The other day while checking out at the grocery store, the young cashier (probably somewhere in the vicinity of 16) kept addressing me as “miss” in a steady barrage of questions.
Do you want your gallon in a bag, miss?
Do you want your meat in plastic, miss?
Do you mind how heavy I make the bags, miss?
The age difference alone indicates that I’m clearly not a miss. For some reason the “miss” thing bothered me, and I’m not sure why. I know he was just trying to be polite, but I think if cashier training involves what questions to ask the shopper, it should also involve how to address the shopper.
This encounter made me think of a time when my daughter was about eight and we were in a restaurant on a family vacation. The waitress addressed her as “ma’am” and Ann wasn’t sure who she was talking to so at first she didn’t say anything. In the waitress’s defense, we were in the south, so addressing all females as “ma’am” was probably just part of her southern charm. To this day that incident remains part of our family’s “inside jokes.”
I guess the important thing to remember is that the person speaking is trying to be polite. Sir, Ma’am, Miss, etc. are all correct in some context. But it’s also important to keep in mind that we should address people (students, supervisors, friends) in a way that makes them, and us, feel comfortable. My former superintendent always refers to himself by his first name when communicating with me by phone or email. And while he probably prefers a first name basis, and while most people do use his first name, to me he is still “Dr.” It’s what I’m comfortable with.
The best thing I can say about the whole encounter with the cashier is that at least he didn’t call me “hon.” That might have been a problem.