No, I don’t know what you mean.on October 26, 2006 at 8:15 pm
No, I don't know what you mean
I was delving into my saved archives and found a number of tales that need dusting off – just short ones, you'll be pleased to note.
“I’d buy some oranges, but those look a bit too orangey, if you know what I mean,” a woman said, poking her head in the door. We didn't know what she meant.
She was a case and a half. We'd had some small, cheap oranges on sale, and her children had loved them. The reason they were cheap? End of season, and we told her that many times. This didn't stop her expecting us to have them in every week for the next six months.
A chap pulled a pint from the dairy fridge. "Was this milk taken from the cow this morning?" he demanded.
We told him the only way to get milk fresh that morning was to buy a cow. He didn't take kindly to that and stalked off to the newsagent to buy some there. The Boss walked in behind him only to hear him telling everyone that our milk was over a week old (we'd told him two days was a reasonable estimate). He came back in a day or two later to tell us that they assured him it was fresh from the cow that morning, so he was fine with buying it from there. That was when we told him they got it from the same dairyman as us.
Doesn't pay to tell the truth, does it?
"It's a bit cold for Summer, isn't it?" someone whined.
“Can you cut me some bacon please?” asked a woman one sunny day. “I’d like it lean, but streaky, if you know what I mean.”
“I beg your pardon?” I asked.
“I want it lean, but streaky. You know what I mean?”
"Do you cut your pork and beef with different knives?" It was in the early days of the BSE scare, so it wasn't such a stupid question. Also, the area had a fairly high Jewish population, and I'd had people come in for non-kosher beef before…
"It's all cut on the same block," I told him, pointing out the sodding obvious.
Ah, rummaging through my memoirs brought up a type of customer I knew as the Sneerer. You'll know a Sneerer when you see one – nothing is ever good enough for them, and their top lip reaches all the way to the nose to show gleaming ivory. We had a couple of notable encounters, and they went a little like this.
The time was late summer and, between the cheerful sizzling of the wasps in the electric insectocutor, we idled through the long, hot days before autumn. We also had cherries – English White Heart cherries to be precise. Rather a flavoursome variety but with one slight problem.
“They’re sticky,” a semi-regular Sneerer complained.
I shook myself out of a comfortable reverie and looked at her politely.
“These cherries – they’re sticky.” As I said, White Heart cherries have one slight problem.
I was impressed at how she could extend that last ‘y’ for almost three normal syllables of length. I suppose I should write it as, “stickaaaayyyyy,” but that’s throwing problems up with the spellchecker. I pondered her comment for a moment and then nodded. “Yup,” I replied. She was right and I held that in my mind as I agreed.
The customer, to her mind, may always be right, but even that is not always satisfactory. “But they’re English!” she protested.
“Yup.” As the sign on the box says, so they are. They were indeed English and I agreed wholeheartedly with her claim.
“But they’re sticky!” Again the ‘y’ was extended beyond the normal abilities of a single letter to describe.
“Yup.” I nodded to emphasise my agreement. She was right and I made certain that she knew it.
“But they’re English!”
This went on for a few more claims and agreements. I had to admit that I was impressed – most people take the hint that they are right, and that there is nothing to be done about it because that’s how things are, within a few seconds. Maybe I just wasn’t agreeing strenuously enough? Whatever the reason, she eventually deigned to take some, at fingertip length, a look of disgust on her face.
“What was her problem?” the Boss asked when she’d gone. “Face like a…” He went on to describe something unpleasant. He has quite a way with him at times.
“She didn’t like the cherries, Boss,” I replied.
“But she bought some,” he protested.
“Don’t ask me to explain people,” I said with a sigh. “That way lies madness.”
The Boss has his own way of dealing with alleged people. He had his own encounter with someone else who was sneering at the cherries one year (I don’t know why but we get more idiots with cherries than anything else). At arms length the woman brought them in, sneer at the ready. He caught this and, as is his wont, became slightly belligerent. He stared.
“I’ll take these, but they’re not marvellous,” the Sneerer said, not even looking at him.
“You don’t have to take them if you don’t want,” he replied.
Eyebrows were raised all around and I began to watch intently from my area of the shop. Entertainment doesn’t have to cost if you know where to look.
“Oh, I’ll have them,” the woman said, confusion evident on her face. “It’s just that they’re not marvellous.” She wasn’t used to being told not to buy what she didn’t like and it showed.
“If you don’t like them then don’t buy them,” the Boss replied, folding his arms.
“I’ll have them, but they’re not…” is as far as she got. The Boss leaned over, took the bag and wandered outside to the display. He emptied the bag onto the box outside and walked back in to hear the protest.
It never came. Instead the woman darted outside, got a fresh bag and began rummaging once again. She returned with a slightly frightened look, apparently not seeing me smirking for all I was worth.
“I said that I’d have them, it’s just that they’re not marvellous.”
“And I said that if you don’t like them then don’t get them.” The Boss’ hand darted like a cobra and snatched the bag before she could react. Out he went again and the cherries went back on the display. I ducked beneath my counter to stifle the sniggering. I really don’t know if I succeeded.
Some people don’t take hints well and the Sneerer dashed outside to get the same cherries again before anyone else did. She returned again but apparently saw the Boss’ face and her self-preservation instinct kicked in. I was waiting for her to open her mouth again but something must have told her that this was a bad idea. In blessed silence she paid for and retreated with the cherries. An independent shopkeeper can get away with that if he or she values the customer’s trade less than the peace of mind gained by never seeing their face again. Remember, folks – don’t try this at home. We’re professionals doing a dangerous job.