Across The Counter
By Martha Williams, El Paso, Texas
Reprinted from April 1990
People who meet little green men from Mars don’t have anything on the jeweler who meets strange situations on a daily basis. Here are just a few cases of strange encounters, which have taken place around our store over the past few years.
ENCOUNTER No. 1: A young black fellow entered our store one day and approached the counter. He was wearing one of those very bouffant Afro hair dos. At that time I was wearing a current style, which was also very bouffant and heavily sprayed. He leaned over the counter one way and I leaned over the other. What else could happen? Our hair became entwined and it took several minutes of tugging, pulling and sorting and embarrassment before we got things squared away.
ENCOUNTER No. 2: A seedy fellow entered our store one time with his hand thrust in his coat pocket as if concealing a weapon. Approaching the counter, he said to RB, “Give me your bread, man.” RB, who didn’t look up or understand, pointed his finger to the west and said nicely, “The bakery is two doors down.” Frustrated, the man fled.
ENCOUNTER No. 3: We finally stocked the strange little risqué gold charms which had words and phrases on them which are not too nice. In fact, some of them are X rated. Just before Mother’s Day a young fellow entered the store and said to the sales clerk, “I want to see your saints.” She didn’t understand him and thought he’d said, “I want to see your sayings.” Smiling brightly she produced them from beneath the counter. He looked unbelievingly at them and said “Gee…the one my mom lost was blue enamel and had St. Jude on it. I don’t think she’d go for these!” I’d say the young man was absolutely right!
ENCOUNTER No. 4: An encounter between a sales girl and jeweler at the counter. We had just hired a young girl right out of high school. She was a little doll but not too bright in some areas. We instructed her to stay with the jeweler and get him anything he needed.
He asked for a penlight so he could examine some stones. Dutifully she went off to get one and returned to the counter, but by then the jeweler was engaged deep in conversation with the customer so he did not take it from her immediately.
She was bored and began to squirm about, turning the light on and off. Then she looked over at the jeweler. She came just about to his shoulder so she was looking right into his ear. This fascinated her and she carefully studied his ear with great concentration. Then she switched on the penlight and studied with more enthusiasm. When the customer gasped, the jeweler looked around and he was also a bit shocked. At least this enterprising little gal had found a new use for a new tool!
Our jeweler developed a complex over it. From that moment on, he went on his own errands.
ENCOUNTER No. 5: We had been in business about 20 years with a very high credit rating. A man who retired from the military locally decided to go into the jewelry business. One day he arrived at our store with an armload of catalogs and said, “You can pick out anything you want from these wholesale catalogs and I’ll only add 10 percent to the cost for you and I’ll order them.” I am still puzzling over that one.
ENCOUNTER No. 6: At one time I ran our small store while RB worked another job. In those days we were more naive and less security minded.
We had one counter on which sat a revolving charm display. It was a large display so we reasoned no one could reach around the display and open the showcase and be able to get his hand into the case and steal. For this reason we did not lock the case.
One day a man came into the store. I was alone. He was very large and looked something like “Mean Joe Green.”
He asked to see diamond watch bands, which were in that case. He didn’t have a watch with him so I didn’t offer to get them out and by not doing so patted myself on the back feeling entirely safe. The phone rang and I stepped back about six feet to answer it and when I did, this man reached around the display, opened the case, thrust his arm forward to the front and took a diamond band, palming it as he did.
I was off the phone in a flash and marched right up to him. Taking his hand and prying his fingers off the band I demanded that he give it back. He gave it back and left. As I look back, it is a wonder I am here to write this account!
ENCOUNTER No 7: Our last strange encounter story involves a hippie. One morning as we were opening, we looked out to see a shabby character peering in the window. Dressed in cutoffs and thongs, he sported a scruffy beard and wore a backpack.
He tried the door, which was locked. We tried to decide what to do if he didn’t move on by opening time. Finally we all agreed to put a clerk on each counter and one by the holdup button and I would unlock the door.
This plan was carried out amid much apprehension. The hippie strolled in and glanced about. We expected to see him pull a knife or gun at any minute. He removed his pack and sat it down and then showed me his watch, which was missing a lug. “Can you repair this while I wait?” He asked in a polite manner.
“Of course! We’ll take it down here to the watch-making bench. Why don’t you leave your pack here by the door and you can pick it up on your way out?”
By then other customers had come in. The hippie glanced about skeptically looking at the customers and clerks and remained riveted to the spot.
“Do you want to come back here?” I asked again.
He looked about again and I’ll never forget his reply: “Well do you think my pack would be safe if I left it here?”
Strange encounters? I’d say we’ve had a few.