A Monkey Knows What Tree To Climb

I have always considered myself to be a “mannerly” person but at times some people really try your patience and all sense of what is right and proper goes out the door.

Last Saturday my Pa and I decided to visit the newly opened pharmacy in our area to renew his prescriptions and to purchase essential toiletry items.

I spent several minutes browsing before selecting my items for purchase. I had not initially intended to buy more than two things, but a helpful pharmacy employee who had been roving the aisles, saw that I was overburdened with items, and was kind enough to provide me with a shopping basket.

Pa had cashed before me and was standing next to the exit. The registers were clear so I had my pick of cashiers. I placed my basket on the counter and nodded and said hello in greeting to the cashier (maybe a “Good afternoon” would have helped my manners karma). All seemed to be going well. I must have been in a bit of a daze (Saturday after lunch…) and I admit that thanks to a bout of allergies, my hearing has been less perfect lately, but the cashier had to ask me twice if I would be so kind as to shift the items out of my side of the basket as she could not reach them. I obliged (I am a very short person, but the cashier did not seem to be any shorter…).

When the basket had been cleared, I was opening my purse to retrieve my bank card when I thought that I heard the cashier say something about moving the basket away from the counter. But before I had time to really register that she was talking to me and before I could respond accordingly, I heard someone behind me say impatiently, in a voice loud enough for the cashier to hear, “It is common courtesy to move the basket for the next customer in line!” and a hand reached at the side of me to snatch the basket from the counter.

I was mortified.

The most annoying thing was that the next cashier’s station was free so the individual moved across.

I surreptitiously got a look at my offender. A forty-something+ male of average height, with very tanned skin, close-cropped grey hair, Caucasian-looking features, clad in surf-shorts and a vest (my best guess at occupation / leisure interests – sea-based activities).

I continued my transaction in a haze of embarrassment, eyes blinking furiously to prevent tears from shedding (Mango’s instinctive reaction to slights – real or perceived) and hurried out of there. Alas more humiliation was to follow as I was called back by the cashier to collect my forgotten bank card. Pa got it for me as I was visibly upset and upon his return, gently admonished me by saying “You shouldn’t let those things bother you!”

Why not though?

When I really thought about it, what was it about me than made this person feel justified in upbraiding me in public? If I were not a relatively young-looking female, with all the outward characteristics of a particular racial group, would he have talked to me like that? A monkey knows what tree to climb.

Was it my attitude that made this person an unacceptable communicator? Would I have taken the “correction” better from someone else? Female, older, looking more like me?

Or was it more about the other person? Was he in a foul mood because of illness (his or a family member’s)? It is a pharmacy after all. Was he offended by the total of my bill? This particular pharmacy has a cashier’s monitor that is in full view of those standing in line. While the monitor does not reveal the names of the items bought, it does show the quantities and prices. This is a disquieting practice in an age of economic constraints. Or was he just trying to be helpful, but through word choice, volume, pitch, tone, accompanying actions, the meaning of his message got skewed along the way?

In retrospect though, would I have reacted any differently? I really have to grow out of the tears thing… Some would have had a witty retort, others might have cussed and carried on. Which of those is more or less classy?

Anyhow, it is all over.

My lesson from this: It does not matter how well-mannered and well-intentioned you are, someone will always get offended.


~ by mangoandmosquitoblog on May 13, 2008.

4 Responses to “A Monkey Knows What Tree To Climb”

  1. I have been driven to tears by seemingly ridiculous things too, I didn’t know it happened to other people as well. When I’m not at work or school I am also frequently in a ‘daze’, so people who don’t know me from school or work think I am stupid. I lived with my tantee for about a year, and she told me (and everyone else) that I have book sense and no common sense. I am in my own world most of the time.
    So it’s not only you, cheer up. I doubt I will ‘grow out’ of it.

  2. Laurazee:

    Thanks for sharing.

    I, too, have gotten the “book sense but no common sense” comments.
    Interestingly that assumption on the part of others often works to my advantage.

    You are right about the tears – just have to accept them, but at times, I feel like a traitor to some modern feminist ideal.

    You ever notice how when someone says (note: not writes) something that begins with “It is common courtesy…” he/she usually ends up displaying a lack of that same courtesy?


  3. As a man, I’ve always found that reaction …interesting…

    *shrug* One of the things I will never understand, I suppose.

  4. I’ve been through much worse and I keep moving

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: