Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Customer Service, Part 10

I love teenagers.  There is no teen who is not a fun story in their own way, every one is a unique customer service experience.  I love the ones who read the books I love, I love the ones who read the books I hate, I love the ones who know exactly what they want and the ones who don't even know how clueless they really are.

School titles are some of our biggest sellers; although it takes a bit of planning to sell over two hundred and fifty copies of The Once and Future King in just over a week, we do appreciate our student customers and their literary-minded teachers.  (Though we would appreciate some warning, teachers (or parents), when you are going to assign the same book to over two hundred and fifty students at once, just so we can be ready, because that whole The Once and Future King thing was a really lucky break, but that's another post.)

And school titles are comedy gold.  No matter how many times I hear: "Do you have any How to Kill a Mockingbird?"  I still get a special thrill from replying: "No, but we still have plenty of To Kill a Mockingbird." From The Shower Head by Ayn Rand to 1776 by George Orwell, just when you think you have heard the ultimate school title mangling, you hear an even better one.

Yesterday, a future Housewives of Your City Here, accompanied by her Middle Bee friend, came up to the desk and said: "I need a book for school.  It's called Nigt, spelled N-i-g-t, by like, Anne Frank or something.  It's about the Holocaust."

Now, I've been fooled, and schooled, enough times by unique customer requests to only be half-joking when I showed her a copy of Night by Elie Wiesel and replied: "Do you mean Night, spelled N-i-g-h-t, by Elie Wiesel?  It's about the Holocaust."

She looked stunned for a moment before taking the book I offered and giving me a funny look: "That's what I said, it's about the Holocaust."

Then, as she walked away, she turned to Middle Bee and said: "I think that girl thinks I'm stupid!"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I turtle.

Mark 5:25-34, Galatians 6:2

I am normally very introverted, needing time alone with my thoughts in order to gather strength for another day of interacting with other humans, but I am especially introverted when it comes to trouble.  When life goes off the rails, and I could really use a friend, and any even half-extroverted person would reach out for social support; that's when I turn my most severely inward.  When trouble comes knocking on my shell, I pull my head in and hope it goes away before I am forced to admit to someone that I need help.

I mentioned briefly that I had surgery, but that is merely the tip of the health issues iceberg I've been dealing with for the past eight years.  My problems are slow-growing and embarrassing, and I doubt I would have done anything about them at all if I had not been living at the very end of annoyance, the very height of irritation, with my body for the past two years.  And only when I set out to fix the problem did I realize how very large it was.

Even in this sort-of confession that I am having health issues, I still have this problem: I really don't want to tell anyone what is going on.  Very few people know what is wrong with me, and even though there are those who do know, in the quantitative aspect, what the problem is, there is no one who really knows what I've been going through, in the qualitative, symptomatic, what-is-it-like-to-live-with-this-day-to-day aspect, except my doctor.

This is not in any way a measure of how much I love the people in my life.  In some ways, it is a measure of how closed and possibly damaged I am, but it is also a measure of how much I do not want to gross any one out.  I am not ninety years old, I am not yet to the point where I can describe my heath issues to people without batting an eye.  Especially, for instance, over a meal.  I'm grossing myself out here, I can't imagine how anyone else would feel having to hear about it.  I'm having a hard time forgiving myself for being shy about telling everyone how my Shark Week turns into Jaws every month.

Stop worrying; I'm not dying.  This is not a fatal condition.  It's not cancer, or anything that awful.  It will not kill me, it will just make my life gradually less and less livable if I neglect it any longer.

(Fibroids are almost always benign, and mine have been tested more than once.  There, I said it.  I have fibroid TUMORS in my uterus.  TUMORS just looks so scary, every time I say it everyone freaks out.  I can't seem to say the word "benign" enough:  benignbenignbenignbenignbenignbeginbenignbenign.  And yes, they're in my uterus Look away now while I get all embarrassed and turn red.)   

And DH has been more than supportive.  He is my rock; he has done everything in his power to help me deal in the day-to-day, and really steps up in the big moments, too.  He takes better care of me when I am sick than any one else ever has.  Even though he is suffering, too, he makes me his priority every time, in every way.  And even though he is a man, and kind of squeamish, he does his best to understand what I am going through.    

And the friends and family who do know have been incredible, too.  My friend D went with me for a test the other day, and when I tried to treat her to breakfast after, she stole the check and treated me.  Wily woman!  Awesome friend!

