Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The perils of politeness

I'm polite.  In fact, I'm super polite.  However, there are moments when the art of good manners makes everyday life rather taxing.  Indeed, there are numerous examples where a polite person will find themselves trapped between the rock of good manners and the hard place of desperation to relinquish oneself from a tricky situation.  I found myself in just such situation today.

I visited a corner shop near to my daughter's nursery.  I selected some chocolate then waited in the requisite queue.  It became clear fairly swiftly that the lady in front of me intended to chat for longer than her purchases should allow.  She engaged the Shop Assistant in a lengthy discussion about various family members.  Worryingly the Shop Assistant seemed quite engaged in the discussion, which was a mystery to me because the discussion was, at best, mind-meltingly boring.  As I recall, it was something about hiding money and cigarettes from other household members or possibly from visitors or possibly just hiding money and cigarettes for fun.

The outcome of this 'engaging' discussion meant that A: I'd have to wait much longer than necessary and B: I'd have to ascertain how to move things along without offending anyone.  Thus, I opted for gentle but purposeful eye contact with the Shop Assistant whilst gently waving my chocolate about.  This approach didn't work.  So I made some polite eye contact with the queue creation lady, which was a huge mistake because she then, by way of nodding and eye contact, pulled me into the conversation.  I allowed this totally unexpected situation to continue for what seemed like decades.  I professed interest in her 'repartee' whilst silently screaming.  When I couldn't hold on any longer, I gently pushed my chocolate along the counter, made eye contact with the Shop Assistant, offered a pleasant smile to the queue creation lady (a smile which belied barrel loads of repressed anger) and hoped, nay prayed that the Shop Assistant would process me quickly.   Thankfully she did.  I took my chocolatey goodness, pocketed my change and, eyes down, hurried out of the shop.

The problem with local shops, is that they are shops for local people.  In other words, local doesn't just refer something's location, it refers to it's unspoken rules of interaction.  (Think League of Gentleman, this is a local shop for local people).  Therefore, the next time I get a chocolatey urge, I'll head somewhere non-local. 

As an aside, and just because I want to say this, banal discussions about banal people is "not my natural milieu".  Harsh but true.  (Thank you BBC Sherlock's Mycroft).  ;-)


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