Monday, March 27, 2017

For Customer Use Only

   Years ago when I was in the motorcycle business, I liked to arrive early to give myself a chance to get organized if that was possible, and enjoy a little quiet time before the day started. One morning not unlike any other I unlocked the business and walked in, the door making a 'ding' as it contacted the small bell we had attached above to warn us of approaching customers, and I took a moment to poke a code into the security system on the way by. Walking around the front counter I turned on the cash register and back in the parts-room I flicked-on the lights for the service area, checked the fax machine, and jabbed the switch on the coffee maker.
   I was standing there back at the front counter, with a fresh coffee, looking up some parts on the fiche reader. After a few minutes I was surprised to hear the front door go 'ding', that was a good sign I figured, usually a customer doesn't come in before opening unless they were going to buy something. 
   "Hey, how you doing this morning!" I said looking out from behind the fiche reader.
"Just fine thanks." he says politely, then looking about and sniffing the air oddly he adds "Nice store!"
That was a good sign too I thought to myself, beginning to speculate on how much of his wallet I could relieve him of before opening for the day. He wandered past a line of motorcycles, stops and admires an outboard motor, then zeros in on a new Honda 4-wheeler. 
"I've always wanted one of these." he tells me, which brought me out from behind the counter.
"You'd look really good on one of those." I told him hopefully,
"Hop on there, and I'll show you some of the features." 
He looked like he was going to get on and straddle the machine, then hesitated,
"I don't know that's such a good idea right now." he says, his face taking on a subtle anxious look. 
I realized I was going to have to work for this sale,
"Did I mention it has electric start?" I said, trying to get the ball rolling again. 
"Say." he says looking about with a certain amount of urgency,
"Have you got a washroom I can use?"
"Why certainly." I told him, "Its right there behind the counter."
   The building had originally been a small town bus depot, and whoever designed it had placed the washroom near the front of the building, that may have been convenient for a bus station, but the way we set up our dealership, the washroom ended up being right behind the front counter. I mean it was right there, within reaching distance. This had it's advantages, though I can't really think of one now, and it had some drawbacks too, of which I can think of several.
   One of those drawbacks became apparent after he had been in there for a minute or two, and I discreetly moved out of hearing range as best I could, although that wasn't entirely possible. The cacophony eventually subsided for a stretch, and then started up all over again with equal ferocity.
Finally, it got real quiet in there, and I heard the toilet flush, ...twice. 
"I bet he's glad to get that load off his mind." I chuckled to myself. 
   The washroom door finally opened and I picked up a brochure in anticipation of continuing our conversation where it had left off when nature called. 
"It's a 4-speed with an automatic clutch." I started in,
"You see right here it's an easy matter to engage the..."
"Thanks." he says staring straight ahead as he bolts past me for the door.
'Ding!' went the bell, and he was gone that fast.
I stood there for a moment, wondering about people, chuckled about the experience and started back for the counter.
   Then I walked into it, taking my breath away, the noxious cloud that followed in his wake. 
"Oh you rotten bastard!" I hollered after him, flapping the brochure in the air which only tended to spread it around the showroom with no sign of dissipating. I could see going back to the counter was out of the question for awhile.
Then the phone rang.
The phone was attached to the wall in a convenient location to the sales counter, right next to the washroom door. With an arm over my mouth I fought my way there and picked it up.
"Williams Lake... Honda" I managed to gag.
Some calls take longer than others, and this one under the circumstances was going on longer than I liked.
"Let me call you back." I said and hung-up the phone.
   I made the mistake of swinging the washroom door back and forth in an attempt to dissipate the aroma. Instead, it was like a cloud of green smoke rolled out of there, nearly knocking me off my feet, re-charging the offending cloud filling the showroom, and wafting clear out to the street I'm sure. 'For crissakes' I thought to myself, I needed to get this place aired out because I'd hate to be standing here if someone happened to walk...
'Ding' went the door-bell.
"Hey!, how are you today?" I asked the unfortunate soul that came in to pick up a part for his lawnmower. It seemed he was stuck for an answer, and with both our eyes watering, I tried to carry on the transaction like nothing was wrong, and to his credit was polite enough not to bring up the bad fragrance to the supposed source.
"Keep the change." were his parting words as he rushed for the door.
"Come again!" I called after him, although I'd be surprised.
   "Oh hell" I said, seeing the courier guy's van pull up out front.
'Ding' went the door.
"Delivery!" he calls in his usual cheerful voice, but by the time he got to the counter, any of that cheer had drained from his face.
"Here, let me sign for that quick and you can get on your way." I told him, scratching out a close rendition of my signature.
"Thanks" he mumbles from behind his elbow before making a quick exit.
 'Ring' went the damn phone again.
I had no sooner got off the phone when I hear the door go 'ding' once more, and I see one of the local ranchers walk in.
"Howdy" he says laconically.
"What can I do for you?" I asked, again making like nothing was wrong.
"Well...," he drawls, "You could start by hauling that dead cow out of here."
 So it went for several hours that day until finally the place got back to it's usual bad shop smell. About a week later I stopped in at the gas station down the road, and while filling the tank the owner and I were chatting about business, the weather, and the price of gas.
"Speaking of gas!" he suddenly exclaims,  "Watch out for the Phantom!"
"The what? I asked.
"The Phantom, he comes around chats you up and asks to use the bathroom and smells the place up something terrible! He graced us with a visit and hit the muffler-shop down the way, they chase him out of the McDonald's on sight, and he dropped a bomb at the coffee shop one morning, nearly shutting them down for the day. The owner is going to put the boots to him if he ever sees him around."
It wasn't long before a sign went up on the washroom door that read simply,
'For Customer Use Only'.

1 comment:

  1. That story is a stinker... but I do believe that fella, "The Phantom" has moved on. I see those signs all over Vancouver