“Hello,” she said smiling at me, “I met you at your museum.”
I must say I was flattered that this friendly woman recognized me, but unfortunately I had no idea which one she was among the hundreds of people who come to my cash register every day. I stared at her hoping to jog my memory, but I drew a blank. “Sorry…?”
“The museum where you work, in California.” she said.
I pride myself on remembering the people I meet, but perhaps I could be forgiven this time, because after all our meeting was taking place at my nephew’s house after my mother’s funeral.
“I’m Debbie S– your mother’s friend.” Once she told me her name, I remembered who she was.
I wrote about our chance meeting last year in the post called The French couple and sister M… and I’m going to repost it, because it’s one of my favorite meetings at my register:
The middle-aged French couple stood in front of my cash register for some time while they deliberated whether to purchase the half a dozen art books in their shopping basket, he wanted to buy them all, you could see he loved art by how carefully he turned the pages, but she explained that firstly, they already had too many art books at home, and secondly these were too large, and too heavy to go in their suitcases, and reminded him, very sweetly too, how expensive postage on art books could be, so he gave them all back to me, and bought the Museum Handbook, a relatively small book, instead.
He paid with a Visa card.
When someone pays with a credit card I check the name. If my customer’s a woman, and the name on her card is “Mark”, I ask, “Where’s Mark?” He’s often standing next to her, sometimes waiting on the bench outside the store, but very often he’s ”at home”. You’d be amazed how angry some women get when I don’t allow them to use Mark’s card, if Mark isn’t there.
Of course, this being Hollywood, I also look at the name, because you never know who may be standing in front of me. A few years ago I thought the woman at my register looked like Joan Rivers – I recognized her distinctive little nose and way of speaking – but I wasn’t sure, she looked too “young”, there were no wrinkles on her perfect face, and as we aren’t supposed to say “What an honor to serve you” to the rich and famous, I couldn’t ask her. Thankfully she didn’t leave me guessing, as she thoughtfully paid with a credit card, and there was her name: Joan Rivers. (Now I know what cosmetic surgery looks like up close.)
I also enjoy the challenge of identifying the credit card’s country from the few clues, like Air France or Lufthanza Air Miles, or the name of the bank, “Banco Roma” is easy, but “Standard Bank” doesn’t tell you anything, and ”Royal Bank”, isn’t British, it’s Canadian.
So when the French tourist (who didn’t buy the art books) gave me his credit card, his name didn’t ring a bell for me, but I knew their bank was Canadian, and in a friendly gesture to a couple of art lovers, I asked where they lived in Canada.
Monsieur said, “We live in France and Canada.
I guessed Quebec, but I was wrong, they were from Ontario.
“Do you know Ontario?” he said.
“Yes, I have relatives who live there,” I said
They lived near Bayview Village. “I know the area.” I said, ”Do you recall that very heavy downpour a few years ago when the storm drains backed up, leaving several miles of the city knee deep in water? ”
“Yes, many houses flooded in that storm,” said Madame.
“My friend Lynn and I were stranded in the mall that afternoon. It was horrible.” I said.
“Our neighbors were also stranded there that afternoon,” said Monsieur, then turning to his wife he said, “She looks like M—, don’t you think?”
“M—?” I asked, and when I saw her nodding in agreement, I said, “My sister’s name is M—.”
“I’m talking about M– -W–,” he said picking up his book, and turning to leave.
“Oh my god,” I shouted, and saw my spit land on his cheek, “M– -W–’s my sister!”
“What a coincidence,” he smiled warmly, “We were at their place not so long ago. Had a lovely evening.”
“Who are you? Who’m I talking to?” I hadn’t recognized the name on his credit card, but I don’t know all my sister’s friends.
“We’re actually friends of your mother’s,” he said. “Our name is S–”
“You’re the S–s? My mother’s told me so much about you, it’s wonderful to finally meet you,” I said, and hugged these strangers, who now were my good friends.