Monday, 26 September 2016

Answering Costa's Mr Small Talk.

I went into a Costa Coffee shop this morning and waited at the empty counter until a young male assistant walked through from the back. He was brimming with overly projected confidence, and said: ‘And what sort of a day are you having?’

Well, what sort of question is that, and how does one answer it? I would have been happy with ‘Hello’, ‘Hi’, ‘Good morning’, ‘Greetings’, or even the northern English vernacular ‘Ay up.’ A simple ‘Yes?’ would have sufficed nicely. The problem with ‘And what sort of a day are you having?’ is that it’s a nondescript yet complex question requiring a certain amount of consideration if you’re going to take it seriously. But you’re not meant to take it seriously; it isn’t serious, it’s disingenuous; it’s a form of small talk. I have difficulty with small talk at the best of times, and I draw the line absolutely at contrived small talk. So why did he say it?

My first thought was that it’s something they teach the lackeys on those idiotic training courses of which the idiotic corporate world is so fond, but that doesn’t wash. I use four different branches of Costa Coffee, two regularly and two irregularly, and I’ve always found the staff to be polite, pleasant and to the point. In all the years I’ve been using them, I’ve never been asked ‘And what sort of a day are you having?’ before.

I looked at him for several pregnant seconds and then answered: ‘Pretty much the same as any other day.’ He mumbled something which I didn’t catch as he turned to prepare the brew, and no further conversation ensued.

So am I becoming a miserable old git? I don’t think I am actually. I’m usually the model of politeness and pleasantness to shop assistants; I even have reasonable conversations with some of them. But I’m fussy about the level of interaction at which I’m prepared to engage. There is a line to be drawn and a point to be made, and so I make it as painlessly as possible and with the least prolonged acrimony. That’s all.

No comments: