We do not gift wrap at work. We used to. It took up a lot of time and we got no thanks for it. Busy day? Big queue? Person in front asks for giftwrapping and assistant soon gets permanently ravelled up in sticky tape and logo spattered paper? Not great for blood pressure or queue movement.
It's a relatively quiet day, back when our customer order pick-up point was across the floor from the counter.
A sweet looking old lady approaches me at the counter. She buys books. "Do you gift wrap?" she asks.
"No," and this was back before I learnt certain truths about customers, one of which is: the more you tell them about something, the more room they have for
She looked over her shoulder at the non-existent queue. "Well, I have paper with me. Surely you wouldn't mind, just this once?"
For sure, she had a good point. What was the harm?
I took her over to the custord (yes, the contraction is amusingly like custard. How we laughed) counter. There was a lot more space over there, and I placed the book in the enormous sheet of wrap she had brought with her.
There is a truth, universally acknowledged in any shop, any where, that any pair of scissors you can actually lay your hands on will be woefully blunt. Small children could poke them into any orifice, and fail to cause consternation.
(Of course, were they sharp enough to use for anything whatsoever, a colleague would have stolen them.)
I picked up the only pair to hand and attempted to cut the paper. Tearing and frustration ensued.
"Never mind!" quoth the old lady, "I have THIS!"
She then, and kid you I do not, produced (with a flourish worthy of Errol Flynn), out of her Mary Poppins handbag, the longest carving knife I have ever seen. It fair made the air chime as she brandished it: "Kssshinggg!"
I stared. I goggled. My mouth went dry and fell open unattractively.
"I wasn't sure if I could find someone to wrap the books, so I brought this along in case. I have sellotape, too."
Srsly, what was she going to do? settle on a convenient bench outside to begin operations? A bus? There'd have been a SWAT team surrounding her in seconds.
Honestly, it was too surreal for words. Dumbly, I took the knife and produced a fine wrapping edge. Never was a book so mathematically presented, of this I am sure.
(A knife, it transpires, is excellent for this job - it beat scissors hands down.)
Eventually, I regained my senses, and pointed out to her that legally, she really shouldn't have anything like that in her handbag. "If the police stopped you, you'd be in trouble."
She looked at me like I was the crazy one, and said, "And why would the police stop me?"
Um - for brandishing a carving knife in a public place? IDK, tell it to the judge, lady.