Today, a small girl vomited all over the floor of my shop.
I was on duty by myself and I heard a plaintiff voice cry out from the depths of our cavernous shop, "Excuse me, could I have some assistance down here?" In the very back aisle of the store, a small grandma type woman was struggling under the weight of the heaving retching child in her arms.
I hurried to her side and instinctively extended my hands to help her in any way I could. Then I realised that she, the child and a three foot radius of shop floor were covered in red lumpy vomit.
I instinctively retracted my hands again.
"She's not very well," said the poor Grandma.
Hmmm. You can say that again.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," said the poor Grandma.
"That's fine," I said. "You just get her home. I'll take care of this."
Translation: Get your barfing granddaughter out of my shop.
I called Customer Service and asked if they could send a cleaner around to fix it for me. Well, no, Customer Service explained - the cleaners won't clean inside a shop. It's not their job.
"But," I said, "If you ask Jo, she'll come and help me. She is the GOOD Cleaning Lady."
Customer Service explained that they couldn't call Good Cleaning Lady Jo directly. The request would have to be radioed through to the EVIL Boss Cleaning lady who is none too happy at the moment because her company just lost the cleaning contract on the whole centre.
I wondered how Customer Service could tell the Evil Boss Cleaning Lady was particularly unhappy. She has always been one of the most bizarre and miserable women I have ever had the opportunity to observe in her natural habitat. Evil boss cleaning lady takes her job description seriously and it is NOT in her job description to clean up after any of the staff of any of the shops. In fact, we are not even supposed to put our rubbish in the bins. Those bins are provided for customers, says Evil Boss Cleaning Lady. I once put a small piece of cardboard in one of the centre's rubbish bins. She saw me do it and took the cardboard out of the bin. She very deliberately placed it on the floor all the while looking me in the eye. It was like some kind of crazy challenge.
I dare you to put your rubbish in my bins again.
She straightened slowly, still eyeballing me like John Wayne, in any number of his movies, putting the uppity heathen Injuns back in their place.
I double dare you.
"I'm afraid you're on your own with the vomit situation, dude," said Customer Service. Yes. It's true. The girl at Customer Service calls me 'dude'.
But my question remains - what could this woman do that could possibly make her seem even more unhappy than usual? It's kind of scary really.
I was on duty by myself, as I said, so I couldn't go out to get cleaning gear. I have the basic equipment in the shop of course - a broom, a cloth, a bottle of disinfectant spray - but nothing of the caliber required to combat the kind of damage a projectile vomiter can inflict in a matter of seconds.
And the smell! The smell was permeating the entire space. Customers were streaming out the door. I had to do something!
It's amazing how much you can achieve without inhaling when you must. On my haunches, armed only with tissues and Orange Magic spray clean, I managed to mop up almost all of the mess.
Then as I stood up, I looked out through the front of my shop and saw the cavalry riding down the corridor to my rescue. Well, actually, it was two cleaning people - Good Cleaning Lady Jo and Nice Cleaning Guy Brian pushing their cleaning carts. They were accompanied by Kent, the Centre Manager.
Well, that little spew had certainly caused a kerfuffle, hadn't it? Kent is pretty cool. He strides about the centre with his trusty walkie talkie ever to his ear, just about the only man in our small tropical city who still wears a tie to work. He made a Kent joke as he approached. "What's this I hear? You vomited all over your floor? What'd you do that for"
"I got bored," I replied. "You know how it is."
Everyone thought this was pretty funny. I said to Jo, "I thought you weren't allowed to clean in my shop."
"Kent told me to," she replied innocently. "What was I supposed to do - say no to KENT???"
Kent's chest expanded a little at the mention of his power.
Jo and Brian went forth with mops, both wet and dry, and small spray cans filled with overpoweringly pleasant odours.
As they finished swiping their mops back and forth, ridding me at last of the contents of that small child's over full stomach, I said, "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! You are so good to me."
Jo said matter of factly, "Well, you're always good to me too."
It's true. Just that morning I gave her a tiny discount on some books for her kids. It dosn't matter that the amount is small, it's just that everyone likes the acknowledgement that what they do is appreciated. Same with the security guards. All of them repay me by looking after me above and beyond the call of duty.
A lot of people think that Kent and those like him have the most important jobs in these kind of places - but the truth is, Kent went away for a holiday and nobody even noticed he was gone.
Try going a week or even a day without cleaning staff and security. God love 'em.