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Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by GHT, Apr 18, 2014.
When you remember flipping through paper-catalogues from Quelle/Neckermann/Otto as stupid 90s-kid...
You know you’re getting old when Santa starts looking younger. Do you remember when you could untangle the Christmas lights without losing your temper?
The dewy-eyed bride is making louder noises about putting up Christmas decorations. We have a couple of large plastic storage bins full of the stuff — really nice stuff, too, both vintage and of more recent manufacture. But we have no good place for a tree, although we have several quite substantial houseplants — large ficus benjaminas and a couple of big potted palms and dracaenas and the like. But putting up and then taking down all that swag is a several hour process. A PITA, is what it is.
I knew I was getting old when: I realized that my depression had turned into full-blown rage ... And I ❤ it! Y'all better watch out for the angry old lady from Pasadena!
Don't mess with old ladies, period!
When you know, that you still travelled with Deutsche Reichsbahn, twenty-five years ago.
I think that happens to a lot of us. The older we get the less patience we have with the BS we're forced to endure, and the more likely we are to do something about it. All that "be a nice lady and smile" stuff we grew up internalizing didn't get us anywhere, and we very naturally come to resent it. It's especially difficult when you work in a business that requires you to shuffle and grin for the public and hide what you'd really like to say to them if you could give yourself free rein. If I was giving advice to a young person who wanted to become an actor, I'd advise them to go out and get the most demeaning service job they could find. They'll learn to act pretty damn quick.
Remember that folks, when you go in to a place and demand that the staff bow and scrape before your presence. Just because we wait on you doesn't mean we don't make merciless fun of you the minute your back is turned.
A-holism and arrogance are among the worst character flaws. It doesn't help that they are the most visible.
I have also observed that those most afflicted generally have the least reason.
These days I wouldn’t last an hour in some of the jobs I once held. I got my fill of all that and then some quite some time back.
However, one lesson a person in almost any position, but especially in service jobs, ought learn is that it is best to keep one’s politics, religion, etc. to oneself while on the clock. Chatting about the weather or how miserably the local sports franchises are doing is one thing, regaling the customers/clients with one’s political philosophy is another.
I bounced a service tech out of this place when he wouldn’t take the hint that I’d rather be spared his right-wing perspectives, and I opted against ever again seeing a physician who droned on about the ills of “socialism.”
A fellow of my close acquaintance, a disbarred lawyer, had been reduced to driving Uber and Lyft. He got dropped by Uber after too many unheeded warnings that customers didn’t wish to hear his political views.
Of course, it would be good of the customers to follow the same code. The driver is there to get you where you are going, the shoe salesman to get you into a new pair of kicks. He might have little choice but to bite his tongue while the customer prattles in ways “the help” might find annoying if not downright offensive. But it’s still rude.
When I get somebody like that I have the habit of whistling "The Internationale" after the transaction is completed. They usually don't recognize the tune, and I get to savor my little joke. If they do recognize the tune, I just smile and say "pretty song, isn't it?"
Part of my job is to greet every single person who comes in the door, take their ticket, and do a bit of skinnin' and grinnin' for the team. You do this long enough and you get pretty good at reading body language to the point you can always tell if the person is safe to joke around a bit, or if they're somebody who'll just give you a noncommital "hmmmph" as they go by, or if they're one of these thin-skinned literal-minded types for whom all of life is as much fun as a tax audit. I always tell the kids not to try and kid around with anybody until they know them well enough to have their order ready before they even get to the counter.
One part of a job I held long ago was fielding complaints at the largest taxicab company in a major city. We had more than 200 cabs at the time and at least three times that many drivers, what with the part-timers and all.
You know that line that goes something like "You don't have to be a complete misfit to work here, but it never hurt"?
Welcome to the cab lot.
Some of the characters I met in that biz were among the brightest I ever had the pleasure to know. Entertaining, for sure. Many were very well educated. Some held professional credentials back in the old country that weren't recognized here in the Land o' the Free.
And some were complete (expletive deleted) idiots. I didn't mind those guys so much as the sleazebags. By the third complaint that a driver had made lewd comments to woman passengers you can't help but question his denials. If there's another, you ain't working here anymore, pal.
I've never understood those types, and the only "demands" I make are the expectations that people who are hired to do a job should do it to the best of their abilities; not surprisingly, those expectations are not always met.
