Sunday, November 22, 2015
Dead Cats At the Check Out
Language does not come from a vacuum. It must come from somewhere. This was a short, but memorable exchange between myself and cashier earlier today. When someone introduces a word, it is important enough for them to use it, so it is important enough for me to ask about it.
Subject: "How are you doing, sir?"
PH: "I am well. How are you?"
Subject: "I am good. I am really good."
She was peppy and happy and I thought to ask why she was so happy while working.
PH:: "How do you like it here?
Low paying, entry level, high turn over job.
Subject: "Actually, I like it a lot!"
The word "actually" told me that she was comparing it to something in her life; a former job or someone else who works, but I thought to specifically ask:
PH: "What do you like about it?"
Subject. "There's no drama here. Most of the people here are really nice! I really like it here! "
It is the absence of something that makes it enjoyable for her to work here. This is a strong signal that she is likely still new and came from a job where there was too much interpersonal drama to make work professional while still being able to talk about private lives. These types of jobs are known for drama and this is a signal that the recent drama likely did not turn out her way, so she got a new job...all my guess work from the introduction of 'drama' in the absence, or negative. Instead, however, I decided to, like her, find out what was negative.
PH: "Just most of them?"
Subject : "Yeah, well, yeah, most of the customers are nice but some come in and say mean things but you don't know, they could have had a bad day. They have a bad day but you have to accept that. Something could be wrong and they snap at you, but they might have had something really go wrong in their day, you know? Someone could have, you know, had a bad day or maybe even something like, you know, lost their cat or it died and they are snappy because of it."
She introduced 'dead cat' to our 'interview.' It had to come from somewhere. It does not just magically appear in the brain. This was from 'left field' and I immediately thought of all those 'dead cat jokes' I have heard over the years but knew not to make a joke: she is up, and suddenly she is down and a dead cat entered her language while at her job.
Since it was so unusual, and because she introduced it, I asked. Most people love being interviewed, even if it is just a customer. We love to talk about ourselves.
PH: "Where did 'dead cat' come from?"
Subject: "Oh, a few days ago, my friend's cat died."
There it is. It was on her mind, and it entered her language to a stranger.
PH: "Did she run over it?"
Subject: "Yes, but she didn't mean to."
PH: "She will get another?"
Subject: "Yeah, but you get attached to them, you know. It is not that easy."
I heard "you" and wondered about the distancing language. It made sense now, that she is close to her friend, her friend lost the cat, but I don't think she currently has one. My guess was that she did not have one but wanted one.
PH: "You don't have a cat, huh?"
Subject: "No, not me. No... (plus) She did, though and she will get another."
PH: "Well, I hope you get a cat. Thank you. Have a nice day."
Subject: (calling after me pushing cart out the door)
"Hey, it was really nice talking to you! Thank you!!"