“Never in my life have I seen someone so chitchat with cashier staff.”
– Akemi today on my propensity for engaging retail staff in conversation.
It happens a lot at Whole Foods whenever the cashier gives us the option of getting ten cents off our total or making a contribution to charity (for bringing in our own reusable shopping bag because Akemi always remembers). I always go with the donation and am invariably offered three possible charities.
“Who’s winning?”I always ask. Not that I’m really curious because I already know the answer. The animal charity is winning. It’s always winning. And any charity to do with cycling is always losing. It should come as absolutely no surprise that people love puppies and kittens, and despise cyclists. Giving money to support cycling projects is akin to donating the money to juvenile offenders or telemarketing companies – except that juvenile offenders and telemarketing companies don’t occasionally veer into your lane, block you from making right turns, or sail through red lights assuming you’ll stop.
And it’s not just retail staff. I’ll talk to anyone: fellow customers, taxi drivers, those people standing in line to use the bathroom.
“I thought he was your Stargate friend.”
She makes this assumption a lot. I’ll talk to someone for a little while and then, as my conversation partner heads off, she’ll ask: “Who was that?”
And I’ll often shrug and say: “I dunno.” Or, maybe, “Phil” or “Tom” or “Henrietta” if the person offered their name AND I happen to still remember it seconds later (an admittedly rare occurrence).
I suppose that, in Japan, social interaction with strangers is considered unusual, if not frowned upon – although, from my limited experience, Japanese retail staff are surprisingly receptive to the odd (in both senses of the word) attempt to engage them in conversation, possibly due to a number of reasons: professional courtesy, genuine delight, or sheer terror. I can’t wait to continue this social experiment when I hit Tokyo and Osaka late next week. And I’m sure Akemi will be thrilled.
Am I unique? What say you? Do you ignore that age-old advice and actually “talk to strangers”?