Last month I’d gone into the local big chain grocery store because they had clementines (oranges) on sale for a good price, $2.50 for a multi-pack of either 4 or 5 lbs. I walked over to the display. It was piled high with fruit. At a distance it looked great. I was happy they had lots (as opposed to wandering in and finding a few or none because other shoppers had already grabbed up the substantial savings).
Two store employees, a man and a woman, were off to the side of the display but I wasn’t in their way and they weren’t in mine. Besides, employees in this store almost never speak to me and are far more likely to interact only with each other so I assumed that’s what these two would do as well.
I started looking at the fruit and other than being bright orange, which is the least you can ask of an orange, none of it seemed good. I was surprised when the female employee, unprompted, addressed me helpfully: “He just put those out.” Now I was in a bind. I wanted to respond in kind, i.e., a friendly way, and yet the things I was thinking about their gnarled produce could well result in a response that sounded insulting.
In an even, not quite apologetic tone, I ventured, “Uh, they seem kind of squishy.” The employee answered but not to say the predictable pablum along the lines of: how dare you say anything bad about our produce, they’re the best in the business, none fresher, left the farm 10 minutes ago, this one looks fine, blah blah. Instead she agreed with me! Even offering that some of the oranges were “moldy on the bottom.” Now this lady really had my attention. She hadn’t fed me some bullshit line. Or found fault with me and my orange-assessment skills. Or tried to push nasty fruit on me. “Thank you,” I said gratefully, “for being honest with me!”
The exchange set out in relief to me how uncommon it’s become that people, especially, but not limited to, commercial transactions, tell it straight. I am so used to being snowed. Fed lines. Played. Pushed. Coerced. Which makes me so appreciative when someone is honest. I can’t say that’s a winning commentary on either how things are or how I perceive them to be, but I’ll take what I can get.