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.

Public Transport aka My Personal Hell

When I bought my first car, I swore I would never again take public transport. Not that I ever often did anyway, since walking is almost always a better alternative, but occasionally I did and it was enough to make me never want to do it again. And since then, I haven’t. But then silly little Amy went and moved to the city, and now has to catch more public transport than ever. Fool of a Took.

Last week I drove to work. This week, I figured it would be easier to train it in. Cheaper, more direct, slightly more efficient. Yeah, the fantasy was lovely but the reality of the situation is a lot less pleasant. First of all, there’s the people. City trains in peak travel times are absolutely packed. And I’m not just talking a couple of people standing in the aisles. I mean bodies pressed so tightly together it’s hard to tell where one ends and another begins. This brings with it the equally abhorrent side effect of having to contend with the combined smells of, like, a billion people; body odour and bad breath, weird perfumes and stale clothing. And the weather is still pretty cool, I dread to think how much worse it will be in summer.

Plus, I’m not familiar enough with train etiquette to feel entirely comfortable. Is it rude to hold the rail with both hands? Should I put my bag on the floor instead of over my shoulder to reduce space? Am I supposed to apologise when the lurching movement of the train inevitably knocks me against the three people closest to me? I’ve been doing my hardest to make myself as small as possible, and to not meet anyone’s eye but it sure does take a lot of work.

But it’s not just the people. Trying to navigate an unfamiliar city and new travel routes is complicated and overwhelming. Yesterday, on instruction of a Metro worker, I took a tram that took me in exactly the wrong direction. A twenty minute walk and missed train later, and I finally managed to get on the right train home. By the time I arrived, my day had gone for 12 hours. Today it was even longer. An unfortunate accident on the line that passes through my suburb meant large delays and multiple vehicle changes. From train to bus to train. Amidst the stopovers was the achingly slow wait while it poured rain and my fingers went numb from cold.

You can forgive me for thinking driving to work is the better option. There’s only me in the car, I can listen to music as loudly as I want, I know how long the drive will take and I don’t need to wait in the rain. In fact, the only downside is the money factor. When you have to pay $19 a day for parking, it’s really not that conducive to a decent savings account. 

Unfortunately when one lives half an hour away from where one works, there is no way to avoid the necessary evil that is public transport. I have to hope that it either becomes more tolerable as time goes on, or I somehow manage to invent a flying carpet. In the meantime, I guess I have to make a conscious effort to keep my misanthropy in check. Wish me luck, y’all. 

Perceptions and Projections

Sometimes it’s funny hearing the things strangers think about you. First impressions can be so limited though, can’t they? The parts of yourself that you give to the world has a direct link to the way people see you. And people are judgemental by nature, though not necessarily always in a bad way. We see people without knowing them, and formulate an idea in our minds of who they are, based on the way they look or act; our perception of who they are. And yet in that glance, that first impression there is no way we can possibly understand the complexities of the people we see and silently judge.

Today, a former colleague of mine came over to chat. During the conversation, it was mentioned how a man she knows had referred to me as ‘the little Goth girl’. It’s not the first time someone has given me that label. My boss told me of a conversation he overheard a couple of months ago, during which two men I had never met or seen speculated whether I was a ‘goth’ or an ‘emo’. And according to their logic, the only difference is that the former ‘wants to kill everyone’ and the latter ‘only want to kill themselves’.* I’m not quite sure what impression I gave that prompted such a discussion. But that’s exactly what I mean.

I’ve been called many things by people who don’t know me. The nerd girl, the one with the glasses, the one with big tits, geek, goth, bitch…and the list goes on. People tend to focus on one visible thing and use it as a way to identify someone else. And so if they never get to know you, you will forever be that one thing in their mind. I know I’ve done it. There’s people I see all the time at work, and I think ‘there’s the woman who seems so cold, I bet she’s pretty when she smiles’. Or ‘there’s the old guy with the snap back cap and the headphones, is he trying to recapture his lost youth?’. These judgements could be spot on, or entirely inaccurate. And I’ll never know because I’ll never speak to these people.

Often times, the perceptions people have of me are pretty standard. I’ve got resting bitch face and I wear a lot of black, so I’m usually either a Goth or I look angry all the time. But these simple identifiers put me in a tiny box, where one small aspect of who I am becomes the foundation for who people think I am. Once that foundation is in place, there’s no further need to delve into my personality. I will forever be who they want me to be.

The truth is, I’m not usually bothered by who people think I am. Most of the time, the things I hear about myself from the mouths of other people aren’t entirely wrong anyway. It’s just interesting, I guess, the things I seem to project. I wonder, you who read my blog, who do you think I am?

*technically, I’m actually neither. I googled it, and I’m pretty sure I never invaded the Roman Empire, nor am I a style of music. Though given how there are about a billion different definitions depending on what you read, it guess it really depends on your interpretation of the word. See? Life is all about perception.

