Mike and Mom: Mallrats

August 19, 2008

So I was at the mall today with my mother, as she bought me new clothing for the upcoming school year.  I know what you’re thinking: why would a 21-year-old still go shopping with his mother?  And my answer to you is that I don’t have to pay for clothing.

Anyway, we went into Old Navy and I found a pair of cargo shorts that would look dashing on me.  So I went to try them on and before I went into the fitting room, a female employee of Old Navy said to me, “If there is anything I can do for you, just ask.”  I thought this was a nice thing to say and that the employee was doing her job well.  Then, as I was trying to unzip these new shorts (the zipper was tough, you have no idea), I tilted my head slightly upward and looked into the distance (very John Dorian from “Scrubs” style) and thought about this statement for a second.  What can she do for me?  There is nothing.  She can’t help me get my new pair of shorts on because, quite frankly, I would feel very violated (maybe she could have told me the zipper was impossible, though).  The only thing she could have done for me is maybe do the Heimlick Maneuver if I choked on the hanger (which is a wee bit of a stretch).  But I wasn’t hungry, so there was no hanger eating today.

This got me thinking about this thing that everybody does: being nice using empty words.  If you don’t know what I mean, here is an example that I used just two and a half weeks ago multiple times.  I was at a friend’s apartment for dinner and although I knew she didn’t need help with anything, I asked if she needed help.  Therefore, it made me look like a decent guy (of course, it didn’t help my “nice guy” persona that I told my friend why I had asked her if she needed help).  We all do this and we do it a lot.  Whether it is the waitress who asks, “If you need anything else just call me,” after she gives you the check or the Sports Authority employee who says, “Please come and find me if you need anything else,” just moments before his shift ends.  It happens all around us and it happens a lot.

But then I thought some more.  Are these actions necessary to our lives?  I mean, it doesn’t have any negative effects.  It only makes the customer or friend or whatever feel better about themselves and the environment they are in.  However, I would love to see a world where this “fake niceness” was non-existenta place where people acted real, and instead of focusing on this “fake niceness,” focused on “real niceness.”

And by the way, I didn’t buy those shorts.  The zipper was almost impossible to unzip.  And besides, how can I buy something from Old Navy that doesn’t have a catchy jingle commercial?

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