The Charm Offensive

Once I was doing an graduation thesis interview and the student was having difficulty retrieving the word ‘conflicts’ from her memory banks so substituted instead, ingeniously and hilariously, ‘cornflakes’. I did not have the heart to intervene in an already tense situation to set her straight that the central tension of Streetcar Named Desire was not, in fact, Stanley and Blanche’s cornflakes.

This memorably amusing incident I had occasion to recall today, as it added a light and humourous twist of flavour to an annoyance I had to resolve.

I was steamed when, after spending almost two hours in the post office recently on what I take to be routine business, I was recalled because mistakes had been made that needed to be rectified in order for the business to proceed. Oh, I was so ready to stomp down there and give the guilty incompetent a piece of my mind for unnecessarily wasting so much time. Down I marched this morning, calmly, but full of purpose!

Alas, the culprit was absent and instead I was helped–and utterly disarmed, I must add, to my chagrin–by another young person. Rectifications were swiftly made, apologies given, smiles exchanged, thanks offered. By the end of the transaction which had taken a shockingly short time–a blitz of efficiency!–I, determined, but by now, barely lukewarm, remembered why I had come. To set them straight! The height of my complaint reached: ‘Well! That was a bit of a bother.’ Another apology, a beautiful smile, and I left, smiling all the way home, my good nature quite restored.

Sometimes I realized, thinking of conflicts and cornflakes together can be really helpful.


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