I believe it was the late Anne Frank who said, to paraphrase, "Deep down, I believe that people are good at heart." Keep in mind, she never worked retail. But seriously folks...
I don't think that most people are good. I think that at least half the population are selfish, arrogant, self-absorbed, inconsiderate assholes who only show consideration or decency for others when it benefits them. Alternately, many people act selfishly, while trying to put across a facade of compassion and selflesness. It's better to look good than to be good.
I see it every day dealing with "The Public." I'd say ninety percent of the people I talk to every day are very nice or at least neutral/tolerable, but you will always get the person who has an axe to grind, a bone to pick, a [noun] to [verb], and "needs to get this taken care of." These people are less interested in getting results or getting things accomplished correctly, than they are about grandstanding and making sure you understand that they are very powerful and they will get what they want.
I understand what it's like to be a frustrated customer, so I know the urge to call up a company to start raising hell. But let's face it, if I'm doing that, all I'm doing is taking my anger out on some Johnny Pencil-Pusher (like myself) who didn't cause my problem, and can fix it 9 times out of 10 with just a heads-up as to what the problem is. Most of my transactions with companies have been resolved before I hang up. But to some people, actual results are secondary to playing "Whose D-ck is Bigger?"
A lot of conversations start like this: "Okay Bill, this is the 4th time I've called on this. I've been bounced back and forth and I keep getting the runaround. I need to get this taken care of, and it needs to be taken care of today. If you can't do it, then I want a supervisor. And if a supervisor can't do it, I want the president of the company. And if the president of the company can't do it, I'm going to call my very good friend Mr. Attorney General Elliot Spitzer and file a class action lawsuit against you. And I don't mean against your company, I mean against you personally."
While I am slightly flattered by all the attention I get in these conversations, we all know it's 99% posturing and 1% reality. Men are much worse than women in this regard, because men have to be macho. Whenever a man calls up, it's as if he's Homer (the Greek storyteller, not the Simpson), ready to regale me with a long narrative of his life. It's always, "Okay Bill. [Sigh.] Okay. Here we go, okay. Let me start this from the beginning. I hope you have time for this, because it's a long story. Okay, okay. Here we go. It was 1951 and I was born on a small sheep farm in Nebraska..." and it always ends up being a matter of $6.83 that could have been explained in the amount of time it takes to heat up a Hot Pocket.
But this is how people are, in all walks of life. My problem is much worse than yours. It's much more important that I get this than you get that. Whatever happened to you...That's nothing, listen to this. Everyone is entitled to a certain amount of self-involvement, but some people are so consumed by it, that they step over anyone they can.
I experienced three examples of rudeness this weekend. Two of them occurred in my car, one while I was on the shitter. Let me briefly recap them in random order, along with the type of assholishness they each represent:
1) Futile and Unneccessary Pride
Rage and I are coming from the mall, taking the back roads as we are sometimes wont to do. We are on one particular two-lane road, which will soon merge into one. The car in front of me is moving a little slowly, so I start to pass him on the left side. Instead of maintaining his previous speed and allowing me to pass, this stupid fucker speeds up, not allowing me to pass him. Keep in mind, this is about a 35 mph speed limit.
So I look at the driver of the green sports car in question, and it's some 19 year old, wife-beater-clad wigger with a shaved head, who keeps eyeballing me through his rearview. Fine, I say, I'm not in any hurry, if he wants to drive faster, more power to him. (Plus, I don't want to start a ruckus, in case Li'l Eminem has a gat in his glovebox.) But this little punk son of a bitch drives even slower than before. The lanes merge, and he's going a full 3 to 4 mph slower than he was, proving that this need for speed was only a matter of puffing his chest out. God forbid a 2002 Saturn should outrun his pimpmobile.
