Saturday, October 17, 2009

Know when to stop


      It's not like I don't appreciate a friendly chat, but when a person won't shut his yap....
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      My microwave oven's light burned out, so I went to a hardware store to get a new light bulb.
      The store is one of those big chain stores, and for those who don't know, they usually enforce a policy that the employees must greet their customers. Another thing they do is if a register's queue is empty, the clerk would step out, walk to the front of the register, stand there and wait for customers to come to them and check out.
      So, after I picked up my light bulb, I walked to the registers and saw a clerk standing in front of one. He waved me over, greeted me, and led me to his station.

      "What did you get there?" said the clerk after I gave him the merchandise.
      "It's a halogen light bulb." I guess he had a vision problem or something, or it could be that the light bulb was small and he couldn't tell right away.
      "Halogen light bulb? Who's using halogen light bulbs nowadays?" He looked really close at the package and it seemed like he was studying it.
      "It's for my microwave oven. It burned out."
      "It burned out? May I ask how long before it burned out?" he said while he was scanning the bar code.
      "Just a bit more than a year." At this point, I'd done swiping my credit card at the reader and put my card in my wallet. He asked to see my credit card, so I took it out of my wallet and handed it to him. The conversation still carried on.
      "They don't make things last anymore," he said while finishing the transaction on his machine.
      "That's right," I answered and signed my signature on the electronic reader machine.
      While the receipt was printing, he said, "You know, these incandescent light bulbs should last a long time."
      "Yeah, they're supposed to," I replied.

      Then he continued to talk more about the light bulb while he handed my card, receipt, and my light bulb to me. I wasn't pressed for time or anything, and I wasn't sure if it was because of his company's policy that he had to talk to me, but still I wanted to end the conversation and leave, so I said "Thanks" to him and started walking away, and he was still talking, but it was more like mumbling right now because I couldn't really hear what he was saying. (I think I gave him a nod, a wordless way of saying "Uh-huh, yeah, I heard you.")
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      My girlfriend's cousin grew up and lives in Queens, NY. During one of his visits to Boston, he made a comment about the clerks in our local supermarkets--"They actually talk to you!"

      "Does it mean clerks there (and in Manhattan) don't talk to their customers?" I asked my girlfriend.
      "I guess not," she said.

      I'm glad to hear people in Massachusetts are friendly, and it's true that some of the check-out clerks would carry a short conversation with their customers, but when it turns to be a long one.... I don't know, I guess I'm just not used to it (and trust me, it WAS rare).