On Casual Sex, Relationships, and Good Old Fashioned Masturbation

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I went to the gym last night. I’m not a gym person; in fact kind of hate the whole gym thing as a general rule, but I figured I’d go with a friend and check it out. But that’s not the point of this blog. When I went to work this morning, my friend suggested I go into the new sportswear shop that opened in the plaza. When I asked why, he said ‘to go chat to the girls in there. You can tell them you want to go to the gym but don’t have anyone to go with. Maybe they will invite you to go with them. Maybe you could meet someone.’

‘But I don’t want to meet someone!’

I can’t properly convey my emphatic exasperation that accompanied that sentence but believe me, it was there. You see, I grow increasingly tired of people expecting me to want to be in a relationship, or to want sex, or companionship or whatever it is most people want. My friend and I had, just the day before, discussed my unwillingness to engage in casual sex, and my contentment at being single. And yet he still pushed the idea of me meeting someone as a motivating factor for going to the gym. I know he meant nothing by it but it’s frustrating to explain your stance on something, and then have it totally disregarded.

I have never had casual sex. I’m not saying it’s bad, and I’m certainly not judging anyone who does. All power to you, my orgasm loving brethren! But for me personally, I have to have some kind of emotional connection with a person before I even consider sex. I don’t mean I necessarily have to be in a relationship with a person I choose to sleep with, but I’d like to at least know more than their name. Basically, I don’t want to just pick up a stranger at a nightclub, take them home and have meaningless and in all likelihood, unsatisfying sex. I love good sex. And for me, good sex comes from being with someone I know and like and am turned on by. And given how much I largely dislike humanity as a whole, it takes a bit more than casual flirtation to make me wanna jump in bed with someone. Hence, casual sex is off the table.

People have a tendency to judge my decision, or think it strange because it goes against the norm. I can think of very few women – or people in general actually – in their twenties who haven’t had at least one casual hook up. It’s the expected thing of people in my age group. We all enjoy sex, and a lot of people I know enjoy sex with anyone who they have a mutual attraction with; whether they’re friends, or partners, or a random fling with a random person they met on the town. And so my choice to not engage in casual sex seems strange. My friend said yesterday that it’s not that they are judging me, it’s because my choice is essentially a religious one, without the religion. He said it’s strange for a person with no religious beliefs or affiliations to have a view of sex that so closely ties in with certain aspects of religion. And while I’d never thought about it like that, I don’t wholeheartedly agree with him.

I’m not a virgin. And I do enjoy sex. If I met someone tomorrow, and we hit it off really well and decided mutually that we wanted to sleep together, I’d want to have all the sex all the time. Because if you can have it, why wouldn’t you want good sex? But here’s the other side of the coin; I don’t really care that much if I don’t have sex. I know, that sounds like a load of crap, but it’s true. The thing is, I don’t need people in the same way a lot of others do. The desire for companionship is pretty much non existent with me. I am totally content in my single life, and not just because I’m trying to convince myself that it’s true. Mostly, I find the idea of being in a relationship a bit constricting to be honest. I like being on my own, and while I’m not discounting any future relationships or intentionally cutting myself off from the possibility of having one, I’m not actively seeking it either. And even though I am well aware that it isn’t the same thing, I’d like to point out that I’m fucking great at getting myself off. If pleasure is what I want, I certainly don’t need someone else for that.

Sex is good. Good sex is better. But if you’re not comfortable and completely at ease, you’re not going to enjoy sex. Which is why I have not, and will not, partake in casual sex. I don’t feel I could be comfortable sleeping with someone I don’t know or have only just met. It’s not a religious thing. I’m not saving myself, I’m not keeping my bits under lock and key because I think they’re special, and I’m certainly not waiting for any Prince(ss) Charming. I’m happy to carry on as I have been. Despite what a lot of people think, I’m not missing out on anything and I’m not lacking. I suppose it’s difficult to understand because so many people think that being single and sexless is a completely negative thing, and that those of us in that position should act accordingly. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you all, but I’m good. I’m fact, I’m better than good. I have regular and satisfying orgasms, I don’t have to worry about anyone else but me, and I don’t have to fight for the covers in the middle of the night.

If you’re having the sex, you have my wholehearted congratulations. But if you’ll excuse me, after all this talk I think I’m going to go and indulge in some self sex. Many happy orgasms to you all!

Retail Rage

I’ve worked in retail since I was fifteen. That’s eight years of customer service up my sleeve. I’m good at it. I don’t love it, but I’m good at it. Or at the very least, I’m good at not punching the jerks or being an asshat. I smile at rude people. I bid everyone a good day. I’m unfailingly polite in the face of bad tempered assholes who feel it’s necessary to take their bad day out on me. And I’ve been doing this for nearly a third of my life. Today however, I think I reached the end of my patient tether. For the first time in my long and illustrious (well, maybe not) customer service career, I visibly cracked it in front of a customer.

On any other day, it would have been something I shrugged off. But the last couple of days, I’ve really struggled to keep my cool. Either I’ve reached the end of my retail shelf life, or people are finally starting to drive me mad. Perhaps both. There was nothing overly different about this particular woman, but I’ve dealt with an inordinate amount of jerk customers in the last two days especially, and this encounter was the straw that broke the customer service assistant’s back.