We come to a red light, which promptly turns green. White Chocolate decides to sit there, leaning back in his ride, one extended arm on the wheel, bobbing his head to music that isn't even playing. I could have played into his hands, showing my frustration by yelling out the window or leaning on the horn, but instead (somewhat in an effort to show he wasn't getting to me), I gave him a friendly quick beep-beep, as if to say, "Hey buddy, just in case you didn't notice, the light's green now. Thanks so much...." This guy wasn't really doing anything illegal, he was just trying to be slick, to prove Quien es mas macho. You win buddy.
At this point, I'm sitting at another red light, right up on this dude's ass. And in my mind I'm going through the fantasies we all have about the guy getting out of the car and coming back, and me grabbing his arm and rolling up my window so he couldn't get it out, and then snapping his arm at the elbow the opposite way it was supposed to go, and then dragging him for about five blocks hanging off the side of my car. Alas, it never happened.
But the light turned green, and I had to turn left. The punk bitch in question went straight, and unbeknownst to me, Rage rolled down her window and yelled "Douuuuuche Baaaaaag" so loud that I swerved a little. It was a pretty satisfying ending, I must say.
2) Valuing yourself over others.
This weekend was my dad's birthday, so I went to Rochester to visit him. I had to be back home Sunday by about 5:15, so I wanted to get on the road. As usual, I lost track of time, so I was a little late getting out of my house, and on the road. In other words, I was in a hurry.
As I'm taking the one-lane road to get to the expressway, which will take me to I-90 to get back to Syracuse, there is a small bit of blockage in the road. A car is facing one way, a motorcycle the other. They are both parked in the middle of the road, having some sort of conversation. There is no room to either side of them to pass.
Of course, I think to myself, these vehicles will disperse when I get closer so as to let the natural flow of traffic continue, perpetuating the utilization of the great infrastructure system that President Dwight D. Eisenhower envisioned some sixty years ago. Surely, when my presence was felt by these two motorists, the would either say good-day and be on their way, or at least move in such a way that would allow my vehicle's passage.
Much to my surprise, the cars stayed exactly where they were. At first, I assumed that they were so engrossed in their conversation that they did not sense my approach. I gave this possibility about 5 seconds before I realized that they would not move without some kind of auditory prompt. So I gave the customary double-beep honk, a friendly way of saying, Hey, there are other people on the road too, jackass. After the honk, the Asian gentleman on the motorcycle in my lane, slowly turned his head, in a manner that said, "Fine asshole, I'll move." His head did not turn as if surprised, but slowly, and with aggravation, which proved to me that he and the other driver were both well aware of my presence, but decided their little chat smack in the middle of Wickford Way was more important than my simply getting around them.
The motorcyclist makes a slow, half-assed effort to get on his bike, and drive ever-so-slightly out of the way, just enough so I could get out. He gives no sign of apology for inadvertantly blocking my way. As I'm driving by, the woman in the car to my right begins waving her hand at me. Since it was ungodly hot and I had the windows up and the A/C on, I couldn't hear what she was saying, but I could clearly see her face, and her mouth was saying, "Excuse me, excuse me." This was being said not in the spirit of "Excuse me for being in your way," but rather "Excuse me, can I have a word with you?" or "Excuuuse me, I was having a conversation with Evel Knievel over here and you have just interrupted it."
What's amusing is that this woman probably actually expected me to stop my car and talk to her. This woman is probably the type who busts everybody's balls at her job and is used to having people obey her. (You can just tell these things by looking at some people.) And if I wasn't in such a hurry, I may have actually stopped to say, "Listen to me you [string of expletives]...." But instead, I laughed and drove away. Who are these people? Seriously...
3) Lack of Common courtesy.
The most embarrassing bit of intrusion came when I was enjoying an evacation of sorts at work. There are two stalls at work: a large one with a turning lock mechanism, and a small one with a slide-lock. I always try to go to the large stall, because it is close to the wall, further from the urinals, and has more room to stretch out.
Full disclosure: I am not comfortable in public bathrooms. I have what one might call "stage fright." I need solitude and silence in order to pee with other people in the room. Which makes me extra angry when people at work either strike up a conversation with me when I'm taking a leak, or God forbid, start talking on their cell phones(!) to make appointments or talk to friends. (There are free courtesy phones that offer a great amount of privacy, moreso than the restroom would. Oh, and the little matter of a phone at everyone's desk?!)
