Terms of Endearment

I was already starving by 11:00am yesterday. After a few weeks of diligently packing a lunch, I quickly fell back into my old habits of infrequent grocery shopping and regular trips to the food court for lunch. I haven’t suffered too much for the past week and a half, though, because I’ve mainly been living off of old Halloween candy that all my co-workers keep bringing into the office in an effort to wean their children off their week-long sugar highs.
Last week there were some smashed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a lot of Hershey’s Special Darks. Later there were the fruit flavored Tootsie Rolls, which I had never tried before. The orange ones were good, but tasted a little like baby aspirin. Mmm. Chalky. This week, all the hearty chocolate is gone, so I’m left with nothing but Smarties, which I love, but they aren’t very filling. And they make my belly burn if I eat too many of them.
Fearing the dreaded Smartie reflux, I headed out for lunch yesterday in search of some real sustenance. I went to the little deli near the office and ordered a turkey and swiss cheese sandwich on a hard roll. Oh, and some chips, please. The cashier said, “Did you want something to drink with that, sweetie?”
This caught me off guard a little, so I looked up from my wallet and saw the cashier giving me a warm smile that made her eyes crinkle. I smiled back and said, “Umm… sure. Medium Diet Pepsi, please?”
“No problem, sweetie. You have a nice day, now!”
I really didn’t want anything to drink. Hadn’t intended on ordering a soda. But I couldn’t help myself – she called me “sweetie” twice. Sure, I heard her say the same thing to all the customers behind me, but it wasn’t about being singled out. It was just the kindness in her voice when she said it. It was devoid of all irony.
The word just flowed so naturally off her tongue. I guess that’s her thing – she’s the “sweetie” woman. I envy her. I don’t have a thing. I wish I had a thing. Some thing that made people remember me and want to buy unnecessary sodas from me.
You have to be a certain kind of person to be able to get away with calling strangers affectionate little nicknames like that. I think you have to be really old or maybe from the south. Oddly, this woman was neither. She was just an average looking, somewhat pudgy woman with nice teeth and kind eyes. But she had sincerity on her side, so it worked for her.
I suppose I could just wait another 40 years to start referring to people as “doll,” but I’m not sure I have the patience. And a Midwestern accent does not register high enough on the charm scale to permit the use of “sugar.” Why did I have to be born in America’s Heartland?! Curse you, immigrant great grandparents! Why couldn’t you have settled in Kentucky?!
No wait, you didn’t know any better. And I don’t really do well with the heat. I’m sorry great grandparents – I take it all back.
Actually, I have no one to blame but myself. I had my shot and I blew it. All my talk about wiping the slate clean with this new job, parting my hair on the side, making up lies about my family, and I completely forgot about the rarest of rare opportunities we get when we start a new job: adopting an accent.
I mean, what was I thinking? I was going to waste my time pretending to be left handed, when I could have been speaking in an Irish brogue all along? Seriously – say this sentence aloud in your best Irish accent, and just try to tell me you don’t want to give me a raise:
“Marketing, this is Sinead. What’s that you say? You need me to get you the print schedules for all the new collateral pieces? Aye, I’ll do it straight away!”
Or perhaps French:
“Marketeeng, zis ees Marie-Claire. Comment? Oh la la – you need me to get you ze print schedule for all ze collateral piece? Okay, I’ll do it tout de suite!”
Or maybe Italian:
“Marketing, it’s Giovanna. What? You love me and think I’m bellissima so you’ll get the print schedules yourself? Bravo!”
God, what a fool I am! Another great opportunity slips through my grasp. But mark my words, if for some unforeseen reason, I someday have to work at a company other than this one, I won’t make that same mistake again.
No, someday I’ll have a thing of my own. Me and my accent, we’ll have a really cool thing together. We’ll call people “sweet pea” or “lamb” or “hon.” And we’ll make people smile and they’ll remember us because we looked them in the eyes with complete sincerity and we didn’t want anything from them when we called them “darling” and that made them feel special for just one minute. But we will never call anyone “sweetie.” We know perfection when we’ve seen it.

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