Snark Bite #6: The Words of the Day are Please and Thank You

This has been a pretty stressful week at work. First, part of the week our computer systems were offline while we transitioned to a totally new (and totally complicated and unfamiliar) system. So we operated at bare-bones capabilities, only able to check out and check in items, unable to tell patrons anything about their accounts, collect or inform them of fines, take requests, print out lists of everything they had checked out, you get the idea. I admit I did take a perverse pleasure in certain moments when asked to perform one of the above tasks and I was able to tell them, quite sincerely and legitimately, "No, I'm sorry, I can't." And then go on to explain the offline period and when they could inquire again. But, then, that pleasure was dashed with the knowledge that come the end of the week, those same patrons would come in and expect every possible task to be completed at once without a hitch.

So, it has been a trial by fire sort of week. Learning to navigate a totally new system in an orderly training session is far different from  having a line of people waiting for you to figure out which tab to select to request, to get to their items-out list, to pay their fines. Listening while one launches into a tirade about a twenty cent fine on an item from 2007, because they know for a fact they returned it on time. With new system glitches and quirks popping up with every transaction. With the phone ringing too. With someone on the other line who incredulously responds "Oh, you need that? Can't you use my social?" when asked to provide their library card number to access their account. I'm sorry, Is this unheard of? Does one call their bank, provide their name, shouted over the din of TV or arguments in the background, and expect the doors to all knowledge open to them?
Floors me every time.

But that's not totally what this Snark Bite is about. The unusual circumstance this week is simply icing on a big, towering, quivering cake of tension and stress. Utterly toppled and dumbfounded by the sheer lack of common courtesy and logic demonstrated by many of my fellow humans. I say fellow humans because it seems some forget that I am indeed a fellow human, not a robot set on earth to do their bidding. I say logic because it seems common sense, to me at least, that if you want someone to help you, or feel compelled to help you alot, isn't the best approach to be kind, appreciative, and maybe even a little patient and understanding? Tall order, I know. Perhaps I'm an incurable optimist in that respect at least.

So it should come as no surprise that after five minutes with an older lady explaining our new "reader history" capability (one of the cool new perks of our new system as many patrons want to know what they've read in the past, something until now we haven't been able to track) I was a little taken aback when after checking out some items to her, she deadpans to me, with a dismissive flick of her wrist, "get me a bag."

Um. Okay.
 No "can I have a bag?" let alone customary pleases and thank yous. I sort of expect rudeness from the youth, but considering this dear soul was from a generation I daresay raised with respect for traditional notions of politeness and gentility, I was surprised at her blatant sense of entitlement. See, one can buy sturdy library plastic bags, or, if we have them, we provide free donated plastic grocery bags. No guarantees, plus, it's free. If she were purchasing it, I could *almost* swallow it, but, no wait, I couldn't swallow it no matter what. As soon as she said that, in that tone, I immediately shut down and felt no desire whatsoever to help her beyond mere formalities. That's human nature and the truth, no matter how much society idolizes the image of the steadfast employee who lives to work and works to live and takes every indignity on the chin and welcomes more. If I hadn't been so tired and drained from the rest of the day and taken off guard, I might have strained my ear to her and said "sorry, come again?" to force her to repeat her demanding statement. Instead I just did it and was left to marvel at the audacity. Seriously. It makes sense to me. Treat the people helping you like they're people, and they will want to help you a hell of a lot more than if you treat them like insufferable peons. Pleases and thank yous go a long way.

She might have missed that episode of Sesame Street.

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  1. I've felt like a robot quite frequently, especially in my past jobs. It seriously took me aback at how many people had absolutely no manners and treated me like said robot that was placed on the planet to serve needy patrons. I remember a freaking 8 year old girl looking at me with disgust and saying with a wrinkled nose and frantic hand movements, "What... What's this? I don't DO whipped creme." So I softly smiled at her, scooped the whipped creme off of her blended COFFEE beverage, and pushed it back toward her. I don't think she was too happy with me, heh! But the massive amount of people that just requested obscure things without kindness (one guy demanded my coworker wash her hands before she retrieved his damn frozen cheesecake, as the refrigerated cheesecake wasn't good enough I suppose), and the even bigger amount of people that didn't have please or thank you in their vocabulary really just made me crazy. When I worked at a weight loss clinic, there was this mother/daughter duo that came in every week and made someone else bag their food because I wasn't good enough for them. I guess they did that to the lady that used to be in my position too, so I didn't feel AS bad. But this world contains too many jerks, that's for sure! Luckily, I am in a much different type of field and barely have to speak with my fellow a-hole adults, so I am grateful.

  2. Unfortunately I have to deal with them on a daily basis, and try to smile even when my social anxiety has me on the verge of a panic attack. I try to tell myself that a lot of the rude people I encounter feel helpless and powerless in their own lives, and getting an attitude with me (whom they can perceive as below them) over their 25 cent fine is their way of feeling in control, and in many instances, the highlight of their day. If I keep that in mind, I can almost pity them. Sometimes I am suscessful, in the worst instances I retire to the bathroom for a little cry-break over my lack of faith in humanity (lol).


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