In the world of retail sales, there is sometimes a little downtime. Who am I kidding? There is a lot of downtime. Being that Jill’s shop is small, standalone and off the main drag, there can be long lulls between activities. Occasionally, Monotony-itis will set in. Monotany-itis is categorized by several key conditions:
1.) Pacing – walking from window to window, wishing, hoping and even willing customers to descend upon your establishment. Although this constant peering from the windows by the proprietor gives off a Norman Bates vibe to the place, it cannot be helped.
2.) Searching – looking thru web page after web page for non-existent auctions, clever products, and odd distractions to occupy your time. Acute searching typically includes random YouTube searches, especially when involving celebrities, monkeys or skateboard accidents. Severe searching may even include QVC scanning and, in extreme cases, later-regretted purchases.
3.) Cleaning / Rearranging – this condition of Monotony-itis can be one of the most severe, defined by the overwhelming need to straighten up, freshen up and move large items to change the appearance of an overall space. It begins with an innocent task of dusting…just a little touch up. Then it progresses rapidly. A chair is moved, a painting rehung…next thing you know, you’re hiring a crew to stack two pianos on top of each other to create the perfect backdrop to stage a dish sale.
Although not inherently dangerous, it becomes dangerous thru means of small adjustments to certain items to establish the perfect retail appearance. Anyone who is married has seen this condition firsthand. It is easily diagnosed by the tell-tale language of altering a space’s appearance:
“Just a little more to the left…no my left. Almost there…almost there. No, that’s too far. Back to your right…no your other right. YOUR right hand, dummy! Now lift it up so I can see it. Hmmmm…ok, I don’t like it there at all. Let’s start over.”
In its final stages, that thing being lifted for approval will be a twenty-five foot mirror, a came-over-on-the-Mayflower armoire or an anvil. Which brings me to the final stages of Monotony-itis…
4.) Cursing – the final stage of Monotony-itis brings on a flurry of curses that would wilt flowers from a block away. The simplest form of cursing is brought on by a physical manifestation, for example, an antique filing cabinet smashing a toe during condition three. Or it could be brought on by the more dangerous mental manifestation. This is when all the pacing, searching and rearranging hasn’t resulted in an on slot of customers and doubt begins to set in.
“What am I doing wrong? Why isn’t anyone stopping? Why can’t my shop be on a beach in Puerto Rico? Oooooo…a Mojito sounds good. I should be on a beach sipping a Mojito! Instead of freezing in Kentucky! I don’t even like horses!! WHY, OH WHY!!” Followed by, as Bill Cosby would say, foul…filth…flarn…foul. Amazingly, condition four is actually the cure. Once there is a little cursing outlet, there’s a release, then everything becomes right with the world and condition one begins anew.
I suspect most retail establishments go thru bouts of Monotony-itis as none are fully immune, especially following the Christmas season. In Hamburg I doubt the symptoms are as severe due to their steady traffic flow. But when you are a secluded little specialty shop off the beaten path, it is very easy to allow that humdrum feeling permeate deep into your very soul. So what to do, what to do? (Cue patriotic music.) How can we ban together to fight Monotony-itis? How can we, fellow shop owners and retail entrepreneurs help fight this horrible condition so that none are ever afflicted again? Shall we wear ribbons raising the awareness of Monotony-itis? No! Shall we march? No!!! The answer is simple my friends…you just gotta have a little fun.
Sorry about the anti-climactic ending, but it’s true. That’s how we battle the little bouts of downtime and it works pretty well. When there are no customers in the shop, and no items to procure, we come up with little ways to goof off and help pass the time between auctions or customers or whatever.
Give you an example: recently we were doing some painting. My mother-in-law was coming by to check on my progress, but also to visit. Jill and I hatched a plan. Well, I hatched a plan and Jill approved. I took a small bowl and filled it halfway full of small ripped up pieces of white paper. I cleaned out my paintbrush so that it was spotless. When my mother-in-law arrived, I cupped the bowl and held the paintbrush as though she had just caught me in the middle of a stroke. I bid her a hearty hello and briskly walked toward her, theatrically faking a stumble and clumsily spilling the bowl’s contents onto her. As expected, she thought it was paint spilling from the bowl and, given my strong proclivity to falling, it was an easy sell. She shrieked. Then she cursed. Then, being a proper Southern lady, immediately swore revenge.
One time during the autumn, while sitting out front enjoying the day, we noticed a lot of people walking their dogs. Big dogs, little dogs…seemed like every person in the neighborhood was attached to a canine. So we started making quarter bets as to which type of animal would appear next. Each quarter wager bought a single chance: how big a dog, what color dog, what family of dogs, would it bark, would it have a retractable leash, would it look like its owner…all questions on which we would gamble. I don’t recall who won, but it made for a fun way to pass the time.
Last week, I had a good one on Jill. We had just shared lunch when I recalled an old gag I had heard from native Kentucky comic, Carl Hurley. I set the stage: I called Jill on her cell phone:
“Listen, I just got a call from a fella’. He said he wants to look at an item he saw in your shop when he drove by yesterday. He wants you to call him at his work. You ok with that?
“Ok. He works over at the Bluegrass Stockyards on Lisle Industrial. His name is Mike. Now, he said there are several other Mike’s that work there, so when you call, ask for him by his full name. His last name is Howe.”
“You got it.” I proceeded to give her the phone number. If you haven’t figured out the joke, as Jill hadn’t, I’ll help you along. Jill would shortly place a call to the Bluegrass Stockyards and ask for Mike Howe. Get it yet? Mike Howe. (Might want to read it out loud several times.) Mike Howe, when coupled together, sounds like My Cow. So our heroine would be calling the stockyards, ultimately asking to speak with her cow! Ha! Here’s how I imagine the conversation would go. (I have replaced Mike Howe with the phonetic version for ease of reading.)
“Bluegrass Stockyards, how can I help you?”
“Hello, this is Jill, and I was calling to speak with My Cow.”
“Uh, I’m sorry honey, who did you want to speak with?”
“My Cow. Is he available?”
“Honey, I’m not sure what you mean.”
“My Cow came by my shop today and wanted me to call him back. Is My Cow there so I can speak with him.”
“Well, we have lots of Cows (Jill would have heard, “We have lots of Howes here), but I’m not sure any of them can talk.”
“I know, but I just want to speak to MY Cow.”
I didn’t get the actual conversation. Since I pulled off the gag, that information was withheld. I guess she figured that would just be too much for me to handle. I might just suffocate from lack of oxygen while laughing so I think it’s safe to say, we find ways to occupy our down-time. Sometimes the downtimes are the best times anyway.