in praise of chit-chat

man, this is one happy phone.

man, this is one happy phone.

The nicest thing happened to me last week. I got a fraud alert on one of my credit cards! Yup! Someone I don’t know apparently used it to buy $174 worth of crap at a Walgreen’s in Manhattan last Wednesday, and I was not there to supervise, OR dole out shopping advice, OR push the cart around the aisles, OR pocket any of the merchandise afterward! It’s true! Guy didn’t even save me a packet of Orbit!

But then the sweetest young man called me to let me know I’d been swindled and assist me in canceling my card. I thanked him. Oh! I’m so glad you caught that! I so appreciate your help! I hope you have a lovely weekend! I said, as though having some nimrod downstate swipe my number was an occasion for neighborly chit-chat. And why shouldn’t it be? If we can be just two everyday people talking for a few minutes, and not Irked Bamboozled Customer and Overworked Underpaid Representative, then that makes the whole exchange just a little less onerous and more, I dunno, normal.

Such phone-bank conversations are otherwise bland and depersonalized, about as chipper and community-building as the social interaction involved with taking a whizz in a public restroom. Less. At least, when you run out of paper and whimper pathetically, there’s that miracle of actual, meaningful human contact when an anonymous hand reaches under the stall to pass you a bunch. This simple action gives me faith in humanity! It does! I am not exaggerating! YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!

Anyhow. So I was on the phone with this sweet young man (and while we’re on the subject, my daughters are giving me grief for calling every male under the age of 40 a sweet young man, as though I have somehow lately morphed into kindly-old-biddy-dom and must peer at the Youth of Today over my cat’s-eye glasses while sucking on a tube of Dentu Creme). At the end of our friendly, fraud-related chit-chat he gave me a number to call to order a new card during the week, and I called it, and so I found myself chatting with the sweetest young woman a few days ago. She had a subcontinental accent, which of course meant yet more chit-chat when she asked if there was “anything else” she could help me with, which of course I took as an invitation to inquire about about her location.

India, it turned out. I forgot to ask which city. (HOW many years have I worked as a journalist?). But I remembered to ask her about the weather, and the dear sweet thing went on and on about typical Indian weather patterns this time of year, which apparently amount to: Some days are chilly enough to require sweater-wearing, but most days aren’t. Most days are mild enough to go outside in shirtsleeves. “But not today,” she explained. “Today the weather isn’t very good. I had to wear a sweater!”

She laughed. I laughed, too. I would love to be able to walk outside in only a sweater, I said. We’re still bundling up in parkas here in Albany! And then I laughed again! Ha ha ha! And then she laughed again! Ha ha ha! Still laughing, we said goodbye and wished each other a lovely evening. I hope she had one. I know I did, ending the day neither Irked nor Bamboozled, not even caring about the Orbit.

6 thoughts on “in praise of chit-chat

  1. One of my cards, I think it’s Barclay Bank, calls their phone operators “relationship managers.” Every time I call (maybe only a handful) it tickles me so much that I always have a great chit-chat conversation with the “relationship manager.” Too bad they can’t manage my OTHER relationships.

  2. My wife had a couple charges, from a local Walmart totaling over $1000 when she got a fraud alert a couple months ago. Annoyingly, the credit card company initially removed only ONE of the charges. But it’s fixed now, presumably.

  3. Did you happen to see the post on an online Albany neighborhood group from the woman whose credit card number was used to buy about $500 worth of fried chicken? I can’t stop thinking about that one. Who is this person, and why do they need so much fried chicken?

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