On a scooter.
Yesterday was my birthday…
I turned 28. In hexadecimal “nibbles”.
(google it, hexadecimals are kinda cute).
But back to the story…
…my friend Flo came and picked me up and took me to the mall. The scooter hire girl remembered me and I got the highly coveted Scooter Number One. It is zippier, better at stopping when you ask it to, and the side mirrors don’t flop down all over your handbag. Score! I tootled around a few shops high on the joy of a birthday and time with Flo. I tried not to be distressed that I couldn’t even get down the lingerie aisles in Farmers Department Store. I figured I didn’t really need a birthday bra. I smiled anyway at the shop girl near the fitting rooms in Esprit when she said it might be easier to shop online. It might. But it isn’t as much fun as shopping with Flo. And why shouldn’t I enjoy a bit of retail therapy? Then I dropped Flo off for her appointment at the makeup counter. I should be, er… more into makeup… but the bookshop was just down one floor and it is an unfair competition! Hmmm… makeup, books, makeup, books. It’s really no competition between makeup and books. A hole was burning in my pocket. For my birthday I’d been given a cool hundy, and I was thinking about the delicious potential to drop it exclusively on BOOKS! Squeee!
I scootered down there faster than you can say ‘tortoise’. A few aeons later, I arrived. Mobility scooters have a speed switch that ranges from slow (a tortoise icon) to fast (you guessed it, a hare)… but even at hare-speed, it takes a looong time to get anywhere. In the front of the bookstore of choice, Whitcoulls, they have some displays of new releases. My twitchy fingers were eager to pick up the first one I could see. I liked the title, ‘Gone Girl’. But the angled display tables made it impossible for me to pull up alongside on my scooter. I did a sleek little (sixteen point!) turn and tried to reverse in. I banged the corner of the table. A Whitcoull’s employee looked across at me, arched her eyebrow and walked off in the opposite direction. I reached for the book. It was 5cm out of my grasp. There was no room to ease myself off the scooter and stand to give myself more reach. Had I had room, I’d have been able to do that. But it occurred to me in that moment, that many people in wheel chairs can’t stand to get to things out of reach; what would they do in this situation? I looked around for the employee, hoping for some help. She was gone, girl.
I was not going to be deterred. A hundred to spend on books is one of the greatest gifts of all time. I wasn’t going to let a bookshop girl with her archy eyebrows get the better of me. I gave my embarrassment a silent talking-to and manoeuvred out of the space. At the back of the store, the wall is lined with authors from A-Z. I wouldn’t have a spotlight on the newest, but I might find some gems. I set my course for the rear. Half way on the dial between tortoise speed and hare speed. I was veritably hurtling, turtle-style. The aisles in Whitcoulls do fit a scooter if it is going straight down the middle. Sadly, turning is not optional. People on mobility devices clearly shouldn’t want to browse in bookstores. There are artfully arranged stacks of merchandise on the floor at the corners of all of the aisles. The Little Yellow Digger-gift-boxed-set display met Scooter Number One as I attempted to round the corner. Scooter, 1, Diggers, 0. A mother in the same aisle helped me by picking them up (thank you anonymous mother).
I spent half an hour in Whitcoulls. I looked for help no less than fifteen times. Help to reach down titles I couldn’t reach, help with the infernal aisle corner displays. Help finding the poetry section. I saw three more staff members. All three saw me and changed direction. No one offered to help. The crickets chirped. When your eyes are not at the height of standing people, it is quite hard to get eye contact. When you are down that low, even a wave can be lost behind a bookshelf. My hundred dollars hid deeper into my pocket. No party for it, today.
I lost my desire to purchase books from that store. I threw the scooter into reverse. It has a really high pitched reversing beep. It’s an incredibly annoying sound. I left it in reverse long enough for archy eyebrows girl to give me one last look. I accelerated past one last corner display. I may have *cough* inadvertently disturbed its symmetry. I left the store. In my imagination I looked a bit like a speedy hare, leaving a cloud of dust in my wake. In truth, it was a less dramatic exit. Think, slo-mo. But the expression on my face remained steely resolute. I patted my pocket. That’s a hundred bucks you don’t get today, Whitcoulls. And then, I was a gone girl, too.
So my post about my birthday books is postponed. …maybe there is a bookstore out there who wants my custom, even if I am not walking on two feet.
I sent the people at Whitcoulls a link to my post as soon as it went up. Very quickly Diane got back to me. I am very grateful for such a timely response and so glad that the store will look into ways to improve customer service for people on mobility devices. Thank you, Whitcoulls.
This is what she wrote:
Thanks for touching base and sharing your in store experience with us. It is disappointing that we have not been able to deliver the customer experience you, and every customer, deserves. There is nothing better than browsing books especially in the excitement of birthday present shopping. I will be passing this information onto our Store Manager to ensure they can look into this situation and how they can use this to improve their customer service.
In the meantime, I would love to extend a birthday present to you from Whitcoulls. If you are still interested in the Gone Girl Book, I would love to send you a copy along with a $20 Whitcoulls Gift Card that may enhance your birthday spending money. If you can send us your courier address and we will arrange to get this out to you.