"There's no point in spending your life in the pursuit of something that's easy." - Alice Kuipers

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Call for Spring

Will winter last forever? As we near the end of March, I can only hope that spring will show its face sometime in April, because (and I'm sure you feel the same way), I can't take it anymore. There's something about winter that wears on you, that pulls at the corners of your soul and drags you down. Maybe it's the bitter cold and the way it nips and chews at your skin, the way it locks you indoors. Maybe it's the several hundred layers you need to pile on if you dare to leave your house. Maybe it's the snow and ice drenched roads, causing you to ponder the sum total of your life's accomplishments every time you leave the house. I suppose it could be the infuriatingly dry air (both indoors and out) that causes your hair to buzz and crackle and your skin to dry and crack like a sun baked desert. It could be the mind numbing abundance of grey. Either way, the magic twinkling of Christmas has long since passed and all we are left with now is the cold and the dreariness.
I imagine when spring finally does arrive, the peoples will stagger forth from their houses, arms outstretched like the thirsty reaching out for rain. Just as spring causes the seemingly dead trees and plants to burst forth with fresh blooms and greenery, we too will be as the dead coming back to life. That is, if it ever arrives. With each passing day we grow more hopeful and more depressed. It isn't here today, perhaps it will show up tomorrow? We're like a lonely old man, continually checking the mailbox for letters, or the window for a visitor.
Do you remember the story of Rip Van Winkle? I wish I could go to sleep and wake up when spring arrives. Although, in a way, I guess I am asleep. How else can you describe the sort of sleepwalking we all seem to be doing? We're shut down, waiting for spring to wake us up again. But it can't be much longer. It may not have shown up today, but maybe tomorrow...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dwindling Patience

I've noticed lately that I have even less patience with people than usual. Take work for example. The other day a couple of our regular shoplifters came in, so sadly I, being the first one to see them, was forced to follow them throughout the store in an effort to prevent them from taking anything. I made no attempt to disguise the fact that I was following them, I had no desire to prevent their embarrassment or make them anything less than uncomfortable. So, when they eventually turned and demanded, "Are you following us?" I saw no reason to tell them anything but the truth.
"Yes," I said with a completely straight face. I made no attempt to look apologetic or polite. I simply didn't care anymore. They looked a little shocked, I guess they assumed I'd get embarrassed, lie and say I wasn't and abandon the chase. Nope. Sorry. I don't care. Frankly, I just want you out of the store so I can get back to doing my real job. I never signed up to be a babysitter, and I'm not a big fan of it now. I don't know what they expected to happen, I certainly didn't stop escorting them through the store. Even after they left I stayed by the door for fifteen minutes, as they have a tendency to leave, wait a few minutes and then run back in, grab something and run back out.
The next day I was back at work, this time at the till. Every time we ring through a customer we are required to ask them for their phone number and their e-mail. It's optional, they can say no, but what few seem to understand is that it isn't optional for us to ask. We have to ask. It is our job. Yes, it's annoying, but such is life. After one too many harsh answers and looks of sheer hatred for daring to request their e-mail, I became a little on edge. When the next customer gave me a blunt and rude "No" to the request for their e-mail, I couldn't help but look them in the eye, smile sweetly and say, "No, thank you." Luckily, she said nothing about my correction. That could have been the kind of thing that developed into a big issue. I was aware at the time that I shouldn't, that I should just hold it in, let it go, but I just couldn't. What has happened to basic courtesy? Where are our manners? When did it become so expected that staff should be ground under the boot heel of their customers? I blame the old adage "the customer is always right". No they're not. They are very often wrong.
Look, just so we're clear, I have no problem with providing excellent customer service. I just don't see why we can't also be treated with respect and good manners. You wouldn't expect your kids, your friends, your coworkers or your neighbours to talk to you like that, so why would you think it's okay to do it others? Others who've been nothing but kind and helpful to you?
Frankly, I think I just need a vacation. Or a new job. People are never going to change, it's a terrible idea to expect them to. But still, I find myself wondering if I got through to that one customer. Maybe next time, when someone asks her a question she'll think twice and answer with a no thank you, or a yes please. I hope so, cause that would mean a lot.