It was Alun’s birthday the next day but I’d been too preoccupied with work to have gotten him a gift and card any earlier. I’d decided after work to go by JB HiFi and get Alun a camera-doorbell thingy that you attach to the top of the front door so that whenever someone rings the doorbell, the image of the front of the house comes up on his phone. Wherever Alun was, he’d be able to see who was by our home – even from work.
I knew he’d like that.
They had empty boxes of various versions of the ‘doorbell’ I wanted so I went with Lauren Conrad’s advice on gift-giving and picked the one 2nd from the ‘top/best’ model. There were no other boxes, so I picked up the empty display box of the sleek black doorbell-camera and took it to the counter.
There was a young guy behind the counter on his own. He looked bored and was leaning on the glass counter with both arms folded. I gave him the display box and he picked up a walkie-talkie and asked ‘someone’ to please go to the Warehouse and bring out the item I wanted.
It’s awkward waiting at a store – do I talk or do I walk around nearby and look at other electrical things and hope he’ll call me over when he’s ready?
I decided to just wait at the counter.
The guy there looked to be in his mid-20’s. He puffed air into his cheeks and looked around the store. I bit my lip and tried to think of something clever or funny to say. It felt like both of us were avoiding eye contact. I think a full minute passed before either of us said anything.
“Do you think there’s someone looking for the doorbell gadget I want or do you think they’re ignoring your request and just eating a sandwich?” I asked, offering a friendly smile.
The guy smiled back “Probably the sandwich”.
We both nodded.
“It’s tough – working” he spoke into the silence.
“Omg yes” I readily agreed “Adulting is the pits, hey?”
The guy behind the counter leaned forward – engaged and interested now.
“OMG yes. I’m still living with my parents because trying to rent on my own or even with a few good mates is just too expensive. It feels weird to still be at home but it means I can save some money, so…” he shrugged.
“Stay there as long as you can” I laughed and pretended to be stern “Cos once you move out, it’s all on you – the bills, the rent, there’ll be not much left over so I hope you like 2-minute noodles”
“Haha yeah I hear that. I’ll try to stay as long as I can. A mate of mine has moved out and has barely anything left for groceries once he’s paid the rent and bills. I’m pretty grateful to be able to put a few savings away”
“Dude, do it” I encouraged “Save as much as you can because once you are on your own, you hit the ground running! POW!”
“Ouch” he pretended a wound in his chest.
“At least at the moment you can afford nice meals…and snacks, right?” I was relaxing and my shoulders were coming down from around my ears.
“OMG I love a good snack. A packet of cheezles or twisties is life”
“They’re the food of Australia” I countered.
“Yes. As they should be” the counter guy agreed.
“Do you have a favourite snack?” I asked.
“A good cinnamon bun – they’re awesome” he answered.
I nodded in agreement, they were pretty awesome.
“What’s yours?” and he seemed genuinely interested. I don’t know why, but I was touched by that.
“I love a good gaytime icecream in the summer” I admitted.
“They’re legit so good” the Counter guy grinned.
We both took a moment to consider the awesomeness of a gaytime iceceam.
The guy’s radio came to life, shaking on the counter-top as someone mumbled a message that was so fuzzy I couldn’t make out any actual words.
“Arghhh…sorry, but we don’t stock that doorbell here – or any of the similar models” the counter guy relayed the message and looked genuinely apologetic about it.
“It’s okay, I can go check out some other things” I assured him, wanting to put him at ease. I had to remind myself “no touching, JD” because I wanted to reach across and gently squeeze his arm to let him know I wasn’t disappointed.
“We have other stores in other malls, did you want me to look some of them up?”
Bless. This guy was being so nice now that we’d connected over Adulting and snacks.
“That’s okay” I assured him “It was a bit of a gamble on a gift for my husband so I’ll try the safe bet and get him some lotto tickets”
The counter guy laughed “Good one. Hope he has a good day”.
I waved, said “Thank you!” and left with a smile on my face.
It is amazing to me the importance and power of ‘small talk’ in connecting humans. It was only a few minutes of meaningless chatter but by the end of it, the guy in the store was energised, interested and really wanted to help me and I was lifted, felt he’d done his best and left without what I came for but with a happy smile.