“Oh, no problem,” said Harris. I’ve bought a conversation book. Here it is. It gives you a lot of useful phrases, and we shall look into it and speak to the Germans”.
And that’s how it was……
George raised his hat, and said “Good-morning.” He hoped, in answer to his politeness, to hear the polite “Welcome to our shop,” as this was the answer in the conversation book.
But the man did not even look at us.
George said: “ Mr. X., my friend, has recommended your shop to me”
To these words the conversation book gave the answer: «Mr. X is a very fine young man. I’ve known him for years, and I’ll be happy to be useful to his friends.»
But the man said: “Don’t know him; never heard of him.”
That was a nice beginning. George looked into the conversation book again. The book gave three or four methods of buying boots; George chose the one about “Mr. X,” as being the politest. At first you should talk with the shopkeeper about this “Mr. X,” and then, after coming to the better understanding, you beginto talk naturally about the object of your coming, namely, that you want to buy boots, “cheap and good.”
But it seemed that the man didn’t know anything about the niceties of trade business. He didn’t want to understand George. So, George stopped talking about “Mr. X,” and looked into the conversation book again. He chose some sentence on the page. It was an unlucky choice in this place, because it says: “They saythat you have here boots for sale.”
* * *
Jerome K. Jerome. How We Tried to Buy Shoes. Part 2
For the first time the man put down his hammer and chisel, and looked at us. He said slowly: “What do you think I keep boots for—to smell them?”
He began quietly and grew more and more angry as he continued.
“What do you think I am,” he asked, “a boot collector? Do you think I love the boots, and can’t part with a pair? Do you think I hang them around here to look at them? Where do you think you are—in a museum of boots? Have you ever heard of a man who has a boot shop and does not sell boots? What do you take me for—an idiot?”
I have always said that these conversation books are never of any real use. “We had better leave,” said Harris and started for the door. But George suddenly found the answer in the book, the best sentence he could find at the moment. He said: “We will come again, when, perhaps, you will have some more boots to show me. Till then, adieu!”
With that we came out, took the cab and drove away, leaving the man standing in the doors of his shop. What he said, I did not hear, but the passers-by found it very interesting.
T h e E n d