One of the things I love about my job is that I meet a lot of people, and I like to meet lots of people, so this is a good thing overall. The problem is that I don’t always remember these people as well as they remember me.
I have always been a people person, the epitome of what comes to mind someone is described as a people person in fact. Being a chatty person runs in my blood (as anyone who’s met even one of my blood relatives could testify to) and I’m generally a nice, pleasant person to chat with. Though I sometimes find it inane and silly, I am skilled in the art of small talk. I have been known to quip that I am the sort of person who could talk to a brick wall and have a perfectly engaging conversation.
This means I am well suited to my current career. One of the things that makes the small mom-n-pop types shops charming (in my opnion anyway) is that you tend to get to know the people who work there, who are always there, rather than just being just another check-out clerk wearing a uniform in a mega store where turnover runs about 80%. If you go into a small shop and the staff is familiar, you feel comfortable and at ease. (Well, as long as the staff is amiable. I suppose if it’s a really snotty person you probably wouldn’t go back.) I like to chat with my customers, and I tend to have long conversations with a large number of them, about everything. We talk about politics, movies, music, the weather, whatever. Most times I think to ask their name at some point in the conversation, and I make a mental note to try and remember it.
Sometimes that’s an easy task. There are some people who really stand out, and I’m able to remember their names - as well as other bits of the conversation - quite easliy. With a few of them, it’s because we really connect, and the conversation moves beyond small talk. Zane is a good example of this. He came in to the store one fateful Saturday afternoon, and I now count him among one of my very good friends. (Even if circumstance has prevented me from making it over to his side of town for a visit in too long a while now.) Those who rent movies from us are easy to remember as well, because I have to put their name into the computer to ring up the rental. Occsaionally it’s because the person I’m conversing with is a nutjob - one of the legions of crazies in the world - and they’re just so out there it would be more of a challenge to forget them.
The majority of the people I talk with sort of all blend together. I have the same conversations over and over some days, and it’s hard to remember who I told what to, not to mention what that person’s name was. This isn’t to say that these aren’t perfectly nice and interesting people, or that I have no desire to get to know them better. It’s just that I talk to so many people in an average day it’s hard to keep them all, well, straight would be the wrong word given where I work, but you know what I mean. The fact that we seem to have a million customers named John or David or Joe doesn’t help either.
Most of the time these people remember me more easily than I remember them. I don’t mean that I’m just so uber-impressive1 that they can’t forget me; even my ego isn’t quite that big. Somehow though, probably because one doesn’t tend to strike up a conversation with a straight girl working in a gay store on a daily basis, I manage to carve myself a nice little niche in their memories. For most people, this probably wouldn’t seem like much of a problem; indeed, most people would probably start to think that they were in fact just so cool that everyone always remembered them. (I know this is not the case with me, honestly, as most of my life I have been the person who everyone sort of knows because we’ve talked once or twice, but I rarely strike someone as memorable until the second or third conversation at least. Being good at small talk does have it’s disadvantages.)
I struggle with this phenomena though. I don’t like having to fish around to figure out which person this is that I’ve talked with before, and what we talked about, and have I told him that I used to live in LA or that I’m actually straight? I sometimes feel like an asshole for not remembering them right away, needing the nudges and reminders that set me straight as to which cute gay boy it is I’m talking to at that moment. I feel like an asshole because I’ve been on the other side of the counter, and we’d all like to think we’re interesting enough that the girl working at the store remembers the conversation she had with us a month ago as vividly as we remember it. So I try really, really hard to remember these people, to remember their names and the details of the conversations, but as good as my memory is, I sometimes get them confused.
So if you find yourself being that person on the other side of the counter, don’t be offended if the girl ringing up your purchase has to clarify who you are. It doesn’t mean that you’re not an interesting person… it’s just that she meets so many interesting people in a day it’s hard to remember them all.
Mind you, if she just looks at you with a fake smile and nods her head as you talk, you’re probably a boring twit who is only distracting her from other more interesting pursuits, like finishing up the monthly financials paperwork. You should keep that in mind.
1 That “uber” is just for you Craig. I realized I haven’t given you one for a while, so I had to slip it in there.