I eat at Subway an awful lot because it's close to my work, the food is relatively cheap and healthy, and I can sit undisturbed and read during my lunch break.
A woman works there who I'll call "Crone." She's been there for years. She isn't mentally handicapped but she's certainly "slow." I don't have nasty feelings towards people who are simply "slow," even if they're a bit annoying. But when a slow person is also needy and socially retarded I begin to hate them. Crone is all of these things, and she also has an annoying voice and a face like Schlitzy The Pinhead.
Crone wants to talk to every customer, ESPECIALLY the customers who don't like her, which is most of them. The more you discourage her from talking to you, the more she'll try. The thing is, whenever you DO talk to her she says something unbelievably clueless and usually rude.
My first real experience with her was a few years ago when she asked me if my fingernails were real (they were long at the time). I told her they were, and she cackled in her annoying way and shouted "No they're not! No they're not." Yes they are, I said, and she cackled again and shouted "No they're not!" The owner, who was standing there, looked as shocked as I was.
A few weeks later I came in with a book of Sherlock Holmes stories. Crone thinks she's quite the reader, and she asked me what I was reading. I told her, and she shouted "Oh, I HATE those old books!" Shortly thereafer I came in with a book on the history of London, England. "What'cha reading?" she asked again, and -- trapped -- I told her. Her response, predictably, was "Oh, I HATE those history books!"
That was when I decided I would no longer speak to Crone. I'll still say "hello" and "thanks," but I won't respond to any of her questions. She'll ask me what I'm reading, and I'll pretend that I don't hear her, which confuses her. But this doesn't stop me from hearing her abortive conversations with OTHERS. Here are my two recent favourites:
First, an employee (Dave) from Wordsworth Books came in for a sub. Wordsworths is a sort of high-end bookstore which specializes in quirky, literate stuff as opposed to romances and Oprah's picks. On the other hand -- for those who don't know -- "Chapters" is a chain bookstore that is notoriously falling back on selling knick-knacks as opposed to actual books.
CRONE: Hi Dave! Hi, how are you?
DAVE: (Unable to pretend he's reading the paper any longer) Fine, thanks.
CRONE: I love your bookstore! But I only buy books at CHAPTERS!
DAVE: (Taken aback) Oh...
CRONE: I love Chapters.
DAVE: (Making a joke) I didn't think Chapters still SOLD books.
CRONE: (Shocked) Huh? No! They still sell books!
DAVE: Ummm, yeah, I thought they just sold bookmarks and placemats now...
CRONE: Ha! Oh no, they still sell books! Don't worry! Chapters still sells books!
My all-time Favourite Crone Story took place just last week, when an employee from Timothy's Coffee Shop came in. Timothy's is a small chain store that managed to survive for years, but then Starbucks moved in across the street and took all their business.
CRONE: Hi! How's Timothy's?!?
EMPLOYEE: Not so good. We're closing this weekend. We've lost all our customers.
CRONE: Oh, that's too bad.
CRONE: At least we'll still have Starbucks!
CRONE: I always go to Starbucks!
Postscript: Crone belongs to a strange subgroup of people called "The Stinkies." They're slow, needy, socially handicapped, physically odd people, and they have extremely annoying screechy voices. I first noticed them when I worked at Tim Hortons; huge gangs of them would come in, drag you into go-nowhere and somewhat offensive conversations, and then spend hours screeching and cackling to each other. I don't know if this is a genetic issue or not but I strongly suspect it is. The cook at the time (Ben) referred to them as "Stinkies," and the name stuck.