You’ve met them: The people who work with the public, who can’t respond to a simple inquiry without engaging the person who makes the inquiry.
By “engaging,” I mean starting a conversation.
These are usually the owners of small businesses — which I support completely — and salespersons working on a commission basis. They have little control over their situations. They need the business, and the bottom line is better if they can make us feel attractive or intelligent.
This makes me uncomfortable. I don’t have much of a social life to start with, and I feel suspicious when someone is obviously pretending to be my friend. I know I can’t call that person in an emergency, and I know I will never go over to that person’s apartment to check in with the cats and scoop litter (although I have done that when a casual friend is away from home). Neither that businessperson nor I will ever pick up the other’s mail, and neither of us will ever help the other get home from the hospital. That business owner or sales rep will tell me how nice I look and ask me how I feel about some issue, and I’ll buy a bag of peanuts.
In one store in particular, I have been more uncomfortable than usual. The owner makes a point of introducing me to new employees, and when he did that earlier this month he cracked a joke to the effect that I work for the Health Department.
“No, that’s my evil twin, Taffy,” I said. It’s a misunderstanding which I must address with people at least twice a month.
The owner and his employees laughed, politely. I knew they would.
Again, I’d like to emphasize that I understand why this odd social environment exists. Large chain stores and the internet have taken over retailing, and small businesses are closing. The goal is to give the impression that the customer is respected.
I don’t feel respected, though. This fake warmth makes me feel as if I’m on an airport people mover. During these prepared encounters I often step aside so other customers can pay for their peanuts. The only upside I can find is that everyone working behind the counter is sober.
A few days ago, I may have reached my limit for the in-person equivalent of corporate-consumer correspondence. And Baphomet — until then a near-total stranger — was unwittingly pulled into the conflict.
I don’t recall how the conversation started, but I let it stream in a natural direction so it moved outside the predictable formula. Something about social media sites and tracking cookies.
I told the store owner I had looked at a plush Baphomet doll on a website, and found him endearing. Then I added that an ad for said doll turned up on one of my social media pages shortly after that.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
“Uh, these days he’s a Satanic figure, but I don’t believe he was originally,” I said, before being cut off abruptly.
“Not my thing,” he replied, stepping away and starting a conversation with the staff behind the counter.
Okay, people have varying reactions to anything perceived as Satanic. The occult attracts some people you’d rather not meet, but I understand the Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts has a list of Seven Fundamental Tenets which relate more closely to humanism than devil images. As a matter of fact, devil images aren’t mentioned at all in the tenets.
As long as Satanists adhere closely to the Seven Fundamental Tenets, I’m guessing they can be a pretty rad group. Without the tenets, it’s kind of scary.
But I digress.
Immediately after my Baphomet reference, I left the store. I wasn’t done, though. I guess I was angry, although I shouldn’t have been. That merchant relies on customer relations to stay in business, and we had a conflict because customer relations gives me gas.
In a plaza near the store, I stopped to look at my cell phone. I pulled up a photo of an artist’s rendering of Baphomet which was on a news site, and saved a screenshot. Then I did the same with a display photo of cutiepie plush Baphomet.
I walked back into the store.
“Here’s the guy I was talking about,” I began, holding the phone so he could see the screen. I don’t recall whether the artist’s rendering or the plush toy was visible.
He didn’t bar me from the store, but he reiterated that it wasn’t his thing, and he went back to talking with his employees.
Jane Austen could have had a field day with this scenario.
Yes, I have some regrets. The poor guy had no idea he has been putting me on edge for nearly twenty years, and rather than making a stronger effort to avoid unnecessary conversation with him I resorted to something that caused a bad reaction.
I’m not sure it was fair to Baphomet to use him that way, either. The goat/man figure was exploited as an excuse for persecution in Medieval European history, and given the current swerve to the far right in some Western countries maybe we shouldn’t risk encouraging anyone who wants to send us back in that direction. I don’t have those concerns about anyone who works in that store, but customers may have been within earshot.
At any rate, what happened in the store can’t be changed. And, if you have time, check out the Seven Fundamental Tenets. You don’t have to take up Satanism to recognize good sense in this. Please find the screenshot below, or go to https://thesatanictemple.com/pages/tenets
What’s done cannot be undone. — Lady Macbeth