Please Don't/Do Look at Me

In college I majored in Human Communication. When I tell people this they usually respond by saying something outrageously hilarious like “Oh, as opposed to animal communication?” No you moron, as opposed to just studying language and words I learned how human beings throughout the course of history have interacted with each other across cultures and different mediums.

Woah, sometimes I lose my cool.

As a Human Communication graduate, I try my best to make my interactions with all people pleasant and enjoyable. However, the amount of people in the retail/food service world that refuse to make eye contact while talking to me is driving me a little bit crazy.

I was at a Subway Restaurant a couple of weeks ago and when I got up to the register man behind the counter took my sandwich to bag it and ring me up. He was about to tell me the price when his cell phone rang, so he ANSWERED it before telling me the price and completing the transaction all without looking at me. I was so confused I put the change in his tip jar.

Yea, I don’t know why I did that.

I actually can understand incompetent store help avoiding eye contact, but the detached robot-like answers I have started receiving are just weird.

New York City has a drug store called Duane Reade. There is one a block away from my job in Manhattan, and one a block away from my apartment in Queens. It was here that I was the recipient of bizarre communication.

I was at the Duane Reade near my apartment because I was out of hand soap and was having people over. Nothing says “I’m a gross human” like not having hand soap at your sink. You might as well put a sign on your door that says “I don’t believe in bathing and I eat trash.”

So I’m standing in the soap aisle contemplating the many varieties of soap. I am reading labels, opening bottles and examining the contents. I am quite aware at this point that I am rapidly losing masculinity points. I go to start sniffing the products to see which I like best when I notice a man next to me checking out the Axe Body Sprays. I know something is wrong with this man because… well… because he is checking out the Axe Body Sprays.

But he is not just reading the labels, he is spraying them… on himself.

I am so fascinated by this man that I have become completely oblivious to my sniffing and submerge my nose into a bottle of green tea and aloe scented hand soap. In my haste to classify Mr. Axe as the moron, I have quickly pulled ahead in the standings.

Standing there with soap all over my nose I quickly realize the 2 of us look like the guests of honor at the Drug Store Idiot Convention.

Eager to get out of this hell hole I wiped the soap off my nose, grabbed a bottle of foaming hand wash (masculinity falling faster now) and headed to the counter. As it was 7 pm on a Saturday night, it was pretty much just me and Lord of the Body Sprays in the store so I waltzed right up through those black poles that show you where you stand before you pay.

It was at this point that the woman behind the counter looked me straight in the eye and said, “May I help the next customer in line.”

I kind of squinted for a second before brushing off her strange way of addressing me and walked up to pay. Perhaps she liked formalities. As she handed me my change I almost said “The customer thanks you” but I thought the better of it.

I paid no mind my counter exchange until the following week.

I was at the Duane Reade in Manhattan buying candy. I work in an office and if you don’t have a regular supply of candy, people go completely bat shit crazy.

What is even worse than never having candy to begin with i if you have candy… and then you run out. People who normally take the candy will walk up, throw their meaty paw into your giant sparkly hat, or wherever you keep your candy and say something like, “Oh man, what happened to all the candy?”

To which I usually respond, “Have you checked your ass you Butterfinger-for-breakfast creep?”

No I don’t say that… but I want to.

I’m not sure if it bothers me more that people take candy and don’t replace it, or that people purposefully walk by known candy suppliers just to see if the stash is full. I want to put a live rat in that deep dark candy hat one day so I can see someone walk by, shove their hand in there and scream “EWW A RAT!”

“Oh I’m sorry I forgot to tell you, we switched from Hershey kisses to giant live rats. I hope you don’t mind. You do eat giant live rats right?”

ANYWAY I was in Duane Reade buying some candy (because they don’t sell rats). I grabbed a bag of York Peppermint Patty minis (half the size, just as good) and went to go pay for them. I walked into that little roped off area and prepared to approach the counter. I was the only one waiting, there was nobody behind me, and there were 3 Duane Reade associates behind the counter.

One of them, once again, looks directly at me and says in a voice that makes her sound like she’s working the checkout counter at Guantanamo Bay’s torture store, “May I help the next customer in line please.”

I stopped and had a momentary panic attack. Was I not really there? Had I ceased to exist? Had I turned invisible? Why wouldn’t she just say to me “Can I help you sir?"

