See Me, I Command You!

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I’d like to think that I’m not much of a complainer. You will probably never see a post on this blog entitled “My Top 25 Pet Peeves and the Horrible People Who Commit Them” (although I did once create a scrapbook page called “100 Things That Bug Me,*” so clearly I do have some issues.)

Tonight, though, going through the Wendy’s drive-thru (where I ordered a very healthful side salad and a bowl of chili, in keeping with the draconian demands of my now starchless existence), I experienced a sudden and atypical flare of irritation at the man-boy taking my order and my money. It wasn’t that he was rude, exactly. On the contrary, I think I would have preferred a little flash of rudeness to what I actually received, which was…blankness. Nothing. Zero. Nil. Not a single spark of recognition that I was, in fact, a human being interacting in time and space with another human being.
From the time I ordered my last medium fries (hey, the family still has to eat, you know), until I had finished paying and pulled away from his window, he didn’t speak one word or make one attempt at eye contact. And I was trying! I made a joke about the frigid weather. I smiled, a big one, because I thought he might need it (but, alas, he didn’t even see it since he never looked at my face.) I issued a sincere thank you before driving away, trying even at the last to capture one tiny nod or glimpse of humanity, but the blankness remained.
I admit it. It bothered me. As I drove away, I thought about it, and realized that I have encountered this same robotic, emotionless brand of customer “service” countless times and in many places. And, in spite of the other 95% of tellers, clerks, and hostesses who are perfectly warm and friendly, it’s starting to get to me.
Once upon a time, when mass-production industries were in their infancy, the anti-automation lobby painted a bleak picture of a futuristic America in which robots replaced human beings in almost every job imaginable. I always laughed about it, untroubled, knowing that nothing could replace the value of true human interaction in any meaningful way.
And I was right about that.
I need it.
Addendum #1: Okay, before I get completely lambasted in my comments for being unsympathetic to the plight of the proletariat (of which I am a member in good standing), let me just add that I, too, worked in food service for many years. I know the difficult customers, the thankless hard work, the agony of seeing someone walk in to the restaurant five minutes before the doors close and having to wait on them for an hour and a half when you really just want to go home. I have been there! But however annoyed I was on the inside, I never gave bad service (well, except for the time I accidentally poured milk in that lady’s purse), and I certainly never turned a deaf ear and blind eye to someone who was actually being friendly to me. Okay, that’s all I wanted to say about that.
Addendum #2: Let me clarify that many of the items on my “Things That Bug Me” list pertain only to me. For example, I am not put off by anyone else’s visible panty line (so you’re safe, Chad), and I could care less if other people’s homes are cluttered or their socks are hole-y. These are all things that only bother me when I have to deal with them. Otherwise, I would have written “people with visible panty line” and “people with holes in their socks.” So, dear friends, in closing, I am not a monster! And you can rest secure in our friendships, knowing that I am not secretly examining you for whiffs of morning breath and traces of dog drool.

*VPL: visible panty line, sprinkles on the public toilet seat, political smear campaigns, mold in the refrigerator, one-uppers, finding no toilet paper after I’ve already peed, bad customer service, cynical people, feminine product commercials, parents yelling at their kids in public, borrowers who don’t return things, dusting, skimpy clothes on little girls, finding litter when I’m out hiking, one bathroom for 4 people, stepping in gum, morning breath, bias in the media, cursing, being late, throwing up, infomercials, not enough sleep, clutter, forgetting things, bad tippers, cigarette smoke, razor stubble, whining, thinking of a good retort—a day too late, dirty fingernails, dead car battery, teenage “soap opera” shows, counting calories, wrong order at the drive-thru, false advertising, popcorn kernels in my teeth, getting a run in brand new pantyhose, Teletubbies, flat soda, misplacing things, looking forward to the last brownie only to find that someone else ate it first, inconsiderate drivers, gaining weight, holes in my socks, body odor, pop-up ads, allergies, dropping food on my shirt, icy roads, cold floor on bare feet, brussel sprouts, running out of cell phone minutes, mean people, the crack in my windshield, granny panties, propaganda, telemarketers, losing at Scrabble, spam email, waiting in line, graffiti, interruptions on the phone, hair in the drain, constant sniffing, dry skin, fast food wrappers in the car, overflowing trash can, too tight jeans, neverending chores: dishes and laundry, ants, guilt trips, clipping nails in public, smog, dog drool, dirty windows, junk mail, not saying thank you, balancing the checkbook, MTV, taking a knee, disorganization, disappearing pens, vinyl car seats in the hot summer, dishonesty, turbulence, sweat, do-nothing hair, dial-up internet service, saying “nucular” instead of “nuclear”, zits, buying something and finding it for less somewhere else, spoiled milk, credit card interest, broken promises, jogging, rap music, carpet stains, gossip, spiders*
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13 responses »

  1. Having spent most of my teens working in the fast food (or food service in general) industry, I know where this kid is coming from. Don’t take that the wrong way, I certainly don’t condone a bad attitude (or lack of), it’s just that I understand. These poor people make terribly crappy wages, are constantly harranged by bosses on a power trip, deal with rude and ungrateful customers, have to stand on their feet their entire shifts, etc. It just never ends. Sure, in their training, they’re told to always have a smile on their faces, but that can become difficult after awhile. Especially toward the end of their shift or when a boss has been riding them half the night. I know that none of this is any kind of excuse because sometimes there are people who just are the “bad attitude” types. But, oh well. I just always try to remember how I felt when I was that age, so full of myself and tormented with angst, gaaaahhh.

