12 April 2013

The Art of Conversation.

I was not a well-adjusted child.  I was very introverted and shy, and I felt like I never knew what to say to 'sound normal.'  This might come from being home-schooled until I went into grade 4, because it was just me and my sister at home, with our mum sitting us at the kitchen table to go through our workbooks.  Hell, I was so awkward even the other kids at church hated me and made fun of me.  I never had a brain-to-mouth filter and would just say stuff without thinking how rude it made me sound... Actually, I'm still working on that.  Cunt.

When I was a teenager, even in my early 20s, there was no way I could've done the job I do now.  I took a personality test in high school and I came out with type INFP , which I was told was the rarest of all types, existing in some 4% of the world's population.  I haven't taken a recent personality test, even though there is a link on that page I gave, but I imagine it would be quite different.

This being said, it means I do have a certain understanding for those who maybe aren't so skilled at conversation or interacting with people.  I believe I have retained the INFP trait of reading people and being very intuitive with them, so I try to react towards people in the way they are giving me subtle social cues to do.  Not talkative?  I won't press you.  Shy?  I won't bug you for personal details.  Walking fast, not saying much, not really glancing at me? I will give you my 'stock' customer service sentences and answers and wish you well.  Ready to joke around?  I'll probably join in.  Happy and flirty?  I'll join in the happy-ness and, if you're not being creepy, I may even join in on the flirting.

You have to have a thick skin to do my job.  Once when bartending, I had a group of three guys who'd been at the bar for half an hour or so, chatting to each other and letting me into their conversation occasionally when I had a moment.  As it goes, being a lady bartender, there was a certain level of flirting going on, too.  There's a whole other blog post contained in that sentence, about flirting vs. regular conversation, but I will write that another time.  These were alright guys, regular customers of the establishment, and I felt alright talking with them.  Alright enough to push the boundaries, so to speak, of what one would normally talk about with someone they might not know that well.  Sometimes, there's an unspoken recognition of these things.

So the one guy looks at his pint, looks closer, and then looks up and calls me over.  He hands his pint over and shows me there's a little speck of something stuck to the glass.  Not really a big deal, some stuck on food that didn't get washed off properly, probably some residue from someone getting Clam in their beer.  What he says to me, though.

"If that's not menstrual blood from your pussy, I don't want it."

"No, that was last week, let me get you a new pint."

Even his friends hit him for that one, but I just laughed.  See, we'd already engaged in risqué conversation, each of us testing the boundaries and slowly easing towards being able to joke like that, and like I'd said, he'd been there before and I at least knew him on sight, and many coworkers knew him and his friends by name.  Also, and this is important, he didn't force the conversation that direction without my unspoken permission, and therein lies the important part.  You can't just walk up to a random lady, especially not one who is working at the time, and say shit like that without any foreplay.  As always, the foreplay is the important part.

The thing about being a cashier is that I see hundreds of you everyday, but you only see one of me.  I can say the same thing to every one of you, and you won't know or care, but if every one of you says the same thing to me, I lose my ability to react to it like I've never heard it before somewhere around the 3rd or 4th time.  I might have a little recovery around the 64th or 65th time, but only if I know the person and can make a slightly different response and then turn the conversation somewhere else.  This means that I truly appreciate those of you who can talk to me about something new and interesting rather than the weather.

On the list of things I cannot give less of a flying fuck about, the weather steals the top spot and holds onto it like a dingo with a freshly stolen baby.  I'm not sure if my hatred of talking about the weather is because of working retail, or if I just never had an opportunity to discover that I hated talking about the weather before being behind a till.  I don't get the attraction, it's not like I don't know what the weather is.  I have windows, too.  It's not like talking about it will change anything.  Complaining about the weather is not a pleasant thing to hear from every single person, especially not since people will moan about the weather regardless of what it is.

I have a regular customer who I shall call Mac, and he works at a well-known coffee chain here.  He's a cynical, salty ole guy, probably closer to 50 than 40.