Beyond that, however, I've long held the belief that it's important to remember that someone's occupation--working in a theater, or as a driver, or as a shoe salesperson, and so on--is not the sum total of who and what these people are. I don't care if someone is a sewer cleaner or the C.E.O. of a multi-billion-dollar company, I treat everyone I encounter with the same level of respect as a person first and foremost; "Do unto others..." and all that. It's so much easier to be civil and use words like "Hello", "Please", and "Thank you", than it is to be ill-mannered and/or unkind, and in my experience people respond in kind (for the most part, anyway) and it makes each interaction that much more pleasant. Sure, some people are going to be disagreeable no matter what I do--having a bad day, naturally sour, whatever--but at least I'm not making their day worse. Unless they start it, of course; then the gloves come off.
One thing you learn fast is that there are, sometimes, true no-win situations. No matter what you do, someone's going to be upset.
We had a holiday event last night, and five of the loudest, most obnoxious fifty-something women I've ever run into in my life were sitting in the balcony yapping and hooting and whooping all thru the performance. It was a sing-along type of show, so audience participation was called for, but these gals took it beyond the limit, aided and abetted by a bit of the grape. A patron in the row in front of them told them to shut up and when they declined to do so, offered them a South End Salute. One of them -- who out louded even me -- stormed downstairs to raise hell. Another patron followed suit to complain about the Ladies.
No matter who you throw out, you're going to have a scene, so we forgot about the symptoms and got to the root of the disease. I shut the bar down for the rest of the show, and everything settled down fine. If we'd thrown out any of them, the resulting extravaganza would have disturbed everyone else in the place, and possibly even the performers themselves. So taking away their Chardonnay seemed like the only way to defuse things. Of course, now the Loud Ladies hate us, and so does the Complainer. Mr. Mittelfinger, at least, has not weighed in, but I can guess his opinion anyway.
Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas, neighbors. Season's Beatings.
Why is it that after years of dealing with people in a service situation that you can very often pick out the ones who have a high potential to be difficult on sight? As soon as they walk in the your spidey sense goes off. I've never figured out exactly what they radiate before they speak or even make eye contact, but it's there.
When the constant complaining begins while they're still standing outside on the sidewalk, you know you're heading for Flavor Country.
This reminds me of a sequence I saw on Live P.D. the other night.
A cop stopped a car because he observed one or more of the people in the back seat put on their seat belts when the cruiser came into view. No big deal, right?
Except the driver, a middle aged pear-shaped man let flow a tide of profanity at the officers for doing their job, which includes asking for ID at the beginning of any routine police stop.
Considering what was being hurled at them, the officers kept their cool and let it all slide off. I wanted to reach through the screen and snap the driver's neck.
Two of the best lessons I got early in life were my parents teaching me to treat people as you wanted to be treated and working as a sales clerk in a large department store, Sterns, throughout my college years.
The best thing about the first lesson, you feel good about your conduct almost always. I do everything I can to ignore or shorten the encounter with rude people who attack you with condescending words - then, when you look back on the encounter, you feel good that you didn't lower yourself to their level of rudeness. My mom always says that when someone is arguing with you and they become rude, it's usually because their argument is weak and they are losing control of themselves. The second best thing, many times (not all), your basic niceness is rewarded with nicer service.
Working in Sterns exposed me to all the ugliness talked about above, which made me committed to finding a career where I didn't have be in a service role to the public. Every single job and career path has its challenges and, calling it straight, stuff you hate, but wanting to succeed in a non-service job encouraged me to absorb that stuff as I knew the alternative was back to something like Sterns. So my Sterns' experience helped me succeed in my post-Sterns career.
And when I'm honest about it, and from a thirty-year-old memory (hence, just guesstimating), 90% of the customers in Sterns ranged from indifferent but not impolite to actually nice and friendly; whereas, 5% were modestly unpleasant and 5% or less were outright *ssholes. Thus, it was a small percentage that, for me, made the experience unpleasant.
I have friends in retail sales today and the ones who enjoy it (and some do) gain energy from the good experiences (which they say dominate) and somehow just let the few bad ones slide on by. One friend is a very successful retail menswear salesman. He says he has so many customers he really enjoys that the few jerks rarely bother him for more than a day. Another one is more my mom's friend - she's a saleswoman in kitchenware at a department store and says about the same thing as my friend, she loves her customers and the few "bad" ones just don't matter that much to her. Clearly, I wasn't cut out for retail sales as those few bad encounters ruined the entire job for me.
The executioner might be the most polite fellow in the internment camp. It wouldn't change the fact that he's about to slip a noose around your neck.
Wasn't it Capone's henchmen who would say to their victim: "Nothing personal, strictly business."
So that's alright then.