I wondered. The assistant replied that yes, it was, probably. She betrayed no emotions on the subject, for or against. The receptionist had also appeared to have zero opinions regarding her assistant greeter.
When the doctor came in, though, the canine presence got a bit too much. The original dog wandered in behind his master and resumed his perusal of my belongings. I patted his head and talked to him, thinking he’d be dismissed soon. But he was soon followed by a second big animal, of a similar breed–maybe a mixed yellow lab. This one had no plans to leave, flopping down on his belly with a chew toy. I must have looked surprised, because when we started the consultation, and I was still distracted by the dogs, the doctor said: “Would it be better if they were out?”
“Ummm . . .” I answered. How hard it is to not give people what they want. But . . . wait. I was here for a professional consultation. Was I feeling guilty for agreeing that he should dismiss his pets?
Once the dogs had been shooed out, I found I could concentrate better. And I probably have a new punchline for “You know you’re in Montana when . . . “
“This class is young,” the Kindergarten teacher explained several times. She pointed out their class birthday graph that revealed many birthdays clustered in the fall months. “They’re still babies, really,” she said when I told her the afternoon had been especially difficult. “They are really tired by afternoon. They are just babies.”
Tears, needless supplications for permission to go the office because of supposed illness, earache and more tears, purloining of the children’s name tags causing a surprising amount of chaos, outright defiance, whining and crying when one’s will was crossed*–yesterday and today stand out as difficult days in years of substituting. Further throwing me off balance was a new, detailed curriculum and my inability to access the lesson plans the night before. The teacher, who was doing some work on campus, lent support, but I was wrung out by the second day.
There were the sweet moments, still. In honor of Dr. Seuss week, I read them Yertle the Turtle and Cat and the Hat. Even the most difficult children are mesmerized by the stories. One kid, who had defied me, a stranger, upon his entering the room, later communicated a look showing how deeply he was enjoying an activity. And the teacher, having no control over when parents decided to enroll their children in Kindergarten, took it all in stride, cheerfully talking through problems and encouraging individuals. Even a child whom I would have been tempted to sideline, who is far too immature to start first grade next year, received a fair share of nurturing. There was a small celebration when she zipped up her coat by herself, and later a demonstration for her grandad.
Toward day’s end, vague and smarting from being pulled in so many directions, I spotted a water bottle at the back of the room. I didn’t remember putting my water there–was it someone else’s? No, it looked just like mine. I took a couple of good swigs from it. Later, an aide came in, in search of her water bottle. I looked around, spotted my own water bottle by the teacher’s desk, and explained what happened. “Oh, no, I hope you don’t get sick,” she said. “I’m just getting over a cold.” And in such manner my work week ended.
*And that was just the sub’s behavior. You can imagine what the kids were like.
I don’t envy the cashier checking me out at the grocery store. My shopping cart is full, with items thrust in every available space. It takes time for the cashier and bagger to pack all my purchases and get me out the door. If someone gets in line behind me, I’ll let him go first, if I can. If not, I try to apologetically explain that I have a lot of groceries and he might want to pick another line.
Last week, when I repeated to the young bagger the cashier’s request for “carry-out,” the bagger surprised me by holding up his hand and telling me I needed a high-five. “For what, buying so many groceries?” Nope, just wanted to afford me this gesture of approval and congratulations. A store bonus, apparently. Once he’d pushed the cart through the snow drifts to my old red Subaru and helped me transfer the bags, he gave me another high-five before he went back in.
I didn’t know what to make of it, nor what his manager would make of it. Maybe if the kid knew that I only paid $164 for the cornucopia of goods, that would give him good reason to be impressed. Maybe the customer relations strategies need refinement, but the savings will keep me coming back.Published in