Monday, April 13, 2009

looking for nothing

The phone rings and I put down my book on the counter and answer it. I say "Hello." and "How can I help you?". A man replies. He sounds as if he is in his early thirties or perhaps forties and is speaking with a mousy tone of voice. Quiet and soft, all most like the voice of a mother trying not to wake up her child but I could tell that it was in fact a man. He told me that his name was Paul and he was wondering if there was anything in the store for him. We have what we call comic pull files for frequent customers. They give us a list of what they collect and each time i new issue of those particular series come out, we put it aside for them. I assumed this is what he was talking about. I asked him his last name and he stuttered as he told me. I flipped through the name cards not finding his. Puzzled I asked him if he perhaps ordered something (we have a separate section for customer orders) and he didn't quite understand. He stumbled on his words and generally seemed like he lacked both confidence and basic conversational telephone skills, sounding like he felt he was being a big inconvenience even by calling me.
"um...i dunno...uhh, maybe. I'm really not to sure." he said and then laughed uncomfortably. I am picturing him sweating and tugging on his collier with a hooked pointer finger while pushing up on the center of his glasses. I could sense he was nervous so I asked him as calmly as I could what it was that he ordered, because I didn't see anything with the name Paul on it. He seemed to get frightened and he quickly said "uh, um...never mind, I'm really really sorry for wasting your time." in a tone so sincere and apologetic that I actually felt sorry for him even though i had no reason to. I tried to ask him again in a calming tone, almost like trying to coax a pigeon to your hand with a piece of bread but he hangs up and I hear a dial tone. I wonder what it was he was looking for. I wonder why he sounded so pensive and uneasy. I wonder why he called a store asking for something that he himself didn't know that he was looking for. And I wonder why I care, and how this man was able to make me feel sympathetic in a situation where normally I wouldn't give a shit just by his tone of voice. For some reason I look through the order section and the pull files again.