The scales of compassion, the burden of thanks

This is a weighty topic and merits our full-scale attention. I think there is a moral. It happened that the movers lost our bathroom scales when we came from Rhapsody Home to Paragon Plaza in search of better senior-citizen board and room. I believe it next to impossible to lose a bathroom scale unless you set out to do it on purpose. I'm sure if you walked away and left one on a park bench you wouldn't go 10 feet before somebody would say, "Hey, mister - you forgot your scales!"

But movers can lose anything, and I know this is so because everybody says the same thing about movers. So we needed new bathroom scales, and I applied myself to the local outlet of Wal-Mart, a conglomerate of which the local store in Rockland, Maine, seems to be No. 1,797.

I used the telephone, and to the female voice that responded, I said, "Do you offer bathroom scales?"

The reply, in Glen Cove eloquence, was, "Eyeh, we sure do!"

And I said, "I'll send right over."

In the idleness of our elderly circumstances, we depend on friends for certain errands, and I asked Robert, the Humble Farmer, if he'd go to Wal-Mart and pick me up some scales.

Robert said, "I've often wondered if scales is singular or plural."

I said, "They is."

So Robert did, and he brought us a scale or some scales, and he said Wal-Mart had it - or them - from $6 to $40. He got the digital kind that have a battery and light up so you can weigh yourself in the dark.

This appealed to me as a sporty midnight lark, and I could hardly weight (ha-ha) for the sun to set. But when I did weigh myself on the new scales, I weighed six pounds.

In this way, the fun began.

The Wal-Mart store (No. 1,797) was patient with me, and every time I took or sent back a scale or scales that didn't work, the clerk or clerks cheerfully exchanged and gave me one or some that would.

I will not enumerate, but our friends kept going back to exchange and then bring others. At last we had weighed everybody and everything, and those that didn't weigh six pounds weighed l75. My wife weighed herself and she weighed l75 and she was delighted. But the scale was stuck, and I weighed l75 and a pound of weenies from the deli also weighed l75.

Somewhere in that vicinity I telephoned again to Wal-Mart and asked, "Please, haven't you somebody there who can help me?"

In this manner, I became acquainted with Mr. John Hannigan, the assistant manager of Wal-Mart Store No. 1,797. When I recited some of the hilarity, he said, on the phone, "Hold fast, I'm on the way."

I, no doubt like you, can remember storekeepers such as our Mr. Magoun, who would step from behind his counter when I came in on an errand for my mother. He would shake my 10-year-old hand warmly and say, "What a pleasure to have you in my store, Mr. Gould! What can I do to make you happy?"

In this new and different computerized world of personal obliteration, I hardly expected to be reminded of Mr. Magoun by Wal-Mart No. 1,797. Yet here was Assistant Manager Hannigan bringing me a bathroom scale, and he said, "You have carpets! None of the digitals work on a carpet."

I didn't know that. So I said, "Nobody informed me to that effect until now, and I believe this is a good thing to know."

And thus the matter was resolved, and I was so happy with Mr. Hannigan's eagerness to please a customer that I decided to telephone Mr. Wal-Mart and say so.

Since the computer age of the multiconglomerate settled in, there aren't too many people to talk to. I'm satisfied there is no possible way for me to reach anybody in the vast Wal-Mart superworld to hear me say that John Hannigan deserves a pat on the back for being a human being.

I asked Mr. Hannigan if he would mind my making this kindness, something I considered decent and pleasant. He said he thought it would be very nice and I should dial 1-800-WALMART. Which I did.

I got the insolent tape now prevalent that tells me to push 1, push 2, and so on, which I promptly disconnect as discourteous and arrogant.

Before I disconnected, the tape began telling me how to fill out a form so I could win something. Why do these outfits tell me what I have to do? Why must I do anything? I'm a customer, remember? I'm the poor joker with money to spend. Why not be kind to me?

So I diconnected and tried again. And I reached the office of a Mr. Curran, who is manager of something and has a secretary named Nancy. Nancy was affable and cordial, but seemed bewildered that I wanted to compliment somebody. To whom did I wish to speak about whom?

I stated my purpose and said I had reference to the unexpected kindness of Mr. Hannigan, who had gone out of his way to be helpful.

Nancy said she would see what she could do, and I would hear from somebody. It has been long enough and I have heard from nobody.

Wal-Mart has erected a computerized wall which a thank-you and a compliment can neither climb nor penetrate. This is accepted business practice today, and you sure better like it! I don't. Sorry, Mr. Hannigan; I tried.

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