exactly that

Or this time, it was rattling the fucking door.

I work in customer service for a reasonably large company.  I am a shift supervisor.  I like my job (most days) as much as a person can like a job like this one.  It is fun, I don’t have to salute anyone, answer urgent emails from the Pentagon, or compile data that was needed yesterday and asked for today.

I realize that I have job skills that make me over qualified for the job that I have in a manner, but w/ life handing me the things it did these last few years the easiness of it was very appealing.  It pays a decent wage (note, I do not believe that if I were on my own that I could live off of this, but it is still a good wage), and has an incredible benefits package, which were I in a same sex relationship would cover my partner as well as the Kid and me.  No, I am not using the multi billion dollar education that I received courtesy of Uncle Sam and the US Navy (well, OK, i get to speak Mandarin to a woman every morning, and that seems to make her day since I am the only person who was willing to attempt to communicate w/ her), but that doesn’t mean that I am wasting my potential or not deserving of the right to feeling safe and secure or to be happy.  I don’t believe there is anything wrong w/ not wanting to have a job right now that would give me social status in some people’s eyes.

But, it’s a job.  We provide a service to customers.  And I like it (most days).  What I don’t like is the attitude that people in customer service are in a lower station than the rest of humanity and that they should or can be treated as such.

The other morning I was opening.  I have to be to work very early to open, around 0400.  Usually when I arrive to unlock the doors there are one or two of the regular “morning crowd” hanging around.  Most other stores in our district get an hour to open.  We get twenty minutes to do the same thing.  It is nigh impossible to do everything I have to do, and for the opening partner to do everything they have to do in this amount of time.  I am under instruction to aim for that time, but to not open my doors until we have finished what we need to do.  That particular morning I had a small issue w/ the opening fund count, and I was exactly one minute late opening the door.  I know that I was one minute late b/c at the exact minute I was supposed to open the door one of the regular customers whom I know by name and who knows me by name (which is easy since I am one of three people w/ the same name, and it is not a common name) grabbed the door w/ both hands and began rattling it.  He rattled it so hard that I thought it was going to bust in.  These are not strong doors, but rather the double glass kind w/ a single bolt lock and the two pins on the top and bottom of the second door.  If someone wanted to they could probably kick it in.

My first reaction was to leap under the counter and cry.  My mind went very quickly to some pretty dark past places.

My second reaction was anger.  

Anger b/c he has no right to scare me.

I don’t speak for all domestic violence victims, but having been beaten and terrorized in the past can make your security bubble shatter quickly at the strangest time.  I don’t believe that this guy would hurt me, but his behavior was unacceptable all the same.  His aggressive behavior rattled my cage in a way it hasn’t been rattled in a long time.  In a way that I didn’t think affected me anymore.  And that made me not only angry but righteously indignant.

But that isn’t the only reason I was angry.

I was/am angry b/c there seems to be this mindset that we can treat customer service employees like they are beneath us.  We seem to equate the value of a person w/ the job that they do, regardless of the person, their education, their background, all w/o knowing much about them at all.  This guy just wanted his morning cup of joe I am sure, and I wasn’t there to give it to him at the minute he wanted it.  That is a reason to be displeased w/ the service you are given, but that doesn’t give you reason to become that aggressive.  He became aggressive, in my mind, b/c he believes that he is the one in control of that situation.  It reminds me of the scene in As Good As It Gets, a movie I love.  The where Jack Nicholson’s Obsessive Compulsive character first verbally abuses the waitress that isn’t Helen Hunt, even calls her “Elephant Girl”, then goes to Helen Hunt’s home b/c she wasn’t there to bring him eggs.  We are supposed to find this amusing, b/c awww…look at the cute crazy guy…his life isn’t right w/o that woman in it.  He then proceeds to give her extravagant gifts in order to get her to go back to work and wait on him.  He flaunts his money at her b/c she needs to be there to do as he pleases.

