If you can't say anything nice, then this is what you say

Lol-taire's picture

I was lying my bed just now, trying to get to sleep when I thought about the woman who was rude to me at work today.

I was working on the steak and oyster bar, not the counter.

There's an underclass of people who think it's ok to be rude to waitresses, when they wouldn't even dream of being rude to other people (even other menial workers). I think it's a status thing.

So she sits down and I say "hello" and get her bread and olive oil and all that. And I ask if it's still cloudy outside, you know small talk. She answers me curtly as if I'm preposterous for asking, so I take the hint and drop the small talk. I actually prefer it that way. Once she's had a look at the wine list, I say- "can I get you anything to drink?"

And she orders a glass of wine- "But make sure it's actually cold" - so I get that for her (and it is cold).

Then she asks for the special, which was sea bass.

I say, "I'm so sorry, but we're only serving steak and oysters now"

"Really" she says, as if I'm scum, as if I spat in her face, "really and you couldn't just go over there and get some sea bass from next door?" (the fish counter). She literally sneers. I don't think I've ever heard anyone sneer before.

"Look," I say, "I'll be completely honest our chef is on his lunch break and my colleague who is covering doesn't actually know how to make today's special" (it was a new special)

And then she goes, "don't you think you should have told me this before I sat down?"

Which is a normal enough string of words but she might as well have said "don't you think you should have told me you'd comitted warcrimes before I invited you to my birthday party?". The look she gave me; as if she wanted to turn me to stone.

I can't convey just how foul her tone was. She spoke rudely to me all along- no please or thankyou and the unnecessary quip about the wine. But just such raw fury in her voice. About something so small. And I know the seeds of that fury were nothing to do (hopefully) with the fact that we weren't serving sea bass, but that she thinks I should bloody well be the one to harvest them is just obscene. It's not my job to put up with people like her.

It made me wish I could have spat at her and torn her hair out. It made me want to say "listen you horrible horrible horrible woman, how dare you speak to a stranger like that".

"I don't like steak" she says saying each word as if it's burning in her flabby mouth "and I'm allergic to oysters"

As if I'd personally tried to stuff one in her great wobbling gob.

You're at a fucking STEAK AND OYSTER BAR you cuntess. That's all we serve. We serve steak and oysters and occasionally a special.
If you don't like steak and are allergic to oysters then there's a sushi bar 10 meters away or a cafe at the back of the shop or hundreds and hundreds of bars and proper restuarants outside. But your perched on a stool at a STEAK AND OYSTER BAR. In capital letters. Right above you.

"I'm so sorry" I say, "please just have the glass of wine on the house and then you can always go somewhere else."

But she decided to wait for the chef to finish his lunch break. She just sits there reading a book about angel guides. Her horrid face is the colour raw oysters. Her little slit of downtowned asymetric mouth. Like the coin slot in a piggy bank. Her horrid fishy eyes. I hate her.

When she got her sea bass after all, she sent the plate back because she says it's not clean. (I didn't see whether or not it was because she gave it to the chef).

BUT IT'S A SUPERMARKET. It's not an upscale restuarant- it's not even a restaurant. It's a supermarket. It's a supermarket on a busy Saturday. You're eating lunch in a supermarket. (I hadn't even had my lunch at the point- I didn't go break until 5.00pm in the end).

I hate her so much. This horrid woman. I hate the thought of her. I hate that she can be rude to me and I have to give her a free glass of wine.

But of course I was too busy to be angry until now, because it's not like she was the only customer.

But I was thinking about that horrible woman, thinking about how I'd write about her in an unflattering way. You are not invisible, I am not without thoughts: I saw you, I have passed judgement: I have a way with words, I'll have my way with words: fleshy oyster face, piggy bank pig slit pursed lip, weak mind angel guided fusspot middle-aged past-it sitting alone on a Saturday afternoon, eating alone on a Saturday afternoon soft-flesh like gone-off fruit.

