There is a confession on my mind. You are probably aware of those many forums scattered over the www, where aggravated shop assistants and annoyed waiters complain to each other of the insufferable clients, the insolence, the sheer bother of it all. Well. I wonder if they ever talk about the customers who waste their time.
Sometimes, there’s no helping or denying it, I feel compelled to have these strange interactions with people who don’t know me, can’t possibly catch me lying. I write this from a cafe in a shopping mall; in twelve minutes I will have to go; it’s been two hours since I arrived. There is nothing I need. I spent all this time in shops.
‘Hello,’ I smile politely, ‘Would you mind explaining something?’ ‘Sure,’ says the tall blonde girl hospitably. ‘Well, I was trying on those shirts – true – and they crease in the back. Would you say I need a larger size or a smaller one? Maybe a different cut?’ The girl launches into an explanation about shirt cuts, creases, and sizes, and finally suggests I try the shirt on again for her. When it doesn’t fit, she reassures me that they have other similar shirts in different cuts and takes me on a tour. Finally I thank her profusely, promising to come back with my husband or a friend, thinking I probably won’t. ‘You’ll find the one that’s good for you,’ the girl says warmly. I feel uplifted.
‘Hi, I am going on a trip, there’ll be lots of walking, do you think these shoes are up for it?’ – in the next shop. ‘Oh yes,’ this girl is curvy and a brunette, the type I like. ‘Everything on this shelf is very comfortable and durable. You can also try these… – hideous white ones – or these… – old ladies would love them – or any of them, really.’ ‘Thank you,’ I grin, try a pair on, then wander away from the shop. My next stop has nothing for me to try on; it is a baby store. ‘Could you please explain the sizing? Is it in centimeters? A boy of six months, on the small side… Thank you so much, I will ask his mother.’ Then, ‘Could you recommend a cold coffee drink which would not be sweet?’ – cue long-winded explanation by the barista on syrups and their sweetness ratio. ‘Thank you so much, I think I’ll just have a cold latte. Thanks.’
And then I sit down to type some words. There is a calm feeling in my stomach from talking to people and being very very nice to them, smiling and having them smile back. It is a rare moment for me when unfamiliar people do not make me feel uneasy. It is something to cherish, even though I realize I’ve kept these people from working, distracted each of them for several valuable minutes. It’s just that sometimes I get so lonely when I’m on my own. And then – I do always offer thanks and am always sincere. And I do regret it somewhat.