  2. I think we, as parents, need to re-instill in our children a sense that even if a job is not enjoyable, it IS getting you some sort of payback or you wouldn’t be doing it, so you should do it to the best of your ability. That kid might hate working at Wendy’s, but it IS giving him a paycheck and that payoff should be worth a smile at the very least. And if not, then he should find another job.

    As for your list, I love it!! taking a knee…absolutely. But the dog drool, well, I loved my mastiff, so I have to say, I’m partial to dog drool. LOL

  3. I am loving your list of 100 Things That Bug You. (Unfortunately I see a lot of myself on that list. But you don’t need to know the details. I don’t want to get kicked to the curb.)

    As to the apathy of the customer service types. Well. Having been on both ends of that stick at various times… I have no answer. But it is sucktastic for both of you.

    Wish you lived closer. You’re a good influence.

  4. Perhaps the lad has wonderful peripheral vision and you had one of those smiles and he was afraid. Probably not. Anyway, each time I see your list I realize that I can (and do) easily cover at least 15% of you “bug me” list when you come over. Amazing that we can still be friends.

    ps- i need a lesson on how to do an HTML tag, “those” should be in italics. 😉

  5. I knew that eventually I would write a post that revealed my inner pettiness and drove everyone away. It just took longer than I thought! 😀

    I love all of you dearly, and certainly do not have a running list of “bugs” cycling through my head when I spend time with any of you!

    Except for you, Chad. I meant to talk to you in college, friend to friend, about your constant VPL, but the occasion never seeemed right. Admitting you have a problem is the first step!

  6. The whole ‘saying nucular instead of nuclear’ is hilarious! I just thought that same exact thing when we were watching the President’s speech last week! He actually said nucular and it about sent me over the edge! I love President Bush, but come on!!!! That list is very impressive and I didn’t disagree with any of it 🙂

    As for the lack of life in that boy, that is one pet peeve that I’m afraid will be with us for a very, very long time! The dumbing down of that generation (the one after us and those following them) is to thank for the lack-luster performance of those entering the mainstream workforce now! It’s very scary to think about where our country is headed!! This is now an acceptable attitude – fast food industry or other – and it scares me!!!

  7. I’m totally with you on the “nuclear” thing! That bugs the holy hell out of me! And President Bush is the WORST at it!

    I’m actuall with you on quite a few of those things.

    BUT I am going to disagree with you on addendum No. 1 and with many comments posted above. I worked at a grocery store for 5 years before working retail for 2 years and working as a carhop for a little over 1 year. At 23, that’s already 8 years in the service industry. Yes, dealing with rude customers is bad. Yes, there are days you want to hit every customer you deal with.

    And then, all of a sudden, someone comes along who acknowledges you, who pays attention to you, treats you like a human and maybe even smiles at you. That customer can totally turn your whole day around. You were that customer in the Wendy’s line. Only the drive-thru worker was too oblivious to notice.

    If it makes you feel better, if I had been working that drive-thru, I’d have smiled and joked back. And my whole day would’ve improved because of it.

  8. I’ve been that customer too, Katrina, and it’s tough to be ignored like that. Just keep on being friendly, he may have just been having a bad day. I love you list too but I don’t get “taking a knee”, what does that mean? It’s probably something really obvious and I will feel very dumb for asking!!

  9. “Taking a knee” is what happens in a football game in the last few seconds when the winning team is on offense and wants to run the clock down to preserve their lead. Rather than risk a turnover by actually passing or running, the quarterback immediately drops to his knee after receiving the snap, thus ending the play.

    It may be safe, but it’s b-o-o-o-o-r-i-n-g for the fans. I’d much rather see one of those last-minute, game-making plays with both teams scrambling for the glory.

  10. Ooooooh, I see, thanks for explaining that one, Katrina, ’cause I never could have gotten that 🙂 Seems like a cop-out move to me!

  11. First: Man, you are a super scrapbooker! You could make money doing that. I’d pay you to start my two year old’s baby book! I’m inspired!

    Second: That fastfood counter kid was probably stoned out of his mind. He was probably paranoid that you were going to turn into an alien and rip out his throat if he looked in your direction. That doesn’t make it acceptable in terms of his job performance or proper human interaction, but it certainly makes it funny. By the way, if you’ve had it with bad service, never, under any circumstances (even if it’s free like it was for me), go to the Atlantis in the Bahamas. The bad service there will put the baddest bad service in the U.S. to shame!

  12. Hey – Shaun wanted me to tell you that you are an increibly astute woman! He agrees with 97% of your “peeves” but especially the nucular v. nuclear one

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