Sunday, February 03, 2008

In Which I am a Total Nimrod

I just got back from the grocery store, which was mistake number one. Groceries? On Superbowl Sunday? Moronic. That, however, was not the incident befitting the title above. Instead, my nimrod-ocity (nimrod-icity?) stems from my interactions with the meat counter girl, and my mouth which moves so much faster than my brain.

I should preface this by saying that one of the things I can't deal with in the East is the conversation with service people. Or perhaps I should say, lack thereof. At home, it's a given that you make some sort of chatty small talk with the person ringing your groceries, steaming your latte, checking your bank balance, roto-ing your rooter. It's just good manners, just as it's a given that those same people can carry on that conversation and do their jobs simultaneously. I've always thought that this is a social compact that ackowledges that their jobs suck, but that the consumer recognizes them as individuals, not mindless drones. This compact, however, is entirely missing out here. Either my attempts at conversation are totally rebuffed, or the person looks at me like I'm nuts, or they stop what they're doing to respond to me (quite possibly the worst response, in my book). Despite having experienced these reactions over and over again, it's such a habit that I find myself doing it all the time.

That said, I was at the deli counter, asking for some turkey and this gross bologna that Senor Fluff loves (and will probably put him into an early grave). The young woman working there seemed friendly enough, and so when she and I both strained to pass the pressed meat from hand to hand, I said: "they just don't make these counters for short people, do they? The should put a step here." She looked at me quizzically, and I remembered that I was not anywhere near my geographical tribesmen, and I smiled and pushed my cart toward the bread aisle. As I walked away, I heard her co-worker ask "how short are you?"

Mortification. Clearly, she thought I was talking about her! That I had, in essence, called her short. That I suggested that they get her a step so that she could make life easier on the shoppers! Oh lord, I'm the most insensitive person ever. I'm one of those old-ladies-in-training who say things like "you look nice in that picture, but I can see your cellulite," and then defend their statements with "but it's true!!" She's back there at the counter alternately steaming (as I would be) and feeling bad about herself (as I would also be) and her co-worker thinks I'm a total bitch. I am a total bitch!

That's the tape that ran through my head as I finished my shopping. So I grabbed the rest of my groceries (which included climbing the freezer shelves to get the last box of frozen okra---because I was too short to reach it, thank you irony, you bitch goddess), I checked out, packed everything in the car, and then went back to apologize to her. This is where the Superbowl Sunday part kicks in, because apparently everyone needs cold cuts to watch grown men beat the crap out of each other, and thus I had to wait in line, while the co-worker gave me the hairy eyeball and the young woman in question apparently studiously avoided me.

When my turn finally came, I very sheepishly told her that I wanted to apologize to her. And she looked at me like I'd grown a third head. "Or maybe I'm just making it worse!! Earlier I was afraid that I had offended you and I was actually talking about me and I just felt horrible and was afraid that I'd made you feel bad but maybe you didn't even think twice about it and so all of this is just a moot point!" (Not that I babble, you understand.) "Oh," she says, and blushes. "I wasn't offended, but thank you for apologizing." "Great!" says I. "Have a good weekend!" There's me, running out of the store.

I wish that I could blame my utter and complete dipshitty-ness on staying out late for Dr. Marxy's excellent, 80's fueled birthday celebration, but I don't think I can. I think it's just the dorkiness that is me: constantly thinking that I've devastated someone when they don't give my weirdness a second thought. Which puts me in a bit of a bind: I could just adopt that as an operating principle, in which I always assume that no one cares. But then what if someone actually does, and I don't apologize, which is clearly my first instinct, and then they think I'm an ass?

This is the kind of crap that keeps me up at night. But that deli-counter girl? I bet she sleeps like a baby.



Anonymous New Kid on the Hallway said...

Okay, I have to laugh, because I grew up with silent service-people, and when I moved to other places and they actually started to CHAT with me, my reaction was always, what are they doing? what do they want? are they psychokillers? I'm still not good with the social chitchat.

Sunday, February 03, 2008 2:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

see, that crap keeps me up too. man. i don't know where i got my chattiness from, as i have only been on both coasts, but on christmas day, we were at the hospital clinic and i was waiting for my dad to finish getting his blood drawn, and started talking to the lady behind the counter who checks you in. i was literally the only one there. after what i thought was a nice conversation, she told me i could have a seat if i wanted. as in, stop talking to me you weird freak. it took me a minute more of chitchat before my brain processed that as "shut up" versus, "come in, sit down, stay a while". ok, enough rambling.

Sunday, February 03, 2008 6:09:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

NK---oooh, that makes me feel so much better!! Weirdly. I suppose because I'm not the only one who has a hard time with the social interactions, even if you and I have opposite problems?

JM---my counter lady and your counter lady are going to get together and compare stories. Or maybe not, since they're not the chatty type.

Sunday, February 03, 2008 8:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

This is how I knew Texas had gotten to me--when I went home to MA one Christmas and started chatting merrily away to the checker at the supermarket, who of course looked at me like I had 18 heads. Code-switching, man.

Sunday, February 10, 2008 7:03:00 PM  
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