hurt so much less than words. I almost enjoyed the burn across the back of my hand in comparison to the one across my self-confidence. Here’s something that happened to me today that most definitely did not make me feel good (but there is a sort-of smile at the end if you stay with me… oh, and LISTEN UP);
I’d just moved over from serving/doing various small tasks behind the hot food counter in order to help out D, who was serving on the deli counter at the time, because a bit of a queue had developed there.
As I arrived where I was needed, the guy who was apparently next in the queue – somewhere between middle-aged and old, I’d say mid sixties – was chatting to the woman in front of him, whom D was serving at the time.
Addressing both man and woman with a blanket hand gesture, sort of <——-> I said something like; ‘Hi, are you two together or…’
and then addressing just the man, ‘… or are you waiting?’
He said to me, ‘What is all this? (waved his arms a bit) Are you doing sign language at me or something? I don’t understand what you’re saying to me while you’re waving your hands all over the place.’
So I tried again; ‘Sorry, I was asking if you two (*hand gesture* – I can’t help myself, I talk with my hands more than my mouth, mainly because often the words have trouble finding their way out of my mouth in the right order, LOUD(ly) ENOUGH and C-L-E-A-R(ly) E-N-O-U-G-H and things, when I talk) if you were together, or if you were waiting to be served. Clearly you are. Sorry.’
At which he snapped, ‘Yes I am waiting to be served, actually. I’ll have two slices of the honey roast ham’.
Resisting the urge to put in the please he left out, I gritted my teeth and went and sliced the ham, put it on the scales and read out the price; ‘That’s one sixty-two there’.
He said nothing for a good ten seconds, so I assumed all was well with one pound sixty two and got on with wrapping the ham, maybe visibly disgruntled by this point. As I was putting the label on the bag, he piped up;
‘Sorry, did you say something to me just then?’
Confused, I looked at him for a second before looking down at the scales again and then saying, louder than before, ‘er… yeah, sorry, one pound sixty-two for the ham...?’
‘Oh well it’s just that I didn’t hear a word you said. You didn’t even look at me. Oh never mind, that’ll do’.
So I handed him the godforsaken ham, and enunciated ‘Oh, right… really sorry about that. Thanks, bye’ in a voice as raised as I could manage while fighting back tears, (it had been a really stressful day up to that point, and surprise surprise I was feeling tired and lifeless and hungry and anxious beyond all rhyme and reason) then spent the next hour or so fighting the same tears with around a 70% success rate.
Normally, after such an event I’d just quietly rant to a colleague about what an arsehole that guy was and how I hoped he’d choke on his stupid honey roast ham. But some days life apparently isn’t that straightforward. He had me worrying about whether I really do talk too quietly, mumble, avoid eye contact to the point of perceived rudeness, as a habit. If I do that means I’m barely further on now than I was at age 4; shy to the point of being physically unable to say hello to relatives when they came over (sometimes going so far as to hide my clammed-up shame behind furniture).
Does everyone struggle to hear a single word I say? Do I really speak all that quietly?
If my customer service technique was so far from up to scratch, my boss might have noticed too. My abject failure at fake smiles and pleasantries might outweigh my efficient working habits and my OCD supercleaning of everything and my always making sure everything looked pretty, and if so I might get sacked. Especially if the guy had decided to complain to someone in authority about me. From that point on I made sure I always raised my voice considerably to talk. I tried extra hard with the eye contact and the sickly smiles. I wondered if there existed a job that didn’t involve interacting with other human beings and berated myself for being so antisocial. Most of all I wondered why, why why why was this bullshit bothering me so much? How far have I fallen if I can’t even stop myself from crying in front of people over silly little things?
I think I’d have dealt better with being physically kicked. Until my brain bled out through my ears.
But. While at least two colleagues (the male ones, of course) had a good giggle amongst themselves at my expense, there was one person who saw me cry and was kind about it. Which kinda made me feel like crying more at first, but then I realised I was right the whole time about who the nice ones were gonna be, there. (I placed bets to myself on day one, regarding each co-worker’s true colours – or at least which ones might give me the time of day; so far I think I’ve been pretty much on the money).
So I really hope a lot of good things happen to her.
I also hope this madness-sadness-stupid-shit ends soon. Like, before I’ve managed to lose everything I once held dear. Such as that little shred of dignity I think I might have had at some point.