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It’s becoming a sadly common experience lately — being made to feel foolish for not possessing mind-reading skills when attempting to conduct a transaction.

This morning, we used the excuse of having company to run out and get donuts, hoping to return before our guests awakened. There’s a donut shop about two miles from our house, but the line for the drive-thru was wrapped around the block so we parked to try our luck inside. We took our place behind about eight other people, with new arrivals rapidly stacking up behind us.

A few minutes later, one of the employees scowled toward those still waiting in line and said in a loud voice, “Did all of you call in your orders ahead of time?”

Several of us glanced around, our expressions saying what our words did not: “Were we supposed to call in orders? Did y’all know that’s a thing?”

Barked the employee: “This line only serves those who called in their orders. If you didn’t call in, you need to go outside and get in the drive-thru line.”

I looked around for a sign indicating there was no counter service but found none, yet the employee behaved as if we were dolts for not being aware of their unposted rule and did so with such authority that nearly everyone left. Not one of us said a thing. We just slinked out, this air of shared shame surrounding us.

This situation is one I seem to encounter more and more — employees behaving as though customers should be on the same page as the staff, aware of new policies, procedures and rules, no matter how often or quickly they change.

When attempting to pay for a purchase recently, I tried to hand cash to the cashier. She reacted with such revulsion I did a quick double-check of the bill to see if there might be a dirty tissue or used gum stuck to the back. There was not.

“We’re credit cards only,” she said.

I glanced around to see I’d missed their Cards Only sign. I had not.

The cashier noticed me looking, waved one hand dismissively and said, “No one takes cash anymore.”

Silly me. I must’ve missed that memo, too.

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For years, I’ve dreaded taking my car to the shop because some mechanics seem to sense my lack of knowledge and will throw legitimate-sounding phrases at my wallet until it’s empty, along with my little reservoir of self-esteem.

And then there’s the issue with strange abbreviations and acronyms, which leave some of us feeling we’re floundering around in the dark.

I once heard my favorite writer, David Sedaris, talking about how, in Australia, they didn’t write out the word “strawberries” but rather used the word “strawbs.”

“What are they going to do with all the time they’re saving by not saying ‘berries?’” he asked.

I think of that all the time at my job, where they adore acronyms to the point where I stop what I’m doing to jot down a new one for my collection. My list is a lifesaver, and using it often leaves me feeling I’ve deciphered a code rather than trying to make sense of a sentence.

Some of their acronyms are tongue-twisters that take longer to say than if they had spoken the actual words, plus new staff members often don’t have a clue what is being discussed.

It’s a feeling with which I’m familiar. Particularly when dealing with technology issues.

I hate that sense of dread when my computer starts acting up and I realize I’m going to have to make That Call — the one where I’m asked questions that include words I suspect the technician is making up on the spot.

Do you ever feel like your life is a test, but you didn’t study?

That tends to be me when I have to deal with IT.

Or go out shopping for donuts.

Karin Fuller can be reached at

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