Three very uncomfortable looking people came into the OOF (Out of Favour) shop the other day, all middle aged, all smiling maniacally. The two men slunk awkwardly into the far corner, whilst Lady Leader advanced forward and stood silently in front of me. Smiling.
Alarm bells started beeping loudly in my brain.
|Smiley smiley! Picture: Gratisography|
Her: (Smiling really quite alarmingly hard) “Hello, how’s business?”
The alarm bells were now beeping and flashing. Yes, I know it sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to say, but in my experience, anyone who asks, “How’s business?” 1) Doesn’t give a shit how business is; 2) Is clumsily trying to draw me into a ‘spontaneous’ conversation, which will lead ‘oh so casually’ to some tiresome pitch about a rubbish product, service or religion they want to flog.
Me: “It’s fine. How is yours?”
Me: (Without waiting for her answer, because, unlike her, I wasn’t hiding the fact I didn’t care how her business was) “What can I help you to buy today?”
Her: “Well…. It’s more of a treasure hunt.”
This was a new one.
Her: “It’s about a treasure hunt.”
Me: “You want to buy some things for a treasure hunt?” I knew she didn’t want to buy some things for a treasure hunt.
Her: (Placing a handwritten note in my hand), “Do you recognise any of these things? Are any of them familiar to you?”
I looked at the scrap of paper. It was pink and contained three columns of words, written in red biro. The top two words in the first column were, ‘Ginger’ and ‘Charlotte.’ The rest of the words were…..well, I’m afraid I can’t remember the rest of the words, because, although all of them were everyday words, there was no rhyme or reason for the groupings. They were just a random bunch of words and phrases, inexplicably organised into three columns.
|A copy of the note I was given. The first two words are correct. The others are an approximation. A very loose approximation.|
Oh what fresh weirdness was this?! I had no idea what I was dealing with. Confused, I gave the paper back to her.
She just stood there, smiling.
The other two still lurked awkwardly in the corner. Smiling. I wondered whether I was being subtly inducted into a cult. How exciting! Not sure my facial muscles could hack the endless beaming, but maybe they supplied free Deep Heat and toothpaste; their teeth did look very shiny.
But I wanted her to stop smiling. I wanted to know what they wanted. I wanted to be more patient, but I failed. I pointed to the paper;
“I don’t know what this is. Just tell me what you want to buy.”
“Oh, I don’t want to buy anything.”
And there it was. Stage One of the Tiresome Pitch. Well, I was buggered if it was going to reach Stage Two. It was time to use their creepy pleasantness against them.
With a smile worthy of a Premiership WAG with veneers, I beamed, “Oh, I’m sorry I can’t help you then,” whilst moving decisively towards the door, and holding it open for them.
Etiquette is a marvellous thing. If a door is held open for you, you go through. It’s the irresistible law of politeness. Lady Smiley Face and the Smiley Twins had no chance; their fate was sealed. Out they went. Smiling.
After they’d gone I felt like I’d been visited by The Moonies, and I still wasn’t quite sure what exactly they’d been trying to push, so I popped into the shop next door to see if they’d had a visit too.
Turned out Team Smiley were flogging miracles.
“Oh yes,” said the Manager from next door, matter-of-factly, “They offered us a miracle. But I was in the middle of making tea.”