The people you never meet

Today, in a big furniture store, my husband and I were walking down the rows of couches quietly making jokes about some of the settees in relation to the relative tininess of our home. At a desk sat a man (obviously an employee), chin in hands, aware of us passing by but not actually looking at us or attempting to engage at all. Just as we passed his desk he muttered quite automatically (almost in a monotone) “how are you doing?” and continued to stare straight ahead.

I was instantly reminded of a pair of frogs at a playground to which we sometimes take the kids. You walk by and they sense your passing and utter a froggish noise. Or a parrot who knows how to imitate three words and repeats them for whoever is in hearing. I was convulsed with laughter at this thought but could not even get my husband to crack a smile on the subject.

Is it really so ungenerous of me to laugh at this poor, bored employee? Perhaps it is. I’m sure it’s not the worst job you could have though. It’s a well to do kind of store. But maybe he has some awful thing going on in his life. Maybe he was watching us chatting so casually and happily and thinking of his poor wife who died last year. Or of the divorce he’s currently suffering through. Or perhaps, like us, his house just flooded, and he’s wondering how on earth he can keep the money coming in and fix up the damage and pay for his kids’ schooling. I know that (apart from being insured) we’re incredibly lucky to have two great families backing us up all the way with accommodation, practical help, minding our cat, etc.

So maybe I was awful to laugh. Sorry, man. Sorry for laughing when I know nothing about you.

4 thoughts on “The people you never meet

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