I’m Not Surly, It’s Just My Face

“Oi, you!”

You’d look like that if someone ‘oi’-ed you, too.

That’s how the conversation started this morning. Rude, right? Now, you should know that I’m not easily offended. What I am, is easily angered. And the interaction this morning, with a guy who works near me, raised my ire. This guy is in his early fifties perhaps, and has a tendency to strike up conversations on his way past my shop. This began a couple of months ago, when he greeted me as if we had known each other for years, despite me having never laid eyes on him before that day. I disliked him immediately. See, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s when complete strangers are too familiar too soon. You don’t know me, you are not my friend; you do not get to talk to me as if we have a long standing relationship. Some of you may argue that he was just being friendly, but there is a difference between polite affability, and a straight up invasive personality. Trust me when I say that this guy has a serious case of the latter.

Over the last few months, we have had a series of short conversations. Despite my dislike of this man, I have always been perfectly polite. But his habit of asking personal questions, and making assumptions has continued. On several occasions, and in a few different ways, he has asked me if I have a boyfriend; questions I have always dodged. First of all, none of his business. And second of all, none of his business. Another time, he made an assumption about me having children, which is something I did correct him on. That then followed with the typical “You’ll change your mind” response, which I didn’t deign to acknowledge. He has made comments about wanting to take me to the pub so he can see me when I’m drunk, and comments about how I must be my parent’s favourite child, with no context. Basically, he’s weird.

I could give you plenty of other examples when this guy’s familiarity has made me irritable, but then we’ll be here all day. Today’s comment, however, is where this post began. So, after he called out to me with the aforementioned “OI”, he approached the shop and said, completely apropos of nothing, “What’s the matter with you? I saw you the other day and you looked really surly so I thought I better not come over.”

Now, you might be wondering why that seemingly innocuous comment made me so angry. It’s due to a few things. Firstly, the condescending tone (which I can’t properly convey here, so you’ll have to take my word for it.) Secondly, the way he managed to make it sound as though his not approaching my shop for mundane conversation was a loss for me. I have any number of boring conversations in an 8.5 hour period, man. You are not the highlight of my workday. And thirdly, the assumption that just because I’m not cheery and chirpy every single second of the day, that there must be something the matter with me. Let me be perfectly clear. I do not exist to indulge his (or anyone’s) flawed, archaic ideas of what a woman is supposed to be. And I will not apologise for being a human, with an entire spectrum of human emotions. I am not some Stepford wife, and I am under no obligation to appear perpetually cheerful.

Sure, I could smile all the time, but there are a couple of problems with that. I mean, let’s be perfectly honest here; I would look like a legitimate maniac. The other problem is that after all that smiling, my face would ache. And working in customer service is painful enough as it is. Besides, maybe if I look surly enough, old mate across the way will stop talking to me altogether.

Advertisements

People Are the F*cking Worst

You know, I really fucking hate people.

I was raised to be a decent human being. I offer petrol money if I get a lift somewhere. I help out my friends if and when they need it. I accept responsibility for the things I do wrong, admit my fault, and graciously accept the repercussions. But apparently not everyone has the same conscience that I do. And it’s those people; those inconsiderate, conscience-less individuals, that really make me angry.

I work at a shopping centre. There is no staff car park, and the parking bays themselves are not particularly wide. Nevertheless, I am constantly in disgusted awe of the people who simply cannot park properly. I’ve seen all manner of terrible parking, from crooked angles, to parking completely the wrong way across three bays. Trust me, I’ve seen it all. Today, I left work and went to my car, passing several bad parks on the walk. I got to my car, and there it was. A series of long, deep gauges across the front and back doors of the left side of my car.

My photography skills are shit, much like the person who did the damage

Some idiot, probably in a 4WD or large SVU judging by the height of the scratch marks, has tried to pull into the park beside mine, obviously misjudged the distance, and hit me. But then, instead of backing out and realigning the car, they’ve just kept going, scraping their car along the side of mine and leaving both doors noticeably scarred. This in itself is bad enough, but the bad driver clearly didn’t think anything of damaging my car, and then driving away. No note. No apology. No accepting of responsibility.

