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  • Lance Mannion
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« The quotable Nancy Nall: Enjoy your macaroni and cheese. | Main | Individuals arent naturally paid-up members of the human race »


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You don't have to be a cyber-weirdo to enjoy being social with close family or friends and feel taxed or drained (even if it is minor) when interacting with strangers. As you said at LGM, of course it is something that introverts can manage. And any individual instance of it isn't that bad. But it looks very different when you are told that every single interaction with the outside world has to be done according to a social code that defines your preferences as rude. Granted, on the scale of actual injustices this is minor if it rates at all, but it adds up. I can't think of situations that an extrovert is expected to manage. Which is not to say that they don't exist, I just can't come up with any right now.

To put it another way, why does "humans being social animals and therefore made for society" have to mean making small talk when only one person in the conversation wants to?

And something else to consider - there is a big difference between genuine interest, even in small talk, and feigned interest that the increasingly prevalent chain stores demand their employees perform. I'm almost certainly biased here, but a lot of interactions between customers and employees that I overhear feel a lot like a customer demanding that the employee take an interest in whatever the customer is talking about, regardless of the feelings of that employee at that time.

Perhaps I protest too much. I dunno. I don't even like the automatic scanners, and pretty much for the reasons you describe.

Lance Mannion

wsn, all your points are well-taken, and I confess that for the sake of argument I ignored the fact that an awful lot of human beings we have to deal with non-virtually are jerks and weirdos of another sort. But I am talking about how most shoppers are, and it's really more convenient and efficient for everyone, introverts included, for public spaces to cater to the needs of most people. Imagine trying to shop at a store that catered to the needs of Adrian Monk.

By the way, believe or not, I'm really a very introverted person by nature myself and I had to work very hard at learning to say things like "Good morning" and "Unusual weather we're having" and even "How bout them Sox." I hope "Thank you" came a little bit easier for me.


I totally understand. And I actually think my question why does "humans being social animals and therefore made for society" have to mean making small talk when only one person in the conversation wants to? is answered by Terry Pratchett in Men at Arms:

Individuals aren't naturally paid-up members of the human race, except biologically. They need to be bounced around by the Browninan motion of society, which is a mechanism by which human beings constantly remind one another that they are ... well ... human beings.

Anyway, I'm probably just sensitive from being in a situation where sincere-but-short courtesy has gotten me labeled as rude.


I suppose it has to do with, as you point out, personal experiences shopping.

In an urban area, you're going to shop on an in-and-out basis. You may not have your car or if you do, it's parked a block and a half away. You aren't going to spend a lot of time picking out groceries, if only because the meter is running.

I use the robocheckouts, usually because I'll have a few apples or maybe a sixpack and I just can't chance picking a line, only to find out that I'm behind the guy with the stocking purse six inches deep who is using all the change he's collected in the past week to buy a loaf of bread. Robocheckouts: one line, four machines. I have better odds.

I do my real shopping online, using Fresh Direct. I do pay a little more and don't get to choose which apples or meat I get (thus, why I'm in Key Food at 7 on a Friday night), but for bulk know, the stuff I'd actually interact with people over?'s a godsend of convenience.


In my experience, everybody, even the most extreme extroverts, always tell me that they're really introverted. Extroverts have no idea what it's like to be an introvert.

We're not antisocial. Really, we're not. We don't hate people. We are just worn down by them. It's hard work for me to make small talk with people I don't know. It's not that I don't have social skills, it's just taxing to interact with strangers. When I'm in a store, trying to remember whether or not I'm out of something, being interrupted by a store clerk asking me if they can help me is extremely distracting.

It's not that I want to be rude. It's not that I don't respect them as a human being, or think that their job is worthless. But yes, I do buy my groceries online, because that's what makes me happiest, believe it or not. I do most of my shopping online, because I'm less frustrated that way, and have more energy for my family and friends. Maybe that makes me a weirdo, maybe it's a consequence of never having felt like I fit in anywhere, but I don't think it means that I'm unconscious of the way the rest of the world is.

food doctor

Banks at least the large national ones penalize the customer for going to the live teller. Money will post to your account if you use the ATM up till 7 in the evening the same or next day. Make your deposit with the live teller after 3 and you'll most likely have to wait till the "next business day".On a Friday that means you can have your money Tuesday.


