Although I have been employed in a variety of different industries, my job title has always been the same: customer service. I am not 100% certain why this is so, but if I had to take a guess I’d say…
- My overall demeanor and faint southern drawl are perceived as “friendly” to most people hereabouts. And to be fair, I am a pretty friendly person— up to a point.
- What else can you with two art degrees? Seriously.
- I am working off some serious karmic debt.
I don’t know what I did then, but my lot in life here and now seems entail being a grossly underpaid lackey whose sole purpose is to interface with (READ: be a psychological punching bag for) the general public. If the goal of this karmic exercise was (is?) to teach me a measure of respect for my fellow man it has failed miserably; I have developed a measure of “tolerance” for others, nothing more.
Just as drinking a six pack of beer everyday (over time) will cease to inebriate. Or ingesting a small amount of arsenic with one’s Wheaties each morning will only foster resistance to its toxicity, I have developed the ability to stomach the most abject specimens the human race has to offer: clients. After achieving this milestone I was sent to the only place worthy of such persons. A veritable ninth ring of Hell commonly known as “Management”.
Believe it or not, I am a pretty good manager. I have long since accepted the fact that very few things can be fixed. Those problems that can be “fixed” won’t get fixed by virtue of the fact that it will cost some useless piece of shit his/her job. No sir: much like herpes, most things to be found in human condition can only be managed.
My experience in the lower ranks taught me this and endowed me with a certain measure of compassion towards my charges. I humored their eccentricities for the simple reason that some battles are not worth the effort of waging. Not for $35,000 a year anyway. For example:
- Although I personally found it distasteful, I saw fit not to ask a receptionist to refrain from tweezing the hairs off her upper lip and chin at the front desk. I didn’t chastise her because I felt having such abundant facial hair was punishment enough. Why make matters worse? The energy saved will undoubtedly be used to thwart much more abhorrent behavior anyway, such as:
- Deducing who is pissing blood on the men’s bathroom floor.
- Supervising the installation of a halogen bulb by the maintenance men because the last time they did so (without supervision) a glass cherd found its way into another employee’s eye and she had to go to the hospital.
- Who is stealing/taste-testing my lunch? (The answer to this one, if you’re wondering, was a client who worked in the catering industry. I shit you not.)
- When I caught (yet another) receptionist drinking beer at the front desk, I simply asked her to finish it in the kitchenette. As it happened, that bottle of beer was a gift from a client who was notorious for shouting and throwing telephones when he forgot to take his medication. Knowing full well that this was a weekly occurrence, I elected not to test my luck.
- When I discovered an employee feeding Cheerios to a brood of pigeons that had nested in the A/C room, I did not report it to the owner of the company (who happened to be on vacation in The Hamptons). She took pigeons outside and released them. Then I called building maintenance and sent an email to the head honcho right before closing.
There is only so much professionalism that can be bought by dinky salaries and shitty bennies: to expect anything other than thinly-veiled apathy or learned-helplessness (much less cheerfulness) is asinine. I have found this principle to be applicable when I go about my daily business as well: as a consumer I do not expect the sales people and cashiers I patronize to be exuberant or chatty. They have a job to do and I try my best not to make it any more unpleasant or difficult than absolutely necessary.
I rarely mutter “What a bitch!” under my breath when I leave a place of business. I suspect this is due to my admittedly (VERY) low expectations and overall obliviousness. But “What a BITCH!” is exactly what found its way out of my mouth during the holiday break when I encountered a sales clerk who was such a RAGING CUNT that even I was taken aback. Ironically, I am currently considering contacting her Manager. It happened like this…
This year I found myself composing the Christmas “wish list” (for distribution to both sides of the family) on behalf of my husband and myself. Among other things, I suggested that a gift certificate from A Cook’s Companion might be a nice surprise for my husband because every time we go there I catch him ogling some culinary gizmo with extreme avarice.
It did come to pass that my husband got a gift certificate for this store. And we decided to spend an afternoon knocking around Cobble Hill before we collected it. In hindsight, I can safely say that we should have known better than to blight this gentrified landscape with our rough-shod presence.
We dined at Tripoli Restaurant for lunch and people watched.
Husband: This is a really nice neighborhood. I wouldn’t mind living here.
Me: No way, it’s too nice. We’re really close to Brooklyn Heights and those people are a bunch of stuck-up assholes. Look at all the people pushing strollers and talking on cell phones. That shit would drive me crazy.
Husband: Look at all the SUVs.
Me (disdainfully): Yeah, they’re filled with families here, not hoodie macs selling drugs and blaring shitty rap music like in our neighborhood.
Husband: Why would anyone want to drive a SUV in the city anyway?
