Have you ever had a “conversation” with someone who literally doesn’t stop talking? I’m saying, they leave zero pauses anywhere for you to insert any opinion of your own what. so. ever. So the “conversation” from the start is just them talking and you nodding until your neck might break in half and all you’ve said for half an hour is “yes” and “mmhmm” in a desperate attempt to cover up your own horror.
So then you start thinking about all the different ways you can possibly get them to stop talking:
- You could walk away.
But they might just follow you and keep jabbering.
- You could try interrupting them.
But you risk them getting mad at you, turning their talking into shouting, and making the whole experience even more unpleasant.
- Or you could just kill them.
But that’s never the right thing to do, no matter how enticing it might seem. Remember: the long-term risks far outweigh the immediate benefits in this situation (or so I’m told).
I was out of options.
The reason I bring this up is I recently had a chatty customer call the store I work at. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I answered the phone and could find absolutely no place to interject whatsoever. I know she was a white woman somewhere in her forties, and I know this because of the startling amount of context she gave me.
Supposedly she wanted to check on a certain product that we might have available, but somehow (without any encouragement on my part, thank you), she began to speak to me like I was her oldest friend in the world — her oldest friend, to whom she apparently hadn’t spoken to in 10 years and was, therefore, determined to, in detail, describe every aspect of her life.
First, I learned about her love of a different store similar to ours that unfortunately went out of business a while ago and how customer service just isn’t what it used to be. Then she started to share her political views (which, like, how the hell did that happen when she hadn’t even been on the phone for longer than 3 minutes with A TOTAL STRANGER). And it got worse. She started talking about how she was watching Fifty Shades of Gray with her parents, but unfortunately didn’t realize it was the unrated version. “It was practically a porno!” she said. When she started describing some of the scenes, I considered just hanging up.
Thankfully, she moved on and started talking about the show Two Broke Girls (which I’ve never seen) and how she wished it was on a different channel, because she just doesn’t watch CBS that much. Apparently they don’t align with her “liberal” political views. But she also mentioned how she went to the mall recently and didn’t feel safe because she was the only white person there. But she asked me not to judge her for saying that. Not sure that really aligns with her “liberal” views either.
I was getting downright annoyed at this point. Plus, my neck hurt from nodding.
My manager noticed I’d been on the phone for a while. I shot him a “HELP ME NOW” face, so he told me to tell her that I had another customer I needed to help. I told him that this lady was literally not pausing at all for me to get a word in, plus I had already found the products she was looking for and just needed her number to put them on hold. She, of course, heard none of our side conversation, as she was still rambling endlessly. Who knows what she said in those two minutes when I wasn’t listening?
I finally plucked up enough courage to interrupt her. I figured, maybe this is a nervous tick she has, that she tends to overshare when talking to strangers due to severe social anxiety. Maybe she’ll be grateful for the interruption that will allow us both to move on with our days. I told her, sorry, but I needed her phone number to put the items on hold. She said, “Oh yes, of course, of course,” and, don’t ask me how, but this only set her off on another ceaseless tangent. I was dumbfounded. She never did give me her number and now she was talking about gardening and I didn’t know how I would be able to interrupt her again.
But eventually, I did. I asked for her number for the second time. The same thing happened. It was remarkable. This lady was a complete and utter enigma. And that got me thinking about how different we both were. In fact, I think I can safely say that this lady was my perfect opposite. I was absolutely repelled by her in every single way. There was no way that I could relate to this woman, and no way I would ever want to.
It was a breathtaking epiphany.
But I still needed her fucking phone number.
I took a deep breath. At least 25 minutes had elapsed since I foolishly picked up the phone. I was late for taking my break, but I wasn’t going to let her take that away from me. So I interrupted her for the last time.
“Now what was your phone number so I can put these on hold for you?”
And she gave it to me.
I had finally arrived at the pearly gates. And even though it took her another 7 minutes to finally say goodbye, it was still a triumphant moment.
I slammed the phone down (just kidding, because that would probably come out of my paycheck). My ear was sweaty, my neck was cramped. But the chocolate chunk cookie I had on my break tasted really fucking good.
It’s these kinds of encounters that make me long for the day when I don’t work in retail anymore. It’s these kinds of encounters that also make me laugh. But mostly, it’s these kinds of encounters that I fear I will completely forget about, only to remember 40 years from now, alone in my house.
The lights will flicker. A shiver will work its way up my spine. And a single bolt of lighting will strike the tree outside, setting it ablaze.