Carl Wernicke: I'm Really Nice
All of us have times when we are less than sociable. While I know that I am in reality a cuddly, warm human being, this doesn’t always come across to others. My mother used to call me anti-social, and my wife has deemed me a curmudgeon. But who cares what they think, right? I know the real me, and, well, modesty keeps me from being too boastful.
Still, I admit that sometimes I just can’t deal with all the sweetness and light.
For example, last week at the grocery store the cashier greeted me with typically rote blandness, “Are you having a good day?” I automatically said yes, as we are conditioned to respond, but immediately thought, “What would she say if I had said No?” But, the moment was lost.
However, serendipity played a hand, and the young man taking my groceries out repeated the same cliché’d expression of personal interest. I decided to take pity and not be too extreme, so I turned and asked, “What would you do if I had said no?” He looked startled, and after a moment’s thought replied, “I don’t know. No one ever has.”
I congratulated him for an honest answer, and felt satisfied that for a moment I had achieved a more human, and more interesting, interaction.
Meanwhile, we have all been in the Big Box home improvement stores where it has become agonizingly apparent that management has threatened workers with their jobs if they don’t cheerily engage every customer who passes with vocal range. These stores are huge, and in crossing from one side to another you cross paths with a multitude of employees, all wanting to know how you are, how your days is, etc.
My wife has grown tired of me telling her that I’m not interested in having a personal relationship with every employee in the store, but I’m not.
What’s more irritating, however, is that after having to engage every employee who passes as I meander down the main aisles, when I reach the aisle where, hopefully, the item I need is hidden within the massive display of merchandise, I find myself totally isolated. No matter how long I peer intently into the maze, or how bewildered I appear, seldom does one of these attentive employees show. Usually I have to go look for one who is, no doubt, busily engaged in offering chirpy greetings to passing customers.
Yes, I know the smiley face is the new world emblem, and I know most people really do want me to have a nice day. And I realize that it is self-centered of me to desire that everyone should know exactly when I desire to be engaged, and when they should back off.
Still, in my defense, the entire retail world claims to have made it the single purpose of its existence to serve me and provide me with exactly what I want, when I want it.
Is it really selfish, then, for me to expect it to actually deliver?
OK, enough of this screed. I just hope my wife isn’t listening today so I don’t have to go home and hear again what a curmudgeon I am. Some people just don’t get it, you know?