So I already have a predisposition to using the restrooms at work. It's really disgusting when you think about it: all the males in the building getting rid of waste in just two toilets. And since our restroom is on the first floor, it gets the most traffic, not only from the employees who work on the floor, but also people from other floors coming back from lunch or coffee, visitors to the building, and various other types.
So imagine my surprise when I was sitting on the can, enjoying a nice game of solitaire on my Palm Pilot, lost in my own little world, safe in my own little cocoon, and suddenly, whooosh, the door flies open, leaving me sitting there with my pants down, and some guy I've never seen standing there.
Now this is a pretty common mistake, I would think, someone walking into an occupied stall, so it wasn't the even itself that bothered me; accidents happen. It was the context surrounding the intrusion. First: this is not a large bathroom. There are two stalls and the first one was empty. The door to that one was probably open, so it was fair game. I would think that in such a setting, one would see a closed door and think, There is a chance that stall may be occupied. I generally look for shoes in such a situation. If there are shoes, I usually take the leap of faith that someone is using that facility.
Now, the question that everyone asks me when I tell this story is, "Did you lock the door?" And I've told mostly girls about this, so I'm assuming that this is a common occurance in ladies' rooms. I thought I did lock it, but I didn't do a great job of checking it. Even still, I can't remember the last time that I was on the crapper, even with the door completely secure, where someone yanked on the door to see if it was open, only to find it locked. I don't think it's ever happened at work.
Second: When this guy opened the door, he showed no sign of remorse, apology or embarrassment. I don't know about you, but if I ever walked in on someone with their pants down, I would give them a "sorry" or "oh my God, I'm so sorry about that" or "I thought it was full, I'm sorry." Instead, I yelp out an "oops!" and the guy stands there for a full second. (I didn't make eye contact, thank God, because I couldn't look this guy in the face if I knew who it was.) Instead of apologizing, he just let's out a "huh," like an exhaling laugh, and closes the door. I would have settled for "excuse me" or even "my bad," but I just get a snicker.
Third, and this is the kicker: After he closed the door, this inconsiderate prick who barged in on me and didn't apologize didn't even use the restroom! I would think he would sit down in the next stall, since he obviously had to go. Or if it was just toilet paper he sought to blow his nose, I would think he would reach into the other stall and grab a handful of t.p. But instead, he does nothing of the sort. So at least I think, Good, this means the guy's leaving and I can get out of here and call my therapist. But instead, the bastard stays in the bathroom for five full minutes. He starts washing his hands, combing his hair, practically brushing his teeth. You would think this guy was scrubbing in for open-heart surgery.
The infuriating part of this is that I had to stay in the stall, completely finished with my drop-off, bored with my solitaire game, legs falling asleep. The right, honorable thing to do would have been for this gentleman to leave the restroom within 15 seconds of our unholy altercation, never to be seen or spoken of again. But instead, he camps out in the bathroom like Tom Hanks in "The Terminal," knowing damn well that I cannot, under any circumstances, leave the stall until he is gone. The fire alarm could have gone off, and I wouldn't have been able to leave until he was at least a mile away. It's an unwritten rule.
I guess my point is that all of these situations, while none were major to begin with, could have been diffused with a little bit of common courtesy and/or concession on the part of the parties involved. All three of these incidents appeared to be willful attempts to piss me off. And who the hell am I to piss off? Why would you even care? Why waste your time?
Movies: The Woodsman, Kinsey, Undertow
Music: Babbletron ("Space Tech Banana Clip"), Zero 7, Stephen Malkmus, Cannibal Ox, Rogue Wave.
TV: Curb Your Enthusiasm (again)
Web: billsinsider.com, wikipedia.com
Misc.: Crossword puzzles
Beer: Middle Ages Pale Ale, Magic Hat Hocus Pocus, Mercury Hef/Saturn IPA (homebrew), Sam Adams White Ale, Upper Canada Lager.