Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Creepy Callers Incident

I used to love those little sneaky one-day holidays. President's day, MLK day, Memorial day, LABOR DAY, etc - holidays that the grocery stores don't go rabid about, and there's no real decorations or family gatherings, but you still get a three day weekend to drink and get into shenanigans.

Except when you don't.

Labor day is no fun when you're the only one of your friends laboring.

This past labor day, my phone illuminated all morning with texts and tweets and instagrams and other forms of communication I can barely finagle.

"Going to the pool?"
"lol sorry awesome BBQ to go to"
"Y go to the pool when you can go to THE BEACH"
"lol LA is so like whatever, NorCal bound!"
"R. Grace where are you?"

"At my desk. Working."

One friend was horrified that I had to work on a holiday, like doesn't that go against the constitution? I had to break it down that I worked technically part-time (38 hours some weeks, but still) in a customer-service position. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the only two days I for sure have off. While everyone else was riding dolphins or sparkler-jousting with celebrities (to my out-of-LA-friends, that's totally what this city is like. All the time.), someone had to make sure their baked goods arrived on time for their fabulous after parties. And that someone... was me.

Also I'd maxed out my credit card and October rent already loomed like a beacon of despair, so I kind of... needed to work. Baffling, I know.

To the Bakery's credit, work started pretty smoothly. A jovial mood permeated the few of us that were present. Most of the calls simply asked if we had regular business hours on Labor day.

I can do this, I thought. I am being responsible and conscientious about supporting my dream! I can still join the festivities after 5pm! (And then I will look better than everyone else because I won't have puffy day-drinking face! Day-drinking face instantly drops a point on the hottness scale!)

Soon it was just me and two other people. I was starting to feel self-pitying, but tried to be extra sunshine and rainbows nice on the phone. Maybe everyone else's Labor Day joy would ooze into me through osmosis. Maybe a studio exec would call for his son's birthday and say, "your voice is perfect for the lead role in Finding Nemo 3, is it okay if I give you buckets of money and also pay for your SAG-AFTRA fees?"

What? It's Hollywood; it could happen.

I got a call from a mom in the midwest... Nebraska maybe? Somewhere where people are supposed to be nice. Her daughter attended school near one of our locations and it was her birthday! So Nebraska mom needed a delivery to her daughter, like, 5 minutes ago. How did I not already know her full order and delivery address and card information, her daughter needed these pastries ASAP OR HER BIRTHDAY IS JUST RUINED, hello?!

I looked at the clock and realized the delivery cutoff happened an hour ago. And with it being a holiday (for everyone else beside me, apparently), our deliveries were jam packed all afternoon/early evening. Ugh. Okay, gentle let-down speech. I actually feel kind of bad, maybe I can check with a store and see if there's any possible way we can have something out...

"What part of I-live-in-Nebraska don't you understand? I can't be there for her so I need to get her these pastries for her birthday / because it's her birthday / I'm in Nebraska / That's far / Do you know how far?"
"I just checked with the story and it looks like deliveries are full..."
"Can't you just bend the rules? Add another one in? It's her BIRTHDAY after all."
"Ma'am, it's a holiday so we're already packed -"
"Your website doesn't say ANYTHING about it being a holiday."

Wait, what? Isn't that just like a common sense thing? I tried to come up with another solution, to be A++ awesome at customer service and save the birthday!

"Do you know any of her friends? There is still space for a pickup in a few hours; maybe you coordinate with someone to pick them up from the store so we can still get those cupcakes to her!" Perfectly logical solution, right? I am A++ the best at customer service, you're welcome world. I could already imagine her thanking me for saving Labor Day/her daughter's birthday/her woeful lack of preparedness...

"No I DON'T know her friends / why would I know her friends / are you not listening to what I'm saying / they need to be delivered / like right now / She can't pick them up either / Then it's not a surprise / she has to be surprised / so what you're saying is my daughter's birthday is ruined / because of you / you are ruining my daughter's birthday / do you even care?"

As my favorite philosopher, Ron Burgundy, once said, that escalated quickly.

Clearly nothing was going to please this woman besides me hand-delivering the pastries directly to her daughter two hours in the past. Since my time machine was on the fritz again (good plutonium is so hard to come by), this wasn't an option.