My car is not quite three years old. I managed to avoid any serious damage for two and a half years. But this damage today is the second time in as many months that someone else has hit my car, in a car park. The first woman didn’t put her handbrake on, and buckled my rear bumper when her car hit mine from behind. I got it fixed through my insurance, the first time I had ever made any kind of claim for anything. But she at least had the common decency to give me her details (even though she was driving unregistered and her plates belonged to a completely different vehicle). But this person today really grinds my gears, for the sheer fact that they didn’t give me the basic common courtesy of accepting their mistake.

Broken bumper.

It’s been hours and I’m still seething. Yes, the damage can be repaired, but it’s going to be at my own cost. And, since the fault isn’t mine, that really smarts.

Seriously. People fucking suck.

Who We Are vs. Who They Think We Are

I’ve been myself for 24 and a bit years. After all that time, those decades (oh my gosh, I’m old), I think it’s safe to say that I know me pretty well. Better than anyone, actually. After all, I have to live inside my own head all day, every day. And yet despite this, I often have people trying to tell me that I’m not who I tell them I am.

There seems to be a string of people this week telling me who I am. Or at least, who they think I am. Friends, family, my boss, and that one security guard at work who seems to get a kind of strange joy out of describing my personality and its characteristics, as he thinks they are. I’ll be honest, usually I just smile and nod, and let them think what they want to think. It’s easier than arguing with them, and they wouldn’t budge from their opinions in any case. But lately, I have to admit that it’s kind of been getting to me a little bit. To constantly have people telling you that they know you better than you, it gets…well, frustratingly tiresome.

Whilst it is true that an opinion cannot necessarily be wrong, these people seem to think that their opinions about me negate the truth about who I actually am. It started with a conversation I had with my dad the other day. I made a joke about being alone forever, which was the beginning of a conversation that culminated in him telling me that he believes I am going to end up with a man. Now, my sexuality as it stands is that I am almost exclusively attracted to women but I am not ruling out the (somewhat faint) possibility that the love of my life might just happen to be a man. I can’t predict the future, and so I cannot say 100% that I will never date a guy. I can’t even say, with full certainty that my dad is wrong. But there was something about the way he said it, and the knowing little smile he had that made me feel the need to reiterate that my attraction to women is not a phase. He conceded to that, but that smile stayed where it was, and I felt somewhat put out by the conversation.

I’ve written about this before, but people have a funny way of projecting their ideas of you, rather than seeing the real you. They will form an idea of you in their heads, and then refuse to acknowledge the blatant truth you put in front of them. Or worse, get angry at you and act like you deceived them when the rose coloured glasses fall away. Like my boss, lovely though he is, who thinks that I’m gentle and lovely, and that my snap quick anger is just a facade. Or the guy a few years ago who told me I was a lot colder in person, because he couldn’t reconcile with the fact that I’m not very good at opening up and sharing, and that I didn’t reciprocate his feelings towards me. When you don’t fit the mould of who people want you to be, they will shape you in their minds, until you appear to them as they imagine you are.

I have never tried to live up to the expectations of me that other people often have. I am always open and honest about exactly who I am, which has a lot to do with why I tend to make a bad first impression. People don’t want to see the “ugly” parts of you. If you show negative emotion, or declare that you don’t like cats, or tell someone that you like to be alone and that the notion of spending time with other people makes you weary and irritable, chances are they will either assume you’re lying, ignore you entirely, or simply decide that you’re not worth their time. Frankly, I’m ok with the last one. If I’m not your kind of person, you’re probably not mine either, and we will both be better off not knowing one another. No harm done.

I believe the best way to get to know a person is to take them at face value, and then wait and see if the mask falls away and reveals the real person underneath, or if they were telling the truth straight away. Don’t try and relate to every aspect of a person, just for the sake of having something in common. Don’t try and change who you are to suit the idea of another person. You are you, just as I am me. And I promise you, we know ourselves better than anyone.

How Do You Make Friends (and Only Alienate People if They Suck)?

