You Speaka My Language?


I was in a store the other day, trying to spend a gift certificate I received from my mother over the holidays. After twenty minutes of picking things out, I was told at the register that the gift certificate wouldn’t work at this store.

I looked at the logo on the little card. It matched the one above the counter. “Why not?” I asked.

What followed was one of the stranger conversations I’ve had recently.

The woman behind the counter was trying to tell me that they were a) a franchise, and b) as such, they weren’t hooked into the Master System at National HQ, so they, c) wouldn’t be able to redeem my gift certificate.

I, in turn, tried to communicate that a) in this age of instant communications it was incredibly stupid they weren’t connected to the people that had my mother’s money, b) referring to the previous point, could she maybe talk to someone up the food chain into changing that policy? And, c) I probably wouldn’t be shopping there until they did.

This discussion ate up ten minutes of my life better spent doing anything else, like cleaning the litter box. Very little was accomplished. The cashier acted as if I wasn’t speaking English. She had one of those beaded tethers around her neck for her glasses and would take them on and off as she tried to make her point, as if lecturing a particularly dense freshman class. My own sentences became clipped and terse as I realized I wasn’t going to get one iota of satisfaction out of the encounter, but unable to help myself from digging in further.

Neither one of us actually communicated more than a fraction of what we wanted to say. I left the store, growling and grumpy. Eventually, however, I got to thinking about my writing.

How is it, I wondered, that I hoped to reach anyone with words when I couldn’t even get my point across to someone in person? Face to face, I had multiple chances to make myself clearer, hear the counterpoint, and respond…but I’d failed. What was going to happen when I had one make-or-break shot at a reader–a blog post, a short story, a novel–and missed?

After walking the streets of Old Town Alexandria for a while, trying to make sense of things, I came up with a two-fold answer: write the best story you can to not give the reader a chance to hate it and…you’re simply not going to please everyone all the time. The old saying might be trite, but it still holds. Some people are going to love your writing, some people aren’t going to like it, some people (maybe a lot of people) aren’t even going to get it. That’s life and the sooner you deal with it, the sooner you’ll enjoy what you’re doing.

Then again, some cashiers just suck.

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Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

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Posted in Excellence in Writing
One comment on “You Speaka My Language?
  1. yoga-adan says:

    great points about doing the best one can, and not being able to please everyone matthew

    i think the only think i can add is, if the cashier (being the rep of the business, though i as a customer have tried to to “some” success) – had simply emphasized with you, ie –

    “i’m sorry, i know how you feel; yes, you’d think all this would be connected between the stores now, i’m so sorry…”

    it was “her” job to keep you as a customer for the business paying her their money, and part of that job is dealing with customers to at least try and keep them

    now, i don’t know off-hand, i need more coffee, how this might apply to our writing efforts, but i’m sure it does somehow 😉

    great points matthew, thanks!

    btw, that cashier did suck 😉

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