“Dis”. Customer service story.

To attack someone who works in customer service is the same as throwing rocks at a dog on a chain. They can’t defend themselves.

I was told by a patron recently that something I did “came off as disrespectful.”

She had handed me her ID and got angry with me that I didn’t hand it back to her. I had put it on the counter. I was in the middle of checking her account to make sure I was in the right one, so I wasn’t looking. If she’d handed me her library card, this wouldn’t have been an issue.

Plenty of people put their IDs or cards on the counter and don’t hand them to me. Plenty of people put their books out of my reach too. If I got offended with each assumed slight I’d be angry all day.

But she said that my action “comes off as disrespectful.”

I’m so sick of this word, “disrespectful.” It is used so often these days that it is shortened to “dis”. If you want to feel offended when no offense was meant, that is your right. If you walk around with a chip on your shoulder, you are going to get tired.

If you want to talk about disrespect, think about the fact that this woman thought it was her right to tell me off. Me, a stranger. She gets to take a pot shot at me and walk away. She doesn’t know anything about me. If she knows my name it is because I have to wear a name tag. Abusing another person, taking advantage of the master/servant relationship inherent in customer service, is disrespectful, and it isn’t fair.

Just because you feel offended doesn’t make you right. How you perceive someone else’s actions is your own issue.

In customer service, the customer is always right. We aren’t allowed to defend ourselves.

There isn’t much I’d be allowed to say to someone who treated me badly. I can’t say “So why do you think you can talk to me like this?” But I can say “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

And I am sorry.

I’m sorry in the same way I’m sorry when I have to tell someone that they need to be quiet in the library. They should know better. I’m not apologizing for telling them. I’m apologizing for having to tell them. It isn’t being loud that is rude. It is the fact that they don’t get that it is rude.

Plenty of people assume that we are supposed to be friendly and cheery to them all the time. If we are less than cheery or perfect they attack us. Our own personal issues have to be suppressed.

They don’t get how hard that is. We can’t be “on” all the time. Nobody can. Plenty of customers have bad days and are happy to share.

So what do I know about her? She is African American. She is obese. She is in her early 20s. And, she just got a book about how to turn negatives into positives. It is called “Good self, bad self – transforming your worst qualities into your biggest assets.” Fascinating, isn’t it?

So I did.

I was really upset, but I’m training myself to look at things differently. I’m training myself to learn from the negative. I’m learning to spot the tricks of the yetzer hara and see them as a sign that I’m on to something great.

I was just about to sit down to work on part two of the condensed Gospels. I was about to be so angry that I didn’t. I almost thought who am I, to write about the Gospels, me, a sinner in the eyes of this stranger.

And I saw it. She wasn’t even real. She was an agent of the yetzer hara. This was a sign that I’m onto something big and important.

So I breathed in, sat down, and began to work.

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Years ago I used to look forward to a smoke when I got upset by a patron. I finally realized that I was letting them kill me. Then I learned to burn it out by going for a walk or going to the Y. But that all required waiting. I had to burn with that anger for a while until I could get it out.

Now I have learned to see it as a sign that I’m on the right path. Weird, but it works.

It still doesn’t make it right to abuse a person in customer service. Just because you feel slighted doesn’t mean you were. Forgive, and all that.

Poem – monsters

In the sea, in the ocean,
there are monsters.

They are dangerous.
They are hungry.

We are here to teach them
they are not monsters,
they are simply
to us.

That which we fear is unknown.
That which is unknown we fear.

Welcome the monsters in.
Sit down with them.
Invite them to tea.

We all need to be heard
and seen
to be real,
to be whole.

Even the monsters,
the dark spaces.

Especially them.

Wade into the depths
of the world,
of yourself
and come back

For without the dark,
what is the light?
Without the sinners,
what are the saints?

We need our dark spaces,
our monsters.
They are not the forgotten, the lost.
They are the as yet
and unforgiven.