I wanted to follow up on Miss Julie's [love the name] commentary on her numerous encounters with a chronically friendly clerk at a local grocery store chain here in Bend. I am here to report that sadly, this clerk is living with me now.....
It started out innocently enough, with standard-fare comments such as, "Will you be needing any help out today?", or,"Great weather we're having, isn't it!". Statements that require an effortless nod of the head while swiping my credit card.
But the moment of truth always arrives as over achieving clerks like this are about to hand me the receipt."Go ahead, just hand over the receipt, come on....", I say to myself, and at the same time trying out hypnotic suggestion. As always, I am a nano-second too late.
The 'trained to be friendly' friendly clerk prides herself in JUST That last bit of effort. A pause, then a narrowing of the eyebrows, followed by direct eye contact. "Thank you Mrs.......Stien-hoff?" At this point I am usually experiencing an elevation of anxiety - I know all too well how this is going to play out.
"Yes", I say a bit too confidently, reaching for the receipt . Again, a nano-second too late. She's quick.
She always knows - knows I am pacifying her somehow, and she just won't have it. She tries again, hanging on to the receipt firmly now, with both hands.
"Is it Sern-kop?" she asks as if prize money were at stake. People are starting to form a line behind me, and pretending to be interested in Brittany Spears latest fiasco, but I see the glares - as if it's MY Fault. This clerk will pronounce my name as if her life depended on it!
I try my hardest at politeness after her third or fourth try. "Close enough", I say cheerily, and reach for the receipt. Once again, her reflexes are too fast for me.
Driving home, I listen to her read it again and again from the passenger seat, "Stienup? Sternkope? Sternberg - it's Sternberg right?!"
Flossing my teeth that night, I watch her reflection in the mirror, seated on my bathroom counter reciting, "Sterhuff? Stienhopp?..."
The next morning after our third refill of French Roast, I firmly take her chin in my hand and patiently mouth "S-t-e-r-n-k-o-p-f. It's Sternkopf. And you can drop the Mrs. part"
The friendly clerk repeats my last name in an almost whisper and a nod of satisfaction, then gently hands me the receipt, and with a friendly smile and a gaze over my shoulder says, "I can help the next person."