As some of you may have noticed from my blog posts and my desperate-sounding status updates on ye olde CrackBook, I have been trying to sell wreaths this Christmas. It's one of those delightful fund-raising efforts that parents have to put up with over the years, lest they be shamed into believing that they don't care about their children's education.
Part of our particular fundraising effort included having to stand in the merciless windstorm of yesterday and peddle wreaths close to Eastern Market. If some sort of lightbulb goes off in your head and you suddenly remember some overeager whaleish woman hawking something at you, please accept my sincerest apologies: I don't usually beckon total strangers to buy what I'm selling.
But you know what was funny? Well, there were the usual suspects, for starters: the nice people who bought from us (THANK YOU!!! You have no idea how many blessings/good wishes/excellent vibrations/happy hormones I am sending you from here!); the nice people who didn't buy from us, and whose sense of saying "No, thank you" and adding something nice was polite and thoroughly appreciated; and the language-challenged who, upon being asked if they desired a wreath, stared at me and my associate with a mixture of horror and shyness and making all manner of dangerous maneuvers with their head– it's okay, foreign people. Not all Americans will try to sell you things while you're on vacation; just the ones who are kind of desperate.
And then there were the disciples of Scrooge.
Now, I've been on the other side of having things peddled and shoved in my face, and I have marveled and cringed at the type of perseverance that it takes to do that. But now being on this side of things, I can tell you one thing: it only takes a little desperation mixed with having someone stimulate your sense of competition. That is actually all you need to make an ass of yourself and yell to people across the street to come admire your wares. I would say it's fascinating, but it's not: when you gotta do what you gotta do, you do it and it's amazing how little guilt you feel after you've bothered enough people. Mind you, it was not my intention to be annoying –I never once invaded people's personal space with anything but my rich, melodious voice, and I was careful to say "thank you" even in the resolute face of rejection. (I tried keeping the cursing to under my breath and the flipping-off strictly into my coat pockets, for instance)
But sometimes it was hard not to keep from either cracking up or bursting into tears on a couple of occasions.
My first such time was when a little old lady, very wrinkled and very dignified in a nice puffer coat, said the following without even looking at me:
It might have been a meaningless guttural sound, it's true, but it was so filled with hatred and contempt and a nasty sense of how-dare-you-speak-to-me that it felt like a suckerpunch to the stomach.
Aren't little old ladies supposed to be nice and buy my crap wreaths?
When the second such woman fitting the above description –subtract oversize bag, add dog– did THE SAME THING to me (sounding more snort-cum-bah-humbug-ish this time), I laughed.
I laughed out loud. Suddenly, the desire to cry and run to my mommy was displaced by something I feel is more akin to what the situation was really about: about someone who was bitter enough to forego manners completely and not even be able to say "no, thank you". It had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the other person.
Anyway, they missed out on very nice-smelling, cheerful wreaths. And cheer is something some of these people could have used in spades.
If you are going to do something nice for another being this holiday season, please remember to say "please" and "thank you" to those who serve you, seek to serve you, or those whom you serve. You have no idea what a difference it makes– not to mention the blog entries it spares.
Having been in the service industry (hotel, theatre, restaurant, restaurant in mall, call centre) one thing I always do is thank whoever serves me. People selling things on the street I tend to shake my head with a slight smile and say “no, thank you”. As much as I wish I could buy things I usually don’t have the money. However manners are free. Rude people (of any age) will get a look and a raised eyebrow. Sometimes even a comment if they are rude enough.
If you are going to repeat the selling experience good luck! And the next time someone acts that rude give them a smile and say “And Happy Holidays to you too.” Don’t let those Scrooges destroy your holiday spirit.
Gad, that sounds like something from a Lovecraft novel.