Monday, 12 January 2009

The Lingerer.

You know immediately when you are in the presence of a Lingerer. This person will take as long as possible to put down their bags before arranging personal items meticulously on the counter. This task would be completed before entering into a conversation with the box office clerk regarding availability of tickets.
A typical list of objects would be:
  • Glasses Case.
  • Gloves removed one finger at a time without hurry.
  • Diary.
  • Pen/tiny pencil that slots into the wire edge of the diary crowned with a white plastic disk.
  • Wallet/Credit Card/Purse.
  • A Notebook of some description.
  • This Season's Brochure with pages marked.
  • Any other Leaflets they just collected in the foyer.
In my experience The Lingerer can be male or female. The men tend to favour tweed caps and can be irritating, the women are down right annoying. I probably notice them more because I am a woman and their behaviour does not honour our sex. They come in all shapes and sizes, usually smartly dressed and well spoken. Teacher'ish, is the best word I can think of to describe them and I have often wondered if there had been a major attention deficit in their lives as children which they are determined to make up for now.
Quite often they book single seats, occasionally two seats but usually only one. There are many other people who only book one seat of course, for a variety of reasons but The Lingerer is a breed set apart by distinctive characteristics.
Here is an example of a conversation with a Lingerer.

"So, you've booked four shows at these prices, anything else I can help you with before I close the sale?"
"Just remind me again where the seats are for each show."

We go through the booking again, sometimes this is the second or third time. The Lingerer is efficiently cross referencing dates in their diary full of empty pages. They are also watching you closely for any signs of insubordination, a sigh, rolling of eyes, tutting. Any of these could mean extending the time they will spend at the desk. As they watch you they purse up in their lips and fix you with a concentrated stare.
I have made the mistake in the past of challenging The Lingerer with regard to information given. I will never make such a fundamental error again.
Eventually, the tickets are printed as the booking is verbally confirmed with times, dates, seating areas and prices again before being put into a wallet and handed over only for it to be opened up and spread out over the counter. Each ticket is scrutinised individually for any possible discrepancies of which there are none. We do ask customers to check their tickets before leaving the counter but The Lingerer likes to go the whole hog in front of you.
At this point the rules of the game shift slightly. It is no longer about booking tickets but about commanding attention in a controlled, manipulative manner. They are completely aware that a queue has formed behind them but this does not deter them from claiming their right to remain at the desk a while longer.

"Do you have any information regarding The Classics's Season?"
"Oh yes, all the prices and dates are in your brochure." You know the one you've thumbed from cover to cover and made detailed reports on.
"Oh, is it? I must have missed those."
Highly unlikely.
"Is there anything else we can do for you Sir/Madame?"
They know there is nothing else but cannot quite bring themselves to move away, a captive audience is the life blood for obsessive personalities and The Lingerer is no exception.
"I think that's everything for now, I can always pop back again if I've forgotten something can't I?" they reply with a chilling smile.
At this point your heart sinks and you pray that you're on another duty when they do, or better still, another planet.

"Yes of course you can come back anytime."

The endless ceremony of putting the tickets away safely ensues, followed by the diary. The glasses are carefully removed, folded and put back in their case. Gloves are deliberately returned to each digit in turn and pressed into place by knitting fingers together. The coat is buttoned up and finally the bag is checked again.

"Thank you, you have been very helpful."
"You're welcome."

The smile freezes on my face, my eyes have glazed over. I deal with the next customer in a traumatised state acutely aware that the Lingerer has circumnavigated the foyer, avoided the exit and rejoined the queue.


  1. A great post. I always find these sort of observations interesting, especially when rendered with a eye for telling, specific detail like this.

    I see people like this quite often. I usually end up behind them in traffic or fume silently near the magazines in the grocery aisle while they dig about their purse for a pen to write out a check. Worse yet is The Chatterer, that usually older person intent on telling the clerk some story about their life as carts and bags and bodies bang together behind them in the buildup of the line.

    Bah humbug! I say to them all.

  2. Thanks Brad, I can always rely on you to save me from the 0 comment void.
    These people drive me and my colleagues up the wall. They bleed you drive both mentally and emotionally before coming back for a second round.
    Damn their eyes!

  3. I know this man! I can see him in my minds eye...every detail as I read abou him...I felt quite irritated with the glove bit, I wanted to shove them on his hand!

    Well done girl...

  4. I share your pain - I am the world's most impatient - supermarkets are the worse for me .. all I want is this packet of mints/newspaper - I'm sure there are more than 10 items in that basket - why didn't you check there was a leak in that bag of sugar - then just occasionally I recall an essay/lecture I read by an Amrican novelist whose name escapes me - but I recall he died in 2008 - he was talking about this very thing - but he made the point about trying to make connection in your mind - maybe they've had a bad day, are caring for an elederly relative and a trip to the shops is their only respite - maybe thay are loners because they were bullied and abused .... it doesn't make the behaviour any less irritating - but it can help at the very least to find a little inner-calm. Anyway off to phone a disgruntled customer and be verbally abused.

    Good post. Steve

  5. Pinky: Thanks for popping in. If your not careful, you might be considered a regular!

    Steve: Good to have you over and thank you for your observations. I owe you a visit.

    I believe that when I wrote the post I was thinking in terms of a character sketch but also to highlight behaviour that people are essentially unaware that they are demonstrating, a 'JoHari' window study if you will. You are quite right to point out the whys and the wherefore's of the human condition, the story behind the person would be a fascinating subject I'm sure. I have spent time pondering behaviour both in the box office, on the bus, practically everywhere I go. One of the joys, as well as burdens, of working where I do is that I meet a great cross-section of society. People come to book tickets and end up telling you their life story. I imagine this is typical of any customer service situation. Sometimes, these windows into peoples lives are edged with gold, sometimes not.
    I haven't found the courage as of yet to open Pandora's Box with regard to The Lingerer and ask what makes them tick. Maybe one day I will.

  6. Policemen asking me questions are very similar!

  7. Tony: What have you been up to then?

  8. Have you ever considered that the blokes fancy you and that's why they want to spend more time dithering? Do you catch them staring at your eyes? Tell tale signs of how absorbed they are with you and not the tickets.

    Maybe the ladies feel challenged by your charm and wit and are trying to see if they can break it? Which, of course, they won't.

    Go on - open the box, Boxie. You may be intrigued by what you find.

  9. Why thank you Sir John for that lovely compliment but I suspect it is about power and I've considered writing a piece in character to try and understand the motif behind this behaviour. It would be an interesting perspective don't you think?

  10. Fun post. Ugh. I've encountered some lingerers in my time. Great observations.

  11. Kim: Lovely to see you back again, thanks for the comments and the visit.

  12. After the painful agony of waiting, I love the humour release at the end of this post where the Lingerer rejoins the queue.)

  13. Oh Sarah, and they do you know, deliberately waiting until your position is free because 'this lady helped me earlier.'

  14. Hello Tracey ... for the time being (I am in a cafe), I am only able to check the Internet when I'm out, but hope to have Internet at home in a couple of weeks. I am watching from very far down south ... Don

  15. Don, I just gave you the biggest hug, did you feel that? Hurry up and sort your domestic stuff out things are not the same around here without you.

    Did you get my email? If not, glad you arrived safe and well, I saw your message on Brad's blog last night. Quite comforted to know that you are only a couple of hours behind us here in the UK.


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