I wish I had thought of doing something

I've been feeling the creative urge lately, though I don't know what I want to do with it. I'm working on a little project right now, but there's not much creativity to it. Been doodling a lot, but I'd rather be a bit more productive.

On to today's story of harrowing near-death experiences and bad checks.

This morning I was supposed to start physical therapy on my knee (tendonitis, for those of you just tuning in) at 7:30 AM. Slept right through the frikkin' alarm. Strike one.

Got to work on time, so that was good. Everyone else got on the lunch schedule before me, so I got a crappy lunch time. Strike one and a half.

Customer comes in, sees a big, sharp 12"x18" print from one of our digital cameras, says "I want to be able to do this." He tells me he's interested in the Nikon D100, and I say good, because that camera made that print. He's almost instantly sold. I'm suddenly making a big sale, and the adrenaline starts pumping. Warning flag should have gone up in my mind, but it didn't. Strike two.

He needs a memory card. I tell him about this one-gigabyte professional card we carry. He wants it. This is moving along rather quickly. Still no flag. Strike three (good thing this ain't baseball, eh?).

Now for lenses. This is where things slow down. We discuss what he'll be photographing, and he goes into some detail. Some of his subjects will require close-up capability, while others will need lots of zoom for far-off objects. I show him a variety of lenses, and he balks at the prices of some of them. He seems to have a budget of about $3,000 for this purchase, which is realistic considering what he wants to be able to do with it all. I don't think another flag should have gone up at this point, but strike four anyway. I was getting way too excited about this potentially huge sale and still wasn't noticing the previous flags.

He asks if I can throw in a camera bag, since he's buying all this expensive stuff. I explain that I can't just throw it in, but that I could probably get him a good discount. I go talk to a manager, and he reminds me that the bags are already 15% off, but that I could go 50% since this guy was spending an awful lot. No flags, since people ask for discounts like that all the time. Then I remember that I could sell him some protective UV filters for the two lenses he decided on. I show him one and tell him what it is, but he gives me a slightly confused look. I explain the filter's purpose and why I think it's important and he agrees to get one for each lens.

As I go to ring everything up, his "old lady" comes in (she had been out trying to find parking, which can be rather difficult in downtown Walnut Creek. The guy and his old lady appear to be in their mid fifties, in case you were wondering). I get the guy's information in the system and start scanning items. Flag raised: the lady is preparing to write a check. Why her? Why not the guy? Oh well, I'll just get her driver's license number like I'm supposed to and that'll be fine. Flag lowered. Strikes four through fifty.

It should be noted here that one of the managers had been hovering around the register area ever since I brought all the items together there. He sees the lady break out her wallet and mutters to me, "Better get her driver's license," which I already knew was a must-do. He offers no more advice till after the couple leave.

The total is arrived at, the check is written, the sale is completed, the handshake is given, and the couple leaves. $3,100 worth of camera equipment walk out the door in their hands.

"Did you phone their bank to verify the check is good?" "Huh?" This is the beginning of my near-death experience. The manager continues: "Why didn't you get the driver's license expiration date? Why doesn't this check have a phone number on it? You should always verify checks over $1,000! You should have noticed the flags during the sale! It happened too fast, they're big-ticket items, they paid with a check, and they're from Oakley!" What Oakley has to do with anything, I'm not sure, but at this point I was about to need a ventilator, my throat felt so tight.

I call up the bank noted on the check. After being transferred by a few people someone finally tells me the check is bad.

Fuck. I feel ashamed to be alive. How could I be so stupid? Strikes fifty-one through ninety-nine.

I tell the manager, he tells me Mr. Reed wants to know, too.

I'm dead.

I tell him. He's furious, but seems to be holding back. He starts making phone calls. Gets the woman's number from information, but it's no good. Calls the number the guy gave me. It's his cell phone, and he answers. He is told the check is no good, and says they'd come right back. I am told to start praying. I almost do, but then wonder to whom.

I wait by the front entrance. It feels like an eternity passes. Passersby look at me and smile curiously. I know I look worried as hell, but can't help it. I feel like shit. I call the guy's number, he assures me they're almost there.

The lady comes in first and hands me a receipt from a deposit that morning showing $8,000 in the account. I call up the bank again, but this time talk to a manager. I explain the bad check and the receipt. The manager finds the deposit, but says it wouldn't actually show up in the account till tomorrow, and that was why I was told the check was bad. I suddenly feel slightly less fearful for my job.

I go back and forth between the couple and Mr. Reed's office, getting the information I should have gotten in the first place. The couple is understanding, but even they say I should have verified the check before they left. Y'think?

When the manager asked me if I had phoned the bank to verify the check, I suddenly remembered being told, once, at a staff meeting quite some time ago, that we were to verify checks over $1,000. I can't recall anyone paying for something like this with a check in the year-plus that I have been at Reed's. I diligently get customers' driver's license numbers when they use a check, but had forgotten about verifying large-sum checks. Lucky doesn't begin to describe how I felt when the day was over and I still had my job. Most of the ninety-nine strikes are gone, but their scars remain, and won't be forgotten.

Tomorrow I'll be talking with Mr. Reed and his son, the general manager. If I get punished, I obviously deserve it. Unfortunately for me, I'm the type who learns from experience, not from lectures. Suffice to say, this sort of mistake will never happen again.