When Mr Grumpy met Little Miss Sunshine (in Costco)
April 24, 2018
Well, it’s finally happened - I met my first grumpy American.
For anyone who’s experienced Costco, imagine the scene: I’m strolling through the aisles looking for enormous multipacks of stuff I don’t need. At the end of each aisle are little stations offering tasters of everything from meatballs to metabolic boosters. If you’re smart, you can hit the place at lunchtime and pretty much eat your way around. I’m happy, I’m smiling, and as I pass a station offering crisps (chips), I cheerfully say ‘thank you’ as I take a mini cup. And that’s when I then got roundly lambasted - for taking from the back of the tray instead of the front.
This guy was angry. My Britishness immediately kicked in and I began to apologise profusely. But he was having none of it. At this point I realised I wasn’t going to win him over and walked away. But I felt really upset. Tears pricked my eyes, my face was hot with embarrassment. In my head I ran through things I wish I’d said: I’m new here, I had no idea there were ‘rules’. Why are you being so mean? Then I felt angry and toyed with going back past his station and offering him a sarcastic award for being the ‘first mean American’ I’d met whilst helping myself to another cup of crisps - from the back of the tray! But I didn’t.
On reflection, both our responses were out of proportion. I’m guessing it’s not that much fun running one of these sample stations - hoards of kids grabbing quicker than you can refill, people who don’t say thank you and most with no intention of actually buying the product being promoted. Who knows what he was dealing with - perhaps I was just the final straw on a tough day. I’ll never know.
And my response was no less dramatic. It burst a bubble that triggered anxiety. Not everyone is friendly, helpful and kind. And there’s still so much I don’t know or understand about life here - I’m sure there’ll be many more moments when I ‘take from the wrong side of the tray’ and when I get corrected, I’ll be terribly British, smile and say thank you.