And I have a huge girl crush on my doctor.  (Many thanks to my friend W for recommending her to me!)  My doctor is very pretty, always perfectly turned out, and listens well to everything I say and don't say.  She has a sort of Jekyll/Hyde thing going: one minute she is a compassionate, merciful friend; the next an analytical, expert surgeon.  I love it.  Usually you get one or the other with your medical professionals, in her I have both, and I get to see both.  It is reassuring to know that the effort and precision she puts into herself every day is an overall personal ethic that extends to her job as well.

I am right now in the belly of the beast, in the thick of the battle, and I don't how long this is going to last or how it is going to turn out.  But I know that I am doing the right thing dealing with it, because it is really uncomfortable in the way that doing the right thing, even though it is scary, always feels uncomfortable.

I am all right.  The pain and inconvenience are manageable, and everyone at work has been fair and understanding, even without knowing all the details.  God is with me, my friends are with me, and if I keep actually telling people that I need help, I will probably get the help that I need.  If I just poke my head out once in awhile, I will see that I am not alone.    

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring Break Woooooooooo!

Take some time this week to wear an inappropriate outfit and randomly scream with your friends.  Beach optional.  Or at least enjoy your time off from me.  Back next week!

Monday, March 4, 2013

I am not content.

Philippians 4:12-13, 2 Corinthians 11:20-29

So my new manager, T, and I are getting along really well, and he keeps giving me more, and more important, responsibilities.  I love getting to do more different stuff around the store; I love learning something new every day.  And just the fact of changing managers all those months ago has taught me some very valuable things about myself, and what it means to be a leader, than I ever thought possible.

I beat myself up a lot, and blame myself for being a bad person, but lately I'm beginning to wonder if the problem was really all me.  The parts that were my fault are still there, and I have discovered more of my own character flaws, but I also think that I am wiling to ease up on myself a little.  I don't remember where I heard this, but I know that it is something counselors and other mental health professionals tell victims of abuse and trauma: You did the best you could at the time.

See, I had no idea the difference a little credit could make.  Every time T gives me something more to do, explains another procedure, or lets me lead in a new situation, I actually become not just a better employee, but a better person.  I am finding all kinds of time to help do all kinds of jobs around the store.  Seriously, I'm even nicer to customers now.  I used to think that I was just a snippy, hopelessly territorial grouch who hated people and couldn't change.  Now I see how difficult it can be to do your best when no one believes in you or tries to help you in any way.

I could have tried harder, I could have been better, I could have been more perceptive.  I could have taken the time to really think about why S (our old manager) did things the way he did.  I got really wrapped up in my own pain and misfortune and the unfairness of it all, especially at the end.  But I should never discount the fact that there was great misfortune.  S was really mean, especially at the end.  He really did throw me down a well and hope I would never dig myself out.  And I stayed down there and felt sorry for myself for far too long.

Now, not only do I see what a  difficult employee I was to manage, I can also see how hard it was for S to do his job properly.  The manager position went suddenly from being very easy to impossibly hard in 2008.  He was great at sales, he loved to talk to customers, and was not cut out for the bureaucratic aspects of management.  He was desperately non-confrontational, and his employees were his family.  I believe that the several firings he was forced to carry out near the end of his time with us broke him emotionally.  He lied, he lost his temper, and he left the store a mess.  But maybe, he did the best he could at the time.  

I am ashamed of the way I acted at certain points during the kerfuffle of S's last two years with us, but I know now what to watch for the next time I get a bad boss, an overwhelmed boss, or a boss I just don't click with.  And next time I will do better.  I now know how difficult it is to be professionally fair to someone whom you personally dislike.  Leadership can bring out the worst in people, and one of the worst things a leader can do is assume they know all about the people under their authority.  Never assume, but don't be too hard on yourself when you can't help someone change or grow.

I hope that in the future I can be a consistently good employee no matter who my boss is, and a consistently good person no matter my circumstances.  I hope I can continue to do the best I can all the time.  I am really glad I didn't listen when everyone around told me to just quit my job.  If I had quit I wouldn't have all these lovely life lessons I've learned, and I wouldn't have gotten a second chance to prove myself now with T.  Do your best now.  Whatever that best is, it will reap benefits that will make your next try even better.