I meet people every day. You can’t work in customer service and not meet people. But they’re not the kind of meetings I’m particularly interested in. Unless I get regular customers, who then turn into friends, customer meetings hold no real appeal for me. It’s just business. But it poses the question; how do you meet people? More importantly, how do you meet people when you’re a perpetually angry, misanthropic introvert who is awkward in social situations and feels acutely uncomfortable meeting new people? There’s a Friday afternoon riddle for you.

As you may have gathered if you read my blog even semi regularly, I pretty much think people are the worst. But the flip side of that, is that my life consists almost entirely of work and home, with no real social interaction to break the monotony. And so, as loath as I am to admit it, I think the time has come to break free from my introvert shell, and make an effort to introduce new people into my life. The problem I face however, is that not only do I have very little time to hang out with theoretical people, I don’t even know how to meet them in the first place.

The shop I work at is smack bang between a supermarket and a big chain store. So the people I see every day are either too busy or too far away to try and strike up (probably incredibly awkward) conversation with. And in addition to that, I work on my own, so I don’t even have any work mates to develop a friendship with. I don’t have the time to fit anything more into my schedule, so signing up for a random class is out of the question. And my circle of friends in the city isn’t so large that I’m being invited to parties every other weekend.

I know there are dating sites, but is there such a thing as a friendship site? You know, like a dating site only without the sexual innuendo and expectation of any kind of romance. I’m sure there is, and I just haven’t really considered the notion before, but if there isn’t, there should be.

Look, ideally I would like to be browsing in a bookshop and have a rad stranger approach, tell me they love the book I’m holding, and end up having a long and interesting conversation that turns into a spur of the moment chai date and a friendship begun on the foundations of books and geekery. But let’s face it, my life isn’t a movie, and in reality I would be too wary of a complete stranger to do anything more than politely smile and turn away. But hey, it’s a very pretty fantasy.

Seriously though, I put this to you, because I am in grave danger of only knowing the same three people for my entire life; how the hell do you meet people? Inquiring minds want to know…or at least, I do. Come on, guys. Help.

Commute

The train car is positively drenched in the stink of stale sweat and halitosis. All about me, commuters engaged in mundane conversation, or plugged into electronic devices. One man keeps staring at me, with a look that implies that he thinks if he stares hard enough, he might be able to discern what I’m wearing underneath my clothes. I stare back, and my gaze is unfailing, my expression immovable, challenging him. He looks away. I win.

I plug into my own iPod, and the dulcet tones  of Tomi Joutsen drown out the world inside the carriage. I could almost lose myself in the music, and the words that fly from my fingers, except for that smell. It’s everywhere. It will probably cling to my clothes long after I’ve exited the train. 

Different faces every day, and yet all exactly the same to me. Nameless. Not in the least bit memorable. The only thing remarkable about these vile hordes of humanity is how utterly unremarkable they are. And yet, in a cruel twist of circumstance, I spend more time with these people than I do my own friends. 

Commuting is the most evil of all necessities.

On Customer Service, and Building a Rapport

I usually don’t bother trying to make friends, and as a general rule, I have no particular interest in making a super nice first impression. But there are, as with everything, exceptions to that rule. And my major exception is customer service people. It doesn’t matter how grumpy I am, how bad a day I am having, or how much I really want to punch people – as a whole – in the face. I will always make more of an effort to be friendly with my fellow sales assistants.

There is a reason for this, of course. I have worked in customer service for a very long time, and so I completely understand what it’s like to be having a bad day behind the counter and having to maintain a pleasant facade when all you want to do is scream. We customer service people can be incredibly good actors, at times. I must have given at least one or two Oscar worthy performances in my eight or nine odd years of customer service. And so I make it a personal goal to be polite and friendly to anyone that I require a service from. Now admittedly, I am a little less smiley to the ones that have no interest in being good at their jobs on purpose, but other than that, bam.

After working in various shopping plazas over the last five years in particular, I have discovered that being friendly with the surrounding shop workers can be beneficial. First of all, building a rapport with people who work around you is a good way to help pass the time. Once you establish a relationship with people around you, you will find that the conversations begin to come easily. Shopping plaza friendships are unique, in that these are people you see every day, and stop to chat to, without necessarily spending any time together outside your working hours. But they are part of an important working dynamic that can be both fun and helpful, and one that usually involves a kind of ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ relationship that can work for both parties.