First she complained about the price of a watch battery (despite the fact that we were the best deal in terms of price and time, and we offer a 2 year battery guarantee). I told her that was fine, handed her watch back. She continued to make a big deal about the price, and I reminded her that she was under no obligation to purchase. She umm’d and ahh’d about whether she wanted one. Finally decided she did, and then changed her mind once I already had the back off. Then she needed to know the brand of battery we use, and complained that she didn’t like that brand. Said she missed the days we had a watch maker in town and when I said my colleague is a qualified watch maker by trade, she decided she wanted him to put in her battery instead of me. Because, y’know, that would have made an enormous difference.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t sound that bad. But she was rude and had a bad attitude, and something in me just snapped. I handed my colleague the watch, said ‘well, you’d better do this one because I’m obviously no good at my job’ and then walked straight out of the shop to calm down. I was furious. The truth is, I can’t tell you exactly why this irritated me more than every other person who has underestimated me and my ability to do my job. But I just couldn’t stand in her presence after that, at least without leaping across the counter and headbutting her stupid face.

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I think maybe it’s time to look for a new job. I figure I either make a fortune from my sewing business (probably unlikely), get insanely inspired and write an award winning novel (probably less likely, given my lack of motivation lately) or I find a job that doesn’t require me to deal with other people. Well…not living ones anyway. Perhaps I ought to look into a career as a mortician. Or a thanatologist. Or a grave digger. Or hell, maybe I’ll just live out my fantasy of being a hit woman for hire.

Regardless of what I decide to do, one thing is for certain. If you want to know what hell is like, you don’t need to make a special trip downstairs. All you have to do is ask someone who works in retail.

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You said it, Jesus.

Misanthropy at the Market

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One of these days, I’ll learn to stay away from events in which large crowds of people can be found. It seems every time I end up at one of these events, I make the mistake of thinking there will be some merit to it. And every time, I am proven wrong and I end up looking for a reason to bail. Tonight was no exception.

The town that I live in is fond of putting together markets and weekend events, and this weekend it was a night market in the middle of town. I vaguely recall hearing about it a few weeks ago, but didn’t give it a second thought until a friend asked me if I wanted to go earlier today. I thought, in my infinite wisdom, that it would be worth a look. As a creative person myself, I like discovering cute boutique stalls and makers of handmade art and craft, and figured this market would be a good opportunity to scout out a few.

It was pandemonium. I could barely look at anything because of the multitudes of people, crammed in and bustling about, and the few stalls I did get to look at featured largely overpriced items that I could make myself at half the cost. Ultimately, it was far from a success and, overwhelmed and anxious in the large crowd, I was there less than an hour before I opted out.

I relaxed once I was away from the people, and instead of getting a lift with my best pal back to my house, left her and her fiance to have dinner and walked the fifteen odd minutes back to my house to calm my frazzled nerves. I would like to say this will serve as a warning against all other future public events. But as the trivia nights, local gigs and other such events that preceded tonight’s market will attest, I never learn from mistakes, and maintain a foolish optimism regarding my level of public event enjoyment. Apparently my memory is so bad that I forget just how much I actually hate people until I’m surrounded by them. Foolish brain.

On Hating People

People are fickle, aren’t they? They change on a whim and you can think you know a person one day, and they can be a complete stranger to you the next. Sometimes I think I’d be better off without them. Actually, most of the time I think that.

I’m not a people person, and there’s few days that I live where I’m not reminded of that fact. Day after day, people continue to prove what I’ve known about them all along; they are selfish, and cruel. They are dishonest, and disingenuous. They are careless, and malicious, and full of vitriol and vice. People are fucking jerks.

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Wednesday is my spirit animal.

I think back on past relationships, and past friendships. At the time, those people meant a lot to me. I’m sure I meant a lot to them too. And now, I can’t think of a single reason to speak to any of them again. I’m sure they think the same of me, and that’s fine. Even the people I once thought I would have in my life forever now mean nothing to me. Because people change. I’m not exempt. I’m a people, and I’ve changed.

And then I think about the people I know now, and I can’t help but wonder how many of them will be strangers to me in two years. Five years. Ten. Am I going to hurt them? Are they going to hurt me? Should I just give up now, and save us all the trouble? Sometimes I want to. But no, I won’t. The people I love, I guess they can stay. But as for everyone else, I’m getting as far away from them as I can.

To be honest, I grew tired of people a long time ago. I hate them. I mean hell, read the title of this blog, it’s literally in the name. So, here is what I’m going to do. I’m going to write my book. And I’m going to make a lot of money. And I am going to move away from this town I’ve lived in for twenty two years, and I’m going to live in seclusion, as a recluse. I am going to be the less bald, more female version of Spider Jerusalem, living as far away from humanity as I can. I will have a typewriter, and a dog, and a shotgun to shoot anyone who dares intrude upon my self imposed solitude.