Every time I go to the nearby branch of a chain bookstore, I have at least a couple of nervous moments. Because someone calls my name. I look up, expecting to see some given friend or foe, but it is one of the staff there, calling another who apparently answers to the same name as mine. Or doesn't answer, given that I am yet to see the dude himself.
This evening, that happened again. But I also had a couple of nervous moments of an entirely different order.
When I went to the counter to pay for what I had bought, the guy on the other side asked, "Are you a member?"
No, I said, but my wife is.
She is a member, and we often forget our membership card, but they invariably take her name and are able to look up her membership number and attach it to our invoice. (I haven't realized the benefits of this procedure yet, but perhaps my grandchildren will qualify for a free pen, or a keyring, or something).
So I told the gent my wife's name, and he looked it up, and I could see it on his screen myself, complete with a membership number. So I waited for him to attach it and continue with the transaction.
Then: "Is your address NA?"
Excuse me? I said.
"Is your address NA? It is written NA here under address."
No, I said, my address is not "NA". How can it be "NA"?
"Maybe it is National something?"
No, I said, beginning to think I had woken up in Alice's Wonderland. No, I said, "NA" stands for "Not Applicable", and obviously you don't have an address listed for her, that's why it says "NA".
He nodded, and punched some more keys.
Then: "Date of birth, 1899 December 31st, is it correct?"
Now fully convinced I was in A's Wonderland, I stared at him, speechless.
"Date of birth, sir," he repeated, looking irritated, "is it correct 1899 December 31st or not?"
People turning to look.
My friend, I said, you're asking me about a date 110 YEARS AGO! Not even my wife is that old!
Chuckles and smiles from customers and staff all around us.
"But is it correct or not, this date?"
I gave up.
On my way out, I heard my name. If it was a friend or foe, this time I disappointed them. Wonderland had me firmly, too firmly, in its grip.