Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Miss Earrings

"Manners are more important than laws and upon them, to a great deal, the law depends."

-George Bernard Shaw

Years upon years ago when I was knee high to a grasshopper I went with my mother, while we were on holiday in a delightful seaside town, to a store on the main street that sold odds and ends and colourful curios.
I remember that there was the littlest, dearest old lady behind the counter who watched us in a pleasant way.
My mother was interested in purchasing some earrings but they had to be of a particular kind.
"Do you have clip-on earrings?" my mother queried while browsing.
The store owner thought about it for a moment.
"No," she replied at last. "I don't think he's been in here for a while, now."
My mother was greatly baffled.
"Clip-on earrings?" she said again, a mite nervously now.
"Tip O' Neill?" the little old lady said carefully, referring to the then-living American politician.
"No, no! Clip-on earrings," my mother tried again.
My mother was able, eventually, to discern that the store did harbour such things as she was searching for, and she subsequently purchased a pair. The lady was very sweet about her odd mistake and we went merrily on our way.

These days when Spouse and I venture into a grocery store or indeed any public place, we are misheard more times than one could shake a stick at. Yet, somehow, it never emerges in the same way that it happened for my mother in a windswept Irish town years ago. Instead of a sweet, extremely hard-of-hearing old lady frittering away behind her counter who innocently mistakes discussion of earrings for pondering about travelling politicians, we are met by youngsters with open mouths, reluctance to listen, and glassy eyes- and oh, yes: certainly it is quite all our fault that we struggle to be understood.
Maybe, perhaps, some day, when out seeking and hoping for high quality customer service, such a moment will happen for us again and we will laugh about it for another twenty years.

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