What right did that customer have to shake that door that way?  I am the one w/ the keys (which, BTW, when I actually did unlock the door I almost broke my key b/c he had managed to get the lock half undone, and it had become stuck halfway) and that means that I control the opening of the store.  I am not trying to glamorize my job or make myself all important, but I am making a point.  I have the control.  It is my decision and my responsibility to get that store opened when it is supposed to be opened.  And yet, this man thought that it was his job to tell me that I needed to open that door b/c he said it was time.  See, he is above me b/c I am just a service industry employee.  It is the same mindset that makes it OK for us to laugh at a man in a movie who essentially stalks a waitress.  She is supposed to be doing her job b/c he said so, and it doesn’t matter what is going on in her life otherwise.  She is a waitress and she is supposed to take crap from him for a few measly dollars that he might throw at her.  This is supposed to give other people the right to treat some of us like we are beneath them.

But it doesn’t.

People are not the their jobs.  I am so much more than a shift supervisor.  I know I have potential to do more, but I am enjoying the job (most days) b/c it feels good to give people that service, to be a part of that routine in their day.  I even enjoy trying to calm the occasional displeased customer and find a way to make their experience better.  It is part of the job, but it is one I enjoy.  Being in the service industry doesn’t make my life any less important that the life of my doctor.  It doesn’t mean that I matter any less than the business man going to Hong Kong on a lush tour paid for by his company.  We are not the sum of our jobs.  My VBFitU works as a wine buyer, but has a degree in Psychology and is working on her MA in Business Psychology.  She is no less of a person b/c she buys wine in a retail store.  It is a good job that she enjoys (most days) that gives her health insurance and allows her to pay her rent and buy food.  I remember the day she was in a discussion w/ someone and they ended the conversation w/ her by saying “yes, and that is why you work at [Grocery Store Chain].  What is with this need to exert superiority that makes it necessary to treat people like shit in order to enjoy our day?


You got me.  But I would like to give a little shout out to my boss, who is totally cool, and agrees that it is not OK for customers to behave in that manner.


Comments on: "privilege keeps knocking on my door" (7)

  1. I seriously cried reading this post. I have let myself be berated for leaving college with only (only!) a four year degree and taking a receptionist gig. I let people make me feel small and I let them do shit like that. You reminded me that we are not the sum of our jobs and its okay to enjoy our 8 to 5’s that pay the bills and keep up going.

    Thank you so much for writing this and I’m sorry that asshole scared you.

  2. Some one (if he still lurks here, he knows who he is) once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and since I was going to school to become a teacher, that is what I answered.

    No, he told me. You are not the job you do. What kind of person do you want to be?

    Thanks, Tobes.

    I didn’t even finish college.

  3. Me neither. Though I’ve been in college for damn near ever.

    Once long ago I worked as a receptionist for a type of engineering company that inspected houses. I answered a lot of client questions so I learned my technical shit backwards and forwards.

    One of our inspectors went and did a scientifically impossible job on a house. He was looking for moisture levels in a house built with a metal screen in the walls to hold the stucco up. This makes the moisture meters not work, they measure conductivity and unsurprisingly his results said the whole building was a soggy wet mess

    When I pointed this out, the boss screamed “why the hell is it that a 20k a year receptionist knows this when a 100k engineer doesn’t?”

    It was one of the few times I felt vindicated. Ever.

  4. I worked in the service industry for a long long time. I actually loved it, but gawd the customers could be such pricks! Still, it taught me a lot about me and what I could stand, what I wouldn’t put up with, AND what to teach the kid about service workers. I judge the men I date on how they treat service workers and its gotten me some pretty good guys.

    Not everyone can be a CEO. Someone has to take out the trash or clean the toilet or serve or cook or deliver mail or drive your kids’ school busses, yada yada.

    I am not my job. My job is what puts food on my table, and books in my hands.

    People who mistake their job with their self-worth don’t have any.

  5. well fucking said, carissa

  6. Shout out to all the other service workers!

    I honestly do judge other people on how they treat us.

  7. […] should act.  Labels have a way of dividing us.  We are no more the sum of our labels than we are the sum of our jobs.  When we put a label on someone (”she’s sex positive so she gives in to the […]

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