Acting With Gravitas

, , , , | Right | October 12, 2020

Sometimes, customers just want to wind you up. Good naturedly, of course. 

I am sitting at my till on a quiet Wednesday afternoon. I turn to my supervisor and ask her if she needs me somewhere else or not. The answer is no, so I turn back around. A customer comes striding up to me from the wrong end of the till. I assume he has a query, a return, or a complaint. He begins this conversation in a loud voice.

Customer: “I saw you talking to her! What made you talk to her?”

Me: “I was clarifying my position with the store, sir.”

Customer: “And what made you ask her?”

Me: “Because she is my supervisor, sir. That is what supervisors do. If customers are kings, then managers are queens.”

It is clear by now that this customer is joking and looking for a bit of banter. A woman approaches my till from the usual side with a trolley of groceries. From the look she gives the man, it is clear they are together, and it’s clear she’s all too used to this behaviour.

The man is laughing himself red at my perplexed tone. I play along, speaking very formally and very slowly. Posh, but with a good dose of indulgent boredom.

Me: “Why does this amuse you, sir?”

Customer: “Well, don’t you have anything better to do?”

Me: “Oh, not at all, sir. Mine not to reason why, after all. Mine but to scan or die.”

The man stops in his tracks and a wicked smile comes over his face. He settles on the end of the till and leans forward to engage with me. It is very clear he is joking and relishing the opportunity of a willing opponent.

Customer: “So, what you’re saying is, instead of serving a customer, like myself, you were gossiping with your colleagues, instead?”

Me: “Indeed no, sir. I was busy doing nothing, you see.”

Customer: “Not working the whole day through?”

Female Customer: *Looking up* “Trying to find lots of things not do?”

The male customer is gesturing angrily at me, but grinning.

Customer: “Look, she’s busy doing nothing! Isn’t it just a crime?!”

Me: “It’s a shame because—” *breaking out into song!* “—I’d like to be unhappy, but I simply can’t find the time!”

Whatever the man expected, he didn’t expect that. He bends over double, trying to contain his laughter. 

Me: “Why are you kneeling? I am no Goddess, sir. I am on a chair, not a pedestal.”

Female Customer: *smiling at me* “You shouldn’t talk to strange men, darling!”

Me: “I never do, ma’am; strange men talk to me. I did not initiate conversation with this gentleman. He did that all by himself.”

The man recovers a little and grabs a packet of blueberries.

Customer: “Did you see the way she threw this down the slope? You’ve bruised all my berries, you have!”

Me: “Sir, that is called gravity. It affects everything.”

Customer: “Including you?”

Me: “No, sir. That is called gravitas.”

The man disappears from my view again, and I can hear wheezing laughter coming from under the till. The lady heaves him up to help pack their items. The man strokes the end of the till.

Customer: “I like your curved end here! Very pleasant to hold!”

This earns him a hiss and a smack from the lady, but I just give him my best withering look. 

Me: “If customers are kings and managers are queens, then I, naught but a humble cashier, am no pawn, sir.”

The man doubles up again, almost choking on his laughter. The lady packs the last few items and pays and the man still can’t draw breath. The lady looks at me, grinning from ear to ear. 

Female Customer: “Well done. Thank you for coping with that idiot. The last shop person he tried it on… I can never go back.”

Me: “Ma’am, the best defense against idiocy is dignity. Here is your receipt. I wish you good luck for the rest. Please feel free to come back to me any time.”

The man finally stops laughing and wipes the tears from his eyes.

Customer: *To the [Female Customer]* “That was magnificent. Just amazing. We need to come here again, love.”

Both shake my hand. The man pretends to kiss it. As they walk out the door, I see the man punching the air, still grinning. My colleague in front of me has been listening all this time and trying not to giggle while serving her own line. 

Colleague: *To me* “Wow. Wow! You always attract the weirdos!”

Me: *Laughing* “Gotta keep my sanity in this job somehow!”

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