Friday, June 17, 2011

Choose Your Words (and Hat) Carefully

Of course, we must choose our words carefully when writing, but the same is true for when we are speaking.  I always know when my local supermarket manager is putting pressure on his staff to be friendlier and more chatty with the customers than normal, because every employee interrupts my train of thought with a greeting, and whoever is bagging my groceries ends up saying something tactless.  All they know is that they are being watched by their supervisor and they have to come up with some kind of conversation with the customer.  That kind of pressure usually results in a foot in the mouth. 

I have always appreciated some level of privacy when it comes to my grocery shopping habits.  I'm kind of a middle-of-the-road eater -- not always eating healthy, but also not risking my health either.  I usually balance out the healthy foods with an occasional snack to satisfy my sweet tooth, and then balance that out with some exercise.  I drink water with most meals since so many other options are bad for you in one way or another, but will occasionally enjoy a soda or beer if I eat out.  Ultimately, I just don't like to have people being nosy and studying my eating habits by surveying the items in my cart.  I just want to get into the supermarket, get my stuff, and get out without an in-depth discussion of my purchases.

So, today I had one of those courtesy clerks who felt pressured to make conversation.  Since she didn't know me, she resorted to discussing the food items I bought.  (Sigh.)  She held up a package of Mother's Fudge Cookies for everyone in the store to see and announced, "These were my all-time favorite cookies when I was pregnant.  I ate one right after the other until I got grotesquely big."

I could see the people in line next to me checking out the size of my derriere.  I wanted to say to the clerk, "What's your point?" because it certainly sounded like she was trying to discourage me from eating those cookies.  Instead, I gave her the cold shoulder and turned my back to her to make it clear that I was no longer open to conversation on the topic. 

She then grabbed a bag of fried chicken I picked up from the deli for my husband and started waving it around in the air saying, "Mmmmm.  This chicken smells so good."  She dropped it into a bag and handed it to me as if she expected me to eat it right then and there in front of her and said, "Enjoy your lunch." 

At that point I think the annoyance on my face finally registered in her brain and she added, "Or dinner... or whatever." 

I wanted to point out that her mistake was assuming it was mine.  Just because I buy food doesn't mean I'm buying it for myself.  There are other people in my family too.  Sometimes I'm buying food for sports teams or social events.  You never know.

On this same day I got burned by another assumption and poor choice of words in a different way.  A company sent me a refund check for an account that I cancelled after my mother passed away.  Most companies just send refund checks made out to my mother, even though she passed away, because I kept her bank account open and can deposit checks in her name.  However, this company wrote the check out to "The Estate of" my mother's name.  The bank would not honor the check because of those three words that were put in front of my mother's name.  (Sigh.)

Just now my son grabbed a hat off the rack on his way out the door and said, "I need something substantial to cover my head."

He shut the door behind him, only poke his head back inside to ask, "Is this a lady's hat?"

Good boy.  I've trained him well.  Never assume anything.