People frequently say things without considering the possibility of getting a response from folks on the receiving end of those casual comments.
For example, when you walk up to checkout counters, the humans operating the tallying machine designed to separate you from your money, may say “Hi, how are you?” or “Howzit going?” or “Welcome to XYZ Stores.” Those are rote niceties for which they do not expect a response.
Be different and answer, just to see what happens.
“I’m fine, thank you. And how are you?”
The sharp ones will reply, “Couldn’t be better.” or “Fine.”
The ones slower to catch on may answer with total honesty. “I’ll be better in forty-five minutes.” Translation, he or she gets off work soon, and they can hardly wait.
Another variation on the above conversation starter is that the customer will launch into the particulars of their hard day at work. Sometimes that robot question results in an unscheduled visit to the too much information (also known as TMI) realm as the customer complains about their spouse or their children.
“Jack and I had a fight before bed last night. That’s the fourth night in a row without sex.”
If the checker is nosey, he or she may ask for particulars, offer advice, or suggest something cozier. Never underestimate the ability of strangers to leap over the line of decorum into no-no land.
Interacting with waitstaff in a restaurant is much more entertaining and rewarding.
“Hi, my name is Bob. I’ll be your server this evening.”
“Hi, Bob. How are you today?”
“I’m great, thanks for asking.”
If you treat Bob as a person rather than an interchangeable cog, he will take great care of your table. The water glasses will be full. The food will arrive without added protein by way of a spit or two. Overall, the experience for customer and waitperson alike will be pleasant.
As a side note, if Bob has time to chat, encourage such friendliness. He may tell you a secret or two about the restaurant, its personnel or unusual things customers did or said. Such tidbits could appear in future columns.
Another perk of being polite and friendly with the waitstaff is they will make an effort to accommodate your requests. There was the time an entire baseball team sat at the table next to us. Due to the ear-shattering sounds caused by many young male voices, it was impossible to have a conversation or even give the waiter our order. By using sign language of the polite variety, we asked to sit at another table, preferably in the next county.
When a cashier or a waitperson asks the loaded question “Will there be anything else?” or “Would you like anything else?” the correct answer is not “yes” or “no.” The reply that should flow trippingly off your tongue is “Not unless you are giving away a million dollars.”
That reply will stop them in mid-response, their mouths move, but no sound emerges. After they recover, they laugh. “If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t be working here or anywhere else.”
Recently, a book marketing service contacted this writer offering to help boost the sales of her books. Since curiosity is one of our many vices, a few clicks transported her to Misspelled Words Hell. There were so many errors in their pitch that any interest a writer had in hiring this group of buffoons disappeared.
Later, an ad from the same group popped up on Facebook, the bastion of proper grammar. Even the company’s advertisement had misspelled words.
So the English teacher alter-ego sent an email to the company.
“Thank you, but I am not interested in using your service. By the way, your ad on Facebook as well as your website information is full of misspelled words.”
They replied: “Thanks, we’ll have to look into that.”
We are taking bets on when, if ever, those errors vanish in a puff of correctly spelled words.