I'm the sort of person who likes to keep certain portions of his life functional. If you're providing a service to me then, yes, naturally, I'll expect a certain amount of mutual politeness on both our parts but we're not going to end up lifelong friends and drinking partners. Case in point being a recent trip to the shops...
With an upcoming escape to the sun very much imminent (I am counting down the days), an expedition to buy some clothing and clothing-type items was a necessity. Note the choice of words - necessity. Clothes shopping is not a thing of joy, being a traditional male of the blokey variety. That's not to say that I abhor all forms of shopping - set me down in a shop selling gadgety items, DVDs, books, comics or anything of the like and I can happily browse for hours. Clothes? It's a functional thing - I need to wear them so i need to buy them. Don't expect me to enjoy it.
So, I find my Popular High Street Clothing Retailer of choice and perform my usual smash-and-grab shopping technique ("Yep, that looks like something I would wear. My size? Job done.") I hasten to add at this point that "smash-and-grab" is a figure of speech and I will not shortly be appearing in a court near you for looting (as around 3,000 Londoners have done in the last week). Purchases chosen, it's time to head for the till and conclude the whole clothes shopping experience as swiftly as possible. No queue, splendid.
The chap beckons me over and he is unnecessarily cheerful but hey, whatever gets you through the day. He opens with a "did you find everything you were looking for today" gambit and I counter with a firmly non-conversational affirmative. This is insufficient, however, for a man obviously determined to be chatty.
"Just picking up some stuff or going away somewhere?" he enquires, reviewing my selection of quite clearly holiday-based purchases.
"Going away for a couple of weeks." Again, my technique is to be polite but closed off in my statements.
"Oh, anywhere nice?" He still wants a conversation.
"Just to Spain." I'm not looking for a conversation. Can I just pay and conclude my shopping experience?
"Oh, nice. With mates, by yourself or with your partner?"
His determination would be admirable if it weren't for the fact that I don't want to stand around chit-chatting with him. We're not mates, I'm not going to be inviting him down the pub for a swift pint and, if (from a purely cynical point of view) his pleasantness is some way of eliciting rewards from me, well, he's still out of luck because he works in a clothes shop and I'm certainly not tipping him.
Look, I get that he has a presumably tedious job that needs enlivening but that's what your colleagues are for. Respect your customers inner curmudgeon, take their cash and just get it over with, I say.
I'm going to have to buy some more shoes soon. I can feel the dread rising already...