Thursday, September 02, 2010

Big. Fake. Smile.

Danny calls it my, "big, fake, smile." I call it, a response to utter exasperation, a survival technique of sorts. Sometimes, I lose myself, and accidentally try to communicate with idiots though in the end, "big, fake, smile" is there to round out the interaction. I really don't know what else to do-occasionally I need to leave the farm, and deal with people. Generally, it is considered impolite to call people fucking morons to their face, whether or not they are behaving in a fucking moronic manner. Big. Fake. Smile. Sometimes, I think the exasperation shows through, best efforts aside. I never have managed to mask incredulity convincingly-I should probably work on that.

The simplest tasks are growing incredibly tiresome as people refuse to shut the hell up for a minute, to think before responding. My five year old understands this, but the concept seems to be lost on the majority of adults I'm forced to attempt dealing with. I don't delight in being short with people. I don't derive any enjoyment from making people feel bad. For my part, I'd rather stay at home, and not deal with them at all, but I certainly don't leave home with the intention of upbraiding someone for the sheer hell of it. I may not be a, "nice" person, but I'm not completely heartless either. Usually. Big. Fake. Smile.

Danny needed to having his hearing test repeated, as the results were borderline last time. This is apparently common enough, as kids are distracted at their check-up, and sometimes don't understand what they're being asked to do. The paediatrician suggested we return on a day when we were in town, to re-check it. He said we didn't need an appointment-just a few minutes to re-do the test.

I called the office ahead of time, just to make sure today would be a good day. After beginning to explain this to the receptionist, she transferred me, mid-sentence into a voice mail for the nurse. That would mean waiting at home until late in the afternoon when they return calls, for something that didn't require a nurse's time returning a call about. I called back, got the same receptionist who was put off by my suggestion that she didn't let me finish explaining what I needed, and that she really needed to take fifteen seconds to hear what I was asking. Yeah, that really went over poorly. Finally, she understood, and told us it would be fine to come in.

We arrive, speak to another person at the front desk who is again, utterly clueless as to what we need done, and refuses to stop for a few seconds and actually listen. A hearing re-check is not an appointment. We did not need to see the doctor. We did not need to schedule an appointment. I went through the entire thing for the third time before she got it.

Mind, I wasn't rude. I was matter-of-fact. I did ask her to, "please take a moment to listen." I explained what we needed clearly, and concisely. For that, I was met with tears welling in her eyes. Really.

Two minutes later, we were finished with the hearing test, and on our way. Look, I felt like a total piece of shit for making her cry. I did. I tried to re-play the conversation in my mind and I couldn't for anything figure out how she could have possibly taken it as some sort of cruel criticism, or personal attack, but I wouldn't have felt right leaving without at least trying to smooth it over.

On the way out, I apologised for sounding short, even saying that I know hearing re-tests probably don't come up that often and there isn't a good procedure for dealing with it. At any rate, I wanted her to know I didn't personally fault her, I just needed to make sure I was being clear with what we needed. Essentially, I was offering an apology where none was needed because it seemed like the decent thing to do. Her response was a series of lies, misrepresentations of what I asked (I did not tell her I needed an appointment today), and accusations of being, "mean." There really wasn't much more I could (or would) say, so I gave a big, fake, smile and went on my way.

Were this something out of the ordinary, I wouldn't be posting it. There seems to be this inability to ever accept having made a mistake, or misunderstanding something that people will (almost frantically) do anything to place the blame elsewhere. Again, even my five year old doesn't resort to, "I didn't do it." It is as though there is some unwritten rule at play where everyone must always have an answer, correct or not-like there's a penalty for taking a second to think. If there isn't an answer, then something is made up, usually so completely unrelated as to render it useless. I used to think it was some sort of inability to be logical and rational at the same time, but really, it seems to be worse than that. When someone does finally speak to you, it is from the standpoint of having somehow been victimised, and then you're hit with self-help-speak and platitudes. Mostly, I resort to the big, fake, smile.

Is it psychoactive drugs? I'm serious, do you suppose that could be it? How does so much of the population suddenly lose the ability to listen, reason, and the like-in the space of a decade or so? It does not appear to be generational (this woman today was in her fifties). Is it the meds making people behave this way? Technology? Do the Internets make people stupid? Is there some way I can blame Reagan for this?

I'm ever so thankful I don't need to work outside of the home-I don't know how I would manage. Likely, I'd be sacked in the first week for making someone cry, or talking too fast. When I do return home from one of these assaults on my intellect, I feel so completely bewildered that it takes a couple of days to reassure myself that I haven't in fact, lost my mind as well. Thank god I don't cry easily.


Janice said...

Once again you have posted an exact thought process that I have wondered about. I call these particular situations my "smile and wave" response. What do we blame for the dumbing down of our society? Heaven forbid we ask for good customer service. With unemployment the way it is, I would think the employed would be a little more friendly and on their toes. Good question. I blame it all on Dr. Phil! LOL!

Raymond said...

I'm surprised that you didn't comment on the irony of office staff not LISTENING at the HEARING doctor! You should tell the doctor to give his staff a LISTENING test.

And yes, this not LISTENING epidemic is something I've railed about to friends frequently. It seems to be an American trait. In other countries, I've noticed, that in conversation people will wait for you to complete a thought before responding to it (whatta concept!). In talking to people about this pet peeve, I usually mention how SEXY I find the actress Rachel Weisz in talk show interviews: she LISTENS to the host, waits for him to finish his question, then speaks. And if she begins talking when the host still has something to say, she'll stop with "oops, sorry" body language and gesture to continue. Then she speaks when the other person finishes. Gawd, I find that attractive! I guess I'm attracted to well-mannered people.

Here are the problems:
> Not listening ultimately WASTES time.
> Cutting a person off says, "What you're saying is not important; I'm more important so now I'll talk."
> Not letting a person finish disallows him to express the full depth & breadth of his idea.

By the length of this comment of mine, one can see that probably I talk too much and people just want to shut me up!

Goody said...

Nah, I don't want you to shut-up, but the spam filter apparently does. Your comment has been sitting in the spam file-I just noticed it.