Friday, July 8, 2011

Bullshit small talk at work

Customer: Crushes.

Description: Customer wants a pack of Camel Crushes.  I get them.

Difficulty:  Nonexistent. 

Observation: This most basic level of interaction bypasses any pretext of social dilly dallying.


Customer: Hey.
Me: Hey.

Customer: Pack of Camel Crushes.

Description: Simple acknowledgment of existence and simple item procurement.

Difficulty:  Simple, easy, almost no thinking involved.

Observation: The bare minimum of social pleasantries are observed. 


Customer: Hello.
Me: Hello.

Customer: Pack of Camel Crushes.

Description: Social formalities are introduced at the basic level with 'hello' as opposed to 'hey' or simply an ineffectual grunt.

Difficulty:  Still simple and easy, but the vague threat of further interaction beyond the basic 'money for smokes' concept lingers.

Observation: When the customer actually says hello, I usually feel compelled to make eye contact, and body language is thrown into the equation.  The possibility that more words will have to be thought up and said could lead to further complexities.


Customer: How's it going?
Me: Pretty good.

Customer: Pack of Camel Crushes.

Description: A little harder; the next level of basic social interaction.  A query for information, necessitating an appropriate response in addition to procuring the indicated item.

Difficulty: Simplicity is sacrificed for social niceties, introducing the possibility that further social interaction may be required at least a rudimentary level.  However, it's usually safe to assume that no undue thinking will need to occur.

Observation: Although a step up from simple acknowledgment, this exchange occurs almost automatically, with both parties usually aware at an unconscious level that the customer has no real interest in how things are actually going.


Customer: How ya doing?
Me: Ok.
Customer: Pack of Camel Crushes.

Or, alternately...

Customer: How ya doing?
Me: Well, I twisted my back the other -
Customer: Pack of Camel Crushes.

Description: Comparable to 'how's it going'.

Difficulty: Possibly tiring.  Although this exchange is still largely automatic, it is more personal.  The probability of a simple exchange decreases with possibility that the ego may become involved.

Observation: A couple of times I've found myself interrupted, embarrassed, and pissed off when I tried to answer this question with something other than the stock reply.  It's important to remember that all the customer really gives a flying horses patoot about is getting those Camel Crushes from point A to point B.


Customer: Hey man.  What's up?  How's it going?  Say, do you think I could... you know... or do you think you could, I mean, you know... do that payroll thing?  For a couple of beers and a couple of packs of Camel Crushes?  And I can get you back on Friday?
Me: Aw crap...

Description: A blitzkrieg of social pleasantries forces thinking and talking into primary mode.

Difficulty: Exhausting.

Observation: This happens because I'm too damn nice, or stupid.  I don't know which yet.  It all started when I let one guy payroll a pack of cigarettes, and then another.  At first it was just ten bucks a week, but then I started doing it for Bruce, and then for Wheels too... and the next thing I knew, I was letting these guys payroll anywhere from 10 to 40 bucks a week each, resulting in a significant percentage of my check this week being payrolled away on cigarettes and booze for these parasites.  I know what it says in the Bible: "If somebody asks you for your shirt, give them your coat too."  I'm beginning to wonder if that should apply to beer and cigarettes.


Customer: Hey.
Me: Hey.
Customer: This and a pack of Camel Crushes.
Me: Got your ID on yer?
Customer: Yeah man, sure.
Me: I need a current one, not just this temporary piece of paper.
Customer: I got this from the DMV.
Me: Do you have the expired plastic one to go with it?
Customer: No.
Me: I'm sorry man, but I can't sell you the beer.
Customer: Well hell, why do they give you the temporary one then?
Me: Sorry.
Customer: Can she buy it for me?
Me: No, that would be illegal.  It's a state law, sorry.  The TABC has been giving $2500.00 tickets to us for selling to people with expired ID's, and -
Customer: Fuck it.
Me: Again, I'm sorry, but I'm not risking a $2500.00 ticket and jail just so you can catch a buzz.

Description: Things fall apart, the center does not hold.  The World War Three of customer interaction.

Difficulty: Yeesh.

Observation: Screw it.


  1. I made a cashier visibly nervous today by saying "Hi! How are you!?"

  2. Of course, I'm exaggerating for the sake of humor, or what passes for humor in my head. But if I'm in a pissy mood and find myself reverting to robot mode, then this account can be close to accurate.