"Ma'am, I'm sure she'd be just as excited to pick the cupcakes up in person / or even a giftcard so she can select everything herself whenever it's most convenient / I can even transfer you directly to the store so you can speak to a manager -" (the classic pass-off. yell at someone else please.)

"So you're saying my daughter's birthday is ruined?" Where? Where in the last fifteen minutes had I ever inserted the word "ruined?" I have a bit of a southern accent, but usually that just adds a syllable here or there instead of throwing in completely different words.

"I'm saying that there are a couple different options we can try to get these pastries to your daughter this evening."
"But you can't deliver them to her right now?"
"... ... ... " I could not figure out any other combination of the previous sentences to make it clearer. Ummmm....

"Nevermind, I will find another bakery that cares about their customers. You are USELESS. Stupid bitch." Click.

Whoa. My head spun and I couldn't decide what to be offended by first. Obviously calling me a stupid bitch seemed out of line. What is this, Real Housewives of Nebraska? But also, I care about people A LOT. It's the whole being-from-the-south / never-met-a-stranger-just-a-new-friend that more often than not gets me in trouble for being TOO nice. (See: The Salami Suitor Incident). I'd also been in that post-grad, under-employed funk. What use was spending four years of my life studying, thousands of dollars on books and lectures and projects? Was I still, after all that, useless? Maybe Nebraska Mom moonlighted as a political commentator; she sure was good at stringing together untrue statements to destroy my self-worth.

Suddenly, everything sucked. I was useless; this job was un-fun, people were mean, my friends were probably signing acting contracts while riding on giraffes in a private zoo somewhere. Why was I even in LA? What was I even doing with my life? Oh no, existential crisis meltdown on a Monday in the office. Since a kitchen staffer and a delivery driver sat only two cubicles away, just hanging out, I sprinted to the bathroom, locked the door, and kept reactivating the motion-sensor faucet so they couldn't hear me crying. So cool and subtle.

I pulled myself together. After all, I only had an hour and a half left and then I could join my friends in all their fun and revelry. This is always the part in the ABC Family small-town-girl-in-the-big-city movies where something REALLY GOOD happens to restore the girl's hopes and spark her creativity for that one cool project that will get her noticed by her boss AND score the love of her life. I was ready! I was excited! I was...

I was all alone in the office.

Sometime in my sob-spectacular the two remaining guys had left for the day. This usually isn't too abnormal; but as it was a holiday, every one next door (management, hr, fancy not-customer-service staff) had left as well. And someone had turned out the lights in the hallway, casting an eery haze from the frosted windows at the front of the office. Creeeepy.

Adding to the creep factor is the location of this office. Awesome Bakery HQ sat in a rather... unsavory section of Los Angeles, directly across from a strip club and next to a motorcycle shop. Not a place that normal families, celebrating their fabulous Labor Day, would casually stroll past.

But the dead silence and lack of accountability meant I could screw around on the internet uninterrupted. Hello, reddit. All's well that ends well, right? I was getting paid to do nothing after being abused by some Midwestern monster-lady. I could handle this -


My first phone call in thirty minutes jolted me out of my not-doing-anything haze. Surely this person will be nicer. Surely this person won't swear at me.

In retrospect, I kind of wished they'd dropped a couple F words and just slammed the phone down.

"Thank you for calling Awesome Bakery, this is R. Grace, how may I help you?" Sooo cheery. Suuuch a good employee. The caller ID was blocked, but this is pretty common in LA. Lots of celebs who want their sugary treats without their personal information for some call center drone to gawk at.

"Oh wow. You sound really pretty. Are you at the Beverly Hills location?" AWWW. A compliment! This must be the universe sorting itself out; someone really lovely to make up for that awful lady. We get all the Bev Hills store calls directly routed to us, so we usually just say we are that location.

"Oh yes, this is Beverly Hills. What can I get started-"
"No. I mean it. You sound really, really pretty." Okay, getting a little weird. Uncomfortable pause. Uncomfortable laugh. Let's get this order back on track. LA guys are just super weird sometimes, right?
"Heh heh thanks, now may I get a name for this order?"

The voice changed from just a regular inquisitive dude to something dark and slimy.

"No. I mean it. You sound really pretty. Where are you? I'm going to find you." Breathing.

I hung up the phone immediately and it started ringing again from a blocked number. I would just call my boss on my... dead cell phone. Oh. Crap.

