Have you ever noticed that there are nine or ten registers at any given Duane Reade? I have often wondered about that. I think of the designers of these stores. The dreams they must have had. The ambition.
I think of the higher-ups at the Duane Reade corporation (and for that matter the Eckerd, Rite Aid and Walgreens). They were in little rooms once. Empty styrofoam coffee cups strewn about, tired men with their sleeves rolled up and their ties loose. Nervous, contracted architects would come and go…giving their suggestions…
“Well, you’ll probably only need one or two cash registers.”
“OUT!”, the executives would say. “NEVER! 10! 12! 20 check out girls!”
As the shamed architect gathers up his papers he might mumble “But you probably won’t hire that many girls”
“Not hire that many girls??? We will hire 15 girls a shift! 12 to man the registers and 3 on the bench.”
They would chain smoke cigarettes and stay up until 5 in the morning. “We will bring the public their shampoos and enemas! We will give them their Entemann’s, greeting cards, and nail polish! We will not stand for anything less than a 6 second wait time! We owe this to our public, to our city, to our society, and our freedom!”
Promises would be made, doctrines would be printed, and libidos would be enlarged. Finally, when the room is quieted by exhaustion and the hopelessness of ever finding a visionary, the door would open. A fresh, young architect would enter, roll out his blueprints and say quietly…“Yeah, I guess you could fit 9 registers if you moved the front supporting post 4 1/2 feet to the left.”
I wonder if any of those men are still around, and have been in a Duane Reade recently. I hope not. Because their hearts would break. I hope they never see the line of 12 people behind the 8 silent cash machines. Now there is just one teenager calmly serving unruly patrons who demand that their coupon for Herbal Essences products applies to the entire line and not just the hairspray. This employee is health-care starved, disgruntled and disgusted at you for taking time away from her Sidekick.
What happened to the vision? Where is the perfected idea? Maybe it still lives within us.
I implore all of you! The next time you are impatiently standing in line with your razors, take a deep breath. Look over at those empty cash registers and see the dream of our corporate forefathers. Keep the vision alive and tell your children. Tell your congressman. Maybe one day those registers will be alive and thriving. And our offspring won’t have to suffer the humiliation of waiting 22 minutes to buy condoms for that drunk girl from Rhode Island who will eventually lose interest and go home in a cab.