I'm buying groceries at the local bodega, making small talk with the guys behind the counter, who I have a very teasing relationship with, back and forth.
There are three of them: the youngest son who is 19 and then his brother who is 23 and the father in his 50s.
It is the 23-year-old who has the wicked sense of humor. One time I told him that I was meeting with a book editor, and he asked me what kind of a book I was going to write, and I said, "It's going to be about you guys." Without missing a beat, he replied, "I'm writing a book about you, too. It's called "The Crazy Chick Around the Corner."
Another time I went in for Midol, and he asked, "How many do you want? I mean, how bad do you get?" Like a friendship where you instinctively sense what is OK, this was, and he completely cracked me up.
But like any familial service industry relationship, there are times when it gets complicated -- times when you just want the damned coffee, hold the commentary.
So when I spent a weekend recently binge-working, I accompanied it with binge-eating courtesy of this same bodega: Oreos and goldfish crackers and chain smoking a pack of Marlboro Reds just for good measure. I was so disgusted with myself by the end of it, I made the promise to myself it would be the last time I would ever abuse my body for the sake of ploughing through a workload.
When I returned yet again to my favorite funny family-owning bodega, I ended up talking to the more traditional father rather than the fairly hilarious 23-year-old. I plucked some kale chips, seaweed crackers and kombucha up on the counter saying, "I'm trying to make up for binge-eating Oreos last weekend. Ugh, never again."
The father looked at me square in the eye and said, "Yes, weight is the one thing you really need to watch."
That got my attention. Suddenly I didn't feel like kidding around anymore.
"So, ring me up?" I said, putting an end to screw-around-time with my friends at the bodega. I didn't take his remark all too personally -- as I knew that he was going with the vibe that I normally create, which is one where we all kid and say whatever. Still, it got me thinking about how much of an exception this man's 23-year-old son really was in that I loved joking with the kid, but he was the rarity. For the most part -- I would say 9 out of 10 times -- I just want to anonymously purchase my acne medication and Spanx and anti-gas pills or whatever embarrassing items are on my shopping list.
When I left the bodega, I was still a little riled from the "watch your weight" comment, and I wanted to do something passive-aggressive and bitchy. So I tweeted it:
And then I decided that I wanted to know other people's stories, too:
The thread soon became a potpourri of service industry anecdotes that were at times hilarious and other times brutal in how awkward and inappropriate these all-too-familiar encounters often became.
A dozen of my favorites:
1. "I enjoyed the hardware store clerk who asked me how much weight I had gained in my pregnancy. (I was pregnant at the time.)"
2. "I was having brunch with a younger, male companion, who ordered us Irish coffees. When the waitress checked my ID (I'm 45), she said to me, 'You're holding up well.' Um, that's not exactly a compliment, beeyatch." -- Tara Dublin
3. "A 49-year-old mom and her 14-year-old son pull up to a hotel. Bell boy grabs their bags, turns to the teen and jauntily asks, 'Is this you and your hubby's first time in Hawaii?'"
4. "While getting my eyebrows threaded: 'Are you really absolutely sure you don't want me to do your upper lip too?'" -- Dana Robinson
5. "A sushi place I used to order from frequently would EVERY TIME say 'same again?' and laugh."
6. "A supermarket checker saw the salad dressing I was purchasing and commented, 'They make a low fat version of this. It's not bad, you should try it!' I try to give her the benefit of the doubt that she meant no judgement or harm, but ugh!" -- Winona Awesumpants
7. "My friend recently purchased Midol and the cashier told her the chocolate was on sale."
8. "I adore the servers who, upon my request for gluten-free options, tell me, 'Oh yes, I've heard eating gluten-free is great for weight loss.' PS I am a thick chick. I should reply with 'And not giving a tip to rude severs is a great way to save money!'" -- Robyn Smith
8. "One time, a Starbucks barista greeted me with 'You look tired.' I think I just stared at him for a few seconds. the 'you look tired' thing is probably my #1 pet peeve of things people should not say to other people, especially if you're a total stranger. basically a more polite way of saying 'you look kind of crappy right now.'"
9. "Are you sure you're not having twins?" From a fellow Walmart cashier. I'm 21 weeks pregnant, with 1 baby only!" -- Kristy Volansky
10. "At work happy hour, bartender told me if I was going to drink so much I should switch to white wine so it wouldn't be so obvious."
11. "'Can I see your ID?' When I went to buy a DVD of RISKY BUSINESS. I was 33. When she looked at it, she paused and said, 'There's a fellow who works here who's 17 and has just as big a beard as you do.' The really funny part was that I had purchased plenty of R-rated movies from her before, but for some reason she decided in that moment she might have to protect me from the naked charms of Rebecca De Mornay." -- Allan Mott
12. "'Second bottle of wine this week, hmm? Boyfriend been bad?' No, two dinner parties, dick."
What about you? And, are you really sure you want whipped cream with that anecdote you're about to share in the comments?
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.