Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dear Miss Manners...

So, as the day went on at work today, my list of things to write about grew longer and longer until I was planning a full scale rant about all the things I hate about my job. Since I actually really like my job and am trying to become a more positive person, I then started listing, in my head, all the things I like about my job. Instead of going into all that boring detail, I’m just going to express the two things that are always issues at work, but the were particularly irksome this weekend.

Excuse me. Pardon me. Small phrases that pop out of my mouth pretty randomly and regularly throughout my day. I’m not burping on that regular a basis, but I say this more generally any time I may have gotten into a coworker or customer’s way, bumped them, caused them embarrassment or confusion, walked by them or caused them to rush to get out of my way. I just say it all day long, because it’s so easy to say. Excuse me. But people don’t say it to me. By people, I should clarify that I am specifically referring to customers of the fine establishment wherein I labor. The nature of my job is such that I am often in positions from which I cannot quickly move (either on my knees or balancing a couple of unsteadily perched products), intensely focused on the task at hand and unaware that someone is behind me. Not being a mother yet, I have not sprouted eyes in the back of my head, so, the answer is ‘no, I cannot see you there.’

Instead of simply saying ‘Excuse me,’ these customers either wait until I do notice them at which time their expression is usually a dopey and somewhat condescending smile or they try to ‘sneak’ by, as in, ‘I’m just going to sneak on by,’ which usually doesn’t work too well, because I still cannot move quickly out of my position to allow you passage. Had you needed to get by or to reach by to acquire a product that I am blocking you from accessing, a simple ‘Excuse me,’ serves the double purpose a politely alerting me to your presence and need and well, I guess that’s really just one purpose. At any rate, it’s not that hard and you’ll get through a lot faster that way than waiting until you’re annoyed and then trying the sneak method.

And then there’s the other end of things – the people who have no problem talking to me – asking me where they can find x or do we have any y? Yes, aisle 3, would you like me to show you? No, I’m sorry we don’t carry that product, but we have something similar right here. I am nearly always happy to stop whatever I’m doing (and I’m really not being sarcastic – I really am happy to help) and show customers where they can find something and moreover, to talk to them about food and whatever other subjects we may have in common. But after I’m done, I’m waiting to be dismissed. The customary way to dismiss a service person who has just helped you with some task or errand is simple and we’re usually taught it from the time we can speak – it’s ‘Thank you.’

How hard is it to say those little politenesses?

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