Saturday, September 15, 2007

Just Say I Don't Know

If there’s one thing worse than ignorance, it’s not admitting that you’re ignorant. If you don’t know the answer to a question, the shame of admitting it is far less than the shame you incur trying to bluff your way through it.

I run into this most often in the grocery store. I’ll meander around the store for some obscure product that my wife sent me to get, such as clam juice or yeast. Eventually, I give up and grab one of the stock people and ask them where it is.

The result is always the same. Rather than say, “No clue, sir,” the stock person then leads me up one aisle and down the other searching for the product I asked for, as though I can’t manage to do that on my own.

Sometimes I confront them: “Hey, if you don’t know where it is, tell me. I can wander around looking for it without your help.”

They look at me blankly and then say, “Maybe it’s in one of the refrigerated cases…” and they take off, obstinately refusing to admit they don’t know.

Today, my wife sent me for some sinus medication – Sudafed PE Non Drying Sinus. I went to Walgreen’s and proceeded directly to the Cold and Allergy section. There were maybe 20 different kinds of sinus remedies there, but I couldn’t find that particular item. Some of the items had been replaced by cards informing me that I could only get them from the pharmacy desk, due to people using them to cook meth.

I went to the pharmacy desk and asked one of the clerks if they carry the product. She said, “Let me look,” and came out to the Cold and Allergy section, where she peered at the products on the shelf, as though this strategy had never occurred to me.

“You don’t have it on the shelf,” I said. “I already looked.”

“Let me ask the pharmacist,” she replied, and hustled back to the pharmacy desk.

A few minutes later, the pharmacist came down to the Cold and Allergy section, and peered at the shelf, as though her employee had somehow done it incorrectly. I couldn’t believe she left customers waiting for their heart medication to look at the shelf for me, as though I had some disability that prevented me from reading the packages. I tapped her on the shoulder, and said, “I’ve already looked here. The girl from the pharmacy looked here also. I don’t think you carry it.”

She turned to me, and with a straight face said, “I don’t see it here.” What followed was an uncomfortable silence, as I tried not to bite my tongue in half. All they had to say was “I don’t know,” and I wouldn’t be sitting here now building a pipe bomb.

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