Me (prophetically): Because they’re assholes. You know, several years ago I thought living in a neighborhood where the likes of me are considered trash was a good idea. I have since changed my mind. After being kicked in the teeth enough times I have come to realize that only a certifiable masochist would pay blue chip rent to get sneered at everyday. If I’m going to dole out that kind of money, I want to live in a place where even I have people to look down upon. It’s a lot more emotionally healthy. That’s why I like Greenpoint.
Upon completing our meal, we strolled down Atlantic Avenue to A Cook’s Companion so my husband could buy some toys. As always, he took a long time to make his selections and I started to get very, very restless. By the time he got to the cashier, I was engrossed by a flock of upwardly mobile breeders (UMBrees) who have seen fit to block the entrance of the store and talk crotch shop…
UMBree #1 (to store employee, pointing at her own porcine belly): In case you didn’t know, I am expecting another child.
Nice Store Clerk: Congratulations!
UMBree #2: Congratulations!
Me (to self): No shit. Woman, you look like a python that swallowed a basketball. It is quite obvious that you are pregnant— and that no one here really cares. Had they cared, they would have said something. *DUH*
And, as happens in ANY conversation involving women who have the rapacious need to breed, a dog and pony show of one-cuntmanship followed. The saccharine sweet recitation of facts and figures I had to endure is too lengthy to go into on this post; they’d be best delivered on a fucking baseball card anyway— RBIs, errors and all. But here are some highlights…
UMBree #1 (to UMB #2, pointing at stroller): So how old is your little one?
UMBree #2: Three weeks.
UMBree #1 (pointing to her stroller, then belly): This one is five months old and I’m along at five months. I’m going to have another girl.
UMBree #2: Oh, that’s so nice. I’m sure your eldest girl is going to like having a little sister.
UMBree #1: I sure liked it. I was one of nine children.
Me (to self): NINE CHILDREN!?! Your poor mother probably has to use a hand-truck just to move around her nether-regions— or she wraps them around her head like a turban. For fuck’s sake woman: you do not have sisters, you have litter mates!
After thoroughly revolting myself with my own vivid imagination, I directed my attention to the cashier ringing-up my husband. This proved not to be any better: a full five feet ten inches of FEMALE bad attitude towered before me. After handling our gift certificate like it had been dislodged out a lap dancer’s snatch on a Sunday morning, she proceeded to ring up the first item…
Miss Heather’s Husband (to Cashier): I think that item was $13.00
Me (to husband): Are you sure? I think $14.95 is correct. ($1.95 is *NOT* worth fighting over— I just want to get the FUCK out of here!)
My husband grudgingly conceded and the cashier proceeded to ring up the second (and last) item at a snail’s pace. After redeeming the gift certificate, my husband only had to pay five dollars out-of-pocket. He tendered the money and said “Thanks”. The Cashier offered up the following sullen turd in return:
My husband and I were silent for a full minute after exiting the store. We were speechless. After mustering his wits, my husband spoke.
Husband: Was it me, or was that woman rude?
Me: It was not you. That woman was incredibly fucking rude. I suppose the likes of us are beneath her. Fuck this shit! Let’s go back to Greenpoint.
Just before we made it to the Bergen Street station to catch the G, I happened upon an enticing morsel. I am featuring it here because it mirrors this woman’s attitude perfectly.
For all that you do, surly cashier lady, this bung’s for YOU!
And if you happen to be reading this, Miss Crabbypants, I want to thank you. Seriously. You see, if I had a dollar for every time some dowager/busy-body admonished me by saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” I’d be a very rich woman. I usually (and correctly) deduced that I was being told this because I was saying something that was distasteful to others due to its unflattering honesty. In other words, I thought this cliche was a load of shit. Until I met you, anyway. Now I know that there are, indeed, instances when one should keep his (or in your case, HER) mouth shut.
While it is not my purpose to give you a lecture, my churlish and not-so-little friend, I would like to close by pointing out that if the likes of me (The Dog Shit Queen of Greenpoint) finds your conduct objectionable, it probably is. Very. Objectionable. Sinecures such as mine are not conferred by being “Miss Manners”, if you know what I mean. ‘Nuff said.
Needless to say I was elated when I got back to Greenpoint. I went to the liquor store later that night and was kindly chided by a very drunk gentleman waving around a wad of twenty dollar bills. He explained to me (in a bleary-eyed and slurred, but curiously endearing paternalistic tone) that my money would be better spent buying a $2.00 fifth of vodka instead of a bottle of wine for $8.00. Perhaps he was right, who am I to judge?
I told him I was feeling especially “fancy” this particular evening and wanted to buy the $8.00 bottle instead of my usual $7.95 fare. He nodded at me with the same disapproving (but accepting) look I have gotten from my parents many, many times and I left.
On my way back to the apartment, I found something that made me smile.
Dog shit, mud and watermelon. I’m home.