Avoiding Awkward

Today the man in the bottle shop gave us a cigar box. It’s lovely. He gave it to us because Laetitia was there. If it had just been me there wouldn’t have been a gift. Laetitia noticed the small selection of cigars they sell, made a comment, exchanged a couple of friendly words with the proprietor, and there it was: something for free. On my own the scenario is different. Minimal conversation, with plenty of observing but no comment, and I get out as quickly as I can. The situation is similar for the vast majority of my retail experiences. I once stopped going to a sandwich shop because they knew me, and one of the women would start making my sandwich when I entered and taunt me about never ordering anything different[1].

Unfortunately I am recognised sometimes. Typically in bottle shops. But the local newsagent seems to know me now as well. She always says something like “How are you?” as I hand over the money for the Saturday paper, and I smile, a big smile by my standards, as I sort of grunt “hello” or “thanks” or “cheers”.

You need to have a relationship with those who cut your hair of course, but I’ve since begun to shop around after it became clear that Giuseppe would cut my hair the same way whether I asked for a Mohawk or to look like George Clooney. I liked Giuseppe: we had a good customer-retailer proprietor relationship – I was loyal to him, he didn’t ask excessive personal questions, did his job quickly, and let me go. So it was a wrench to say goodbye. (Not that I actually said: “Goodbye” … and I feel bad about that.) Then there are others who have almost a vocation more than a job, and it is their business to know who you are and acknowledge that, and here I’m thinking of receptionists at doctor or dentist surgeries, and it feels a bit weird that they seem to know you a bit, somehow, but you let that go. It even feels somehow invasive that the doctor or dentist themselves should have a file with your details on it (or it does if you’re me) but that needs to be the case as these people help you stay healthy. When I used to frequent places where priests are found (confessionals) it seemed strangely other in this sense – although a priest might know you well personally, the shriving of your soul is a different process, where the man in the dress is a conduit for God’s mercy, so there’s no “G’day mate, how’s the marriage? Still sleeping with other chicks?” as an opening gambit.

Not really sure where all this was intended to go. I’d prefer to be left alone. That’s the basic point. But one can’t always guarantee that. I’ve shared intimate moments being fitted for a suit, by a woman, which was fun, when she made a joke out of a dicey circumstance. It’s usually not like that. Awkward is awkward. The avoidance of awkwardness would be good, if it could be achievable. Everything could be purchased online and I could send a proxy to dental checkups, job interviews (and ordinary days at work), family functions, and get-togethers with friends. This thought fills the padded areas of my anxious mind with soft, springy, pink fairy floss. It is soothing.

[1] I also stopped going there because they put up their prices at the same time as they cut some staff, so it was more expensive to buy your lunch there, and you had to wait longer for your sandwich.

Published in: on May 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

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