I’m noticing that adults throw tantrums, not like children (although some do) but a different kind of tantrum…a privileged tantrum. It usually happens when dealing with members of the service industry.
It usually goes a little something like this:
Service Industry Worker: I’m sorry, I can’t do ____ for you.
Childlike Adult: Why not?
Service Industry Worker: It’s against our policy.
Childlike Adult: But ____ did it for me before.
You just don’t want to help me.
Yes you can.
Service Industry Worker: I’m sorry for the inconvenience.
Childlike Adult: Thanks for nothing.
*Proceeds to walk off in a huff while muttering under their breath.*
You know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t done this, or some variation of it, I’m sure you know someone who has.
Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end.
My first few jobs were in restaurants. The hours were flexible and the money was good.
While working in a deli in Berkeley, a customer asked me to make sure his bread was toasted. I promised him that it would be. He gets his sandwich minutes later and he comes back to the counter in a rage. No exaggeration here.
He puts the sandwich on the counter and begins to yell at me.
Why isn’t the bread toasted?! You PROMISED me it would be toasted!
I apologized and offered to have a new sandwich made for him. That wasn’t enough.
You fucking Mexicans can’t remember to toast bread?!
I told him he couldn’t speak to me like that. He huffed at me and left the restaurant. I then proceeded to duck down below the counter and cry.
People make mistakes.
After the restaurant business, I took my talents to retail. The hours were non-existent and the pay was sad but at least I had a job.
Once, a regular customer of the store came to my register to complete her purchase. She tried using a coupon that was expired. I told her that I was sorry but I couldn’t honor the coupon. I tried finding another with no luck. She glared at me and said:
You are literally the devil. The devil is living inside you. I want someone else!
I then proceeded to go to the back office and cry.
Sometimes rules can’t be broken whether it’s a system that can’t be overridden by the hourly employee or whether it’s a matter of them losing their jobs.
I have been on the receiving end of customers who feel as if I and/or the world owe them something. They are somehow above the rules.
I have also been on the other side of the counter. It’s not a proud admission. It’s an ugly trait.
In some of my lower moments I was that person at a restaurant who copped an attitude with the server when my meal was incorrect in some way. The server didn’t make it and yet my reaction was to be unkind to them. Even if they had made it, mistakes happen. It wasn’t, and never is, a grand scale problem that can’t be fixed.
I was that person at the store who couldn’t return an item and was convinced the associate was out to get me. Surely, there was something they could do. I didn’t work at that store, I didn’t know the pressure or limitations they were under and yet I had to make a scene.
Moments like these didn’t happen all the time but they happened and that’s bad enough.
I wasn’t aware of them until one day my husband pointed out my behavior to me.
At first I was offended but upon reflection I was actually incredibly embarrassed. In the years (yes, years) since I was confronted with this ugliness, I’m quicker to see that I’m doing this horrible thing…usually immediately after the fact. I try and apologize.
A couple weeks ago I went to the movies (thanks to my AMC movie pass). One of the conditions is that you have to bring your photo ID with you. On this particular day I forgot it. My party and I were sure it would be no big deal.
I let the ticket taker know I forgot my ID and that I was sooooo sorry. She was polite and told me she couldn’t let me in without it. Those were the rules. I felt myself getting hot. Seriously? I thought to myself. My smiling face began to falter. Without missing a beat she suggested: I can call my manager over. I tried to fake a smile and responded with: Yes, please do that.
I stood to the side and waited for the manager to appear. As I stood there, watching this girl do her job:scan tickets, point people in the right direction, answer questions, smile…I was faced with the ugliness. She was doing her job and she was following procedures.
How could I possibly get mad at that?
How could any of us?
I’m not perfect at it yet but I’d like to think I’m better. I try to make a conscious effort to be aware of how I’m treating not just people who work in the service industry but everyone in general.
The next time you find yourself getting riled up over the lettuce they forgot to leave off of your Double Double or the discount you just barely missed out on, ask yourself why you’re getting mad? Can it honestly be justified? And is it worth it?
I promise you it’s not.