In what should have been my senior year in college, I was standing in line to get a replacement Student ID. I’d had a miserable couple of months and not a good day. My parents had recently split up, I’d had a huge personal trauma, the uni had just cancelled the two classes I needed to graduate (lack of interest?!), and I had just left the Student Aid office, where I had been told that my financial aid was being cut off because I had to add another year to my plan in order to graduate and I would have accumulated too many semester hours without graduating for aid to continue. It was a frustrating, bad day, and by the time I got up to the point in line to have my picture taken, I had turned into a Honeybadger.
I don’t remember what set me off, but something the beleaguered student worker did was just exactly the wrong thing to do to me right then, and I popped off at her pretty rudely. My anger carried me out to my car, and off to work, but by the time I was in my office, I was feeling terrible about it. It was Service Industry Worker guilt.
So, I called the Registrar’s office at the uni, got the number to the room where they did IDs, called them and narrowed down the employees to the worker I felt I had insulted. When she was on the phone, I apologized profusely. I was absolutely ashamed of myself, and I would have loved to have a redo. Fortunately, she was gracious and accepted my apology. She probably forgot about it a day later. I’m 21 years down the road (the age I was when it happened, actually), and I still cringe when I think of it.
I started working in the service industry when I was 16 and had a job at Six Flags Over Texas, first in a burger stand, then in catering. You learn pretty quickly how nasty a creature the Human Being can be. Honeybadger’s got nothing on an angry mother of four, who is wrangling her kids and their friends in 103 degree heat. You want to lose some hide? Accidentally give her the wrong amount of change back.
Through high school, I worked either as a waitress or in retail sales. I went into banking in college, and did a stint in telemarketing for the university alumni association as a second job. I naively believed that if I were calling university alumni, I would be better received than that time (in high school) when I did telemarketing for a political campaign. Ha!
By the time I was halfway through college, I was a Dealing with the Public veteran. But you know what? You never get used to being used as a punching bag.
I still work in a retail service industry. I still get yelled at for things that are beyond my control. I still have people threaten to have me fired because I can’t satisfy their desires. I get called names, have the legitimacy of my paternity, and my virtue questioned–the best, most recent one of those was a man, who loudly proclaimed, “Just look at the color of her hair! A blonde like that? You know she gets around. SHE GETS AROUND!” And, I still get phone calls from people later saying, “I am so sorry. It wasn’t you. I had a bad day, and–I am just so sorry.”*
The apologies are appreciated, but it would be so much nicer if people would think before attacking. I’m a lot likelier to confront someone being ugly to a worker, than to confront a worker. That’s what turns me into a Honeybadger in Line these days.
*The man who thought I got around never called to apologize.