Tuesday 13 April 2010

The Measure of Shop Girl

When customers come in searching for a light fitting, the question that can often help them decide is:
“How high is your ceiling?”
I ask this even though I know full well that I’ll be confused by their answer.
They squint up at the shop ceiling, “Oh, about 8ft 2.”
I nod knowingly but inside I’m a blank.
I have no sense of measurement.
All I know is that a tall man is about 6ft.
That becomes my starting point.
8ft 2 is taller than a tall man, perhaps even significantly taller depending on how big a foot is, which must mean that the customer’s ceiling is tall enough to allow for a light fitting with a slight drop.
At which point I should suggest an appropriate chandelier.
But I don’t because in that crucial moment my mind is too busy panicking to follow my ‘tall man’ logic.
Instead I buy time by asking for an alternative measurement.
“And in centimetres?” I ask, “I went to school in Spain.”
Actually I didn’t move to Barcelona until I was 14, by which point I should’ve probably learnt about feet.
Annoyingly the customer is unfazed and gives me the metric measure without hesitation.
“Aaah,” I say, smiling, “that makes sense now.”
I still don’t have a clue.
That said, our lights are measured in centimetres and metres so I suppose I have become more comfortable with the metric system.
The widths of our most popular chandeliers are 35cm, 40cm and 50cm.
When people give me a measurement of something, I visualise a chandelier that’s closest to it in centimetres and then imagine that item a bit smaller or bigger.
Like a TV screen.
If someone is talking about a 38cm TV screen then I can more or less picture a 35 cm crystal cascade chandelier and get a rough idea of the size.
Except, when does anyone talk about a 38cm TV screen?
They don’t. They always use inches.
6 inches must be a very short man.
Thankfully not all our customers are geniuses and know the exact answer to the ‘how high is your ceiling?’ question.
Some are more on my level.
“Normal size,” they reply.
Or they stretch their arms in the air and wave, “About here.”
Or, “About as high as your ceiling, but lower.”
And, “It’s your traditional Victorian house but split in two.”
Or “I can touch it if I’m standing on the bed.”
In the end I just point at different lights until they get excited about one of them.
If the light fitting does hang too low, I suggest pushing a coffee table underneath it.
“That’s a good idea,” some say.
Not such a good idea for the bathroom perhaps.

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Slamdunk said...

Entertaining post. I am not great with measurements either--I am more of an algebra type than geometry.

Best wishes with the Blog Awards.

Shop Girl said...

I remembering liking basic algebra. Although I wouldn't know what to with x's or y's now!

PS. I don't get miles either.
PSS. Or centilitres.

Thanks for the best wishes!

Barry Hutchison said...

I'm six feet four inches, so I qualify as a tall man. I can't do measurements either, though. I don't think anyone can. We're all pretending.

The entire Metric system is based entirely on the shared delusion that everyone else knows how it works.

It's like aeroplanes. If everyone on board realised at the same time that the plane should never have been able to leave the ground in the first place, it would plunge from the sky and explode in a spectacular ball of fire. Best if we all just keep pretending.