There is a mentally challenged woman who gets a ride with me into the market every Thursday morning, then goes home via the senior taxi after doing her shopping. Our marketplace attempts to be a friendly place for people with cognitive disabilities: we encourage van trips from adult day care and similar facilities, and we pay extra attention to our these customers because we want them to eat healthy and fresh food. I am one of several vendors with experience dealing with special populations, and we are reasonably patient with behavioral issues.
Unfortunately, my customer got a phone call from her husband as soon as she entered the market, and immediately started cursing and kicking furniture while revealing the darkest secrets of their sex life together. When she came into my shop and began to throw things, I asked her to leave. “Go out and sit in my car until you feel better,” I suggested.
She began to threaten suicide, saying that we had all “abandoned” her. When she grabbed a pair of scissors from the flower shop and began to cut her arms with them, we had to call for emergency assistance while my delivery driver Kenny K. held her down to keep her from hurting herself. Later we heard that she had decided to go off her medications a few days earlier.
A woman came into my shop at lunchtime, and asked the price of “Protective Glove” hand cream. “$2,” I replied.
Custy: Will it be $2 tomorrow?
Custy: Are you certain?
Me: Yes, ma’am. Would you like me to hold a tube for you till tomorrow?
Custy: Well, how do you know that it will still be $2 tomorrow?
Me: Because I own this store. Let me put some aside for you. There’s no obligation, and then you’ll be certain that it will still be $2 when you pick it up tomorrow.
Custy: I don’t want you to hold it! I just want to know if it will be $2 tomorrow. And will you definitely have it tomorrow?
Me: Probably, but if you want to be sure that it doesn’t sell out before you get it, then let me put some under the counter for you.
Custy: I just want to know if it will be available tomorrow.
Me: I can’t guarantee it unless you let me set it aside for you.
Custy: I said that I don’t want you to hold it. I just want to know whether you’ll have it tomorrow for $2!
Me: Without my crystal ball, I really couldn’t tell you whether it will sell out before tomorrow.
She stormed off, muttering to herself.
(Postscript: it’s been over a week, and she has never returned to buy the product.)
At closing time, a drug-addled woman found her way into the market as Tommy the maintenance man was locking the front door. Normally, we are not permitted (at the insistence of our Amish property managers) to tell a customer that we are closing, as long as they make it through the door into the market before we lock it. But this visitor might actually get them to change the rule.
Most of the vendors had already left for the night, or at least they had their lights out and their shop gateways locked. I’d had a last-minute customer, so my lights were still on.
She proceeded to look at every shelf in my shop, while crying and shaking. After 30 minutes, even the Amish were hanging around in the aisle, asking me in Pennsylvania German to finish the transaction. At this point, I stopped giving subtle hints, and went straight into saying “Listen, we need to close the building right now. The Amish vans need to leave, and I live in ‘Murder Town’, so I have an hour’s drive to get home.”
The 50 feet between my shop and the front entrance seemed endless. Each time that I tried to lead her toward the front door, she would suddenly peel away and start looking at a random product display, asking a dozen nonsensical questions. I finally said several times in a cold tone, “You must leave now, or we will call the police.” She didn’t hear me the first few times, but eventually she moved about 20 feet closer to the door, before making a sharp right turn into the bakery and asking random questions about the raisin bread.
The Amish are traditionally unwilling to involve the police in their businesses and activities, and we also knew that calling the police would make it necessary for us to stay even longer, so we sloooooowly herded her to the front door. As Tommy was unlocking the door to let the customer out, she did a 180-degree turn and went back toward the vending machines.
Nearly an hour after we’d locked the front doors and dimmed the lights, she finally wandered outside. Without mentioning it to the Amish, I then quietly called the police station (which is located in our parking lot) and let them know that while the customer hadn’t done anything illegal, they should probably watch her as she drove away.