Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Shop assistants have started putting 'today' on the end of their questions.  Would you like chocolate or cinnamon on your cappuchino today? Would you like sugar today?  Would you like to pay by eftpos or credit today?  Would you like me to put it in a bag today? Would you like anything else today?  Is there anything else I can help you with today?

What does this mean, today, or, in fact,  any other day?  Does it imply that one is thought to live a life of complete inconsistency, one day bearing very little relation to another with respect to one's wants, desires or even behaviours?  Have they been taught to give the impression that every customer is a free agent, entirely unconstrained by the exigencies of life from one day to the next?  Or is it intended to imply that somehow they know that this is a special day for us?  If so, this is something that might begin to lose its effect if one hears it every day.

More importantly, how is that that it suddenly seems to have begun in all shops and cafes, not just in New Zealand, but also in Australia?  Is this perhaps the latest example of an a-causal connecting principle, Sheldrake's morphic resonance at work in the everyday world?  I suspect though that Sheldrake was thinking of something a bit more profound and far-reaching than the 'today' effect.

Or perhaps there is some ubiquitous training manual, that is updated to all establishments.  If so, who makes the decisions and writes it?  Or perhaps the shop assistants pick up the new ideas from other shops when they themselves are customers.  If so, where did it begin?  Who is ultimately responsible for this new awkwardness that has made its way into our daily lives?  It is yet another thing to deal with, to make a decision about, to work out a clever response that will fall on ears that do not want to hear it.

Anyway, I suspect that we are stuck with it for a while, much as we have been stuck with "Have you had a busy day?" This is a question to which it is almost impossible to reply satisfactorily.  "Yes" seems a bit peremptory and "No" seems to imply a less than adequate life.  And to offer more than a simple affirmative or negative somehow takes the whole matter too far, something shown readily by the puzzled look from she who is by then proffering the bill.  Clearly, the checkout people couldn't care less about the progress of one's day.  Fair enough, although one does have some sympathy for the progress of theirs. What must seven or eight hours sitting there and making much the same enquiries of everyone be like?  But, why then do they continue to ask these questions?

But at least we have not yet had to face a question that's not a question at the end of nearly every utterance, as with the British "...in it?" Perhaps it is a little like the New Zealand rising inflection that turns everything into a tentative, I'm-not-sure-if-I-should-be-saying-this-at-all sort of statement. The impossibility of resolution leaves one feeling slightly tense, the entire conversation lacking a firm end. On reflection though, the British "...in  it?" is more of a challenge, it carries an aggressive you're-not-going-to-argue-with-this flavour to it. Might this be a final hangover of the difference between the colonizer and the colonized?

It's a wonder that we  manage to get through day to day interactions at all. Of course, on some days we don't.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License.