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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

June 18, 2013

Master Class in Acting

By Elizabeth Creith


Hard as it might be to believe, I had a life before the pet trade, and I’m still trying to have a life outside of it. I can do other things, you know, besides shovel out ferret cages, catch neon tetras and stock dog food.

For one thing, I have developed incredible acting skills. Those of you in the pet trade know what I mean, because you’ve developed them, too. Believe me, the whole Barrymore family together has nothing on us pet store people.

Master Class in Acting
Sometimes customers make me want to scream. iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Let me explain what I mean. We’re a seven-days-a-week operation, and by the time we close up in the evening and shovel dinner into our faces, we’re too tired for whatever nightlife might be available in Sault Ste. Marie on a Wednesday--or a Saturday for that matter.

The pet store seems to be in the car with us, at the dinner table with us, in bed with us. I’m sure that if David ever took me dancing (always supposing there’s somewhere to do that with music we can dance to, because we’re incredibly old and don’t do raves), the pet store would sidle up during a slow dance and say, "Mind if I cut in?”

There’s a lot of no-big-city space between us and Thunder Bay, an eight-hour drive north, so we have a lot of customers from Wawa, only two hours north. They come down to the Sault to stock up on crickets and mice and dog food and whatever. Inevitably, someone will say to us, "You know, this is such a great pet store. We have nothing like this in Wawa. You should open a second store there!”

This is a master class in acting that you don’t get on Broadway or in Los Angeles, because what I want to do is this:

  1. Scream. And I mean a good, solid scream that would make Jamie Lee Curtis take notes.
  2. Lunge over the counter and grab the about-to-be-ex-customer by the throat, and
  3. Yell, "Are you absolutely nuts!? I hardly have a social life as it is! Wawa doesn’t even have a Tim Horton’s! I’d have to live there! I’d never get out--even hitchhikers can’t get out of Wawa! I’d never, ever see my husband again! What are you thinking?!”

What I do instead is smile--that close-lipped smile that tells them, "This is a facial expression intended to hide what I’m really thinking.” I hand them their crickets and change and say, "Well, that’s certainly an idea for sometime later on.” (Yeah, like when Satan has his own NHL team.) Eat your heart out, Sir Laurence Olivier. Compared to that, "Hamlet” is a piece of cake.

There are a couple of reasons I can’t do what I’d really like to do. For starters, it’s bad for business. Anyway, it’s not all true: Wawa finally got a Tim Horton’s a few years back. The part about the hitchhikers is true; Wawa is world-infamous as a place you can’t thumb down a lift. Still, with the Tim’s, they have somewhere to hang out for the rest of their lives.

The other reason is that there are repercussions for strangling people, even people who make a suggestion that would ruin whatever was left of my life. I’d probably go to prison for it, although even that isn’t guaranteed, if the jury was made up of pet store owners.

I bet the prison doesn’t have a Tim Horton’s, either. On the upside, I’d get visiting hours with my husband, maybe even conjugal visits, if he could get away from the pet store.

And at least I wouldn't have to live in Wawa.

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