Was she a robot? Animatronic? Blind? I didn’t know. I seriously had to make sure I was

A. Not a ghost

B. In fact, clearly visible

C. In the line for the counter

What happened? Is Duane Reade brainwashing its employees Clockwork Orange style? Its bad enough they ask me every single time if I have a club card. Don’t you think I would show it to you if I had one? Damn it I don’t want one. I just want you to treat me like a normal human being and look me in the eye like I actually exist.

Maybe I should have just majored in retail communication. Maybe I just take things to literally. Ah hell, I’m just cranky because our sparkly hat has no good candy in it right now.

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The Cleaners

Since I moved into my new apartment, I started going to a new dry cleaner. This particular cleaner has an Asian mother-daughter tandem. One woman rings you up, the other one touches and rolls up the dirty clothes.

She does this without putting on any sort of gloves or protective covering. This disturbs me. I mean, I could work at the hepatitis clinic and spend my day wiping syringes on my shirts and then bring those clothes straight to the cleaners. Just think of all the awful things that could be on your clothes.

Perhaps this is revealing too much about myself, but when I don’t have a napkin or towel nearby, I sometimes use my pants. Lord knows what else the rest of the population is wiping on their pants. Mustard…sweat…snot.

So on my last trip to the dry cleaners to pick up my pants and shirts, I received a surprise. After I gave the nice lady at the counter my receipt, her mother retrieved my clothes and came back with a little bag of a new prescription strength antiperspirant. She handed it to me and said “Do you get this yet?”

My brain immediately went into overdrive. What the hell was this woman saying? Was she honestly asking if I had ever used antiperspirant before? Was she condescending to me saying that my shirts stink?

Listen lady, I know I sweat a lot, but it’s not like it’s my choice. I don’t wear wool undergarments and run up and down stairs so I can walk around town with really cool sweat stains under my arms. Some of us are just warmer than others!

After I had that entire conversation in my head, I responded with a much calmer, “What?”
“Do you get this yet? Do we give this to you?”

It was a gift; they were giving me a free gift trial size of a new antiperspirant.

“Oh, no no, I didn’t get this yet,” I said smiling. I thanked her.

“One man come back, he like it so much he ask us if we have more.” And she burst into giggles. I giggled with her.

But now that I had gotten my heart rate all riled up, I probably could have used the new antiperspirant right then and there. It was “prescription strength” antiperspirant. Reading those words on the box made me confused.

Had doctors just stopped writing prescriptions for antiperspirant? Were the medical limits of antiperspirant recently changed? Shouldn’t this have been something that was in the news? The last time I checked when I needed something that was prescription strength I did not immediately go to the people who wash the fruit punch stains out of my pants.

Nonetheless I thanked the nice ladies, and accepted my free gift. After all it was a pretty cool free gift. And it made sense that the drycleaners were chosen as a dispersal point. As it turns out, I quite enjoy this new antiperspirant. It makes my arm pit smell like a bushel of flowers.

Not bad right?

But the scenario got me thinking. Maybe it is because the dry cleaner handles your most intimate articles of clothing that they feel they are entitled to have such insight into your life.

Think about it. They know your favorite colors, your favorite articles of clothing, where you sweat the most, and whether or not you are a raging slob. But what would happen if all the service industry people we interacted with on a daily basis gave us “recommendations” without us asking for them.

Imagine walking into a pharmacy to pick up your prescription, the pharmacist taking one look at you, and handing you a pack of condoms. What would you do? I’m not sure if I would be more upset that she thought I was a whore, or if she thought I were so ugly that she didn’t want me to reproduce.

Or better yet, imagine being at the supermarket. You put all your food on the conveyor belt, the nice lady scans everything, looks at your food, looks at you, and then reaches behind the counter and pulls out a box of diet pills to add to your cart.

What the hell? Knowing myself, I probably would have just laughed, but would you? I can just hear the outrage of people in my head. “HOW DARE YOU?” We love asking advice from other people, but unsolicited advice makes us go bat guano.

It is funny how much you can learn about somebody just by the things that they purchase. Maybe we should pay attention to some of those suggestions? Or maybe we shouldn’t. All I’m saying is I did, and now my armpits smell like tulips. Not bad right?