I’m steadily chipping away at my 30 Awkward and Uncomfortable Things to do Before Turning 30 list.
One of the easiest (or so it would seem) items on my list is #19: Have real conversations with cashiers. I just can’t remember to do this. Every time I leave a store after not chatting up the cashier, I figuratively kick myself for my hurried forgetfulness. How hard is it to ask someone about their day, anyway?
The one time I made a real, honest, and true effort to abide by my rule, it completely backfired.
I was picking up a prescription at Costco and I was blessedly alone. There was no little 4-year-old begging for a piece of candy or loudly sounding out words seen near the pharmacy. (“Duh – pennn – ddzz… Depends! What’s Depends Mom? Mom? What’s Depends?”)
So I was in a fabulous mood. And the pharmacist started out friendly as well. He asked for my phone number,but my easy and friendly-voiced recitation was not pleasing to his ears and he demanded I state my phone number again. I complied, he rolled his eyes, and asked very rudely if I have any other phone numbers. I gave him my husband’s phone number, and again was met with an eye roll.
“How about a number starting with area code XXX?” he prompted.
After some concentration, I stumbled out my phone number from over seven years ago, and received a grunt from the cashier that I took to mean I had performed adequately.
Baffled, I mused aloud at why Costco would have that phone number when I didn’t even get a Costco card until I had my current phone number.
My friendly pharmacist grumbled condescendingly to me, “Well, you must’ve filled a prescription with that phone number sometime.”
Well, duh. But I didn’t remember doing that. So I told him, “I know you’re right. It’s just funny to me. That’s all.”
The tension was thick.
He then began asking me for more identifying information with which to update the computer system. Before I gave him my address and wasted his time, I told him a previous pharmacist had added my address into the system.
He interrupted me with a curt, “Address please.”
I was annoyed he wasn’t listening, and so I repeated myself. He must have been annoyed too, because he again interrupted me with the short command.
So I complied with his request and it was all kinds of awkward as my street name must be spelled and it’s very easy to get confused. We danced frustratingly through the alphabet until he had my address spelled right.
He then had me sign and pay for my prescription, after which he set my bag right next to my hand. Naturally, I picked up the bag and put it in my cart. Apparently, that was a big no-no because he sighed, rolled his eyes, and without a word, brusquely put his hand out to me, palm up.
I interpreted his gestures to mean he wanted the bag back and considered playing a game of keep-away for a moment. But my adult-ness won out, and I again complied. He stapled my bag shut and thrust it back into my hands — that stapling was a very necessary step, I’m sure.
By this point, I was ready to make a fuss. There are times I know I could have been a better customer, but this was not one of them. I had been overly happy and kind to him until he turned into Grumpy Gus. I was very ready to tell him he was being rude when this pesky item from my list (Have real conversations with cashiers) jumped most unwelcomingly into my head.
So I took a deep breath and began a different approach. With real friendliness and not a bit of sarcasm I asked, “Have you had a long night?”
I expected his face to soften and for us to just at least have a polite end to our exchange.
But he was having none of that.
“No,” he told me nonchalantly while staring directly at me. I saw a challenge in his beady eyes.
Now I was stuck. I had to say something else. I really tried to be kind and to follow my rule. I really did. I meant to offer sympathy and understanding for the challenges of his job, but what came out of my mouth next was:
“Oh, well you’re acting annoyed.”
“Sorry if I’m being annoying,” he responded defensively. “I just needed to get your information into the computer.” There were lots of big hand gestures toward the computer.
“No, no, no,” I clarified, feeling bad he had misunderstood me. “You’re not acting annoying. You’re acting annoyED.” That sure helped me get my point across.
“I’m just doing my job and getting your information into the computer,” he continued, his voice rising and his syllables mashing together.
I have been on his end before — a grumpy cashier who just wants the public to stay home for the next few hours. I didn’t know why he was being so rude, but I understand it doesn’t always take much when you work in customer service.
So I just walked away and left him with some parting words that most likely made his day even worse. While smiling, I said, “Ok, well cheer up. Have a good night.”
It wasn’t a good conversation, but it was real — so…
#19 — CHECK.