Why do I always end up in conversations with customers on subjects I know nothing about?
This week’s gem was all about Amelia Peabody. Now, you may know everything there is to know about Amelia Peabody, but I’ve never heard of her and wouldn’t know her from a tin of peaches. Not that it made any difference to the customer. She wanted to talk about Amelia Peabody, so talk about Amelia Peabody we did:
|Amelia Peabody, apparently (but not that Amelia Peabody). Picture source: www.apcfund.org
Her: Have you heard of Amelia Peabody?
Me: No, why? Does she wear tops like this?
Her: (Looking aghast at my ignorance); No! She’s married to an archaeologist!
Me: Right…. (I’m starting to struggle…).. Does that mean she can’t wear tops like this? Would the archaeologist get, er, mud all over it?
Her: No, no, no, she lives in Egypt.
Me: OK…….Then something nice and lightweight like this might be nice for her? Are you thinking of buying her a present and sending it over?
Her: (Looking at me like I’ve grown an extra head); Of course not! Have you never heard of her?! Have you never read the Amelia Peabody books? They’re really very good.
Me: Er, sorry, no. So she’s an author? What does she write about?
Her: She doesn’t write about anything. She has adventures.
Me: (I’m really struggling now), Right, OK, but you just said……
Her: (Giving me a very withering look which may or may not have included a mini eye - roll); Amelia Peabody doesn’t write anything because she is the character in the books. She is a formidable lady who meets an Egyptologist and solves Egyptian themed ancient crimes.
At last! I finally felt like I was actually part of the conversation I appeared to be having. And, being fully up to speed, I was eager to contribute to what had so far been a bit of a one-way discussion:
“Oh!” I cried, “That’s a bit like Agatha Christie!”
Oh yes! Nailed it! I may not know my Amelia Peabodys from my elbow, but I definitely know that Agatha Christie married an archaeologist who specialised in Middle Eastern digs, and she was right there with him in the middle of the dust and the bone for a lot of the time.
Unfortunately, it appeared my bid to be an equal partner in this entirely superfluous and irrelevant conversation fell short of the mark.
The customer just looked at me pityingly and said, rather slowly, in a sympathetic tone that hovered just inches away from patronising - like you’d use to address an old lady who thought she’d left her weekly shopping in Germany again:
“Well, yes dear …..but that was in real life.”
What? Of course it was in real sodding life! Do you think I believe Agatha Christie is a work of fiction? A made up person who probably shares a starter home with the tooth fairy and a chiropodist with Peter Pan?! (Yes, I know I’m getting carried away here, but if Agatha Christie was a made-up person, I’m convinced she’d share a chiropodist with Peter Pan, aren’t you?….)
Or maybe the customer thought I was getting her confused with Miss Marple, but Miss Marple never married a Middle Eastern archaeologist; and if even if she did, it would have been Agatha Christie who made her do it, because Agatha Christie was real.
|Agatha Christie. She's real. Photo, Sinelinea, Pixabay
Unfortunately I felt I couldn’t clarify my position without sounding like I thought she was stupid:
‘Well, yes, madam, I see your point, it’s easy to get real life and not real life mixed up, and if we ignore the marrying an archaeologist thing, the Middle East thing and the crime thing, then Amelia Peabody and Agatha Christie are actually completely and utterly different. Only a fool - or a shop girl -would draw a comparison…’
So, instead, I just made some sort of noncommittal grunt and drew her attention to the lovely new tunics we had in stock.
But now I’m left with three questions:
1. Why do customers never seem to get fed up with these one sided conversations? I’d like to think it’s because I’m very good at blagging, but in truth I think it’s because they just like the sound of their own voices. I don’t even really need to be there. Next time I’ll just carefully manoeuvre a mannequin into the customer’s eye line and go off and make a nice cup of tea.
2. Why do I feel as if I’ve typed ‘Amelia Peabody’ more times this week than anyone else in the whole world?
3. Does it still count as womansplaining if it’s woman to woman?