“That’ll be three fifty, ma’am.”
I hand over a scruffy five-dollar bill for my bag of milk-chocolate mini bars. “Make it so.”
The convenience-store attendant’s head snaps up. “Did you just say, ‘Make it so’?”
Wearing a rolled-up bandana headband, creased jeans, and a t-shirt of a shade that resolutely obscures its cleanliness or lack thereof, the tattoed and five-o’clock-shadowed cashier pauses in the act of tucking my bill into the cash register. A bit late in the game I consider lying and sidling out, but that would be cruel. We should be able to trust our ears.
I pause, calculating whether I should finish the routine. Oh well, in for a penny.
“I always wanted to be a starship captain.”
There now, I’ve gone and lied anyway. I’ve never actually longed for a command position on a ship hurtling at warp speed across unmapped galaxies, making life-and-death decisions quickly and with aplomb while wearing a burgundy-and-black figure-hugging uniform. After all, burgundy is so not my colour.
Nevertheless, this is my standard comeback when someone reacts to my adaptation of Jean-Luc Picard’s oft-used line to his first officer: “Make it so, Number One.”
In the context of a suggestion just made by that first officer, an order anticipated as it were, it’s a command at once gracious and regal. Gracious in acknowledging and accepting the input, regal in clearly retaining the authority to make the call.
Of course, using “Make it so” in a convenience-store exchange is a bit silly, and using humour to connect with a stranger is a bit risky. Using a dated cultural reference as the basis of that humour is, perhaps, both silly and risky. And that’s when I’m inside my normal cultural milieu.
But driving from Ottawa to Phoenix in January, we have, somewhere, crossed an east-west line marking a great cultural divide. A line where dark chocolate stops being routinely available in convenience stores, and where convenience-store clerks — scruffy or not — start calling me “ma’am.”
As Unshaven Bandana Guy hands me my change, he grins, and I relax. He either gets the joke, or realizes, at least, that it is a joke.
As I turn toward the door, he says, “Have a nice evening, ma’am.”
And then he pauses, maybe making his own calculations. Oh well, in for a penny.
“And God bless.”