Saturday, September 17, 2011

Are You All Right There?

I start the Communication Skills work again soon and thought I'd better acquire some new clothes so as to look respectable in front of medical students.

So off I went to town - very bravely, I thought, as I hate the city centre at any time but particularly on a Saturday morning.

Anyway, I found much of what I was looking for, which included two jumpers.

It wasn't easy, mind. Some of the jumpers currently on sale have short sleeves. Now then, what use is THAT? Why do I wear a jumper? To keep warm. What does a jumper have to keep me warm? Yes, long sleeves.

These are also jumpers - - oh, okay, I suppose they're cardigans - that don't fasten at the front. You put them on like a cardigan. But, in general, I'd expect any sort of cardigan-type garment to have either buttons or a zip. The buttons or zip draw the two sides together, thus covering your front and keeping you warm.

But - aha! Cunning plan by the jumper-sellers! These garments, lacking buttons or a zip, don't keep you completely warm, and neither do the short-sleeve jumpers. They only keep you a bit warmer than you were in your summer garb of hotpants and bikini (well, that's what I've been wearing since April, I don't know what you've been wearing of course). So these jumpers are only warm enough for Autumn.

Once we get really really cold weather, we will all have to go to town AGAIN and buy a jumper or a cardigan that fastens at the front, to keep out the howling wind and the snow. See? They have effectively doubled their jumper-selling opportunities.

Furthermore, when queuing to buy said items, I learned a whole new shop-assistant phrase.

They would finish serving the previous customer, or arranging their social life on Facebook, or similar - - and then look up, and this is what they said.

"Are you all right there?"

And this, dear reader, is Shopassistantspeak for "May I help you?" They said it to me in three different shops, so I know.

I am not sure what the answer is supposed to be. I thought of several options:

a) "Yes, I'm fine, thank you so much for asking, it's lovely to have your concern".

b) "Am I all right here? Well, yes. The temperature's okay and this bit of carpet's quite comfortable to stand on. Just as well, really, since I've been here for quite a while now."

c) "Well, the past few years have been tough - my Dad was ill for two years before he died and he was in and out of hospital. My mother has dementia but it's not too bad yet. However, I'm coming to terms with everything slowly - I wouldn't say I'm all right, but I'm getting there."

Sadly, what I actually said was, weakly, "Well, I'd like to buy this, please." On each occasion this seemed a little bit of a surprise to the shop assistant, but she coped and struggled bravely through apparently unexpected events such as putting it in a bag and working the card machine.

Anyway, dear readers, I don't like this phrase "Are you all right there?" because it doesn't make any sense in the context that they say it in, and it's deeply annoying. I should prefer a return to "May I help you?"

So could I please enlist your help to bring this change about? If any shop assistant says it to you, I should like you to go straight for option 3, above.

Let us have a little rehearsal. The answer to "Are you all right there?" should be, initially, "Oh God. Oh no." Put your head in your hands. Rock backwards and forwards a bit. Then go into your monologue. "No, no, I'm not all right, not here, not anywhere else. Let me tell you about it. It's just unbearable. Unbearable. I'll start at the beginning - - "

That'll teach 'em. They'll think twice before saying THAT again. Let us bring about a return to "Good morning, madam. May I help you?"

Yes, it's slow progress, I know. One tiny thing at a time. But I'm hoping we can make Britain great again, one day.


Blogger Silverback said...

I think it'll take more than that to make Britain great again.

And having known you for the past 4 years, I would never EVER ask you "are you all right there ?" as I know only too well that option 3 would be invoked and I'd have to go into "look into face but drift into space" mode.

7:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once tried something similar on my route to work. For a whole week, I didn't rush to get through the single line sections but held back to let cars come the other way, even where I had right of way. Within a week, people were stopping to let me through... and the whole demeanour of the traffic on this particular stretch changed for the better. Onwards and upwards, Daphne: and out with the phrase 'Are you all right there?'
I'll be listening out for it next time I shop.

9:14 pm  
Blogger JeannetteLS said...

Best of luck to you there, across the sea. I shall try to help your mission; will you help me with mine?

IN Yankeeland, here, the most common response to "Thank you" is "Not a problem" or "No problem."

So I start thinking, "Well, gee. It had not really occurred to me that it WAS a problem." Or, if it was a shopkeeper or a person waiting on me in a restaurant, "Well, gosh, I am so glad. I did not want to think that your pouring me a glass of water WAS a problem. What a relief."

"You're welcome" is no longer in favor. I wish it were. One day I tipped my waitress--oops I mean "server"--extra, because she said "You're welcome" and even looked me right in the eye with her dazzling smile. She could have been my granddaughter, she was that young.

But, then, perhaps she was new and hasn't yet been taught the acceptable answer...

Change is often good, but changes in well-grounded idioms and in basic English (English shared on both sides of our ocean, even) are happening a little too quickly sometimes. Unnecessarily so.

Thanks for a funny, but also a somewhat poignant entry.

9:19 pm  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

The only way to make Britain great again, sorry, is to have a downtrodden underclass (preferably in other countries) and a huge reliance on wage-slave and child-labour. Making it polite would be a nice change though. And logical. It'd be nice if British English could be logical. How do you do?

10:44 pm  
Blogger Daphne2 said...

This has reminded me of my brother-in-law's late mother. She spent her working life working in posh dress shops in the West End, in the era when the phrase was definitely "May I help you Madam" or even "Modom" - in her case said with an Eastern European accent. As I remember this used to irritate too, but I think the difference was that the shop assistant could and would have helped.
Imagine what would have happened if you had asked for help yesterday - "Have you got this in a bigger size?" "Will you be getting any more of these in?" I think we can all assume the assistant would have no idea and at best would go to look or to ask someone ask.Bring back the over attentive but knowledgeable shop assistants.

8:23 am  
Blogger Helsie said...

Ha ,ha that certainly brought a smile to my face. It reminded me of Foody over at Singing Chicken and her objection to the question "How did you sleep?". The world,it seems, is full of silly questions.
PS. Those three quarter sleeve jumpers and cardies that don't do up are just fine for our Winters here. Send them all our way !

10:38 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

Silverback - - ah, THAT's what that expression on your face means. I thought you were just shocked speechless by my fascinating life. Damn.
Lucy - yes, onwards and upwards, indeed!
Jeannette - - ohhh I HATE "Not a problem" and have indeed blogged about it previously. As you suggest, it introduces the possiblity of a problem where none such existed!
Ailbhe - well, my version of Great would not be quite the same as the Victorians' version. And it would include a LOT of politeness.
Daphne2 - yes, I think I prefer the over-helpful ones even though they did veer towards the Snooty.
Helsie - you sum it up perfectly. The world is full of silly questions! Wish I could send you all the sleeveless jumpers and buttonless cardies!

10:53 pm  

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