But oh, god I felt sorry for her, not at all suddenly. Slowly, as I wrote (or thought about writing). Sitting alone, guided by angels. The sort of woman who is disproportionately rude to the people just trying to do their jobs.

I was lying in bed and thinking about how angry she made me. This awful woman. And I remembered all at the same time how lonely I am. How being, I don't know, corporeal like having the burden of a body that feels like it's breaking with the literally need for one thing. Just wishing I had someone that would touch me. My loneliness burst and I began to cry.

(But I didn't feel sorry for her yet, I only felt angry)

I don't know if she's lonely- that middle aged undesirable face-like-a-haystack bitch- but I don't hate her anymore. Perhaps she is lost, perhaps she isn't. I feel a late onset empathy, just because she didn't seem happy. How could she have been happy? I wonder what her life is like. I wonder if she knows whether or not she is unhappy. Or who she'd tell either way.

(In other news- I've finshed my exams, went to a clubnight at the Amersham on Thurs Mal's ex and Turtle's boyfriend were both doing dj sets but they don't know each other so it's odd coincidence, went to the Victoria and Albert musuem yesterday to see the Quilts exhibition (again) with my sister Clap and we went for dinner afterwards at drank too much wine which was nice. The end.)


Uncertain's picture

that does suck. but i guess

that does suck. but i guess people can lash out when they feel lonely or insecure. sometimes instead of no-small-talk they have too much small talk. especially the old women

Lol-taire's picture

It wasn't lashing out. Every

It wasn't lashing out. Every single interaction I had with her she spoke rudely to me and other staff. She spoke to us like that because she believes that since we're working in a supermarket it's permissable to speak to us like we're scum. Because even if we have feelings or problems of our own, then they're not important.

If she's that unhappy she should join a church. Seriously. Join a smallish church, volunteer with the church ladies, help out at the church Christmas fayre. She doesn't have to believe in God, but since she believes in angels at least that's a start.

Or she could visit old people.

Or volunteer on the weekends.

Or join a local history society.

Or a rambling club.

Or she could join the Womens' Institute.

Or she could just take up herion and develop a habit so she's out of herself...

Uncertain's picture

by loneliness and lashing

by loneliness and lashing out i was referring to her

Lol-taire's picture

No I got that. What I meant

No I got that.

What I meant was she wasn't lashing out- which is what you do when you're at the end of your tether and normally in response to a slight (even if the response is an exageration). But rather she was displaying a pretty common tendacy to be rude to the people who do my job simply because you just don't remember that they're ordinary people- not subhuman. She was especially horrid, but by no means unique.

It's difficult to get across. It's as if they are annoyed if they're reminded that we're clever, or funny, or sad, or ambitious or whatever it is we are. It's also like they're disappointed if we're nice to them, because they want to have it confirmed to them that we're all feckless losers.

It's the same Victorian tendacy that said a good housemaid should be invisible. The customer is always right.

But no-one I work with is. The part-time staff are all students, who are mostly at prestigious universities or are highly qualified- lots of post-grads. The fulltime staff have lives and families and challenges and interests (photography, animation, travel). Most of the people who work there are fairly bright or at least really nice and hardworking. Almost everyone does their best and it is hard work.

I've worked in a few places- always service industry jobs- and you're treated according to their expecations of what you're there for. Bar staff get hit on/ groped/ put up with obscene comments. Supermarket staff are treated like utter zombies. Wait staff are just abused.

But the point is that's actually not our job. Our job is to serve drinks, run a supermarket, serve food- whatever.

She probably was lonely. But that shouldn't be our problem. I've already suggested what she should do....

the ghost's picture

I work in retail, and feel

I work in retail, and feel your pain in dealing with that woman. I hate when customers talk to me like i'm not a real person. I'm there purely to be spoken to them as they please. That I actually have emotions and am a person and shouting at me because we don't have what they are looking for hurts.

So yeah, I feel your pain.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent-Eleanor Roosevelt