Lately at my local grocery shopping establishment, a new phrase has replaced the "I'm not really interested but I'm forced to ask 'How are you today?" policy.
It's "Did you find everything you were looking for today?".
Normally these types of pleasant but ultimately disinterested customer phrases pass by us like a fly. We duck and dodge it with equally pleasant yet ultimately disinterested responses of "Good" or "Great, how about you?", with neither of us really giving a shit about the other.
This one stopped me, though.
Did I find everything? Hmm....
I didn't know how to respond. Should I say how I couldn't find the creme fraiche? After all, I didn't. I could respond with a flat "no", embarrassing her (and myself), but that seemed mean. Or, I could be kind and lie by replying yes. Or, I could just laugh it off and say, "Well, I was looking for Mickey Mantle's '52 rookie card, but you didn't have it. What gives?"
Yet given the honest nature of the question, I decided to respond in kind.
"Well, no, actually. I couldn't find creme fraiche."
She seemed slightly stunned that I was actually answering her. She gracefully recovered, however, and replied, "I'm sorry to hear that. It wasn't with the fine cheeses?"
Fine cheeses? It's really more of a dairy product, closely related to sour cream, cottage cheese, etc. Shouldn't it be the milk portion of dairy?
"I didn't think to look there. I was looking in the dairy section." I turned to head to the fine cheeses before she stopped me.
"That's okay, we'll get it for you. How many do you want?"
"Um, just one. Thanks."
With that, she sent the young bagger who hustled off and hurried back with creme fraiche in hand.
Of all the feigned-interest customer phrases thrown at us throughout our lives from "Can I help you?" ("I don't know, can you?") to "How are you doing today?" ("My day was positively fucked, hence the 12-pack.") to "Will that be all?" ("No, I forgot about 22 things. Can you hold my place in line while I get them?"), this one works because there's at least a half measure of genuine interest in delivering customer service and providing items that I want or need.
I felt happy. I felt like an important customer as she handed my change back to me.
"You saved $6.43. Thank you, Mr. Fish....Feis...Fizz..."
And to think, before you started butchering my last name here, you were actually winning.
"That's okay," I smiled, stopping her. "You have a great day!"