I won’t be surprised if, on my way to the loo, one of the animals doesn’t try to interest me in buying some slightly used plastic chew toys.
Everywhere one goes to conduct some sort of business, there is an invitation to buy something, buy more. Some random samplings from my life:
As I walked into the local bank branch, a nice young man opened the door for me, greeted me, then asked if he could interest me in an IRA or Investment Planning? Not today, I just want a crisp bill to put in a birthday card. “Well let us know when you’re ready!” Sure. Sure, I will do that. Absolutely.
Grocery shopping tests both my healthy eating resolve and my patience; when I’m not running demolition derby through the aisles of the local Kroger, dodging both “Click-It” shoppers with their unwieldy carts full of other’s shopping or, worse, the shelf stockers, since no one pays employees to work graveyard and stock shelves overnight, it’s the sample people crying out from the end of every aisle, and even when I’m hungry I can’t take the samples and then not buy the product, right? Isn’t that like using the loo at McDonald’s and not buying at least a soda?
Speaking of McDonald’s, after running errands all morning hunger strikes and I drive through for a quarter pounder, because their adds say it’s fresh beef cooked to order lately. I order it and nothing else, since apparently two orders of fries per week will kill us and I’m already over-limit. I don’t drink sodas and hate sweet tea so no, I tell the speaker, I do not wish to make it a combo. Yes, I answer the unbelieving voice, I want only the sandwich. “Ok; $4.69 at the first window.” I can almost hear the shake of his head.
Yesterday, I’m at the car dealership to get routine service on Paul’s car. “Wow, that’s some hail damage you have there!” This is said as if to draw my attention to the dozens of golf-ball-like dents covering the top and hood of the car, like I didn’t know they were there. Resisting the temptation to feign surprise, as though I and everyone else in North Central Texas didn’t wake from a dead sleep six weeks ago to ice bouncing off rooves, cars, patio furniture and fences, and am shocked – shocked! to find hail damage on my car, because all I want to do is check the beast in, take my place in the Customer Lounge and disappear behind my fresh New Yorker, I instead go for politeness infused with finality: “Yes, I know. My husband is looking into it,” I tell him, with a longing glance toward the Customer Lounge.
It’s as though I haven’t spoken. “Let me give you the card for the guy who does all our work – he did my car. That’s all he does – body work, and particularly hail damage….” he goes on at some length about the quality of the work done by this apparent god of auto body work. I glance again at the Customer Lounge – so near, and yet so far, but the lure of a spiff and an obvious lack of talent for reading visual cues propels him on until I give him my cell phone number so he can text me the information. At last I make my escape and, finding the seat furthest from the TV and human contact, I sink behind my magazine.
Paul tells me perhaps the finality I’m infusing my voice with, isn’t final enough or nearly as final as I think it is. Having been told (quite literally) my entire life to “Watch your tone young lady!” and, “Well, maybe you didn’t intend it to sound mean but it really kinda did….” and, “Your voice is just such that you are always going to have to watch your tone with customers…” and, “You sound sarcastic even when you don’t intend to” I find it hard to believe that, when I actually do intend to verbally drive another human away, they don’t get it.
But I guess they don’t, or the need to make a sales supersedes even an obvious display of customer disinterest. The most recent, maddening example was when we were looking for bedroom furniture. We walked into a nice furniture store TO LOOK. We were not planning to buy, merely to get ideas about what we liked and didn’t like. The only certainty was the need for a king-sized bed, as the queen is just not enough for man, woman, dog, and cat.
As the soles of our shoes made contact with the tile of the store floor, hidden sensors detected us and deployed a sales woman, who manifested before us cheerfully asking, “What can I help you with today?!”
“We’re just looking, Thank You.” This is me, believing I am troweling on Finality. I am hungry. Truth be told, I am hangry, and I just want to walk through this place, get a gander, then go to lunch. We’re not buying. For the love of God and all things holy, please just let us walk through unmolested. My silent prayer goes unanswered.
Paul tells me weeks later, “I don’t think you sound quite as final as you think you do…” and the sales woman, because she’s been trained to never take no for an answer says, “If you’ll tell me what you’re interested in, I can take you to the right place! Maybe save you time!”
Ooohhh, she’s good. She has offered an argument I can only defeat with absolute, pointed rudeness and, while I am unknowingly rude and thoughtless all of the time, I was raised to never, on pain of eternal damnation, be meaningfully rude to another human being, even if he or she truly deserves and desperately needs it. So because we know we like Mission style furniture, I say, “We like Mission and Arts & Crafts styles. Do you have any Arts & Crafts or Mission headboards?”
“Well…” and she begins leading us, winding through the furniture and finally to a couple of bedroom sets that might once have winked at a true Mission style headboard, “…. these are similar in style…” and now she has pissed me off because she’s made the colossal mistake of looking at my thrown-together attire, wild hair, and lack of make-up and assessed me as not knowing what a Mission style headboard actually looks like. She’s probably only wasting her time with us because Paul looks like an 800 credit score.
“None of this is Mission,” I tell her, turning on my heel. But she’s not a new salesperson, oh no, so she tries one last gambit, “We do make one but don’t have one in stock here right now.” She’s walking while she talks, leading us to a giant computer monitor. “Let me just bring it up…” she begins tapping away and I am done. Done, fini, finito, final, donedonedone. Confident I had bucket-loads of finality in my voice I said, “I am not buying something from a computer image,” the biggest lie I’ve ever told, when rarely a week goes by I don’t buy something online, from cosmetics to hot bean paste and everything in between.
The look on her face tells me I’ve made contact and she relents. She stammers out something about not having everything they make displayed at every store but I’m already walking off in high dudgeon, hating myself a little more with every step, but grateful that every step was bringing me closer to lunch…
… Where I was asked, “Would you like to combo that for only $1.39? You get fries and a drink when you up-size to a combo…”
Sure. Make it a combo-double-heart-attack. Bring it on. I surrender.