As a rather shy and introverted human, I’m no stranger to awkward conversations. It’s taken many years of practice, effort, and oftentimes alcohol, to be even slightly comfortable at a business lunch or cocktail party. If I never had to make small talk with someone for the rest of my life, I’d be perfectly content.
So that’s why the encounter I had with a nice young clerk at a local store on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve struck me as odd, yet humorous, in its sheer weirdness, and left me relating to trying that hard, as well as feeling happy for him that he was trying, and pitying him because it just wasn’t clicking for him.
As the young man was scanning my groceries, he engaged in standard pleasantries, asking how my day was, if I had any coupons, and other typical chatter. At one point he remarked that he hadn’t seen the tub of Cheez-Its that I was buying come through yet. It was some special they were running, a big container of Cheez-Its in what looked like might be a reusable tub with some pictures of football players on it. I remarked that my 12-year-old would be eternally grateful when I returned home with the Cheez-It bounty.
The clerk then said something about how he could save it as a souvenir, I said, sure, I suppose he could put all kinds of stuff in there when it’s empty. Then he said something about how people use all kinds of things for souvenirs. Yeah, ok, I guess. Then said, “I’ve heard of people who take a souvenir from where they were when they lost their V-card.”
I was just kind of agreeing with everything at that point, and thought, V-card? Is that the new store loyalty program or something? I don’t think I’m signed up for that yet. Then as quickly as I’d had that thought, it dawned on me. Oh. THAT V-card. Probably didn’t register with me immediately since my own v-card has been in a landfill for the last two decades, probably next to an empty bottle of Riunite and a Cinderella mix-tape (Cinderella the hair band, not Cinderella the Broadway cast recording, though with a couple of guys I dated/liked, I probably would have done better with that, but we’re now getting into a weird area here, let’s focus back on someone else’s awkwardness, not my own.), and because I have four boys whom I don’t want to think will be thinking about such things.
So I laughed nervously, and said, “You’d think the experience itself would be enough of a souvenir.”
And the conversation kept going, and I got the distinct impression that he was still a card-carrying member. Maybe he had plans later, and was hoping to turn it in, I don’t know. I just know the topic didn’t change for what seemed like an eternity, despite me trying to move it forward, making me realize how far I’d come, despite often feeling like I never have the right thing to say.
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2013