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The Nature of Personal Reality (With Apologies to Seth)

Not necessarily by choice, I have spent the better part of my adult life working in the customer service industry. Often times what was meant to be a short-term position, something to keep money coming in until I found something more appropriately suited to my wide variety of skills, interests, and abilities – or until my own business took off – has ended up consuming and controlling a vast portion of my life. As both of the long-time readers of this blog know, the time vampire in question here had previously been Dribble & Whizz. Now of course it is their arch-rival, Liqu-O-Rama, which is sucking dry my dark and miserable soul.

But for all the years I have spent laboriously doling out yummy room-temperature pints of breakfast to the great unwashed masses, for all the copious, encyclopaedic product knowledge I have managed to acquire, for all of the training I have gained in sometimes deftly navigating the tepid beige waters of retail sales, I will never fully understand how it is that the very fabric of reality seems to vanish once a customer crosses the threshold.

Perhaps it is simply a matter (though at present undocumented) that nearly all retail establishments are situated on ley lines and, as such, tap into the vast stores of electromagnetic energy generated deep within the Earth to manifest most of the odd and unexplainable behaviour.

clerk-actualOr it may well be that they are all somehow very conveniently, if not rather uncannily, specifically located in such areas where the veil between the various dimensions of reality is at its most tenuous.

Whatever the reasons, though the true Physical Reality (illustrated to the left) in any retail environment is typically one of a ready-to-be-helpful (and, yes, sometimes even smiling) associate who is prepared and (almost usually) fully trained to make someone’s shopping experience a smooth and reasonably effortless (or at least a not entirely irritating) one – an individual who is there to (for the most part) answer all pertinent questions and who is generally willing and able to provide the customer with whatever guidance or assistance they could possibly require before, during, and possibly even after a potential transaction – the Perceived Reality is, rather unfortunately, this…

clerk-perceivedThe clerk is diminished to abject insignificance; more often seen by the customer – if they are even seen at all – as a subservient lackey unworthy of even the most fragmentary acknowledgement beyond that which is required by absolute necessity; a dehumanised Yard Jockey void of all thought and feeling who  may easily be dismissed or disregarded as one chats away on a cell phone; a minimum-wage Step n’ Fetchit  at whom to bark a list of demands in lieu of greeting; a vacuous Yazza Boss upon whom civility is clearly wasted; in short, a snivelling, grovelling Jar Jar Binks, if you will.

Does that seem unduly harsh? Does that seem racist? Does it seem insulting? Welcome to the opposite side of the customer service counter.

For whatever reason, once a customer has crossed into the netherworld of a retail store, their perceived reality changes dramatically. Somehow it becomes perfectly acceptable to respond to ‘Hello’ with non-linear statements such as ‘You look like shit’ or ‘Pack of Marlboro’ or ‘Double bag that, boy.’ It is acceptable to unload personal and mental baggage in great and sordid detail or to find the clerk somehow responsible for all of one’s worldly woes. It is permissible to cough or sneeze directly upon a clerk without the superfluous need for covering one’s mouth or turning one’s head or with burning valuable time on the triviality of an apology.

Curiously enough, though many customers may frequently identify all manner of fault with their given service, they often do so without ever once comprehending or recognising their own contribution to the problem or understanding the basic concept of cause and effect. Granted there are exceptions.

Apparently there is no recognition, no comprehension that, for example, when one waltzes into a store on a holiday such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Rosh Hashanah, or Samhain – and generally with and attitude – there is someone there to assist you; someone whose job it is to see to it that you get the things you felt were so important and to ensure you needn’t worry about bagging your own items or pulling them out of the cart or having to figure out that whole silly and complicated money thing; someone who gave up time with their family and friends so that you could magnanimously mock and belittle them in front of your own friends to increase your social standing.

The thing is though, we are not here to throw away your freshly-used tissues or those curious objects found in your pockets or the wrapper from something you just bought and cannot restrain yourself from opening in the store or just because the long slow lonely walk to a rubbish bin conveniently located by the exit would be unnecessarily burdensome to you. We are not here to explain to you the historical precedents and the minute details of why foreign currency, video game- and/or miniature golf tokens, blank slugs, or bits of lint are not acceptable as legal tender as established by the Coin Acts of 1792 & 1965 respectively, and neither did we have any direct responsibility in signing those acts into law. We do not care why you are buying something and do not require a lengthy rhetorical dissertation on the matter referencing people or situations of which we have no prior knowledge.

But reality can quite often be a fickle – or even a karmic – thing. Even though it may seem that the clerk is an irrelevant and inconsequential non-entity, a needless and irritating hindrance to the transaction process, some thing at which to distractedly throw your money, or merely a turd in an apron who is incapable of finding gainful employment elsewhere, it is quite often also true that whilst lost in your own perceived reality you may very well have every confidence that you look like this…reality-yours



…when in fact, from the opposite side of the customer service counter, you really look like this…reality-mine








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