April 3, 2000
There are in this world two broad classes of people: those who must work for a living, and those who do not. Naturally, one belongs to the latter class. But that does not mean that one does not have sympathy for the vast majority who belong to the former.
On the contrary. In this preamble to one's weekly collection of letters both motley and importunate, one wishes to express one's deepest sympathies, and offer consolation, to those labourers who, in order to obtain the weekly pay packet necessary to keep them fed and clothed, work in that specialised sector known as 'retail.'
One's heart, such as it is, goes out to these vast and underpaid masses, whether they stand behind the counters of Harrods plying ladies' scarves, or whether they work in bookstores, Tiffany's, the 'dollar mart,' or as waiters in the finest restaurants or the local 'Taco Bell.' For regardless of the relative station of the venue, the workers within are all forced to adhere to a single credo: The customer is always right.
Yes, the customer is always right. The chappie wearing the sleeveless shirt printed with the legend, Let's have another shag!, as he leans on the counter, investigates one nostril with with a nail-chewed finger, and holds up the busy line as he asks with genuine sincerity, "What's the difference between the regular hamburger and the hamburger with cheese?" He's always right.
The nouveau riche woman who spends four hours asking to try on vulgar gem-studded rings, and then walks out without buying a single one? Naturally, she is always right.
The vapid couple of no appreciable mental talents who order meal after meal at the restaurant, take a bite from each only to send it back to the kitchen for being less than toothsome, and then refuse to pay the bill for their drinks? Why, they couldn't be more right if they were Mr. and Mrs. Wright of Write Street, Selphrighteous, Missouri.
Those who work in such venues, of course, are wiser than their employers. They know that the customer is a dolt. They know that the customer is barely able to park his automobile, open the doors, and shamble into the establishment without losing his way, much less make a decision or ask an intelligent question once within. They know that the customer perpetually wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, and deserves a big kick in the pants, ninety-nine percent of the time. Yet grimly they trudge on, smiling pleasantly at the idiots in front of them, trying to convince themselves that the person with whom they are forced to deal might have the tiniest speck of rightness within, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Rather than say 'As you wish, madam,' to a particularly obstreperous customer, one would rather give oneself a 'body wax' and allow it slowly to be peeled from the hairier portions of one's body while listening to 'Britney Spears' sing excerpts from 'Carmen.' It must be terrible, being forced to be pleasant on the job.
Fortunately, as one's readers witness from column to column, only rarely must one attempt such a feat.
With sympathies, one remains for yet another week,
College Grad writes:
I can't believe the job market for college graduates today. I went to college expecting that I'd be given a good job after graduation, one that was commensurate with my education. But then I found out that personnel offices are full of people who, just because they have little to no education, like to keep us college graduates from achieving the salaries we rightly deserve.
I finally found a job as a Facilities Technician at a local company, and despite the job title the first thing my boss (a high school graduate only!) did was to give me a mop and tell me to scrub the floors. Me! A college graduate with a 3.0 grade average! I was speechless, but I'd appreciate it if you gave me something to say next time so I'm prepared.
Sir Charles replies:
Dear Arrogance Personified,
After considering your training and experience, one has decided that probing questions such as, "What's this wet stuff in the bucket?" or "This mop thing . . . can you show me how it works, please, sir?" would certainly suit.
Suggesting the college grad get used to it, one remains,
Harried Husband writes:
Perhaps you could help me out of a sticky domestic situation.
A few days ago my wife was rifling through my pockets and she found in my jacket a slip of paper with a woman's name and a number on it. I tried explaining to her that 'Delores' was the name of the horse I was betting on, and the seven-digit number were some odds on other horses. Like, 22-4, 4-1, 2-8.
I think she bought it, ha-ha! But just to be sure, should I get her flowers?
Waiting for your advice,
Sir Charles replies:
One has learned the hard way that the only remedy to such a messy domestic situation is diamonds, and plenty of them.
In the meantime, however, just make quite certain that your 'horse' doesn't happen to call you at home. One rather doubts that no matter how many earrings and tiaras you might buy, your wife would accept your assurances that 'Delores' is merely 'Mrs. Ed.'
Ever the sympathetic advisor, one remains,
Okay, so there was this girl and she was gonna ask me out but I was like, no way, and she was like, please, so I said okay, and then we went out to this like, place, and she said I bet you can't kiss me harder than like, this other guy, and I said, way, and she said, nuh-uh, and so like I showed her, and then I realized I'd been tricked into kissing her, and I was like, that was mean, you used me, dude, and she said, you didn't have to do it if you didn't want, and I was ready to like, get up and walk out right there, but she was like, apologetic and all, and besides, she was the one who drove, so I was like, listen, you asked me out, and you're gonna have to take me home, and she was mad and was gonna leave, but then she apologized and like, took me home and stuff, so should I see her again?
Sir Charles replies:
Your missive sounds vaguely like the English language, but one can scarcely understand a word of it. Does your train of thought happen to have a caboose, perhaps?
Feeling his head spin, one remains,