As it turns out, the old cartoons are accurate: The old cartoon image a little angel and devil sitting on our shoulder, whispering in your ear, a la Fred Flintstone, is completely accurate. (In truth, the image predates the cartoons. It is essentially the image of angels and demons one gets in The Screwtape Letters, and back to Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. I once saw a production of the play in which Faustus' good/bad angels played up on the cartoon style of silliness, by having Faustus himself lay the good/bad angels using sock puppets and a high pitched falsetto. "Do it, Faustus, do it!" "No, Faustus, no!") I feel the tug of war constantly at work these days, particularly when I am faced by some of the more... foolish customers.
Mispronunciations are common among students looking for books. I had someone looking for "Ho Bees LeeVEE a shun". It took a time to work out that the student was asking for Hobbes Leviathan. I won't even tell you what they do with non English names, like Nietzsche, or Kierkegaarde, and, perhaps worst of all, Goethe. I can feel the angels struggle every time I come up with a snappy answer to treat these people like idiots. "Go on... do it!" "No, let it pass." Sometimes I even feel like the angel is in on the deal. 'Usually, I would say no, but for this tool..."
Mispronounced names, a failure to read giant signs placed throughout the store, really stupid questions, and two opposing impulses. But some people are just asking for it. Today, a man came to me with a correction pen, in a package, clearly labelled "correction pen", and said: "Yo, is this, like, a hilighter?" This guy was fully capable of whiting out a passage he needed to remember. "Go ahead. Say yes." "Don't." Sigh. "No, sir,"- 'sir' is a teenager who probably can't spell 'sir'- "It isn't."
Sigh. That devil is sounding really, really, persuasive. And after all, treating a moron like a moron is only natural. Treating him like he wasn't would be a lie. Uncharitable, even.
"Yes, sir,"- again with the sir- "I'm sure."
If only the angel were a little more- I don't know- fun.