Curmudgeon. That’s my word for today. Definition: an old person often in a bad mood, a surly bad-tempered person. It began with the garage first thing this morning. A gum chewing child with a beautifully painted rose-red cupid’s bow looked up from her keyboard to stare blankly at me. I’ve brought the car in for servicing, I explained. She reached behind her and brought out a form. Just sign that, she said. I scanned the sheet and noticed that I had to answer Yes or No to the question, Have you been offered a free pre-service inspection? I needed some guidance. Have I? I asked. She stared blankly, still chewing. Just put yes, she said. So you just offered me it? I checked. Just put yes, she said, so I did. She asked for a contact number. I’d already had a text reminding me about the service so I said I thought they had it already. It’ll be in the computer, she said. I gave her my mobile number.
After walking into town, I had a little browse around the shops. Noticing that winter boots were starting to appear, I had a look in one of the shoe shops. No sooner had I stepped inside when a gnome-like middle-aged man with a desperately cheery manner bounced into my personal space and said he liked my shoes. Yes, I had bought them there some time ago. I expressed a wish to browse, but he followed me across to the boot display. There was a pair – knee-high, black leather, which I liked, so I asked to try them in my size. He sent his pale teenage assistant off to find them in the recesses of the shop while engaging me in light conversation about the store’s new look. I hadn’t really noticed, except that most of the seating had been removed. I sat down in a rather cramped corner to try on the boots. Mr Cheery knelt down beside me, looking encouraging, leaving me momentarily to pick up a money off voucher, which was thrust into my hand. Meantime, I was having trouble with the boots. They fitted my feet, but the inside calf zip wouldn’t do up. Let me try, he cried, forcing the fastener up, catching my flesh. Please, no, I said. They don’t fit. Ah, he said, I see what the problem is, studying the buckled straps on the outside of the legs, These are too tight. And handed one to the pale girl while he struggled with the other boot. This made no difference. I said I would just leave it for now, but he tried another tack. Maybe I needed a bigger size? I had slipped the voucher into my bag just in case he asked for it back. I put my shoes back on and started for the door, the air heavy with disappointment, theirs, not mine. It’s early days for boots; I’ll keep looking, but maybe not there. (Actually, I have to confess to owning quite a lot of boots, including my favourite red Fly pair in my profile picture.)
And how is your day going? chirps the robotic smiling girl in the coffee shop before taking my order. I am so bad at responding to that kind of greeting, generally mumbling (as I did today) that it’s all right…..On ordering a chocolate tiffin bar and an Americano, she congratulates me on my choice and says they are just what I need to get my day off to a good start. I mutter that my day started hours ago and move to the area where other customers are collecting coffees. Not there, says another less robotic girl, stay where you are. So I did.
I don’t think shopping and using various services used to be such a minefield of etiquette. In California, yes, I got used to: How are YOU today? and Have a nice day! But here in Scotland, I’m used to being treated in a less personal, but maybe more genuine way. I like being able to browse in shops without being questioned about my buying intentions as soon as I walk inside. Maybe it is a generational thing. But then there is so much I love about NOW. On-line shopping. Shopping malls that stay open till 10 at night. All the stuff you can buy in a supermarket, from light bulbs to socks.
Anyone else feeling curmudgeonly? Isn’t it a great word! Just to balance things out a bit, the car was ready on time, freshly washed AND they sent a video of the mechanic talking us through the up on the ramp inspection. Brilliant!