I guess I'm a bit of an outlier in this group. I exchange small talk with the cashiers at Safeway, all of whom know me well. More than that, I start conversations (or try to) with the people behind me in line at stores, in airplane ticket lines, and almost anywhere I find myself in the company of other people.

Some folks (perhaps many) would say I chatter. I like "gregarious" myself.


I posted this at LGM, but it's possible you may have missed it:

Apart from the checkout clerk, Lance, which interactions are you missing? You’d ask the butcher still about the meat, the deli counter would tell you how long the potato salad keeps, and you can always find a stock clerk to inquire about sales and such.

Sure, the checkout is usually manned by someone whom you actually have to spend some time with (scanning groceries is labor intensive, thus the push to get customers to do it themselves), but they rarely give you any enlightenment there.

food doctor

Sherri, start with a smile and then a " you've been most helpful to me today". That's all! You'll have them for the rest of your life without having to say another word.
You won't remember them but they will remember you without you even knowing. Energy is then channeled both to you and your family and the families that you've just interacted with not even knowing it.


I demand that the tide not come in!

Are stores trying self-checkout lanes to save money and put people out of work? Of course they are. But it's all part of the progression. After all, it wasn't that many generations ago when the complaint was that the grocery shoppers had to go down the aisles and actually put their groceries in the cart themselves, instead of telling a clerk what they wanted and letting him get it. I use the self checkout sometimes, and sometimes I don't. It depends on which line is faster.

Lance Mannion

actor, I think you're asking the wrong question of the wrong guy. You should go back to LGM and ask the misanthropes there what's the maximum human contact they'll tolerate.

Mark: But it's all part of the progression.

Mark, I'm pretty sure that's what was said to people in Los Angeles circa 1940 who said, Maybe it's not such a good idea to get rid of the trolleys.

Also to everyone who asked, Do we really need a Wal-Mart?

But what you're describing is the rise of supermarkets which demonstrably created jobs and not just within the stores. Which reminds me, I have to get to work reading Marc Levinson's The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America.

But while supermarkets were overall a good thing, they did put a lot of corner groceries out of work, not to mention butcher shops and fish markets and bakeries. It's not all progress, which is why resistance isn't and shouldn't be futile. Supermarkets are among the very few businesses left that actually care about their customers and are responsive to their needs. That's because they depend on more than mere repeat business. And it's the supermarkets themselves that are scaling back on the plans to automate and that's in response to their customers' complaints. This might change over time, but right now it appears that most shoppers would still rather deal with other human beings.

The point of this post though isn't that robocheckers are an evil. I don't use them but I don't object to their being there for others to use. The point is that the public square shouldn't become an unsocial place because there are a bunch of people who for one reason or another don't want to be social. Doesn't seem like a nice place to live, a world where everybody pretends each other doesn't exist.


Nicely said Lance. I must say that one thing about those young guys liking the anonymity..well it struck me a lot of them might be stoned. Ha, so not proud of this, but back in my misspent yoof, a flourescent-lit supermarket was hellish, like that scene from Natural Born Killers. They like the automatic check out to get their munchies and get out!

But your other points are quite sound- I loathe the self checkout because I know they put people out of work, and because I always think I'll be jumped for not doing it correctly, there'll be a mistake and it's s shoplifting thing. No thanks!

And I enjoy the small, personal back and forth with clerks- they're members of the community, they're neighbors. I might have complained about this before- I really resent how chains make clerks seek to sign you up for a discount card, or get your info, etc. I always decline. I dislike it because I know some MBAs at headquarters intentionally colonized that small human interaction, between customer and clerk- both of whom hate it, it's awkward. And by the time they finish their pitch and I decline, not much time left for pleasant small talk. A joke, a smile, it's been pushed out. Hate that. Depersonalized.

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