“You’re just not getting it, are you?” The man said in a tone that made it clear he was losing his patience with my obvious stupidity.
Later, as I was retelling this story to Mark, he stopped me at that point and said: “That’s when you went ballistic, right?”
Standing at the tills in the high street shop, even though I knew, I KNEW, I was right, something stopped me from pointing out he was being incredibly rude.
And that something?
I’d gone to the shop to take back a dress I’d bought Freya which came down to her ankles. The deal was the dresses should have been £8 each but if you bought two you got them for £6 each making them £12 and saving £4 (every little helps).
My plan was that I’d pick a different style from the ones in the same deal and swap it.
I explained it politely to the man.
He scanned the old dress.
He scanned the new dress.
He said: “That will be £2, please.”
I reached for my purse before I realised that no, that wasn’t right.
He pointed at the receipt and said: “You only paid £6 for the old dress and this one is £8.”
“I know but if I buy two dresses I get them for £6 each. That’s the deal. I have two dresses but I want to swap this dress for that dress using the same deal. I shouldn’t have to pay anything.”
He tried to explain it to me.
I tried (again) to explain it to him.
Then he resorted to insulting my intelligence.
I really hate rude behaviour (and I’m quite capable of saying so normally) but maths is my achilles heel. He was so adamant that he was right that I felt a tiny tingle of doubt; maybe I had got it wrong after all? I started to get bit flustered, even considered giving him the £2.
I’ve been feeling cross about it ever since.
I’m not sure when I realised I was rubbish at maths. Junior school, maybe? Certainly in high school when I was placed in the lower set (I got a D in GCSE maths, for the record).
It’s something of a standing joke within my family now.
The strange thing is, it’s not really the hard stuff I struggle with – I really enjoyed algebra, for example (maybe because it has letters in it!), and later, at work, I quite liked picking my way through council/company reports trying to work out where the money had gone.
It’s the basic stuff, especially if it’s on the spot, where I stumble. My brain just doesn’t work that way. Never get me to work out splitting a bill – unless you’re willing to pay for a bit of my lunch (at least that’s my excuse).
In those long months of pregnancy, I worried about who would help Freya with her homework (because, clearly, I didn’t have enough things to think about) but I told myself “Oh, Mark can deal with that side of things”.
This man made me think.
Passing the buck is no longer good enough.
I don’t need to be good at everything but I do wonder whether I’ve switched off to even trying now – and that’s not a great lesson to teach Freya. “Oh you can’t do it, let someone else do it for you.”
That’s why I found myself insisting to the man in the shop that I was right. I was just about to ask him to get his manager when he suggested refunding both dresses and starting again.
He gave me £6 back for some reason.
“I’m sorry it’s all coins,” he said, which was a bit bewildering.
“That’s ok, I’m going to give it back in just a second.”
He did his thing, eventually scanning the two dresses I wanted. They were indeed £12 and so I pushed the coins back across the counter to him.
I saw the exact moment it clicked in his head what I’d been asking.
I’m not sure what was going on.
Maybe he couldn’t put it through the till any other way. Maybe I didn’t explain what I wanted well enough but there was no need for his rudeness.
He did me a favour in one way because I’m determined to start having a go from now on (and I’ll hopefully get better at it).
Have you ever worried you’re not good enough in a certain subject or don’t have the right skills to be able to help your child?