Punching the Clock: Many happy returns

When I was student teaching during my senior year of college, someone gave me a necktie for Christmas, since a big boy job calls for big boy clothes. It was a tacky blue tie, with conspicuous traces of yellow and pink; and the unavoidable pattern of Sponge Bob Square Pants from top to bottom. Given, it was a nice sentiment, but it was a horrible tie. I exchanged it two days later.

No time during the year is the exchange counter of any department store busier than the days that follow Christmas. Who hasn’t received a Christmas gift that was the wrong size, wrong shape, wrong color; or just something they already have, or that they just didn’t want, like a Sponge Bob necktie? In come the people who man the exchange counter at department stores all over, like those at McLaughlin’s Department Store in Norwich. For a few hours on a snowy Saturday, I joined the ranks of the 22 employees at McLaughlin’s, taking returns and cashing out customers with the personable manner seen only in a genuine department store stock clerk.

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