( Blogger’s Note: Each Friday an excerpt from the soon to be published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant appears in this space.)
Our first Sunday as the proprietors of the Crocus Hill Market was a lesson in stupidity.
We analyzed the condition of the closed store, lacking in any inventory depth, or product power. We dreamily looked around and saw the vision that Kranston had developed in her business plan and quickly realized we were months and dollar signs away from accomplishing that Kinko assisted goal. Leaving the door unlocked was another big mistake.
When the customer walked in customer walked in we hesitated to tell her we were closed. The thrill of playing foodie overtook my common senses; I had never stepped behind a meat counter in my adult life. I still decided to help her. After an over jubilant welcome, the customer explained she had just moved to the neighborhood and needed a chicken. A fresh, butcher wrapped chicken.
Nothing compares to a call to action when you are near a butcher´s saw.
I grabbed the butcher´s smock, that only hours earlier had graced Clarence´s oversized body, guided my arms threw the sleeves, buttoned it, put on an apron, grabbed my black grease pen from the taped paper cup on the counter and quickly disappeared into cooler. Chicken choices are a complex state for an apprentice butcher proceeded to hunt for a chicken meeting the requested criteria.
With waxed paper neatly placed on the scale I placed the bird, feet up, pressed a variety of buttons on the scale and quivered as the numbers 89.43 appeared. I had never used a scale before so I quickly digressed to the old fashioned way of butchering. I figured the math on the outside of the freshly wrapped chicken making sure not to cross over what appeared to be enough string to fly Franklin´s kite. The sum total of 5.78 in black grease pen impressed me more than the customer, I am sure. Proudly, I handed the package to her and asked her to give it to my partner, Kranston at the register.
The ancient, wooden, hand crank register, which was the original register used in 1920 when F. Scott Fitzgerald and his family used to shop at the market. Aside from that was a 1960´s vintage register that was used on occasion.
With a broad smile on my face I proudly made eye contact with Kranston as the nice customer made her way to the chipped, peeling, plywood counter soon to be replaced by two antique general store counters from the North Dakota Foothills. When Kranston received the chicken she looked at the price and a very strange look came over her face. I watched for moment and immediately spotted trouble. She was in a quandary, fumbling with the football sized bird, placing it in a bag, and waiting with a stare for the register to do its thing. I rapidly left my post as the head butcher and moved over to the cashier´s position.
Quietly, Kranston told me she didn´t know how to open the register. Highly embarrassed, I humorously mentioned that since she had been the vice president of a large retail fashion company with 43 stores that I thought she would know how to open a register. She promptly, reminded me that she was the Director of Operations, a Vice President, and she had people to open registers for her. Her job was to make the company profitable. I reminded her that we had people too, except they were off on Sundays.
The humorous verbal volley made the customer´s day almost as much as getting a complimentary chicken had. By the next time she came, had she told the story to many of her new found neighbors and we had purchased a brand new register which everyone seemed to be able to open. And, we kept that old antique register as a reminder. A complimentary chicken is a great way to advertise.