It has been cold and snowy all night.  Mac enters the liquor store to see The Fat Ho standing at the counter, and the rest of the store empty of customers.


                                               Hi Mac.


                                               Hey.  Any great insights on the weather tonight?


                                               Yeah, it's fucking snowing.


                                               Nah, I meant from the customers.


                                               Yeah, it's fucking snowing, hahaha.

MAC gives a short, resigned snort of laughter and smiles grimly.


                                               Oh, Mac.  You're the only one who understands
                                               my pain.


Number Two on the List of Thing Never to Say to Your Cashier is 'No, I can't claim this back from the Government' when she asks if you want a receipt.  I swear to the tiny Death of Rats, one day that phrase is going to make me go postal, screech like a banshee assassin and burn the place down.  My store of witty laughter has been run dry.  I cannot flatter you any more, I cannot smile or give a little chuckle to validate your feelings of cleverness. The best I can muster is either to ignore the comment completely, or to try and give a little laugh, but it inevitably will sound like I either just cracked a rib, or shit my pants.  It's best for me not to try.

Now, before you go thinking to yourself that all I do is bitch about the necessary parts of my job, remember that I love my jobs and that I can have a great time talking with people, but it's just when the awkward people I may not know very well say those awkward Things That Everyone Else Says, I inwardly scream.  I am 100% certain that every other cashier or customer service person does that, too, though, so it's not just me.

Take for instance the other night.  Monday night I was supposed to bartend, but I ended up covering tables because the server had called in sick for the night.  One guy comes in and sits at a table on his own and says he's waiting for some friends to have a few beers.  I ring him in a Cobblestone Stout, which is a very dark beer with micro-bubbles like Guinness, and leave him be while he waits.  As I putter around helping other tables (it wasn't that busy) I look over and see this guy's friends joining him.  I started giggling uncontrollably because one of them was none other than Honey Jack (previously mentioned in the post Twitterpated, under a different name that I have now changed to protect his anonymity).  I wait for them to be seated, kind of explain my giggling to the bar manager, and then saunter over to take their order.

Me: Sultry voice, looking at the original guy and scratching Honey Jack's shoulder a little.  You didn't tell me that this guy was one of your friends!
Honey Jack: Oh dear... 
Me: How's it going?  I haven't seen you in ages.  Are you avoiding me?
Honey Jack: You're never there when I get thirsty!
Me: Hmm, well, I work certain nights, so you should come back when I'm there.

I take their drink orders.  Honey Jack does not (!) order honey jack, in something that goes against all the Laws of the Universe.  At one point I came up behind him, seeing he had an empty pint, and since he had his hat off, I ran my finger up the back of his neck and over his shaven head and smirked, then asked if he wanted another pint.  I think he was a tad uncomfortable and didn't know what to say, so he just got another pint.  I toned it back a little, kind of, but it was so much fun to subtly throw things into the convo to make him squirm that I almost couldn't stop.

Perks of the job, I get to flirt and make saucy remarks as much as I want, and lace my conversation with as much lewdness as I care to include.  I haven't yet gotten in over my head, but I'll be sure to tell you when it happens.  If we're going to have a contest about who can make the conversation the most awkward the fastest, I'm not going to say I'd win, but I probably would. 


  1. Just took the test and guess what I got -_- INFP I've worked 4(ish) retail jobs and suffered through every one of them, but have had coworkers, like you, who thrived. Give me a cubicle and 4 or-so neighbors to interact with any day. And yeah, I'll be shuffling through with little to no eye contact whenever I'm shopping ;)

    1. When I first took the test, I think I was about 14. Still, when shopping, I like to be in my own world. I can't go when the store is busy, it stresses me out too much when I get in other people's way, or they do that 'hover-stand' thing like when you're choosing between varieties of something, but you're blocking their way, but you don't want to rush and make a bad choice, but you feel like an asshole for being in their way. Causes me anxiety, so I go when the store is slow. In the UK, I used to put my headphones in because the stores were never slow and they were a LOT smaller, so it was even more crowded, and I would've had a breakdown if I'd had to deal with that.