Last night, as I was cleaning up the mess made by a tornado of customers looking for Christmas gifts, I had to skirt one corner of the store where a man was sitting with a gigantic pile of books. This man was not a customer, he never buys anything in the store. He uses us as a library, and if we dare to question that, he complains to management. He knows we can't stop him from what he wants to do, so he builds a pile of books 40 deep and sits there among them until 1 minute before closing, then saunters out.
As a co-worker and I attacked his pawed-over pile, I remarked, “There's a place in hell for people like that.” She laughed. She works in the cafe, and has her own brand of monsters-pretending-to-be-customers to deal with. In the cafe, people sit down with magazines and books they haven't paid for (and spill coffee on them). They conduct loud, obnoxious phone conversations, eat most of the food they ordered and then demand a refund because it wasn't prepared to their satisfaction, steal tips out of the jar when the barista's back is turned, reach over the counter and grab pastries under the same circumstances – the list goes on and on.
My husband seems to attract a particular type of monster where he works. He calls them Little Old Ladies From Hell. They are the ones who want to tell you their whole life stories while you try to help them find books that are no longer in print. They stand in front of a long line of people and count the money out in dimes, nickels, pennies – then just as they're about to leave, remember that they haven't used their frequent shopper's card and want to return the purchase and start all over. And isn't there a coupon? But young man, my printer doesn't work. I'm sure the coupon was for 50% off. You say this week's coupon is 30%? Oh no, I'm sure mine was 50%.
And while we're on the subject of coupons, what about the lady in the mink coat who printed out 10 copies of the coupon that specifically says 1 item, 1 per customer, and wants to do 10 separate transactions? Or the guy with the expired coupon who says, “Are you trying to tell me you can't override that and just give me the damned coupon?” Or the Little Old Lady From Hell (with her piles of pennies) who bursts into tears because she can't use the expired 40% coupon on the $2.99 sale book she wants. And you twist yourself into knots trying to help her because you assume she must be living on Social Security. And you help her out to her car (because she bought 20 sale books with 20 1-use-only coupons), expecting that she must drive some aging wreck, and you discover that she's driving a brand-new Hummer. And she clips your car as she drives away.
These are the monsters who should be bound for hell, where they will suffer for eternity for their crimes against humanity. Yet when I try to imagine their punishments, I find myself pitying the devil. Because he will strive mightily to show them the error of their ways, and they won't get it. They will thwart his rules just as skillfully as they thwart ours. No coupon he devises will phase them. He may design a corner with a chair full of spikes, in a cloud of unbearable stench, stocked with books covered in slime and feces, and the freebee-reader guy will plant himself there and read until 1-minute before hell is supposed to close.
It won't be long before the devil realizes that he shouldn't punish these folks. He should hire them. Of COURSE there's a place in hell for these monsters – they're FROM hell. No one is more talented at torment than they are. They exist to remind us that life is full of prickles. By their example, we learn how NOT to behave.
So I clean up the pile of books and put them away. I patiently work my way through 10 transactions so the rich lady can get 40% off everything. I listen to the Little Old Lady From Hell as she tells me that the out-of-print book she wants just has to be available, because every book that was ever published is still out there, and I can order it for her if I just look long enough. It's not up to me to punish these folks, or point out to them that they're rotten. I'm not getting paid very much, but I am getting paid. If my company is willing to let these folks waste their resources and time, so be it.