Friday, October 7, 2011

There's a reason they're called Wal-Mart Greeters and not Wal-Mart Small Talk Makers

This is the sort of thing for which I tend to have a very unique gift, yet being on the receiving end made me feel just as dumb.

The person who did The Sort Of Thing I Usually Do was the Wal-Mart Greeter. My relationship with this particular greeter has never progressed beyond greetings either coming or going: “Welcome to Wal-Mart” and “Have a nice day.” She sees me at least once a week.

But the other day, as I was leaving with my purchases, she called out something to me that didn’t sound anything like “have a nice day.” It sounded more like, “I hear [garbled] is doing really well in school.”

Maybe I should’ve kept pushing my cart out the door and acted like I didn’t hear. But no, I had to stop and acknowledge what she said. There was no one else around, so she must have been talking to me.

She’d heard Baby Bear was doing really well in school? But how did she know about him? I’d never mentioned him to her, and he hadn’t been to Wal-Mart in a very long time. What to do? I thought of replying, “Thank you—school’s been in session for over a month now, and we have yet to get a summons from the principal, or a petition from his classmates’ parents, or another resolution from the school board. We’re very proud of him.”

But that garbled proper noun she’d used didn’t sound anything like his name. So instead I cupped a hand behind my ear, leaned forward, and asked, “Pardon me?”

She replied, a bit more loudly and distinctly, “I hear Gabby is doing really well in school this year.”

Gabby? I don’t have a child named Gabby. I didn’t know what horrified me more—this very awkward situation, or the notion that she had me confused with another Wal-Mart shopper when I pride myself on being the best dressed patron here, even if it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort.

I suppose I could have just said, “Thank you,” and moved on with my cart and my life, but my mind raced with the ramifications of that. I was reminded of that episode of Seinfeld where a co-worker called Elaine “Susie” and what happened when she didn’t bother to correct the co-worker. What if the greeter started asking about Gabby every time I came to Wal-Mart hereafter? I’d have to make up a new story about Gabby with each visit. This could go on for years, and who’s to say it wouldn’t contradict anything Gabby’s real mother might say?

What if I told the greeter, for instance, that Gabby went to jail, just to get her out of the picture and end the whole Gabby saga? Imagine the look on Gabby’s mother’s face (or even my face, since apparently I look just like her), should the perpetually confused greeter happen to ask her if Gabby’s up for parole yet?

I couldn’t have that on my conscience, and I didn’t have the energy for it, anyway. Feeling very sheepish—and why I should have felt sheepish, I have no idea—I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a child named Gabby.”

She didn’t say a word. She just stared at me, as if I were the one who’d said something wrong. (Well? I really don’t have a child named Gabby!) Meanwhile, a line was forming behind me. People wanted to leave the store, and I was blocking them. I hastily added, “But that’s okay—have a nice day,” which was supposed to be HER line.

Then I got the hell out of there and have been using the other Wal-Mart entrance ever since.