I was alone, in a huge dark office building, with no one nearby, no phone, and no weapons (I knew I should have tucked my crossbow in my purse that morning.) The only person on our office IM chat was the IT guy, who was working on an in-store issue about an hour away. After my frantic messages (Help / creepy stalker / phone is dead / I'm scared / I don't want to die at a bakery / I don't want to die ever / need weapons / help / all alone / gonna die) he offered to swing by the office on his way home... while I sat alone for the next hour and a half. He found my supervisor's cell-phone number and said I could call the Sup, but maybe I should just like... leave?

I was torn. Yes, I wanted to immediately get the hell out of there. But I also REALLY needed this job. Leaving without doing the necessary shut-down, security checks (basically, poking into dark corners in the office. Alone. Cool.) was grounds for a major punishment, if not dismissal. I needed confirmation from someone else, who could be held responsible instead if the higher-ups freaked out.

I called my Sup and the conversation went something like this:

"Hello? R. Grace? How's it going? I'm at this great BBQ right now so I'm gonna -"
"IM GONNA DIE / creepy stalker / creepy phone call / creepy creepy / thought I was in Beverly Hills / dead cellphone / gonna be a dead R. Grace / no weapons / shoulda brought my crossbow."
"Ohhh yeah... we get calls like that sometime. You're probably fine."


"I am ALONE / no weapons / no phone / phone kept ringing / nope nope nope"
"I mean if you don't feel safe, maybe hold on to a pair of scissors? Or... a stapler?"


"Eh, you can go home if you want. It's probably pretty slow now that all the Labor Day festivities are starting to die down."


Not only was the Sup utterly nonchalant about pervs calling, but his advice if I got attacked was... whack them with office supplies? Like have you never watched a crime show? Scissors vs. a blunt object to the head and duct tape didn't sound like the odds were in my favor. And my aim (besides with a crossbow) is laughable - had I tried to chuck a stapler at an approaching murderer's head, I probably would knock myself out in the process, making his job EASIER. Also. I could have gone home if wanted? At any time? All the BBQ and giraffee-jousting and fire-dancing I could have participated in! My heart.

I shut off my computer and the lights as the phone rang again. Nope nope incredible nope. I grabbed BOTH the scissors and a stapler, because I was not going down without a fight. Not only did I not want to die in a bakery's corporate office, but I didn't want to prove Dr. Dad right, in that LA is super dangerous and scary and full of people that want to kill you. I could picture Dr. Dad putting a little slip of paper in my coffin, with his awful doctor handwriting: "I told you so." And then I would be stuck with that for all eternity.

I propped the building door open with my foot and scanned the perimeter. Looked normal, besides the extra rowdy celebrations of the motorcycle shop next door. If I got jumped, would they even hear me over the engine-revving and loud cheers? I hastily set the building alarm.


Incorrect. In my jitteriness, my brain skittered all over the place, making a few-digit code as complex as the hieroglyphs. Was there a seven in there somewhere? Maybe after the head of Osiris? I had two more tries before I set off the alarm (which I have done before. Ear-splitting shrieks. Flashing lights. The perfect distraction to snatch up a frightened employee and carry her to your evil lair.) Just as a decided to make a run for it, bakery be damned, I landed on the correct code.

I darted outside and jerkily paced the parking lot. No one behind the fence. No one under my car. No one around the industrial freezer. The door had four locks, and after each one I scanned the background again. Nothing. All was clear. I checked under my car for those people that crawl under and slice your Achilles tendons - no one. I check the backseat for a hiding-in-plain-sight strangler. Nothing. No one. I flung myself into my car and flew out of the parking lot... all the way to Wendy's on Sunset Blvd for chili cheese fries.

What? The threat of being murdered makes a girl hungry. Also, not like I needed to look sooo hot in a bathing suit, as most everyone was done with their holiday celebrations. I started ugly-crying while eating my fries, so stressed out and icked out and prickly uncomfortable. I realized it was pretty hard to drive while eating fries with one hand and clutching a stapler in a death-grip in the other... so I put the stapler down so I could two-hand-attack the fries. Ahhh. Beautiful greasy stress relief.

I quit shortly thereafter and vowed to never eat baked goods again. That lasted maybe a week. But there is still a stapler that sits in my glove compartment... just in case.

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