I find it extremely annoying in a store or restaurant when I say “Thank you” and the worker responds with “No problem” or even “No worries” instead of “You’re welcome.” It grates, my how it grates!
I don’t like the implication, no matter how far-fetched, that my patronage could potentially cause any problems or worries. After all, I am the customer. Am I over-thinking this?
I never correct these folks, even though I come from a long line of Grammar Police. I have a well-worn copy of the book "Frequently Misspelled Words" that used to sit on my grandfather’s desk when he was a college administrator. He was a tough old character who would not hesitate to correct grammar or usage errors.
My own dear mom also corrected people, albeit in a kind, homey way. While going in for an MRI just days before she died, she took it upon herself to instruct the MRI tech on the difference between lay and lie. “Honey, I’m sure you have to say this many times every day, so I thought you would like to know that objects lay and people lie.”
I do not correct grammar or usage unless I am inside an English classroom or if I am speaking to the fruit of my loins. After all, I make plenty of grammatical errors myself, and I also have a painful memory burned into my mind that keeps me from crossing this line.
It was the late 80’s and I was 18. My mother had died suddenly, and I found myself home from college for the summer, trying to establish a new reality for myself. Three days after the funeral, I found a job at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. I was a crappy hostess, a deplorable waitress, and an even worse bartender. I did have big hair, a denim miniskirt, a ready smile, and a good attitude.
The other employees knew of my great loss and were kind to me, understanding, I hope, that my smiles and chatty conversation didn’t mean I didn’t love my mom, and that when I would tear up over a spilled glass of water or a botched order, I wasn’t really crying about work.
One night I was working the register when a young dad paid by credit card. Handing him the slip, I said, “Okay, sir, I just need you to write your name here.”
Young Dad: “Write my name? Write my name? What you are asking for is my SIG-NA-TURE not my name."
Me: “Sure, okay.”
Young Dad: “No. It is not OKAY. In life, you must learn to speak WELL not to speak GOOD.”
What I wanted to say was, “Look, A-hole, I know you may be looking for your own little Pygmalion moment, but you've got the wrong girl. I am not Eliza Doolittle, and I don’t need any of your personal instruction. You may see me merely as the hired help, but there’s a lot more going on with me than you know. By the way, I’m sure my SAT scores and college GPA would blow yours out of the water.”
Instead, I flushed, teared up, and said nothing.
More than 20 years later, I still remember how crappy it felt to be spoken to so condescendingly. Isn’t it amazing how the bad stuff sticks to us, while the good stuff rolls off?
So, when I hear a friend say, “Could you give it to Kim or I?” or a salesperson say, “No problem” in response to a simple thank you, I just keep it in perspective and tell myself that sometimes it is better to do good than to just do things well.