Thirty-three. There are 33 senses in the human body. All these years we’ve had it wrong, believing there were only five senses.
During my childhood, my first-grade teacher would stand before our class and lead us in a cute little song about the five senses. We’d all do a little dance and wiggle our little bottoms. And it was all lies.
Because neurologists can identify 21 to 33 senses in the human body—depending on which neurologist you ask. Senses like taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing are only the tip of the proverbial pyramid.
You have, for instance, equilibrioception: the sense of balance.
Nociception: perception of pain.
Proprioception: bodily awareness, and self-movement awareness.
Chronoception: sense of time.
Stupidception: awareness that oneself is an idiot.
I experienced the last sense when I was standing in line at the customer service desk today, where I began to feel like a Grade-A dipstick.
Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of Customer Service, and I dislike making returns at department stores. Namely, because when you return something, the process takes about as long as dental school. You can lose an entire decade standing in line.
When I got to the department store, there was a line stretching back to the Yukon Territory, and—as stipulated by U.S. Customer Service Law—there was only one register open. This register was operated by a young man who had the amiable personality of a pet rock.
When it was finally my turn the kid behind the counter asked for my receipt so that we could begin the return process.
This is where things went off the rails.
I explained that when my wife bought the item I was returning, she opted for a “paperless” transaction. Therefore the receipt was “emailed” to us. I showed him this email on my phone screen to show what I meant.
The kid informed me that he could not complete a return without a paper receipt.
“But I have the emailed receipt right here,” I said, showing him my phone once more.
He shook his head. “I cannot complete the return without a paper receipt.”
So I turned on my charm.
“Look, I get where you’re coming from. Honestly I do. But if you’ll just listen, I am showing you my receipt. Right here. On my phone. This receipt was emailed to me from this very store.”
“I cannot complete this return without a paper receipt.”
Okay. Change of plan.
“Do you have a printer?” I asked.
“A printer. We could print out this receipt and then, boom, you’ve got your paper. Problem solved.”
I could see his brain working. It was a real mind twister. In the end he went with: “I’m sorry, but I cannot complete this return transaction without a paper receipt.”
So I said a little prayer and tried another approach.
“Alright. Listen. Can you tell me something? What do you do with these paper receipts?”
“Just follow my logic here, Ryan. Your nametag says Ryan. Can I call you Ryan?”
He said nothing.
“Ryan, what is it that you physically do with these paper receipts?”
“Uh. I use them to type in a ten-digit number.”
“Perfect. There you go.”
“Crisis averted. Look right here.” I showed him my phone again and tapped the screen hard enough to crack the glass.
“Do you see this, Ryan? This is your ten-digit number. All you have to do is type this magic number into your magic computer and we can all go home.”
I could feel it coming.
“I’m sorry, but I cannot complete this transaction without a paper receipt.”
Security asked me to have a seat.
So I waited for the manager while department store music played overhead—something by Neil Sedaka. They told me the manager was on her “lunch break,” but would “be here shortly,” and P.S., “we appreciate your patience.”
I sat on a bench next to an old guy who had been waiting there since Memorial Day. He said he made the mistake of trying to use a 40-percent-off coupon.
We sat for upwards of an hour while the kid behind the service counter kept avoiding eye contact and waiting on other customers.
Finally the manager exited the back room, wiping bits of lobster from the corners of her mouth.
I approached the counter again.
“What’s the problem here?” the manager asked.
I calmly explained my case again. I made sure Ryan was listening. The manager heard me out, then made a serious frowny face.
The manager said, “Hmmm. May I see your emailed receipt, sir?”
I gave the manager my phone, she glanced at my screen, then typed in the ten-digit number. And that was it. It was over. My return was finished. It took maybe four seconds.
I locked eyes with Ryan. And I believe he knew what I was thinking. He could see my thoughts plastered on my face. I was thinking that the human body has 33 senses, but anyone who stands in line at customer service has none at all.