But hoping to establish a give and take relationship with the people you work around is not the only, or the most important reason to be friendly to them. It just generally makes the working environment a more pleasant one. The people you see on a regular basis will get to know you, and you will get to know them, at the very least enough to ask how each others’ day is going. And yet another benefit to building healthy working relationships is that you will generally discover that you can rely on them. I distinctly remember the night a creepy guy was hanging around the shop I was working in a few months back, and the people around me that stuck around to make sure I was alright and safe. There’s a strange kind of camaraderie with shop assistants, especially those who all work in the same area. In my experience at least, even if you don’t often talk to them, they will have your back and watch out for your shop, and I will always do the same.

I am currently managing a new shop, and a couple of shops down from me there is a kiosk that I get my daily chai from. I think it is especially important to be friendly with the people that are handling your food/drink. Not least because they might spit in your cup if you’re an asshat! Ok, so I don’t know if that actually happens, but it’s a legitimate fear of mine, that I might unknowingly drink the bodily fluids of my barista while they laugh about it with their co workers. In the last few weeks, I have become quite friendly with two of the baristas that regularly run the kiosk in question, a delightful young woman named Emma, and a guy whose name I haven’t actually learned yet (and feel too awkward to just ask for after chatting with him for the last few weeks). With both people, I have developed the kind of relationship where we are all comfortable enough to make a joke, or complain about how dead the shop is, or drop the F bomb without fear of offending. It genuinely makes approaching the shop and ordering a beverage less stressful and awkward than it would be if I hadn’t established a kind of rapport with them.

So in short – and I can’t believe these words are about to spill from my fingertips –  sometimes being surrounded by people is not the worst thing in the world. Ugh…just typing it feels dirty.

One Hour Friend

As you may have read, a couple of weeks ago my laptop decided it no longer wanted to cooperate with me, and stopped working. I was kind of distraught, considering I was certain I had just lost the book I’ve been working on for the last year, as well as a whole bunch of other important…stuff. So a couple of days ago, I Googled laptop repair and went with the one that had the best reviews (Geeks2U by the way, and I cannot recommend them enough). Yesterday, following a lovely phone conversation with one of the most helpful telephone people I have ever spoken to, they sent out a technician to my house to fix my problem.

The technician in question shares a name with my best friend, so to be honest I think I had a positive image in my mind before I’d even laid eyes on him. It has something to do with name association; if someone I am about to meet shares a name with someone I like, chances are my brain is going to associate that person with good things. This also works the same way for someone I don’t like. Many a potential character has had a name change on the basis of it reminding me of someone that I am not especially fond of! Anyway, that’s not the point. He came to the house, had a look at my laptop, worked some magic and I almost proposed to him when I saw that he had managed to fix it. In fact I’m pretty sure I may actually have professed my love for him a little bit, such was my excitement.

He was at the house for maybe an hour and we chatted whilst he fixed my poor broken down Atticus and salvaged my life’s work (or at least the last year of it!). The thing was, despite my penchant for, y’know, hating everyone and being somewhat anxious in social situations involving people I have never met, I was perfectly comfortable talking to him. I mean, I talked way  too much, which actually is a reaction to the nervousness I feel around strangers, but he seemed to take it in his stride. It was one of those rare experiences that made me realise that perhaps not all people are that bad. But I swear, if you tell anyone I said that, I’ll deny it and claim that this post was written by a robot or something.

I have a difficult time being around people without wanting to throw either them, or myself off a bridge. And I have a tendency to rub people the wrong way, which is why I find it such a struggle to make new friends. A combination of making a bad first impression, and not liking many people enough to want to spend significant amounts of time with them. But I think if I were to meet more people like the Laptop Rescuer Who Saved My Life(tm), perhaps I would have a better chance of making friends. Plus, not only did he seem like a genuinely decent human being, he was great at the customer service part of his job. Which, if you read my last post, is a pleasant change from the customer service people I have been dealing with lately.

So here’s to you, my one hour friend. You saved my laptop, therefore allowing me to write/create and thus securing my sanity…for a while at least, and all the while provided excellent conversation. You sir, are a rad dude, and I thank you.