There were a few things needed at the grocery store so up and off I went.
The meat counter was one of the last places I visited. There were stuffed clam and scallop shells at a buck a piece on sale and I’ve come to really like them. 3 or 4 of them make a meal.
With no one in sight, I accessed the handy button telling me to “Ring For Service.” A quick, short push elicited a rather loud bell (which sounded more like a fire klaxon) which, in turn, yielded quite the commotion from behind the scenes in a prep area out of view. Pans and other metal items could be heard crashing to the floor; I could only guess I startled the poor person who was back there.
Seconds later, however, a short, dark-haired girl probably in her late 20s or early 30s came out, rather cheerfully:
“Can I help you?” she asked pleasantly enough.
“Yes, thank you. May I get 4 stuffed clams and 4 stuffed scallops, please?” I asked. She opened the case and began to pull them individually.
“Do you mind if I put them all on the same tray?” she asked.
“No … no problem,” I responded as she continued pulling the heaping shells.
She finished and slipped away for a moment, returning almost immediately to ask one final question:
“Do you know the difference between the two?”
Now, exactly at this point is where about half a dozen rapid-fire responses came to mind. Should I answer truthfully? Should I answer with a quip? Should I fake ignorance to see how her response comes back? I decided that last one wouldn’t work completely being I had specifically asked for 4 of each item so I figured she’d know I knew what I was asking for.
Or so I thought.
I decided to go with the sarcasm. In my biggest smile – and expecting one in return – I replied:
“Well … one is a clam and the other is a scallop … right?”
Now … I wasn’t certain if the gal helping me was the same one I startled by the ringing bell. Or maybe she was having a bad day. Or perhaps I interrupted her from just having sat down to munch her lunch. But whatever the reason, the response I gave her rubbed her the wrong way because, like a shot, she pulled away from me immediately. She attempted as best she could to resist rolling her eyes (she failed spectacularly at this) and let it be known through her body language she didn’t want anything further to do with me. She headed somewhere behind the counter to wrap my purchases.
As she left, I heard her mumble something to the effect of “Well … *grumph, grouse* … some people … *hrumph* don’t know … *gruff* … difference *muffle* …” or something like it. There weren’t any epithets I could detect but there was definitely a big heaping helping of attitude that got wrapped up with my stuffed shells.
On her return she handed the package over the counter. I thanked her kindly and, somehow, she mustered a return “You’re welcome” with such economy it sounded as if she’d compressed the words into a single syllable. It was rather impressive.
Moral: Sarcasm is a slippery slope, folks. Even with the best comedic intentions (and the biggest shit-eating grin you can muster) it’s still sometimes difficult to pull it off.