The Red Phone

The Red Phone. You’ve seen it in movies. The red phone on the President’s desk — a direct connection to the leader of the Soviet Union. (Old movies, yes.) It’s there to prevent the End of the World. A last “Is this the only way?” query before we all go up in smoke.

Obviously someone decided to use that same concept for retail service because my grocery store has a red phone.

I spotted it at the end of an aisle just before I collapsed from circling the store looking for one item: baked pita chips. How hard can it be to find baked pita chips? Harder for some of us than others. I could not find them.

They weren’t on the chip-cracker aisle. They weren’t on the end of any of the aisles, where the management hides spotlights some of their items and I checked both ends of each aisle, more than once.

I can’t find the baked pita chips, but somehow I manage to find the phone (by accident, of course).

“Need help finding an item? Pick up the phone.” That’s what the sign says.

I look at the phone warily, wondering if it was a trick. I decide to chance it, I am that desperate.

I pick up the phone. It rings. Someone answers the phone.

“Bookkeeping,” a woman says, on the other end of my going-to-save-the-day red phone.

I am stunned into silence. My emotions change from excitement to disappointment in a flash. I may not know where the baked pita chips are, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t in the bookkeeping department.

“Bookkeeping,” the woman repeats.

“I’m, ah, at the red phone,” I start to explain. I mention my search for baked pita chips and my discovery of the red phone.

“Just a minute,” she says and I can hear her put the phone down.

I look up, wondering if the store’s offices are on a second-story level with one-way windows. I’m wondering if the bookkeeping office personnel are gathered at the window, looking down to see who is calling them about chips.

A new voice is on the phone. “May I help you?” I repeat my explanation. Baked pita chips. Red phone.

“They are in the deli.”

Wow! These bookkeeping people really know their stuff. In the deli? I thank the person and head on over to the deli. Sure enough, there they are, looking as if they had been there all along (which they probably had been).

I decide to make a note of which aisle that red phone was on. After picking up my chips (thank you, thank you, thank you), I look back. But all I see is a glimmer as the aisle disappears. Alas, it’s Brigadoon all over again.

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