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February 25, 2010

Why don't people ask?

After the morning's emotional roller coaster, I headed to the Swan Oyster Depot for some TLC. Founded in 1912, this place is rumored to have the best damn chowder in the city, and after slurping down a bowl I have to agree.

There, I chatted with a lawyer -- and older woman wearing a faded Burberry coat who does prosecution litigation, whatever that is -- who, as we spoke, asked the cashier to pack away a few items to go. "I'll have a small portion of the sashimi, and can you give me just half a container of the seafood salad?" It sound like she was a regular, since she and all the staff were on a first name basis and she knew the menu by heart. It also sounded like she was holding back, trying to customize a smaller mix-and-match selection, either for financial or dietary reasons.

The man handed her a paper baggie with about five or six halves of items.

"That'll be $63.25."

I glanced at her, and she looked put off.

"Wow, Earnie, that's more than I wanted to spend, wow," she said. She reached into her wallet and found three $20 bills and some loose change and paid him.

She left evidently dissatisfied, but I get the feeling she'll be back in a few days or a week, ordering up a storm once again, and feeling like they overcharged.

I wonder why -- why doesn't she ask? Why doesn't she say, "Fellas, what can you fix up for $40?" or, laughing, "Earnie, you're killing me. I'm an old lady with a pacemaker. Do you really think I can afford $60 for two nights of dinner? Can we work something out or should I send you my hospital bill from this heart attack?" or even "How much is this going to cost me? (before he wraps it up to go, that is)." Instead, she seemed totally able to pay (the coat, the general air about her, even though I don't think she was rolling in dough); and totally unable to propose an alternative.

So tell me, dear reader:

What are the reasons you don't ask? Why do you think people might not, in general? Can you help me assemble a thorough list? I would like to address our findings in (a) future post(s). I'll start:

--fear of being rejected
--fear of bothering someone
--cultural factors, e.g.:
--generational/age factors, e.g.:
--mistaking the biker for the shadow, or vice versa
--not sure what I meant by that last one, but it sounded nice and I liked the picture

[image via flickr]
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