Thursday, June 17, 2004

Hazelblackberry: There was one thing we weren't thinking of.

Dear Nick

Here's a sign that has continued to puzzle and amuse me through the years:

"Please don't ask for credit as refusal may offend."

What is wrong with a simple and straightforward sign that says "No Credit Here" or "Credit Not Given"? And let me take care of my own offendedness, thank YOU very much. I dread to think what timid bar- or shop-keep first penned such a sign, spawning thousands like it in delis (or, if you will, deli's) and liquor outlets (walk-in AND drive-through) round our nation. Our once proud nation where, in days of yore, people could ask a question and realise that the response might be what they wanted to hear OR NOT. Are we all divided into one of two camps: snivelling proprietors too afraid to lay it on the line - respectfully - for the customers, and nervy shoppers ready to fly into a white-hot rage at the slightest perceived provocation, who can only be calmed down by signs presuming to hazard a guess at their potential state of mind?

Or could it be that I am being too harsh?

It's just that I'm a simple soul who yearns for a sweeter time when a freckle-faced chitlin could walk into the milk bar and ask for a 1c bag of mixed lollies and would receive a fair old fistful (of sweets!). Sometimes, if she was feeling a bit grown-up, she might even ask for a mixed assortment; she had a bit of an air about her on those occasions.

However, let's get this straight: I'm NOT talking about times when the same, or similar, freckled-faced chitlin might be convinced by her somewhat shambolic but bon vivant father to go into a shop and request a dozen prairie oysters. "Go on, kiddo - just say you want a dozen prairie oysters." The grin should have told me that I'd been had. Those were dark days indeed.

And yet, allow me to reconsider. Perhaps there's nothing at all wrong with the credit sign. Perhaps in a world of signs screaming in caps lock at us - STOP, WRONG WAY, NO ENTRY, NO STANDING, QUIT - this particular sign with its "please, consider" message harks back to a kinder, gentler age. In which case, the next time I am at my local newsagent, maybe purchasing a morning paper or gambling recklessly in the national sport of lotteries, I may make note of such a sign and feel gratitude to the genteel vendor who gave a thought to me and my easily-bruised feelings while also finding a way to avoid being ripped off.

A very good morning to you, kind sir, wherever your establishment may be.

Until next time, Nick.


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