I’m not that interested in striking-up conversations with the people who serve me in shops, pubs, restaurants etc. That’s not to say that I never do, but on balance it’s not really my thing. Maybe it’s what the Americans call “British reserve”, but I doubt it. I’m just not that interested in what the bloke behind the bar is doing on his day off tomorrow, unless he’s planning to go mental with an assortment of automatic weapons down at the local shopping centre. That would definitely get my attention and I’d probably enquire as to whether he was planning his spree in the morning or afternoon. Just out of interest. Generally speaking, though, I like to stick to the transaction at hand and pretty much leave it at that. A small exchange of the most basic pleasantries and I’m on my way. I bought a bag of crisps from you, that’s all. I don’t want to know about what you did in your “gap year”. Trust me on that.
In truth though, the talkative, slightly over-enthusiastic shop assistant/barman/waitress isn’t that common a species, at least in my experience. But they do have a much more common relation, in the same way that the termite has the cockroach in his family tree. I refer, of course, to the rude, arrogant, pig ignorant, dumb, brain-dead husks that inhabit so many of our retail establishments, allegedly in order to “assist” customers. Porcus stultus, to give them their Latin name. They give you the impression that it’s you who is receiving the huge favour from them, simply by way of their mere presence. They speak, if they speak at all, only to their work colleagues. “Thank you”, “Thanks”, “Hello”, “Goodbye” or “Cheers” aren’t in the lexicon. You’ve already distracted them from their conversation with their work colleague about last night’s X Factor, don’t push your luck by expecting any kind of acknowledgment.
I don’t want or expect, as I hope I’ve made clear, anything more than some basics. Perhaps “Hello” to start, followed by “£8.45 please”, then maybe “Thanks” when I hand over the cash and perhaps another “Thanks” when they give me my change. A few words, perhaps in something quite closely-related to English, is all I want. If I’m asking for the world, I apologise. Oh, and some eye contact is also generally regarded as both socially acceptable and desirable in Western culture. That’s pretty much all I want.
Recently, at a local railway station, I bought a newspaper over the counter of the coffee bar and the entire transaction was conducted in silence, except for my own “Thanks” as I handed over the money. Only when I walked away from the counter did it hit me that the assistant hadn’t uttered a single word. How rude is that? A similar experience took place when I purchased some wine at a local convenience store, though I think on that occasion the cost of the wine may have been whispered in my general direction, but it was very difficult to tell. Perhaps even more annoying is the conversation that is going on behind the counter as you approach, which under no circumstances can be suspended for ten seconds whilst a customer is served. Having said that, if you have the intellectual capacity of a goldfish, halting a conversation for that period of time might mean that you’ll forget what you were talking about. Which would be disastrous, of course.
OK, so having identified the problem, what is the solution? Well, it’s just two words. And they are “walk” and “away”. Yep. Walk away.
Now, for maximum annoyance to be felt by the knobhead behind the counter, this has to be timed accurately. The precise time is, I reckon, just after the item has been scanned, or an amount entered into the till, especially if (in a pub) the pint has already been poured. This is the perfect time to retaliate, to act on that feeling of outrage bubbling-up inside, to silently scream “I am not a number, I am a customer who is taking their business elsewhere because you are a rude, arrogant twat”. And walk away. They will hate it, especially if they haven’t been trained on what to do when this happens. They probably have, but they’ve forgotten, because they were texting when they were being shown. So tough shit, treat me like dirt and I’ll respond in kind. Quid pro quo. If they challenge you regarding your behaviour, perhaps even pursue you after you’ve walked out of the door, then give them some of their own medicine. Say nothing and stare blankly at them. They’ll almost certainly think you’re nuts, and will decide to leave well alone before hurrying back to a riveting conversation about “EastEnders” or some similarly uplifting programme.
If you are with me on this, please consider joining CATPISS. Membership is free but is restricted only to those who are prepared to “walk away” from any establishment which treats them like shit. You owe it to yourself.
And, perhaps more importantly, you certainly owe it to them.