4th February 2021

This is likely to be one of those posts I really shouldn’t write, because it’s likely to be a tad negative. Let’s see how it goes…

Many don’t like this time of year because it’s cold and dark and bleak. Those things don’t bother me a bit.

But right after the New Year, for me it’s like instant replay of the Christmas card detail, as everyone I know seems to have been born in January or February.

So I get out my date book and write down the dates and try to sort out appropriate cards and get them in the mail at a suitable time. It’s worse than Christmas because at least that date is consistent!

Why allow such a thing to enervate me?

The truth is, I’ve no idea. I’m all in favour of staying in touch with people I care about and I like writing notes. So what is it about birthdays? It must have been pounded into my head when I was a child. It’s one of those things I ought to have discussed with a therapist, but never thought of. The fear of missing a birthday!

Anyway, it’s not just the abundance of birthday cards that winds me up. It’s the collecting of all the paperwork needed for tax return preparation.

It used to be so simple when I lived in rented accommodation and had no investments, just a small salary and that was that. I even did my own return.

Then I decided it would be better to pay a mortgage than rental fees, and claim interest deductions.

Since then, I’ve been tearing my hair out at tax time every year, most particularly with moving back to New York and all of the complications involved with owning properties, albeit briefly, in two states, etc etc…..

It makes my brain hurt.

Well, I can deal with all that, but it’s a bad time for the utility services to start acting up, all at the same time.

And most of the irritation this involves has to do with the phone calls it has required.


First there was my ex-ISP. I wrote about that a couple of days ago.

Having got nowhere with my first phone call, I took a deep breath and called again. I had a new number.

It turned out to be in Mexico, but I decided to see what would happen and eventually I was given the choice of selecting “accounts in the USA”.

Then I was back to being told by the automated voice that neither my name nor my account existed.

But I was spared the ordeal of speaking with the man who normally annoys me. This time it was a perky-sounding young lady who actually listened and apologized.

We’ll see if the service technician turns up tomorrow.

It is supposed to snow again.

Meanwhile….for the second week running, the trash collectors no-showed. In the past month they have only collected once. But their bill arrived promptly and I’m told there will be no credit for the missed pick-ups.

Oh yes, we have snow issues, but these people live up here and deal with it every winter. Not this year.

Our gas deliveryman having gone off in an apparent huff last Thursday and my having had no response to the message I sent, I was now required to make another telephone call.

(I’ve previously mentioned my hate of the ‘phone.)

The gas company is particularly annoying:

It’s a given that you never get through to a live person. Those days are long gone. I will say that at least this company did not torment me with ghastly tunes.

They merely asked me 3 times whether I was commercial or residential and once I’d convinced them that I was not a business, I needed to enter my phone number, twice.

Clumsy old fingers are challenged by this sort of thing, I’d like to point out.

Declining their offer of a call back, I must have heard the female voice tell me 35 times how an agent would momentarily “be excited to help” me. Give me a break. Excited? Where do they come up with this stuff?

A male voice persisted in trying to get me to hang up, assuring me I’d get a call-back, without losing “my place”. By which time I’d be in the shower or feeding the cats. Once I’ve made a call, I want it done with.

By the time we’d been around and around with this comedy routine, I knew what I was going to say to the live voice that finally spoke:

“You don’t sound very excited!”

But the voice was so bored, so totally fed-up. I could picture her sitting there filing her nails and thinking, “now what does this loser want?”

Sarcasm would have been a complete waste of time.

And petty.

The only information the agent wanted was, basically ; “who are you and wadda ya want”. The previous driver going off in a huff, the lack of response to my messages. Not her problem, not interested, not sorry. Just waiting for clock-out time.

You see, I know these people. I used to work with them and I took plenty of calls from unhappy people. Hopefully I never sounded quite so dismissive, even if I failed to be exactly “excited” to help them.

You really can’t blame customer service agents for their attitude. Dealing with the public is stressful, even on the phone, and they aren’t paid enough to care.

Which isn’t to say that you won’t ever get decent customer service. Some people are just oriented that way. They care about everything and they actually like people. May God bless them.

When I was a child, manners was something you learned from your parents.

“Please”, “thank you”, “excuse me”, “I’m sorry” etc….

When addressing the public, they were “ladies” and “gentlemen”, ‘Sir” and “Madam”.

One of our agents called me over one day about a problem and started to say, in front of the passenger: “This woman has….” I cringed, intending to ask her in future to refer to women passengers as “ladies”, but I didn’t have the chance as the passenger bristled “you do not refer to me as a ‘woman’, this is impolite, you should say ‘lady’.”

The passenger was British, but she wasn’t being snooty.

However, I am almost 2 decades out of touch with all that. Maybe these days it’s no longer impolite to call a female passenger “woman” to her face. It is what she is, after all. And a great number of men are hardly what you could call “gentlemen”.

Is it old-fashioned to believe that manners still matter?

Our most recent ex-president was about as rude as a man could be, which I personally regarded as shocking, but it seemed to be one of the things his many followers venerated. Down to earth, tell it like it is.

If he had ever been coherent, I think it would have made him downright scary. But what sort of example did he set?

When you treat everyone as if they are crude and rude, does it not bring everyone down to a lower level of humanity?

Is it so hard to behave like a decent human being?

Bowing and scraping and ass-kissing was never my thing. I dealt with any number of passengers I considered fairly contemptible, but they were our customers and as such I was obliged to be polite.

Mostly, I was. We all have our breaking point, but I never actually called any of those people what I actually thought they were.

That would have got me fired.

The worst I ever said to a passenger was : “take your bloody ticket and get the hell out of here.”

Which was pretty bad, but he was travelling on some two-bit 5 minute wonder airline that BA had contracted to handle for way less than the trouble they caused.

They had one small aeroplane that flew back and forth to Philadelphia and inevitably, by the second flight of the day, it was already off-schedule. God forbid the weather was bad at either end. And if the thing went “tech”, all bets were off.

“My” passenger with his $30 ticket thought he was going to read me the IATA rule book about BA’s responsibility for getting him to Philly. Meanwhile, I had people with real problems waiting, but the guy wouldn’t go away.

So I lost it and marched off to the ladies room where I met my boss and told her what I’d done. Her eyebrows arched slightly as she laughed. And I cried.

Tim would tell you a story about how I behaved when I was travelling off duty and lost my temper with the inept security ladies in Calcutta Airport. But I was not actually rude to them (very bad move that).

As I walked away, I muttered rather loudly and darkly.

All considered, I think I am a mostly polite person.

Perhaps a little impatient these days.

2 thoughts on “Patience

  1. Oh dear, the joys of being in customer service 😬.

    I think, if you’ve been in that job for many years, you tend to be more patient with bad service … or at least, you handle bad service in a more polite way (that’s what I do … and then I hope somehow they will be of greater help, but that never really happen – so, maybe I should stop being so polite πŸ˜‰).

  2. My friend Tim always starts with “I know it’s not your fault…”. I always try to be nice to people who are working flat out and not appreciated. Once in a while you get a smile. And sometimes, you get nice customers!

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