Monday, December 1, 2014

"The Show"

The month of November represented an all-time low in my blogging history, with only 3 measly posts.  I'm not really sure what happened, except that I was busy with all kinds of things that even I knew wouldn't be particularly interesting to anyone but myself.  And I was away for a weekend.  And then there was Thanksgiving.

So I'll do the month in review, quickly.  Hitting the "highlights," so to speak.

I switched from reading about things like Gulags and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Trials when, one day after writing up a letter of recommendation for a colleague, I caught myself thinking that I would leave a printed and signed copy on my printer, "in case I disappeared in the night or something."

I wish I could say I was mentally "kidding," but I may not have been.  So I switched to reading about happiness studies for a bit.

Turns out, people who expect the worst (like, say, "disappearing in the night") are often happier than people who don't.  Apparently, we set the bar rather low and are therefore quite pleased when things go reasonably well on any given day.

This probably also explains why I was thrilled by my customer service experience the other day.  I've blogged about my past experiences this year-- suffice to say, they haven't been good.

The woman I spoke to the other day, though, assured me that I qualified for a $150. credit, and that since they had made a mistake on my bill, I'd get a $30. credit for that, and then she hacked $10 off of another charge and told me that she decided to "make it $20" for no real reason that I could discern.  And then she announced that my monthly bill will now be about $40. less per month than I had been led to believe it would be.

Nor was this the only such episode.  I went to get the oil changed in my car, and I told the guy I needed to be out by 3:30 p.m., so if it wasn't possible, just let me know and I'd come back another day.  It was 2:00 p.m. when I told him this, and the shop was quite (quite) busy.  Frickin' full, in fact.

Turns out, it's totally possible if the guy you're speaking to happens to be the service manager and vested with the power of bumping you ahead of 5 other people who got there before you, just because.

I think maybe it was the new sweater I was wearing.  (I finished the two of them that I started a couple of months ago, which means I'm actually making some headway on my stash.  This, too, was November.)

In that spirit, I was working on a sock in the oil-change waiting area, and I had an encounter.

Full disclosure: I had previously seen this woman in conversation with the customer service reps.  She was  crowding them in a major way.  

The service rep finally asked her to please move back behind the counter.   It was that bad.

The woman did, but just barely.  I thought maybe she was just a close-talker.  (Either that or she was what my mom used to refer to as "a plain old pain in the ass."  Sometimes it's a toss-up which way it will go.)

Anyway, this woman eventually launched herself into the waiting area where I happened to be sitting in an armchair, glancing at the covers of the magazines on the table next to me while I took out my knitting.

Mind you, this table was round, and about 3 feet in diameter.  Not a small table, in short.  As I was glancing at the magazines, this woman suddenly leaned down so that she was peering into my face and said, "Okay, I'm going to put my coffee cup down here, so I'm going to have to move these magazines, okay?"

Okay.  She had all kinds of room to put her befrigged cup down, and I don't know about you, but I don't like when people kind of stick their face in yours to get your attention.  Boundaries, close-talker, BOUNDARIES.

But I just smiled and said, "Sure."  So she set her cup down, but it didn't end there.  (Of course it didn't.)

Because then she suddenly said, "Okay, I'm just going to take all of these magazines and put them back on the shelf.  All right?"

I was still looking at the covers of said magazines when she said this.  (Of course I was.)

And so I found myself faced with an existential dilemma.  I wasn't really all that interested in any of the magazines, I was just looking at the headlines for a bit.  I planned on knitting, not reading, but now the question was, did I want to let her get away with what we so clearly had going on here?

It was a power-struggle for control of the waiting room coffee table.  As God is my witness, that's what it was.

I believe that, in the grand scheme of things, it's best to pick one's battles, so I said, "Sure.  Fine."

I did so, however, with a slightly bewildered look designed to suggest a feeling of, "Why on earth would anyone care so much about a table and a few magazines?"

Anything I could do to deflate her sense of control and conquest, I decided, was worth doing.  Because if history has taught us anything, it's that you can't let some people take the proverbial Sudetenland just because they happen to think that they should have it.

So that said, I made another executive decision.  I sat there, staring at my knitting and thought, "I'm having a nice day.  Do I really want to voluntarily sit next to someone who I already know for a fact is inclined to crowd and hassle everyone she comes into contact with?"  Because at this point, this was the 4th odd incident involving her that I'd witnessed or been a part of.

This is the difference between being 46 and being 26.  Twenty years ago, I would have thought, "Oh, I don't want to move my seat.  She might realize I'm moving it because of her and she'll think I'm rude and maybe  feel bad."

As a Seasoned Forty-Something (who may or may not be rather jaded about humanity at large), I'm here to say that I not only moved my seat, I looked directly at her for a full minute before I did so, just to make sure that she stood some chance of realizing that I was in fact moving my seat because I didn't want to sit next to her.

Because really, she needs to get a little awareness.  It's a waiting room coffee-table and a few magazines.  I'm not optimistic that awareness is what was achieved in the wake of all of this, but I can safely say that I did my part.

I wonder what she did to the manager when she realized he bumped my car ahead of hers.  She arrived well before I did, he told her, "hour and a half!" and then I left in... 45 minutes.

Sometimes, you have to enjoy the show.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."